Interviews are not common practice in the UK university admissions landscape. However, if you are applying for care-giving courses like medicine or social work, or even creative programs, it is quite likely that an interview will be part of your application process. Highly competitive universities, especially the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, as well as certain departments at Imperial College London and University College London also interview candidates in their selection criteria.

If you make it to the interview stage of your applications to UK universities, congratulations! The university already considers you deserving of a place. Here are some top tips to help you prepare:

1. Know your interview format

Not all universities follow the same interview format, so find out as much as you can so that you know what to expect. First and foremost, will the interview take place in-person or online? For 2022, at least, nearly all UK universities are still conducting interviews 100% online.

In medicine, it is quite common to go through a series of multiple mini-interviews, each one around a specific topic or task, whereas Oxford and Cambridge prefer to conduct their meetings through a panel format, where you will be sitting in front of 2-3 course tutors. If you are not clear about your interview format, you can write to or call the university to find out more.

2. Learn everything you can about your course

One of the main objectives of the interview is to determine that you are the right fit for the course you have applied for. Therefore, it is important that you are familiar with the structure and different modules that your course covers and its specific learning style. Oxbridge applicants should understand the tutorial style of teaching, while candidates for practical or lab-based courses (e.g. medicine, engineering or the natural sciences) should know how much of the course is lecture-based versus task-based. All of these factors can inform the kinds of skills you might need to demonstrate in your interview. Luckily, most of this information is easily available online. Of course, if you happen to know a student at the university, you could also speak with them!

3. Keep up-to-date on current affairs and research related to your course.

It is likely that your interviewer will ask for your opinions and thoughts on the latest news related to your subject. The best way to prepare for this is by making it a daily habit and spending at least 10-15 minutes reading the news and maybe even keeping a running set of notes. You do not have to limit yourself from reading of course — podcasts can be a great source of news and analysis. You can also set daily or weekly Google alerts for keywords associated with your subject. For medical applicants, it is essential that you are familiar with any current debates or issues concerning the NHS, as this is the UK’s most important medical body.

Even if you are not asked directly about current affairs, being prepared with this knowledge can go a long way, as you might be able to draw on current events to strengthen your answers and impress your interviewers.

It is also a good idea to look up published work by your university department, or if you can, the research of specific course tutors who might be interviewing you. Showing familiarity with academic research in your field is a great way of demonstrating your genuine interest in the subject and university

4. Know your UCAS Personal Statement

Your UCAS Personal Statement is probably one of the reasons why

you made it to the interview stage, and so, anything that you wrote here is fair game for questioning! Refresh your memory by reading through it again and again. Be prepared to expand on any of the salient points or defend any arguments that you made. If you reference a book or expert, you should be very familiar with its central arguments and ideas of the work or individual.

5. Practice, practice, practice!

Practice as much as you can, whether that is with past students, subject teachers, an external counselor, or even friends and family. You can even simple practice answers aloud by yourself at home. Recording these sessions might help you to identify any improvement areas, since you can watch yourself after and critique your responses.

Pay attention to body language and tone. These are equally important in expressing that you are genuinely interested in the course and engaged in the dialog. For example, avoid slouching or fidgeting, and remember to make eye contact – even in an online interview!

Another aspect that you should be comfortable with is showing your thought process. The interview is an opportunity for the university to see how you think about problems and arrive at solutions. This is usually more important than having the perfect answer. This means it is not just okay, but even encouraged, to think aloud, or in the case of written exercises, show your work. This will showcase your intellectual technique and problem-solving abilities.

6. Arrive with everything you need to succeed!

Do not leave logistical decisions to the last minute. Decide your attire beforehand as your presentation is a powerful non-verbal cue to convey you are taking the interview seriously. While most universities do not require business formal attire, it may be worth clarifying this. However, what is most important is that you look professional, but also feel comfortable.

Also, check that you have any documents that you might be required to bring on the day. Some universities might inform you of tasks that need to be completed beforehand, while specific courses might need you to bring a portfolio, piece of written work, or a calculator.

7. Map out your commute ahead of time

University campuses can be confusing, and departments are often spread out over different buildings. Make sure you know the exact street address, floor and office number where your interview is being held. For online interviews, download and test any applications or equipment (e.g. camera, microphone) ahead of time. Ensure your laptop is charged, your Wi-Fi connection is strong and that you have a quiet space to take the interview from.

It is also advisable to try and arrive, or log-in, well before your allotted time slot, so that you can account for any unforeseen delays, but also have enough time to collect yourself.

8. Do you have any questions? Absolutely!

Towards the end of the interview you may be asked if you have any questions. Thoughtful queries show interviewers that you are well-prepared and have done your research — qualities they appreciate in prospective students. Avoid asking anything that is easy to find on the website. It is a good idea to come prepared with two or three questions, but you might think of more as the interview progresses. If your prepared questions were answered during the interview, it is perfectly acceptable to say this.

We wish you all the best with your college applications. If you need help preparing for an interview or have questions on any other aspect of your application, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.