How your child can prepare for an interview
By Victoria Burrill
09 Jun

As Head of Year 6 at a London prep school, Victoria Burrill has extensive experience of preparing children for entrance interviews at 11+ and 13+, and interviewing prospective students. Here, she reveals how your child can make a good impression at interview.  
Interviews - rising heart rate, perspiring palms, dry mouth. And that’s just as an adult. Now we are asking children to participate in interviews from the age of 10, and even younger. So what is the best way to prepare?

Prepare… but not too much


It is important that you have researched the school for which you are interviewing. By the time of interview you will probably have already visited the school but look at their website to remind yourself about it. Try to find out as much as you can so that you look eager and well informed at interview. This will also help you when it comes to asking questions (see below).
There are some topics which you are likely to be asked about, so think these through and make some notes about ideas you might want to respond with. Think about your favourite subjects, extracurricular activities, special skills or talents, any positions of responsibility you hold, awards or prizes you have gained in and out of school, what you think you could bring to the new school and why you like the new school. Also think about what kind of person you are and what kind of friend you are - schools will want to know about you socially as well as academically. Don’t be afraid to sell yourself. You are trying to show your best self so don’t be shy (but don’t be arrogant). Be proud of your strengths.
Practise talking about these subjects with an adult. Don’t prepare a speech or a script - it is very obvious to an interviewer and will put them off. They want to see your natural self. Interviews are about listening and responding as much as they are about talking. Ask a parent or family member to ask you interview-style questions when you’re not expecting it. Keep calm, breathe and think, and don’t be afraid to pause before answering. You are more likely to answer well and you will show the interviewer that you have considered your response carefully.

Be interesting and interested


This means that you need to show that you are interesting by talking about your hobbies, strengths and positive attributes. It is also important to show that you are interested - that you are curious about the world and that you like to learn. Prior to the interview, make a point of watching the news or reading the newspaper and discussing some current events with adults to help you understand them. Try to visit, or think back to times you have visited, places of interest: museums, historical buildings, places of geographical interest etc. Perhaps spend some time in the library finding out a bit more about things that interest you. If you’re fascinated by space, read up on NASA’s latest missions. If you love animals, watch some David Attenborough documentaries or visit an aquarium or bird sanctuary. By expanding your knowledge, you can talk about your interests in more depth.   


Which leads us onto the interview itself. Greet the interviewer with a strong handshake and a confident greeting such as, “Nice to meet you,” or a simple, “Good morning/afternoon”. Smile and engage the interviewer with eye contact as you talk. Sit straight on your chair and try not to fiddle or fidget, even if you are nervous.
Most importantly, do not be afraid to talk. You are there to make a good impression and answering with single word responses will give the wrong one. Imagine you are asked what your favourite thing about your current school is. Tell the interviewer what it is. Then tell them why you like it. Give an example of something that was particularly enjoyable and explain what you learnt from it. Develop your answer to show more about yourself. Don't rely on the interviewer to keep prompting you with more questions.

Ask the right questions

Although mostly you will be answering questions, at the end of an interview you may be asked if you have any questions for the interviewer. This is an important opportunity to find out more about the school but also to reveal a bit more about yourself. Your best bet is to ask about opportunities at the new school. For example, if you are a keen singer and it hasn’t already come up in the interview, ask if there are any choirs you might join or concerts you might take part in. This makes you sound enthusiastic and demonstrates how you could contribute to school life. Don’t ask something too obvious (that you might have already found out on the website) and avoid asking if there is “loads of homework” or “how long the holidays are”. Focus on the things you want to get involved in.

Keep calm and carry on

Interviews can be nerve-wracking but if you’ve prepared in the right way, hopefully you can view it as a chance to meet a new person, to share your interests and your enthusiasm and to make a positive impression. The interviewer is not there to catch you out - they just want to get to know you. Take a deep breath and be yourself. That’s what they really want to see.
For more advice about how your child can prepare for entrance exams and interviews, download our FREE entrance exam guide. The Galore Park Parent Guide is packed full of information and insightful revision guidance, designed to demystify the exam process for you and your child.



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