11+ Exams|Insights

An 11+ interview is not to be feared. Most children (and many parents), get anxious at the thought of an interview, but this can be allayed by remembering that the reason for a school interview is simply to find out about your child.

The content and delivery of an interview may differ slightly from one educational establishment to another. It might be conducted one on one, in a pair or in a group. Usually, you will be told in advance what to expect and you should relay this information to your child to dispel any mystery. It’s important to remember that whatever the format, the end goal is the same: to discover what makes your child tick and if they will be happy and fulfilled at the school to which they are applying.

The best way to explain the interview process to your child is to frame it as their opportunity to talk about themselves and demonstrate why they want to go to the school. Schools will want to make children feel at ease to get the best out of them. Therefore, reassure them that an interviewer is not out to trick them or make them feel deliberately awkward.

Children should focus on the things they like: their hobbies, interests, passions and pastimes. Nothing is easier to talk about with enthusiasm than the things we love, so tell them to weave this into their answers whenever they get the chance. (And remember – what sounds good to you, as an adult, is not what the school wants to hear; they want to know what excites your child and what they think.)

They may face personal and academic, problem-solving questions, so should be prepared to encounter both. Here are the five most popular questions that your child should think about before any interview:

Top 5 Most Popular 11+ Interview Questions

1. Why do you want to come to this school?

Have a personal reason ready. Be honest, not fawning. Demonstrate enthusiasm.

2. What is your favourite subject?

Even if you like them all, it’s good to pick out an absolute favourite to talk about. Say why you like it: it’s challenging, interesting, the teacher makes learning about the subject fun.

3. Which is your least favourite subject?

Again, even if you like them all, have one in mind that you don’t like as much. Nobody loves everything they do. We all have things we like more than others and that’s okay.

4. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Think of the most interesting thing that you can talk about: an unusual hobby, a recent visit to somewhere intriguing, something that you are passionate about. This is an opportunity to show that you are an individual and will be exciting to teach.

5. Tell me about your reading.

Again, be honest. Don’t make it up. Always choose something you have read. Assume the interviewer has knowledge of the book you’re talking about. Be prepared for the interviewer to dig deeper and ask you about characters and the way the author writes for example.

They may also get the chance to ask questions of the interviewer so should have some prepared. It is best to formulate questions about things they genuinely want to know about. For example, if your son is a budding flautist or your daughter an aspiring cosmologist, then they could ask about the orchestra and or after school science club respectively.

Remind your child to listen carefully to every question. It is essential they answer the question asked to the best of their ability. Tell them it is okay to ask for a question to be repeated or to say that they don’t understand; a helpful interviewer will gladly rephrase and encourage. Nerves can sometimes get the better of candidates and sabotage focus. A tip for managing nerves is to tell them to concentrate on the interviewer rather than themselves and that way they are more likely to respond well.

The 11+ process can often be a child’s first experience of an interview and engender nerves associated with the unknown. That is why it is a good idea to do a little preparation and practice in advance…but not too much! It is sensible to think about the questions that might be asked and to brainstorm possible responses. It is also wise to have a mock interview or two. It is not a good idea to learn set answers by rote as your child will come across as robotic.

Like most things in life, authenticity, enthusiasm and curiosity are key. These are the things that your child needs to display at interview.

Louise Lang, Director of Learning at Exam Papers Plus