Tuesday, 10 February 2015

My Interview Experiences!

And so we come to the dreaded interviews.....you've set off down this path of pursuing a PGCE, the application had been a fairly relaxed aspect of this journey so far.  You are aiming to get some interviews from sending in your application, but for me, when those emails landed in my inbox all I felt was panic.

I sent my application in on the 3rd of December, the next day I had an email for an interview on the 9th of December.  It can be a really quick turnaround, so once that application has been sent off you need to start preparing for possible interviews.  A lot of the Universities will ask you to prepare specific things too, so getting a head start on what is in the news and behaviour management, among other teaching aspects will give you plenty of time for the extra pieces they will ask for.

All of the interviews will differ but usually include similar aspects, you'll probably have a maths and English test, a group activity (this can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes), a presentation and an individual interview.

I had two interviews and a third one which I declined because I was luckily offered my first choice.  I'm going to run through my two interviews for you so you have an idea of what you will go through.

Interview Number One

Ok so the first one was with Nottingham Trent, before this interview we were asked to undertake a research activity where we had to take two texts from educational sources and annotate them.  They had to be looking at the effective teaching and learning of Primary School children.

There were about 9 of us at this interview but there were supposed to be 12.  We were all sat together to begin with so our certificates could be checked through and photocopies collected.  This is such a good place to get to know each other, it puts you at ease a little and I certainly felt more comfortable during the presentation part of the interview after having a little chat.

We then went into the room we would spend most of the afternoon (it was a half day interview, 1-5) where we took the maths test to begin with.  They should be fairly simple maths, so just brush up on your maths knowledge beforehand.  Next came the group task, we had 9 points that we had to put into a hierarchy of what was most important to achieve effective learning.  We then had to talk as a group (groups of 3) and make a group hierarchy.  They just want to see you can effectively argue your point, make sure you speak up and if you feel other members of your group have made a good point then say it, and back it up with why you have changed your mind.  I think this may be what let me down!

We then had to pick a point each and do a group presentation to the whole group.  Highlighting why we put certain points in certain places.  There were three interviewers who then asked a few questions, again make sure you speak up here.  I tend to be more of an introvert and know this is a weakness (although NEVER tell them your shyness is a weakness!) so didn't say as much as I should have at my first interview.

After this we had an English test where we were asked to write a page based around a quote we were given and our research, this is mostly to see what your grammar, spelling and handwriting is like, but it has to be relevant aswell.

Finally there was the individual interview, this was a little grueling, I had done a lot of annotating for my research and was questioned a lot on what I had chosen, so it is good to understand what you have written down.  There weren't really any questions to catch me out, there were the usual 'Why do you want to be a teacher' 'what qualities does a good teacher have'.  There was also a science question where you were shown what three children thought about seeing a cat in a pitch black room and had to say how you would help them build a better understanding.

I heard back from them a week later, whilst on my way to do my skills tests, Unsuccessful.....bad timing haha.  And to top it off my computer crashed during my Numeracy test so I ended up having a little meltdown at the test centre.  Whatever you do, don't open the email, or look at your emails, if you are on your way to do your tests.  I still passed both though :)

Interview Number Two

My second interview (and my first choice) was at Derby University.

Before this interview we had to prepare a 1 minute presentation about why we want to teach and our experience and take a resilience test to see what our strengths and weaknesses are.  Make sure you practice the presentation, not word for word, but time yourself and get it fairly smooth so you don't bumble along on the day.

This was a really good interview!  We had to be there for 8:45 and when I turned up there were about 8 of us, we were sat chatting for a little bit as the University was running a little late.  By the time they were ready there were about 35 of us!  The majority of applicants seemed to be teaching assistants too, so I felt way out of my depth and it started to plant seeds of doubt in my mind.  Spoiler Alert: I got a place, so it doesn't matter if you aren't a TA who have years of experience.

We had the whole certificate checking and then were sat chatting for a while, again it's nice to get talking to others in the same position.  Don't go telling them all about what you've looked into and what you feel is important at the moment though, you've done lots of work researching so you are prepared, so don't give away all of your key points.  I happily showed a girl how to do short division but kept my cards pretty close to my chest and spent most of my time listening to the others.

We were then taken to a lecture theatre for the Maths and English tests, fairly straightforward.  Next we had an hour long presentation by the University all about the course, while this was really interesting (and I jotted down some important buzz words they may have been looking for) it was a tiring day because we all knew what was coming and our adrenaline had been going for hours.  After that we had a lunch break before we split off into groups.

My group was all girls (about 7 of us) and we had two lovely interviewers.  They were really smiley and I felt completely at ease, I will say this though, don't let them draw you into a false sense of security.  You are still at an interview and you don't want to get chatting when you are there to hit on specific points and to get across how great you will be and how much you want to be a teacher.

We started with the one minute interviews, the interviewer changed what she wanted slightly though so I had to adapt it on the spot.  A lot of the other girls didn't, so make sure you listen to what the interviewer is asking and adapt on the spot if needs be.  Next was the group discussions, we had two discussions, both 15 minutes, one about issues and initiatives in teaching at the moment and the other about behaviour management.  If you do your reading around the topics you should be fine.  Make sure you jump in, some girls would warble on for ages, often repeating exactly what they had said just to fill time.  This doesn't look good, you're better to jump in with a good point, expand on it or draw in another theorist/issue, the consequences etc, then jump out and let someone else come in with a point.  I didn't do the most talking at all, I made sure I jumped in regularly and had a very relevant point.

After this there was a very quick 1-1 part of the interview, first with one lady, where we were given our test results from earlier and had a quick thinking task.  We had 2 minutes to read through a list of 5 types of lessons, think up a relevant lesson and tell the interviewer.  It was over before I knew it!  Get a starter, the main lesson (something interactive) and a plenary if you have time to tell it.  In this situation you're just going to talk about a lesson you've observed, so have a think through some good ones.

The last part was a 1-1 with another lady where we talked through the record of a achievement/portfolio we had taken along.  I think this is where my strengths came across, I have plenty of school experience but I have a lot of extra skills and interests that I told her about.  If there is anything I would advise, it is to have some hobbies that show you can bring extra skills to teaching.  I come from a design background which involves a lot of drawing and computer work, I'm a drummer, kickboxer, I've done Duke of Edinburgh aswell as extra online courses in design and photography.  I also included a costume design project I did at university.  Anything at all that will give you an edge is worth mentioning!

So that is a run through of the two interviews I attended, I'd love to hear about some other interviews!  If you would like to have a guest post detailing your PGCE interview then please leave a comment!

Again if you have any questions don't hesitate to leave a message!

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