How to Prepare for a Postgraduate Interview

Studying at postgraduate-level is a great way to enhance your learning and unlock your full academic potential. Universities use postgraduate interviews as a key part of the application process to establish whether you’re well-suited to studying at Master’s or PhD level.

Whether you have previous interview experience or not, the structure of a postgraduate interview is unique and will probably be unfamiliar to you. It’s important to know which type of interview you will be facing and how to best prepare for it.

The Profs’ postgraduate admissions experts have put together this guide – including top tips from our Head of Postgraduate Admissions, Joseph Robbins – to help set you up for interview success. Our team has years of experience and a track record of helping students get onto postgraduate courses at top universities.

How do postgraduate interviews work?

Unlike for undergraduate degrees, which are most commonly panel interviews (or MMIs for Medicine), interviews for postgraduate degrees can take a variety of forms. The type of interview you’ll face depends on the university and course you’re applying for, and each requires different preparation.
There are three main types of postgraduate interview:

1. Online video interview – most commonly Kira Talent (also known as Kira Prep)

This type of interview is unusual in that you are not going to meet anyone. Kira Talent interview questions are pre-recorded online. You are given 30-60 seconds to prepare your answer before recording it via the virtual platform.

Typically, you will be asked 6 questions in a Kira Talent interview, one of which is written (to test that your level of English matches that used in your application).

Joe’s tip: In your recorded answers, it is just as much about how you say it as what you say. Being positive and enthusiastic about the course is the key to standing out.

2. Admissions staff interview

This interview is most similar to a first-round job interview at a company. It is likely to be conducted by a human resources professional who has a set list of questions.

Joe’s tip: The trick to this type of interview is preparing your answers in advance. The most common question type is ‘Tell me about a time in which you demonstrated leadership/had to deal with conflict/had to work hard towards a goal’. You’ll need to know all your anecdotes ahead of the interview.

3. Alumni interview

This interview is the least common and most associated with London Business School. If available, an alumni will be asked to meet with you for a coffee (or over Zoom).

Joe’s tip: These interviews will depend the most on the rapport that you build with your interviewer and are likely to centre around your personal statement and career interests. The way to stand out is to have a career plan and convey your passion for achieving this plan whilst asking the alumni for all the advice they can give you to help you to get there.

What questions will you be asked in a postgraduate interview?

As with all university interviews, you can’t predict exactly what questions will come up in any postgraduate interview. However, you can research the type of questions and topics that you’re likely to be asked about.

Most of your interview will consist of being asked questions relating to aspects of your postgraduate application, including your research interests, work experience, previous academic studies, and the wider subject area.
The Profs’ experienced postgraduate admissions tutors can also help you prepare for likely questions and make sure you know what your interviewers will be looking for. Get in touch with our expert team for further advice.

9 tips for preparing for a postgraduate interview

Good preparation is key to a successful postgraduate interview. A strong academic record is a great selling point, but postgraduate interviewers will be looking for a deeper understanding, passion and curiosity for your chosen subject area.

Based on the experience of our expert team, here are nine tips to help you maximise your chances of success in your postgraduate interview.

1. Prepare your answers in advance

An interview is ultimately an oral examination and has a mark scheme just like a written examination. You wouldn’t wing a written exam, so don’t wing your interview. Using a list of common postgraduate interview questions, write down your answers and practise reciting each in under 90 seconds. Then continually edit and improve your answers, ideally based on feedback from an interview tutor who understands and has been through the process themselves.

2. Know your application inside out

Read through your application and CV again to familiarise yourself with your key strengths, academic record, and work experience. Your interviewers will likely pick out points from your application to discuss with you in further detail, so knowing this inside out is the first step to setting yourself up for success.

3. Do your university research and flaunt it!

There are thousands of postgraduate courses in the UK, many of which are research-based and require almost entirely independent study. Before your interview, ask yourself: Why this course and this university? Which modules are you particularly interested in? And how will these modules help you to reach your academic or career goals?
Have at least two module names that you can name-drop in your interview to show that you have done your homework. This is an easy way to stand out from the crowd.

Joe’s tip: Bonus points if you can name-drop a lecturer who shares an interest with you and an academic society you wish to join.

4. Read extensively around your subject

If you’re applying to study at postgraduate level, you probably already have a pretty good understanding of your subject area. However, the aim of a postgraduate interview is to explore the depth and nuance of this understanding, as well as where your passions lie. Having a solid understanding of the wider discipline, including any recent news, landmark research, and important academics will allow you to have these higher-level discussions with your interviewers.

5. Prepare plenty of examples

In any university-level interview, it’s not enough to declare your strengths and interests – you need to demonstrate them. This is especially true at postgraduate level, where your independence and passion for the subject area are crucial to your success. Preparing plenty of examples of times when you have demonstrated this will help you to support, not just state, your claims.

Ensure you have examples that prove your academic ability, such as course-related societies you’ve been a part of or extra learning you have completed, as well as examples that demonstrate your soft skills, such as managing your time well, taking on a leadership role, or solving a problem in an innovative way.

6. Be overwhelmingly enthusiastic

The strongest candidates go into ‘influencer mode’ during their interview. This means being your most enthusiastic and passionate self. Positivity sells and when choosing between two similar candidates, the more positive one will always win.

7. Don’t worry about um-ing and ah-ing

One of the most common concerns among students is that pausing will hurt their chances. This is incorrect – it is natural to pause, think and ‘um’ during an interview. If anything, it will come across as relatable and unrehearsed. Also, the more preparation you have put into your answers beforehand, the less likely you are to draw blank in the interview.

8. Practise in front of the mirror

It may sound silly, but it’s really important that you rehearse your pre-written answers in front of the mirror whilst smiling. If you’ll be taking part in a Kira Talent interview, recording yourself answering questions and watching them back is a great way to self-assess and improve.

If you’re attending an interview with a member of the admissions team, practice maintaining eye contact, as this will help you come across as more personable and confident.

9. Never go negative

While it’s important to know what your weaknesses are, when you’re asked a question about them, make sure you keep it positive and productive. Some questions are traps and it can be easy to spiral into a list of all of your problems. Instead, reimagine the question as a positive, such as ‘What do you most want to improve?’ or ‘How did you overcome this challenge?’. Again, positivity is a key way you’ll stand out above your competition.

We have many tutors who can guide you through the process of applying for postgraduate study and successfully completing a postgraduate interview. Get in touch with us today to access one-to-one support from our experienced postgraduate admissions team.

FAQs

Do all universities interview postgraduate applicants?

Not all universities and courses interview postgraduate applicants. Some courses are more likely than others to interview, for example for MBAs (Master of Business Administration), where nearly all universities interview candidates before offering them a place. It’s best to check directly with the universities you apply for if an interview will be part of the application process, so that you can prepare beforehand.

What is the difference between an MBA and other postgraduate degrees?

There are several differences between MBA (Master of Business Administration) programmes and other postgraduate degrees, such as MiMs (Masters in Management).

Firstly, MBAs usually require students to have 3-5 years’ work experience as a minimum. In addition, MBAs almost always require applicants to take a test (GMAT or GRE). MiMs, in contrast, usually require students to have a maximum of 2 years’ experience.

Typically, MBAs are more competitive than other management-focused postgraduate courses. MBAs are also more focused towards international candidates in the UK.

MBA courses are almost always more expensive than MiMs and in the US can regularly move into 6 figure fees. MIT Sloan is currently the most expensive MBA ($241,984).