3 Steps to Acing Your Psychology Interview
Preparing for an interview can feel tricky. Which questions will you be asked? How should you present yourself? What if you accidentally say something embarrassing?!
It can seem overwhelming, but it’s important to remember that your interview is only one part of the admissions officers’ decision.
A university interview is an informal chat about the course you’re applying for, and the reasons you want to study that subject. With some careful preparation, you can feel confident and equipped on interview day!
Step 1: Plan Ahead!
It’s really important to think about the types of questions you may be asked in an interview, and to pre-plan some answers in advance.
You want to allow 20-30 minutes for the entire interview when practising your answers, and the majority of this time should be dedicated to the material and theoretical questions.
Here are some of the common types of questions for a Psychology interview:
Why did you choose to study Psychology?
This is the one question that nearly every applicant will be asked in a Psychology interview, giving you the opportunity to expand on your personal statement and express your personal motivations for applying to the course.
There really is no model answer for this question as it’s so personal to you. Just try to expand upon what you wrote in your personal statement, keep the conversation light and comfortable, and keep your answer concise.
The personal question
Much like the first question, this is another question designed to ease you into the interview process and gauge how well you’ll fit in at the university.
It’s likely that you’ll be asked about your hobbies, interests or wider psychology reading, but whichever question is asked, the most important thing you can do is be honest with your answer.
Offer your own personal insights into why you chose that particular hobby or resource, and make sure you relate your answer back to your desire to study Psychology in a concise and convincing way.
The seen and unseen material questions
Usually for material questions in Psychology interviews, you’ll be given one series of data that you’ve had time to look at before the interview, and one that you haven’t seen before. You’ll then be asked one or two questions on each. In both cases, the approach is the same, but with the seen material, you’ll be expected to spend more time linking the data to your wider reading and less time interpreting it in real time.
To answer these questions, firstly take a minute to thoroughly look over what you’ve been given. The more comfortable you are with your understanding of the data, the more confident you’ll be in your answer, especially if the interviewer challenges you on your interpretations – which they almost certainly will, even if only as a devil’s advocate!
Once you’re sure you’ve understood the data, spend a moment thinking through the key points you’ll pick out, what the reasons for these trends or anomalies could be, and how these reasons relate to your wider psychology knowledge.
When you’re asked to explain your reasoning, you’ll appreciate having taken the time to think through your answer before jumping straight in.
At this point, all that’s left on the material questions is to answer any follow-up questions as best you can. These should all link back to your thought process, but if at any point you need to look at the data again – whether to reference it or double check something you think you might have missed – just let the interviewer know.
Likewise, if the unseen material is about a topic you aren’t familiar with, be sure to tell the interviewer that it’s a topic you’ll need to research more before you feel comfortable with your answer, and then offer the best interpretation you can.
It’s a mark of maturity, not failure, to admit when you don’t know enough about a topic to hold a firm opinion, and it could open the interview up to a productive and memorable discussion. If nothing else, it will show your willingness to learn more about psychology – a key skill at university!
The theoretical question
From being asked what your opinion is on spontaneous human combustion, to debating whether a thermostat can think, admissions tutors like to ask the most bizarre questions during Psychology interviews!
These questions are used to gauge your ability to think on the spot. Despite their obscure nature, at heart, there’s little difference between these questions and the others that you’ve already answered. Here is where you can let all of your research shine through!
Take each question in turn and think about what you already know about that topic. You aren’t being graded on your knowledge here, so keep things simple but connected, and be sure to draw on all the material you’ve used throughout the previous questions.
Step 2: Practise!
Now you know the type of questions you may be asked, it’s important to practise your answers as much as possible.
The best way to be concise is to have experience in talking with concision! At the core of the Psychology interview questions is the tradition of the “dinner table debate”, so start there! Debate with your friends and family in an environment where you’re free to trip over yourself, and where you can take your time to respond to challenging definitions or rebuttals to your arguments.
Step 3: Research!
While you’re practising your debating skills, you may want to double down on the research you do around your areas of interest. The more material you consider, the more capable you’ll feel when presented with a challenging question. For some fantastic reading recommendations to boost your university application, check out the OxBright University Preparation Report, for personalised resource suggestions, and sign up below to the weekly newsletter for subject-specific recommendations.
Once you’ve planned ahead, practised, and researched, you’re pretty much ready to go! Although Psychology interviews can be stressful, they’re not something to be scared of. The structure and environment are designed to give you the best possible chance of securing a place at the university. All you need to do is make sure you’re familiar with the potential questions and topics, prepare where possible, and go into your interview ready to present the best version of yourself. That’s all the admissions tutors are looking for!
By Kylie Li
Kylie is reading Experimental Psychology student at Queen’s College, Oxford. She is most interested in developmental and cognitive psychology, and how these can be applied to the education system.
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