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How to shine at an 11+ interview

The Golden Circle is an international tuition and home schooling group. Each year, they successfully prepare students for 11+ exams at the UK’s most competitive schools. Hannah Titley, Director, shares some top tips for the interview process so that your child can go in with confidence.

The Golden Circle - Hannah T

If your child is applying to an independent secondary school, interviews are an important part of the admissions process. It’s a chance for children to share their personality, skills and interests. Interviewers are looking for children who are well suited to the school but equally it’s a chance for your child to make sure the school is the right fit for them too!

Interviews often include a handful of questions from each of the following categories:

  • Personal interests
  • Academic ability
  • Soft skills

Although it’s an interview, schools want children to enjoy the experience so they might include some practical elements, like presentations or show-and-tell activities, to break the ice.

Questions they ask at independent school interviews

❓ Questions about personal interests

The school wants to get to know your child and what makes them tick. In the interview, your child will be asked about their favourite subject and what they enjoy doing in their spare time. The school is looking for children who are articulate, intellectually curious, and enthusiastic. They want students who will enjoy participating in their extracurricular activities and will be a valuable addition to the school community.

❓ Questions to assess academic ability

In addition to the formal 11+ exam, schools may use English, Maths or Reasoning tasks to assess a child’s ability in the interview. To prepare for this, we recommend children practice mental arithmetic questions and problem solving tasks in Maths. In English, children may be asked to read and comprehend a news article, poem or extract from a book. Asking your child to explain what they are reading and reading with them regularly will help to develop these skills over time.

❓ Questions to assess soft skills

Some schools ask students to give presentations on a topic that interests them. Alternatively, they might be asked to select and describe an object. These tasks are used to assess a child’s communication skills, creativity, maturity, and confidence. A list of common independent school interview questions can be found here.

11+ Interview tips blog

Before the interview

1. Write down their skills and achievements

Before the interview, encourage your child to write down a list of their extracurricular activities, books they’ve read, and achievements. In an unfamiliar setting, children (and adults!) can draw a blank when asked personal questions. This easy activity will help them to have some good examples at hand.

2. Do school specific research

You can also visit the school website together and write down three specific things that they like about the school (e.g. facilities, extracurricular offering, arts/science focus, school values).

3. Discuss a few questions to ask the interviewer

Help your child to prepare 1-2 questions to ask the interviewer – what do they really want to know? What are the lunch options like? Is there a school council? Is there a particular extracurricular club on offer? Unprepared students may be thrown off if asked at the end of the interview ‘Do you have any questions for us?’ Finally, a good step is to conduct a mock interview with a friend, parent or tutor to be extra ready!

During the interview

1. Be mindful of personal presentation

Try to make a good first impression. If your child is invited to attend the interview in normal clothes, a tidy appearance helps to set the right tone.

2. Use positive body language

Encourage your child to smile, shake hands and make eye contact with their interviewer. Simple things like good posture and avoiding fidgeting will show the interviewer that your child is focused and interested.

3. Take a deep breath

When faced with tricky questions, encourage your child to take a deep breath and share their thought process aloud. Some brain teaser questions may not have a right or wrong answer, rather, they give insight into how your child thinks. Bearing this in mind, your child should feel confident that they have something to offer, even when faced with a problem that catches them off guard.

Book a mock 11+ interview

The Golden Circle’s team of 11+ specialists have in-depth knowledge and experience of admissions at top independent schools. They conduct mock 11+ interviews, tailored to your school choices, and online aptitude assessments for English, Verbal Reasoning, Maths and Non Verbal Reasoning, to help you find a school which is the perfect fit for your child. For more information, please get in touch via their website

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