How to prepare for a university interview and what to expect

It’s enough to fill you with dread: the word “interview” can send shivers down even the most experienced of people’s spines.

When I applied for university I had to attend interviews at three different universities. I remember travelling to these unfamiliar places full of fear and nerves. I didn’t know what to do or even what to expect. After three interviews though, I like to think that I managed to get an insight into how interviews work.

There is truly nothing to worry about if you follow these easy steps:

What to expect:

This can vary from university to university and also different courses will have their own procedures.

An interview may include a short exam, but more often than not it will just involve a chat with one of the staff from the department. You may also be asked questions on an unseen item: for English this could be a story extract, while for Maths it could be an equation or statistics.

Normally at Essex, your interview and/or test will form part of a larger Applicant Day where you’ll be able to tour our campus, meet our students and get a feel for life at Essex.



Of course you won’t be able to tell what questions you’ll be asked, but it is worth thinking about “Why do you want to study this particular course?” and “Why have you applied to this university?” If you can answer these questions then you’re halfway there.

Remind yourself of what you put in your personal statement and don’t forget to be passionate. Speaking of which…


Basically you will have around 10-30 minutes to sell yourself. Your personal statement will have done some of the work for you, now you can do the rest in person.

Show that you’re passionate about your subject and feel free to talk about your interests in the subject and the areas that fascinate you about it.

category_banner_pl_reference_books_videosBe Yourself

Remember the interviewer is not there to catch you out. They want to get to know you and see what you are capable of. So relax and be yourself so that the interviewer can find out the real you.

Don’t be scared to ask questions

If you don’t understand what you’re being asked, then do not hesitate to ask a question or ask for some help. The interviewer doesn’t want you to sit and squirm in silence because that will waste time, however they will be more than happy to rephrase a question or clarify what they have said.

If in doubt, ask.


The best thing you can do is chat to your interviewer. Find common ground that you can build upon so that you can continue to contribute to the conversation.

Make sure you’re aware of the latest issues in current affairs relevant to your subject and prepare a question to ask the interviewer in return. They’ll love you for it.

Most importantly:

Take a deep breath.

Don’t panic.

Take a few seconds to compose yourself before answering the question.

And most importantly…enjoy yourself!

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