You studied. You revised. You graduated. You got the grades. You chose the university. You got the letter back. Oh dear….they want to speak to you. This is it. This is where your English speaking skills are going to kick in – or are they? SpeakHub went to the The UK Guardian to find out.

If you’ve been invited for a university interview, congratulations – the battle is, in part, won. The next challenge is to meet academics face-to-face and prove that you are able to cope with the demands of your chosen course.

Interviews are no mean feat, but if you do your preparation, you’ll stand yourself in good stead, says Julian Skyrme, head of student recruitment at Manchester University. First, make sure you know exactly what to expect on the day.

“The university should send you information about what will happen when you arrive at interview – read this carefully,” says Skyrme. “Check if you will be asked to sit an assessment, or if there is anything you need to take with you. If you’re not sure, call and ask.”

Also, speak to older students about how you can prepare, recommends Hira Nazir, a fourth-year dentistry student at Manchester University. “If you don’t know anyone studying your course, you can contact students through websites like the Student Room or the university’s Facebook page.”

What you’ll be asked varies according to degree choice, but it’s all geared towards the same question – how suitable are you to study your subject at university level?

“It’s essential that you read your personal statement through beforehand, as interviewers may wish to draw upon the topics you have raised,” advises Dr Margaret Barnes-Davies, a graduate admissions tutor at the University of Leicester. “Think why you have chosen a particular subject and university – read about the course online, and pay attention to the teaching styles offered.”

Candidates for particularly competitive subjects may also face academic questions. Nazir recalls being asked several specific dentistry questions. “I was asked about cross-contamination control – how would I reduce the risk of infection? And I was given a scenario – I had to imagine I was out in town on a Friday night. Of the people I would see there, I was asked to say who was mostly likely to end up in my surgery the next morning.”

Tutors will be listening for analytical abilities and intellectual flexibility, says Skyrme. “They want to see that you’ve done wider reading beyond A-levels and that you are able to cope with new ideas.

“An English candidate might be asked what a feminist would think of a particular book, for example. There won’t always be a right or wrong answer.”

The key to preparing well is practice, which means plenty of mock interviews – with teachers, classmates or whoever is on hand. Valeed Ghafoor, a fourth-year medical student, remembers recruiting family members to act as interviewers.

“Even though they didn’t know the subject well, they could still comment on my body language and the way I spoke. Although the academic element is very important, you also need to come across as someone who is intelligent, calm, and enjoys their subject.”


The Guardian is a British national daily newspaper, known from 1821 to 1959 as the Manchester Guardian. Along with its sister papers The Observer and The Guardian Weekly, The Guardian is part of the Guardian Media Group, owned by The Scott Trust Limited.

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