What to expect from the teacher training interview and selection day

Teacher training interview and selection day

The format of the day can vary depending on the provider and route, for example if you're already employed in the school. The interview process may include a selection of activities such as:

  • a face-to-face interview
  • an assessment centre
  • written tests of maths, ICT and/or English
  • a presentation
  • a group discussion/exercise
  • teaching or planning a mini-lesson
  • interaction with pupils in school
  • a subject-specific task such as a practical exercise for PE, music or drama candidates
  • a review of your original exam certificates and skills test results or details of when these are being taken.

For applications through UCAS Teacher Training, interviews must be held within 40 working days of your application being received and may last at least half a day, so leave a full day free for each interview. If you're offered more than one interview on the same day, contact one of the providers to see if they can reschedule; if not, you need to decide which one to attend. If you are unable to attend an interview you must let the provider know. It's important to visit the school or university beforehand, and for many schools this is considered a part of the application process.

Applicants to the Teach First programme who successfully pass the online application stage are invited to a one-day assessment centre consisting of a sample teaching lesson and self-evaluation, a case study and written self-evaluation group exercise, and a one-to-one competency-based interview.

Applicants for the Researchers in Schools (RIS) programme who meet the application form criteria are invited to an assessment centre held at one of the partner schools. This consists of delivering a mini-lesson (you'll be given details of the subject before the day), completing a written self-evaluation of the mini-lesson, a group activity and a one-to-one interview.

Suitable applicants on the Assessment Only route are interviewed by their approved provider and must present a portfolio of evidence showing progress to QTS. Successful candidates will then be assessed at the school. The assessment period lasts a maximum of 12 weeks and may include a range of activities such as lesson observations, a portfolio of evidence, subject knowledge assessment or a final viva. You will have an in-school mentor to provide feedback and advice.

What teacher training providers will look for at the interview

Choose a smart outfit and look professional, as some selectors allocate marks for this. PE and drama candidates should check whether there are any selection activities requiring other clothing or sportswear. Remember that you're being assessed from the moment you contact the school.

The individual interview usually lasts around 20 minutes, but may be anything from five minutes to an hour. Depending on the context, the selection panel could include a lecturer, school governor, head or senior member of a school team, a class teacher, students or young people.

The selection panel will want to see that you have the qualities necessary to become a successful teacher and will look for evidence of your:

  • understanding of the role
  • commitment to teaching
  • passion for working with children/young people
  • enthusiasm for your subject/age group and how it's taught
  • communication and interpersonal skills
  • resilience.

It's important to show that you can reflect on and learn from your experience, so use every opportunity to bring in examples from your own education and work in schools/other contexts.

What you need to get across in your presentation

The selectors will be looking for language skills demonstrated through:

  • a logical structure, with an introduction, main idea and conclusion
  • content and language suitable for the intended audience
  • engaging the audience
  • communicating clearly.

Try to convey your enthusiasm and include an interactive element, showing how you will perform in a classroom setting.

The group discussion or exercise for teacher training

The selectors will observe your:

  • ability to listen and respond appropriately
  • effectiveness in engaging and interacting with others
  • ability to communicate ideas and opinions clearly.

Make sure you actively contribute and encourage others to do so too. Where appropriate take opportunities for leadership. Read any material provided as part of the exercise carefully and keep the group focused on the objective.

Interacting with pupils in school

If your selection day includes a school visit or takes place in school, you are likely to spend some time helping in a class or delivering a mini-lesson, so that selectors can see how you engage with the students.

Teaching or planning a mini-lesson

You may be given a selection of topics to choose from in advance or may be given resources to work with on the day, for example pictures, books or objects. The mini-lesson will usually last 10–15 minutes. Selectors will be looking at how well you interact with the group, the appropriateness of your material for the age group, your enthusiasm and creativity. You may be asked to answer questions afterwards or discuss the lesson with your interviewer.

Selection tests for teacher training courses

Primary: A maths test might involve fractions, percentages, long division and multiplication and mental arithmetic. The English task will test spelling, punctuation and grammar. Tests may assess your own ability or could involve you marking a child's work. You may also be asked to do an ICT test or audit.

Secondary: You may have a written exercise, such as a short essay on the qualities of a good teacher or an article with questions to answer. You may be asked to complete a subject knowledge test or profile.

How to prepare for your teacher training selection day

Research the education sector and read up on current issues, such as safeguarding, using resources such as the TES and BBC News: Education & Family. Other relevant news sources include The Guardian on Tuesdays and The Independent on Thursdays. Selectors will be interested in your opinions, ideas and attitudes relating to education and teaching.

Research the national curriculum for your subject and age range using GOV.UK: Curriculum and Qualifications.

Have all relevant documents with you, such as certificates, skills test results or details of when these are being taken, evidence of experience and any paperwork you received prior to the interview. Make sure you read through your application form again to refresh your memory about what you have written.

Think about how you would handle different interview situations. Some teaching interviews take place in a relaxed atmosphere on a one-to-one basis, whereas others involve a group interview where you would be asked to discuss a number of topics in a group of perhaps six to eight candidates.

Try and arrange a practice interview with a school recruiter/university tutor, careers adviser or a friend and think about typical interview questions you may be asked. 

If you're applying for a modern languages course, be prepared to be interviewed in the language you propose to teach and to answer questions about your time abroad. With thorough preparation you can go along to the interview day with confidence.

Accepting offers

If you've applied through UCAS Teacher Training Apply 1, training providers must let you know their decision within 40 working days. (If they haven't responded in this time, the choice is automatically made unsuccessful.) Once you've heard from all your choices, you've got ten working days to respond to any offers you've been given. Remember that you can only accept one offer. Make sure you respond in time or your choice will be automatically declined.

If you want to accept an offer before you've got replies from them all, you can. However, think carefully before you do this as you will need to withdraw from any providers you’ve not heard from before you can accept the offer you want. If you don't want to accept any of the offers, you can decline them all.

If you're not accepted through Apply 1, or if you decline all your offers, you can use Apply 2 to reapply.

Written by Christine Smith, University of Bedfordshire