UCAS application

What to expect at a university interview - by subject

By Andy Gardner (Careers Adviser) - 08 November 2013

Falmouth University subject interviews tutor student

Got an invite to a university interview? To help give you a flavour for what's in store, we asked students of different subjects - from languages to maths - to share what happened at their interview.

University interviews come in all shapes and sizes. It really depends on the university itself, the preferred style of your interviewer (or interviewers) and, of course, your chosen subject. Here's what was involved and how it went for past interviewees applying to get on to a range of courses.

We've also got more on what happens inside university interviews, including why tutors might throw in the odd unusual question during an interview.

Architecture
‘I was told in a letter about the interview to be prepared to answer questions on modern architecture, construction and the building industry, but none were actually asked. However, the interviewer was very interested in all the artwork in my portfolio.’

Art foundation
‘There were no questions, just a review of my portfolio. It is really important to make sure all your good work is in your portfolio, and to include a wide range of pieces.’

Biology
‘When the interviewer asked me about acid rain I couldn’t answer sufficiently, so I asked him to explain it to me. He seemed pleased by the fact that I wanted to learn.’

Chemistry
‘Both my interviews were subject based. One was organic, the other physical and inorganic. I was asked to discuss a topic of my choice and they developed it from there. The questions asked were quite demanding because they wanted you to answer in depth. They didn’t want plain facts – they wanted you to think why things happen, apply your existing knowledge and predict reactions you hadn’t come across before.’

Classics
‘I was given a test where I had to translate a made-up language.’

Computing
‘After a preliminary conversation and questioning, I was asked to solve some problems on paper.’

Dentistry
‘It was very important to talk about what you had gained from your work experience – sort of, “What is life like beside the dentist’s chair?”!’

Drama / acting
‘It was an audition. I had to learn three pieces to perform, of no more than two minutes each: some Shakespeare in blank verse; a contemporary work; and something of my own choice.’

Economics
‘Most of the interview was taken up with questions on maths and statistics which the interviewer set out for me. I had to do the equations on a board in front of him.’

Education
‘We were split into groups of four. We had to choose a topic from a set of cards (the topics included school dinners, languages and SATs). We then had to choose one of these topics and make a group presentation, which was observed.’

Engineering
‘Most questions somehow related to physics subjects - mechanics, electricity, forces and moments, etc.’

English
‘I was asked to read over a poem and then discuss it with the interviewer. Then I was asked to speak for five minutes on a book of my choice (unprepared).’

Geography
‘Know your subject well. Know current events. Know the reasons why you want to study geography.’

History
‘I was given some sources to look at relating to an issue I knew nothing about. I was then asked questions on these sources.’

Law
‘I had to read a long passage (a side of typed A4 paper) and then say what was illogical about it.’

Maths
‘The interview was more a case of us working together on how to show integration as the opposite of differentiation. He didn’t expect me to know how to do it, but he wanted to see how I could think my way through it and solve it with his help.’

Medicine
‘They basically wanted to know about me rather than my academic ability, despite this being an important factor. Also, it’s useful to know about current events in relation to health and medicine, from articles and news reports.’

Modern foreign languages
‘I was asked some difficult questions in French about the passage they gave me to look at, which was very wordy. I was asked a lot about my further reading of French books, but all the literature and personal questions were in English.’

Speech therapy
‘We watched a video (about one-and-a-half minutes long) about a man who had suffered a stroke and the effect it had had on his speech. Then we had to discuss it in the interview.’

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Quotes taken from the University Interviews Guide, Gardner & Hamnett (JFS School)

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