Independent School Interviews at 11 Plus

Independent School Interviews are often a concern for parents because they do not know what to expect.

Firstly it is worth saying that most Independent Schools make acceptance decisions based on a combination of factors which include: The 11 Plus exam, an interview, the report from previous school and extra-curricular involvement.

Independent Schools are generally looking for children who will fit into their school, who will enjoy the opportunities it gives and who will make the most of what is available and add to school life. Schools will think twice before accepting difficult children (or parents!) however brilliant they are.

The role of the Independent school interview.

The interview is there to see what a child is like, what motivates them, what they like and perhaps what they dislike.

The school will want to build up a picture of the child and in some way click with them.

While you can prepare (in a way) for these sorts of interviews it is best just to be yourself. Schools have experience interviewing hundreds of children and so it’s likely they will see straight through a child who is trying to give carefully prepared answers.

What schools want to see.

Schools want to see well behaved non-disruptive children, they don’t like bullies, they don’t like children who are rude and show little respect to adults. Be advised that being on best behaviour on the day will not help if the report from the current school is showing these types of traits.

Schools want to see children who enjoy learning, children should be able to talk with enthusiasm about what they like in lessons. Schools can tell when a child is genuinely enthusiastic. Schools value enthusiasm whether it comes from a scholar or someone whose performance is more middle of the road.

Schools want characters who will add to school life, who will take part in sports, in drama, in music, in debating competitions or whatever a child might have as particular interests. As an example in sport a school might well be impressed by a child who plays county level sport, they’d also be genuinely keen on a child who wasn’t quite so naturally gifted but thoroughly enjoyed their sport, drama, music etc. Again it is the level of enthusiasm which is the critical point.

Interview specifics – How can you help?

First impressions.

It will sound obvious but far too many parents don’t realise the importance of this and making sure they get  it right.

Children will be shaking hands with adults, they should be looking them in the eyes when they do this (lots of children cannot do this), they should be smiling, they should be able to say a few words of introduction rather than just hello. The interviewer will certainly try to put them at their ease- all they have to do is respond in a friendly way.

As an example- A Headmaster might say something like “thanks for coming”, a mumbled “that’s ok” wouldn’t be a good start – something more along the lines of “I’ve been looking forward to it ever since we came to visit last month” might be much better (if it is true). If children are closed and give limited answers things won’t go as well as they should.

Secondly when sitting down children shouldn’t hunch or sink down into a sofa or chair, they should have a posture which indicates they are interested and keen to do well. Sitting up and forwards is a natural thing to do and makes a good impression.

Responses to questions.

We are deliberately not going to suggest sample questions because for children to be natural they need to be as un-coached as possible. We would say though that children should be looking to show they are enthusiastic and keen to learn whenever they give a response.

So for instance children may be asked if they have been round the school or why they want to come here…… an enthusiastic child might talk about how impressed they were with the music facilities (if that is what they are keen on) or they may talk about sports facilities  or the even the chemistry lab- whatever works for an individual child.

Remember though that whatever they say will lead to further discussion, so for instance if a child was to say they really liked the library because they are very keen on reading, if the follow up question then is to talk about the last book they read and loved and they can’t do that then it might leave a question mark over how keen they are on reading. It also might also result in an awkward silence. This is why we say don’t over coach topics, think about what might be asked, think about what genuine enthusiastic response you could give and then wait for the day.

Types of questions.

The questions won’t be designed to trick you, just to see what a child is like. They may cover some of the following areas:

  • The family, brothers and sisters, where you live.
  • Your current school, what you like, what subjects you like.
  • What you do outside school.
  • Something particularly interesting you have learnt recently.
  • Why you want to come to the school/what you like about it.
  • What your passions are outside school.

So there’s nothing in there that is designed to trip a child up, there are no wrong answers, there’s nothing to be worried about or to study for.

But obviously it would be useful to perhaps rehearse a little what might be covered and crucially that responses should be given in an open and enthusiastic way. Independent Schools go out of their way to accept hard working, enthusiastic , well behaved children and sometimes will allow children in when their tests might be borderline but they can clearly see that they have a child who would enjoy the school and add to school life.