University interviews

Terrified of being interviewed by an Oxbridge don? Need some tips to shine in your medicine interview? The Mix will get you prepared, whatever your subject is.

Girl outside of interview office wearing a mortarboard

Bought the hat already? Forward thinking.

Some universities will give you a conditional offer based solely on your predicted grades and what you wrote in your personal statement. But others want to put a face to the application, particularly if it’s a competitive course or university. If you sense that an interview could be as daunting as dinner at Downing street, then rest assured that we’re here to help you shine.

How to prepare for a uni interview

  • Read the prospectus. This is the research part of your preparation. The more you know about the university and the course you have applied to the better, as this will show you’re committed to studying that course at that university.
  • Have a mock interview. You can ask a teacher or a careers advisor to go through some questions with you. This will help you plan answers to questions that you might get asked, such as: Why did you choose this course? What did you enjoy most on the current course that you are studying? What subject did you enjoy least and why? Why did you choose this university?
  • Know your UCAS application inside out. It is likely that the interviewer will use it as a basis for questions. Go over what you wrote about your extra-curricular activities and why you want to go to university, as these are key areas for discussion.
  • Read the newspapers. The interviewer may ask your opinion on current affairs or you may be asked if you have kept up to date with recent developments in your area of study.
  • Get a good night’s sleep the night before! Needless to say if you have a hangover you won’t impress anyone.

Tips for the actual interview

  • Dress smartly but feel comfortable. Don’t feel like you have to go out and buy a suit, but smart trousers and a shirt or blouse give a much better impression than jeans and a T-shirt.
  • Arrive early and phone the institution if you have any problems. If you have major train delays or serious family trouble then you should be able to reschedule.
  • Be aware of good and bad body language.
  • Be enthusiastic about the course. Hopefully you are attending the interview because you have seen a course that really appeals to you, so make sure the interviewer can see that.
  • Remember to be yourself. Unless being yourself means using vile language and being free with your bodily functions. You might then want to adjust your behaviour.
  • Don’t panic about difficult questions. Be honest and let them know if you haven’t covered a topic they ask you about. And don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t understand a question – remember they are not trying to make you look stupid.
  • Be prepared to say something if they surprise you with a test or if they ask you to read or explain a particular passage. Make use of what you do know – compare it to something you have read or heard about.
  • Ask questions. It will help you to seem enthusiastic and it is your opportunity to find out about the things the prospectus doesn’t tell you. Here are some example questions: What options are available to me on the course? Are there links with industry? What tutorial support will I have?

Following up after a uni interview

  • Consider your opinions of the university. Remember this is as much an experience for you to check them out as vice versa.
  • Write down the answers to your questions. This will be handy later when you are comparing your responses to different institutions.
  • Perhaps discuss your experience with a teacher as they can give you feedback on your experience. They may also suggest ways you can improve in future interviews.
  • Think about what went well and what you could have done better. This will come in handy for future interviews (for either study or work).
  • You will be sent a letter through UCAS or from the university letting you know if you were successful or not. If you receive an offer it may be conditional on you receiving certain grades.

What are they actually looking for?

  • How interested are you? Are you concentrating?
  • They want you to show that you can think independently and that you are willing to work with new ideas.
  • They want to see if you have the potential to do well.
  • They are keen to meet well-rounded students who can find a balance between their academic life and outside interests.

Next Steps

  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.



By Helen Williams

Updated on 29-Sep-2015