Updated: Aug 6, 2019
'Expect the unexpected’ is clearly the safest guideline as schools differ and the senior staff interviewing differ as well.
All things being equal, the interview will start softly with some warm up questions along the lines of ‘What are your favourite subjects?’ or simply, ‘Tell me about your hobbies’. Slightly tougher might be ‘What are your ambitions?’ or ‘Do you have any siblings? Describe their best and worst traits’.
The line of questioning might then become quite closed and knowledge based, with mental Maths questions disguised as History, for example, ‘The Battle of Hastings happened in 1066, it is 2015 now. How many years ago was this war?’ or ‘What time is it half way between 11 o'clock in the morning and 3:22 in the afternoon?’ It is not unusual for interviewers to quiz the times tables, ask what CO2 stands for or to quiz children on a line graph, bus schedule or crossword.
There may well be some kind of visual stimulus to comment on. Some schools ask children to bring in something along the lines of ‘show and tell’. Others might have a piece of artwork and ask the children to describe it with prompts such as, ‘What do you see in this picture?’ or ‘What in this picture strikes you as unusual?’ There might be further lines of enquiry such as ‘When do you think this picture was painted? Why?’ or a demand for a more reflexive response, ‘Many people find this painting interesting; can you think why?’
Following these initial stages, it would be quite usual for the interviewer to ask more open-ended questions to encourage some form of discussion. There maybe topics that the children can relate to quickly like ‘How many girls are there in your class? How will you feel in an all-boys environment?’ or, ‘Why do you want to come to this school?’ Other examples could be, ‘What are the good things about your school? How would you improve it?’
Then, there is always room for the creative question to get the imagination going. A classic being the desert island scenario: ‘You are on an island and you can take one book and one person with you. What would you choose?’ Slightly tougher might be, ‘If you were a superhero, what would your super power be?’ or ‘Choose a cartoon character that you would like to be. Explain why’.
Let’s not forget the current events questions, which may often feel beyond the years of your youngsters. Nonetheless, schools will ask so some basic understanding is advised. A fair question would be, ‘What recent newspaper headline do you remember & why?’ but be prepared for, ‘Who is the current Prime Minister and will he be the next?’
Importantly, the school will want to gauge the applicant’s character and suitability for their new school environment. If a boarding school, there maybe questions like, ‘Do you think you would be homesick?’ or ‘If someone attacks you, should you fight back?’
Thinking forward, there maybe a big question on the future like, ‘What would you like to be when you are older? How will you make that happen?’ or ‘Have you thought about which GCSEs you would like to take?’
Finally, be prepared for the nosey questions like ‘What do your parents do for a living?’ ‘Where do you live?’ or ‘What schools are you trying out for?’ and even, ‘Which is your favourite school?!’
The more preparation the better: Prep School Tutor has specialist tutors with a whole host of practice questions to help your child feel ready, relaxed and confident about the interview. Contact us to find out how we can help.
Common question categories for an 11+ exam interview: