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Masters Degree Interviews - How to Prepare

Not all Masters degrees require an interview as part of the admissions process. But some courses, such as MBAs, almost always meet candidates before offering places.

If you're invited in for a postgraduate interview, you can take it as a good sign. They are a great opportunity for you to prove to prospective tutors that you have what it takes to excel at further study.

But Masters interviews don't need to be intimidating.

This page offers information on what you might expect from your interview, the kind of questions you might be asked, and how you can prepare.

Different types of Masters interviews

Interviews for postgraduate study can follow several different formats, depending on the university and subject you apply to study.

When invited for an interview, it is likely you may also be given a tour of the department, or a presentation to provide you with detailed information about the course structure and facilities available.

The following are some common postgraduate interview types:

A formal interview

A formal interview takes a similar format to a job interview. You might be interviewed by one tutor, or by a panel.

You're likely to be asked a series of questions relating to your decision to continue to postgraduate study, such as why you've chosen this university, and what you hope to achieve from a Masters degree.

A Skype interview

In some situations, it might not be easy for you to get to your prospective university. This could be the case, for example if you're an international student applying to study abroad.

In such situations, some institutions offer remote interviews using Skype, or other video-conferencing software.

Just like face-to-face interviews, these processes can be led by a single interviewer, or a panel. Questions are likely to be similar too, but you'll need to think differently about how you come across.

Make sure you have access to a good computer with a clear webcam and fast internet connection, set up somewhere tidy, quiet, and well-lit.

An informal chat

You may be invited along for a more informal discussion with a prospective tutor. This could take place in their office, or in a coffee shop or other location on campus.

No matter how casual your interview may be, it is important to ensure you're well prepared. The questions you're asked may be less rigorous, but you'll still be expected to demonstrate an interest in your course and university - and explain why you've chosen them.

A practical test

You might be invited to carry out an aptitude test, to prove you have the necessary skills for your course.

This is more likely to be an admissions requirement for practical or vocational qualifications, as opposed to those that rely on specific existing skills.

For example, if you are applying to do an MBA or a professional course such as Journalism, you might be asked to prove you have the requisite skills or knowledge.

These are generally 'on the day' tests, rather than graduate entry tests.

A presentation

If you're applying to do a research Masters (such as an MPhil or MRes) you may be asked to give a short presentation.

This will normally involve clearly outlining your research proposal and talking through your planned methodology.

An oral presentation could also be used to assess applicants for courses that develop (or require) skills in leadership and public speaking - such as MBAs.

What about PhD interviews?

Applying for a PhD, rather than a Masters? Your interview is likely to be more formal, with a focus on your research project and proposal. Head over to FindAPhD.com for guides to what's involved - and the questions you might be asked.

How to prepare for your Masters interview

Whatever format your interview takes, it's important to prepare. That was you can walk in (or log-in) feeling calm and confident.

Preparing for a postgraduate interview doesn't necessarily need to be difficult, or time consuming. The following are some simple steps to take:

Read up on your course

If you arrive at your interview without any knowledge about your prospective course, you're unlikely to come across as an enthusiastic, passionate candidate. To make a good impression, read around your programme.

Start with the course descriptions here on FindAMasters (after all, this is the information the university thinks is important). But don't stop there. Look carefully at the faculty's website and read in detail about the different modules on offer.

Also take a look at the reading list, if there is one available. If you have already read something that's covered on the course, it could be a great thing to discuss with interviewers.

Finally, read up on the course lecturers, their areas of research, and the things they have accomplished during their careers. You don't need to be able to summarise their CV to them, but showing an awareness of their interests is a great way to demonstrate yours.

Read current research in your area of interest

What better way to impress interviewers than by showing you have read up on the very latest research in your study area?

This is vital for PhD interviews, but it can also be important for Masters courses - particularly if you're applying to do an MRes or MPhil.

You need to have a solid grasp of the current state of research in your field, especially if your Masters will involve you carrying out research of your own. How else will you know that your work is original?

Look over your previous work

It is likely that you'll be asked to discuss the areas of your subject in which you are particularly interested. However, it may be several years since you wrote up some of your undergraduate assignments.

Reading back over your previous academic work will refresh your memory as to the different topics you studied during your Bachelors, and give you specific examples of research and work you enjoyed carrying out.

An undergraduate dissertation or final project is a particularly good conversation point, as it provides an example of an extended piece of work you have carried out independently.

Prepare some questions

Interviewers will be keen to ask you questions, but they are also likely to give you an opportunity to ask any questions of your own.

There's no need to make questions up for the sake of it, but do use this time to make sure you have a clear understanding of what the programme will offer you.

Don't be afraid to ask any course-related queries you might have, from contact hours to what previous students have gone on to do.

What to wear

When it comes to clothing, you should treat a Masters degree interview like a job interview.

There's usually no strict dress code once you're on a postgraduate course, but you should try to make a good first impression by arriving in clean and smart clothes for your interview.

This applies to all interviews, even those done by Skype (though arguably in this case it's only your waist upwards that will count, as long as you stay seated).

What to bring

You might wish to make a note of any feedback or general course information that your interviewer provides, so bring a notepad and a few pens.

You might also want to bring along a copy of some of your past work, particularly if you're keen to discuss this with your interviewer.

Finally, if you are asked to submit any work in advance of your interview, make sure you also bring a hard copy of this along with you. It's likely your interviewer will wish to discuss it with you.

At the end of the day, being prepared isn't going to hurt. Provided you can find (and carry) the material you need, it's worth having options to hand - even if you don't end up using all of them on the day.

Pre-interview tasks

Depending on your course, you might be given a task to complete before your interview.

This is particularly common if you're applying to a vocational course that isn't directly related to your undergraduate degree. In these cases, a practical task helps those in charge of admissions to check that you have the appropriate skills.

For example, if you apply to do a Masters in Journalism after doing a Bachelors in History, you might be asked to write a short article to showcase your writing.

Find out well in advance whether you're required to carry out a pre-interview task. If you are, be sure toallow yourself plenty of time to complete it to a high standard.

Interviews for postgraduate study abroad

This page offers general advice on postgraduate interviews in the UK and elsewhere, but it's worth checking if their are any specific procedures or requirements in the country you're planning to study in. You can do that using our guides to postgraduate study abroad.

Example interview questions

Whatever structure your interview takes, it is likely that you'll be asked a number of questions regarding your academic interests, and why you want to do a Masters degree.

These are a few of common questions you might be asked at your interview:

Tell us a bit about yourself

There's no need to give interviewers your life story, but do use this question as an opportunity to give a bit of background information such as where you studied as an undergraduate, and what your main interests are.

Presume your interviewers haven't memorised your CV (they probably haven't), and make sure you fill them in on your key achievements.

Why have you chosen this course?

If you've been offered an interview, chances are your prospective university thinks you have the technical or academic ability to complete a Masters course.

Now you need to prove above all else that you have the passion and the drive to see it through, and to do it well.

This type of question gives you the opportunity to show interviewers that you're head-over-heels about the course you're applying to do.

Be specific. Perhaps you're keen on the course because of the particular expertise of the course convenor, or maybe you're particularly drawn to a certain module the course offers.

Why have you chosen this university?

There's no need to lie when answering this question. That said, the great nightlife or cheap price of a pint probably aren't the best things to list. Just be honest about what drew you to apply, whether it was the course's excellent pass rates, or the university's avant-garde facilities.

If you studied at the university as an undergraduate, mention that you enjoyed your time there , but try to focus on the specific things that the university will offer, or continue to offer you as a postgraduate student.

Where do you see yourself in five years' time?

Universities are keen to produce high-achieving students, so when answering a question about your future, try to show that you have the potential to do something that will benefit society.

Your interviewer isn't going to track you down in five years and make sure you've fulfilled your prediction, so your answer doesn't have to be set in stone. Equally, a vague answer like 'get a job so I can earn some money' isn't going to make you seem very forward-thinking or driven.

Your answer should be relevant to the course and be something that would benefit from a Masters degree. (If it isn't, perhaps you shouldn't be doing a Masters anyway.?

Offer a firm idea of where you would like to be in the future, whether that be doing a PhD or employed in your dream-role. Be realistic, but set your sights high and show that you have ambition.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

This is an opportunity to tell your interviewer all the personal strengths that will help you to excel in the course you're applying for. Rather than dropping in your sporting prowess or musical ability, try to stick things that will really help you in your Masters degree, such as your creativity or timekeeping.

Personal weaknesses can be difficult to discuss without genuinely making yourself sound like a terrible candidate, or resorting to the 'I'm a bit of a perfectionist' cliché, which should be avoided at all cost.

Instead, think of something you've genuinely struggled with in the past, such as organisation, or referencing. Be sure to show that you're taking steps to combat your weakness, or that you have already improved in this area.

Have you applied for funding?

Tutors might be keen to find out whether you've already applied for or secured Masters funding.

It's a good idea to have a think about how you intend to fund your Masters before you attend an interview.

Have you applied anywhere else?

This isn't a trick question. Universities aren't going to discard your application just because you've applied to other institutions. Remember: universities need applicants just as much as applicants need universities.

When answering this question, it is best to be honest. If anything, the fact that you're attending an interview at this university, having considered others, will make you look more desirable.

Getting the most out of your interview

Masters interviews are your opportunity to show prospective universities that you have what it takes to excel as a postgraduate.

But it's important that you also take time to work out whether you feel the course is right for you.

There are a few things you can do, to make sure you really get the most out of your interview.

Take a tour of the department

If your application is successful, you could be about to spend a whole lot of time in one department.

Your interview could be the perfect time for you to take a look at what the faculty has to offer. This could be anything from the specialist equipment and study spaces available, to vending machines and the nearest kettle.

Ask questions

This is your opportunity to find out absolutely everything there is to know about the course you are set to devote yourself to for at least the next year. So use it well.

Maybe you're keen to know if there are any books you should buy in advance of the course, or what percentage of students achieve top results.

Be polite, but don't be afraid to ask anything you are unsure about.

Speak to current students

Interviewers are bound to give you a positive impression of their course and department (if they don't, there is probably something very wrong).

For a balanced, unbiased opinion, try speaking to some current students. Ask about what they've enjoyed, what they've found challenging, and any advice they would give to someone new to the course.

Tour the campus

The general university might not be as important to you as the particular department you wish to study in.

But taking a tour of the libraries and study spaces could help you to relax before your interview, and show you what facilities are available across the campus.

What to expect after your interview

Some interviewers may offer places as soon as an interview is over. In other cases however, you may have to wait for some time before hearing back by phone, letter, or email.

Don't be disheartened if you don't hear back for a while.

Masters courses are generally smaller in size than undergraduate courses. As they can only take on a finite number of students, interviewers may wish to wait until they have seen the majority of candidates before offering places.

For more information on the process of applying to a Masters course, take a look at our guide to applying for a Masters. You can also visit our postgraduate forum, where you can chat to other prospective students about managing Masters interviews.

Last updated - 15/06/2017

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