Congratulations! If your child has been called in for an independent school interview, following an 11-plus exam, they’ve done well enough to get through to the next stage. Of, course, it doesn’t guarantee an offer of a school place, but your child is now one step closer to an offer, which is excellent news!
Preparation for Independent School Interviews
Schools will be looking for bright, articulate, confident and well-mannered children who can fit in with the school and give back to the school as well. Every school knows the type of student they are looking for, so it’s essential that your child doesn’t pretend to be someone he isn’t.
Pretending to love Greek mythology and then not knowing anything about Kind Oedipus, or Hades will ring alarm bells to the interviewer. It will also make it quite obvious that your child has been coached for the interview. While schools expect parents to go through some tips and advice to steady the nerves of giddy children, they don’t want children who have memorised interview answers because they want to know your child’s personality and views for their merit. So, the biggest tip of all is: be natural!
What to Work On
Some children ooze confidence and are not flustered about the thought of being interviewed. If your child is like this, then you’re halfway there, but there are still some things to remind your child of:
1. Give a firm and confident handshake when one is offered.
2. Look the interviewer in the eye when being spoken to, and when replying to questions. Not doing so will appear rude, or coy – neither of which are useful, especially when trying to give a good impression.
3. Ummm….no! Try to take a pause and think quietly without saying ‘Ummm’ every other word. It looks a lot more polished.
4. Ask questions! Just like adults going for job interviews, if you’ve made an effort to attend, you’ll naturally have a question or two about the job and the place of work. Your child should go into the interview with a few questions prepared that are specific to the school. Carry a small notebook and ask away! Don’t go in with a whole list of questions because there won’t be enough time, and it will look odd. So no more than about three questions are needed. Time to go on the school website and have a look through the activities and clubs etc, and think about anything you’d like to ask.
5. Watch the News – BBC News, CNN, reading the newspaper (the free Metro newspaper or any of the broadsheet newspaper websites for the Guardian, The Times, for example, will do!). It’s quite common to be asked about current affairs (see interview question below), so watching and reading the news will help.
6. If asked a question that your child has been practising at home, she should , so it looks like she is thinking about a response and doesn’t make it evident that it’s been practised at home.
7. Have a conversation about what to tell the interviewer when asked about the schools that she has applied for. If your child is doing eight school exams, it’s probably not a good idea to state this – you want to give the impression that there is only one school of interest. It’s acceptable to mention two or three other schools, but reeling off seven others might not give the best impression.
8. Sit still – but not like someone in a straight jacket! This just means avoiding fiddling, slouching or tapping feet etc.
9. Tell your child not to worry if the interviewer has a different opinion about a topic to theirs, they may enjoy hearing your child’s viewpoint – and it’s could also be an interview tactic.
Don’t become a robot
Please don’t encourage your child to memorise answers to interview questions! The independent school interview is not another test – the interviewers want to get to know the ‘real’ child, it will be apparent that an adult has rehearsed answers with them.
Here are some interview questions to practise:
1. What is your favourite subject at school – and why?
2. What is your least favourite subject at school and why?
3. Why do you want to come to our school?
4. What sport do you play?
5. What is your favourite sport?
6. What extra-curricular activities do you do?
7. Do you play any musical instruments?
8. Have you performed in any plays?
9. If you had unlimited money, what would you do with it and why?
10. Who is your favourite author?
11. What book(s) are you currently reading?
12. Who is your favourite character in the book you are reading?
13. Who is your least favourite character in the book you are reading?
14. What book would you recommend I read and why?
15. If you could solve one problem in the world, what would it be and why?
Interactive activities during interviews
It’s not uncommon for your child to be shown a group of pictures and asked which one he likes and why. The pictures can range from portraits of celebrities and animals to more thought-provoking pictures, e.g. war, destruction of the rainforest and a road sign.
Another common activity during the independent school interview is to describe an object. So, it is a good idea to think about as many uses of an object like a pen (or paperclip, basket or candle, for example) other than using it as a pen.
Your child could also be presented with a poem or piece of writing to discuss with the interviewer, so make sure that you are working on this at home. Even if you spend 10-15 minutes a day discussing passages from different genres of books, this will help your child engage with anything that’s presented during the independent school interview.