PGCE interview tips

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Before my PGCE interview, I surfed the net looking for honest, but simple tips on the interview process. I had been out of education for five years, had never had a formal interview and just did not have a clue what to expect. 

First things first, it is actually not as bad as the build up in your head. From the moment I got my PGCE interview date I was having sleepless nights, constantly worrying that I would mess up, get tongue tied or forget how to speak. I was literally shaking on the day and knew that I had to pull myself together. However, once the day was over I felt a sense of ‘is that it?’ So below I’ve written a set of bullet points where I try to cover all basis on the interview process.

  • All universities have different processes for their interviews. For mine the process lasted all day, 10am- 4pm and consisted of a formal 1:1 interview, a written essay on ‘the teacher I want to be’ and a 2min presentation on a relevant educational issue in front of eight more interviewees followed by a discussion. On paper it looked like a lot, but the secret was to break it down.
  • If asked to write an essay on the day, don’t stress. This was the part I was most worried about as it was timed, but to be honest, the universities are not looking for the next Pulitzer Prize, they just want to know that you have a good standard of written English. And to be honest, I doubt they read every single essay in full- there just isn’t the time.
  • Don’t think that you have to over power everyone in any group interviews. Let other people talk and share their ideas. No one likes a person that can’t listen to others. It doesn’t come across well.
  • Dress like you’re going for an interview. I wore a black dress, tights, and heeled court shoes with a leopard print cardigan to show off a bit of my personality. The majority of the males were in suits and it made them look very smart and professional. Denim is always a no no, so are clothes that are too tight/ short/ revealing/ loud. Really do dress to impress. Even if you feel over dressed compared to the others, in the interview the panel will remember the effort you have made and it shows how serious you are taking the interview process.
  • Be nice to the other interviewees. Yes, it is competitive but that doesn’t mean you should see everyone as a threat. Four people in my interview panel ended up on my course in my class. There was no awkwardness and set the year off nicely as we had been so supportive to each other during the interview.
  • Read up on education before your interview. Get the TES supplement from WHSmith, download The Guardian app, which has a great education section. You need to know all the governmental proposals as you will more than likely be asked about how you think it will affect your career.
  • Learn all the educational terms; EAL, IEP, SEN, etc. I know it sounds obvious to some of us, but a friend who recently applied for the course asked me what she should do a presentation on. When I suggested the issue of EAL learners she asked what that was (?!). Not nothing about English as an additional language learners would have been a definite fail at the interview process.
  • Ask personal questions during interview. When I was having my 1:1 interview I was asked ‘where do you stand on mixed ability groupings?’ after I had given my answer, I asked the interviewers what their personal opinion was. They were genuinely taken aback but were then really excited to give their own opinion. They were bantering between each other and my interview over ran because they were enjoying the discussion.
  • Don’t let nerves mess you up. It doesn’t matter if you fluff over your words or if you cannot answer a question. Be honest. You are not a teacher yet, you are training to be one and will learn all the answers on the course. It is better to explain that, than stumble along with an answer that doesn’t make sense.
  • Try and do your QTS tests before the interview. It will stand you in good stead. The uni would much prefer to take someone who is guaranteed to start the course than take someone who hasn’t passed the test and there is a risk that they may not do before the start of the course.
  • Lastly, try and enjoy the day. You will learn so much from other people at the interview process and remember that even if you get rejected, it doesn’t mean a definite no. Wait until July and ring the uni and ask if anyone has dropped out and if you can go on the waiting list. A girl on my course was rejected, but rang the uni once the course had started and managed to get a place as someone had dropped out.
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