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how to prepare for your university interview

Coronavirus update

If you've been invited to an interview for your course, please contact interviews@port.ac.uk. We'll advise you of the arrangements.

Universities hold interviews to meet you and assess you're fit for the course you've applied for. The interview process also helps universities assess your academic potential, self-motivation and ability to engage with your subject within and outside your coursework.

For some of our courses, you'll need to come to an interview or complete an admissions test before we make a decision on your application. Depending on the course, we may interview all candidates, or a shortlist of potential students we'd like to learn more about.

Interviews and tests vary between courses. We'll always tell you what to expect, what to bring and where to go. If a course does require an interview or test, it will say so on the course page on our website and the UCAS course search.

If you have questions about the interview process or need help along the way, contact our Admissions Team:

Questions to prepare for

In any university interview, you'll be asked some common questions, and some course and subject specific ones.

You might get caught off guard by a few questions, but remember, it's okay not to know the answer or to take your time to think about what to say. Don't just respond with what you think we want to hear. Be true to yourself.

Common questions interviewers might ask

You should prepare for the common questions interviewers will ask. But honesty and injecting your personality into your answer will always reflect better than a standard, scripted response. The following information can help you shape your answers to common questions.

Common questions

Think about what makes you excited about your chosen subject. Why do you enjoy learning about it? Are you interested in this subject because of the theory and knowledge behind it? Are you passionate about how this subject can be used practically?

What is it about our university that motivated you to apply? Was it the quality of the course? The academic experts here? Career opportunities and job prospects? The facilities, student community or the city?

Why did you choose your A-level subjects? Were your expectations met by the work you did for them? What were the most fun and challenging parts of your A-levels?

This question is deliberately broad. Think about the personality traits you're most proud of. What drives and motivates you as a person? How would your friends and family describe you?

This question is often asked to find out what you enjoy outside of study. What do you enjoy doing when you aren't studying? Do you play sports, have hobbies or other interests?

You should highlight the things that you're good at and why — and give an example or two. Talking about your weaknesses is always difficult, but it's important to be honest and acknowledge how you're improving. Reflecting on your own performance will be important in your studies.

You have a lot of freedom with this question. Your answer could be an academic achievement like getting a great mark in a tough subject, something sports related such as making a team or earning a medal, or something personal like working in a local community group.

This can be a difficult one depending on what life stage you're at, and there's no right answer. If you've got a clear plan you should look to lay that out for your interviewer. If you don't, that's okay too. Instead, you could explain how this course will help you explore what you're passionate about to better shape a career that excites you.

This pointed question can be difficult to answer. What we really want to know is 'what sets you apart from other candidates?' If this question comes at the end of the interview, your answers to other questions already have that covered. Your answer now is about wrapping up your previous answers into a clear and concise response.

Questions to ask the interviewer

An important part of any interview is when you can turn the lens back onto the people who've been asking you questions. You don't have to ask questions, but this is an opportunity to show how you think and work.

Try to find a question or two that will challenge your interviewer. Your questions can be as complex or simple as you want. If you make them stop and think, you know you've asked a good question. You could ask about the course content, about future career prospects if you take this course, or how the university might change during the time you're there.

What to bring

Bring a copy of your personal statement with you on interview day. The chances are that our interviewers built their questions based on what you shared with them in your personal statement. So it's handy to have a reminder of what you said.

For some courses, you'll need to submit a portfolio of your work, either electronically before the interview or in person on the day. In both cases, you should bring a copy of your portfolio to showcase your work and achievements during the interview.

Assessments, workshops and auditions

Some of our interviews include assessments. These could be written tests or tasks. On our creative courses, interviews can include workshops and auditions.

You'll get instructions or guidelines on how you'll be assessed, but you won't know exactly what's in store. Focus on preparing for what you know. Workshops and auditions can either be conducted solo or in groups, and are usually based on material you'll receive ahead of the day.

How to present yourself

Preparing for your interview

If you're invited to an interview, we're already interested in what you have to offer – what more can you share with us in person? Spend time thinking about what we might be looking for, and how you can convince us you're the right person.

Remember that your interview will be more than just repeating your personal statement — your interviewers have already read that. Instead, think about how you can apply what you know in new ways at university, and the kinds of things you're interested in learning more about with us.

Find a friend or someone you can practice with, get them to ask you some of the common interview questions. You don't want to work from a script, but knowing the key parts of your story will be helpful when answering questions.

On the day

When interview day arrives, there are a few things you can do to make sure everything goes smoothly.

  • Dress for the occasion — you don't have to dress formally, but a clean, smart outfit shows you're serious
  • Be punctual — arrive early and have a back-up plan if you have a long journey that might involve delays
  • Think about your body language — good posture, eye contact and speaking clearly all help to communicate your ideas in a more effective way
  • Be honest — they've invited you because they want to get to know you better, but interviewers can tell when you're saying what you think they want to hear, rather than being honest
  • Stay positive — don't beat yourself up about how you could have answered the last question better, focus on the questions ahead of you

Additional checks and requirements

Some of our courses have additional checks and requirements as part of the interview process, particularly for our courses in health and childcare. We'll make sure you're aware of these and have time to prepare or submit the information we need. Some of our checks include:

  • Standard and enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check
  • Occupational Health assessment
  • South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) conducted interviews for paramedical related courses
  • Exposure Prone Procedures (EPPs) workers' checks, particularly for dental students

After the interview

When the interview's finished, you might have a mixture of relief that it's over and regret that you could have done better. That's natural, but it's important to remember there's no one right way to interview. Note down where you think you did well and where you could improve in future interviews.

There'll be a bit of wait between your interview and finding out if you made it through. Try not to stress about the outcome, instead spend this time on reflection, thinking about what you can work on, and self care to make sure you're keeping happy and healthy.

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