Example interview questions for postgrad study
Getting an interview for a postgraduate course means that you have successfully demonstrated your ability in your application. The interview is designed to further examine your skills and commitment and to see how you would fit in to the institution or a specific research group.
Interview questions will vary depending on the kind of postgraduate programme you're going for and you may have already addressed many of them in your personal statement or application. Some typical questions are:
Why do you want to study this subject/course/research programme?
Show your enthusiasm and passion for the subject. Make reference to relevant modules and projects, or a dissertation from your undergraduate study, which have persuaded you to develop your interest further. If you have a career aim, show how the course will help you to achieve this. Explain the unique contribution your research will make to the university, as well as how it will fit with existing research (if appropriate). If you have had to submit a research proposal, be prepared to discuss this in detail.
Why this university/college?
Demonstrate that you are familiar with the research strengths of the department and how it is regarded in the academic community. You should also highlight any specific aspects of the course that you find particularly attractive, such as how it is structured, its range of study options, methods of assessment or the quality of its facilities. If you already study at the university, present this as a positive feature.
What skills can you offer?
Before your interview you should be fully aware of your academic and transferable skills. You should also identify the specific competencies each course provider is seeking. You could find out this information on their website, by talking to them or looking through postgraduate forums online.
Avoid just listing your skills and instead include examples, outlining the following:
- Where you gained the competency they require, for example, from experience at work or university.
- How you perform it to a high level, for example, you may demonstrate good teamwork skills by taking other people’s ideas into consideration, supporting colleagues and being responsible for your individual task.
- How your expertise will benefit the course, for example, your analytical proficiency may help your team to carry out in-depth research.
What do you intend to do after you've finished the course?
Interviewers want to ensure that you are committed to their course so you should be able to clearly outline why you are applying and how you plan to use the qualification. Even if you do not have a clear career objective at this stage, some sense of direction will signal that you are a serious candidate.
How do you intend to fund your study?
Make sure you have prepared well for this question. Check out any possible sources of funding including government loans and university scholarships well ahead of time to see if you are eligible. Be prepared to show how you would fund a course yourself if you are not successful in securing funding from other sources. Perhaps you will work and study part time or use a career development loan.
GOV.UK: Funding for Postgraduate Study provides general information about postgraduate study and also details about the postgraduate loan scheme for those domiciled in England. Students ordinarily resident in other countries of the UK should check the relevant awards agencies in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
Which part of your degree course did you enjoy the most?
This question is designed to ascertain whether you have a genuine enthusiasm for the study and research you will be undertaking. Promote the aspects of your undergraduate study where you excelled and demonstrate how this fired your interest. Show that you have researched the subject and course you hope to study.
What do you feel are the main differences between undergraduate and postgraduate study?
This is your chance to show that you have the skills and qualities needed for independent research and study. Demonstrate that you understand that postgraduate study involves taking a more proactive attitude to study, including independent reading, critical thinking, time management, problem solving, tenacity and self-discipline.
Why should we accept you?
This is a gift question. It gives you the chance to use a prepared answer. State your strengths, skills and relevant experiences, putting them in the order that creates the best impression.
Written by Fiona McNamara, University of Liverpool, November 2016