Interview questions for admission to secondary school.



This is mainly aimed at those seeking admission to independent schools. Independent secondary schools sometimes take pupils aged 11 (Year 7). Mostly the intake is at aged 13 (Year) and occasionally older.

Pupils will be interviewed a few months or even years before they intend to enroll.

Schools will also look at test scores and reports from the previous school. The interview is part of the process.

What are interviews all about? It is all logical and blatant.

What are schools looking for in an interview? Ask yourself; if you were running a school what sort of pupils would you like? The ideal pupil is intelligent, hard working, self-assured, courteous, obedient, creative and multi-talented. No everyone can be so fantastic. Most pupils have some weaknesses. This is acceptable. Being badly behaved and rude are much more objectionable than finding some subjects to be a challenge.

These interviews are not bizarre. Mostly they will ask blatant questions. They wish to see that the child knows how to behave himself or herself. Can this pupil walk into the room in a mannerly fashion? Is he or she dressed appropriately in school uniform or some other formal clothing? Does he or she knock before entering? Does this child know how to shake hands? You would be shocked that some people in their teens do not get the rudiments of courtesy right. Does this child make eye contact? Does he or she handle small talk sensibly? Does the girl or boy speak at a reasonable volume and speed? Does he or she give decent answers to the questions? A ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer is seldom enough. Are the answers consistent and credible or are they full of evasions and contradictions? Do the answers tally with what the parents and the current school have said?

The school wants to see that the girl or boy can speak decent English. This means that he or she has a decent vocabulary relative to her or his age. They child should enunciate words clearly and speak grammatically. He or she should speak at a normal speed. Some people speak a little faster or slower than average. That is acceptable. Someone who speaks crazily fast or ridiculously slowly is at a disadvantage.

If the child is not a native speaker of English the school will be particularly attentive to the standard of English. They make allowances for the lower level of English. They will speak slower and ask easier questions with simpler vocabulary. They wish to verify that the child can speak adequately to enter the school.

What would be bad is for a child to be so painfully timid that the child refuses to speak. The polar opposite would also put a school of. If a child is extraordinarily haughty that would also be off-putting for the school.

The girl or boy should come across as respectful.Some children are very conceited and seem not to grasp the importance of the occasion. Other children are painfully timid. Very diffident children will whisper one word answers and appear to be petrified all the way through.  A child who is unfocused, looking all around the room and misunderstanding questions will not create a favourable impression

The child will be speaking to the headteacher, deputy headteacher, registrar or possibly some other senior teacher. The child should be duly deferential. If he or she knows the name in advance it is best to address the interviewer as Mr________ or Mrs _________ or whatever it may be. Otherwise Sir or Ma’am are acceptable. In the United Kingdom teachers are not addressed as ‘teacher.’

The child should not sit down until invited to do so. He or she should adopt a sensible and respectful sitting posture.

A reasonably self-assured child is what they want to see. The teachers are aware that this is a daunting experience for the child. They will not try to unnerve the girl or boy. The school does not want to be complained about and rumours to go around about the school being cruel to applicants.

Does this child wish to attend the school? Does he or she give some worthwhile reasons for this? Does the child have some constructive pastimes? They want a girl or boy who is a go getter. The pupil should be someone positive – someone who achieves things. The pupil should add to the life of the school.


They do not want a complete layabout. They do not want a child who is all work and no play.

The school also wants honesty. They do not want to find that the child has been lying – claiming to play the guitar when he does not. If a girl says she speaks Spanish and she does not then that is bad.

No one likes everything and no one is brilliant at all areas of accomplishment. It is ok to admit to finding one or two subjects hard. It is permissible to say there are certain activities that a child dislikes. If a child says that he or she is fantastic at every single subjects and enjoys every conceivable activity the school will smell a rat. The child may be hugely overestimating his or her own abilities. This is probably caused by the parents praising the child grossly excessively and inflating the child’s ego to dangerous proportions.

A child who has zero self-esteem is a hard sell. If he or she thinks that he or she is totally stupid and utterly useless at everything this is not an appealing proposition for a school.

The school wants a reasonable self assured and upbeat child. The child must be a self-publicist. He or she has to talk about their accomplishments. A child who is hugely boastful would be bad news.

The teacher will interview scores or even hundreds of candidates. The interviewer might get mixed up. Do not expect the interviewer to remember every detail. He or she will probably have a file on the pupil open. The interviewer will be taking notes.

The interviewer will break off eye contact occasionally. The child should maintain eye contact. This does not mean a death stare. This is just a reasonable level of eye contact. Occasional glances away are ok.

The interview will last 10 to 20 minutes. There is no significance in whether the interview is towards the upper or lower limit.

The pupil should know something about the school. He or she should not be applying to any old school. There need to be reasons why he or she wants to go to this specific school. The pupil should come across as passionate about the school.

Answers to why a pupil wishes to attend a school are sometimes generic. It is about the atmosphere, the pupils, the teachers, the exam results, the facilities, the activities, the location, the subjects, sibling already there, friends already there, the brilliant reputation, the religious ethos or lack of one and so forth. Fill in the details. There may be some unique features about the school to mention.

Some interviews take place in the presence of parents but most do not.

The school is checking out the parents too. Are they polite and do they set a good example? Are they pushing the child way too hard? Are they forcing the child to do something he or she does not want to do? Do the parents have realistic expectations? Parents who underestimate their child or majorly overestimate their child are hard to deal with? Are these parents who will complain non stop? Will these parents sue the school?  Will these parents always be asking for exceptions to be made? Will these parents always assume their child is in the right in any disciplinary situation?

Below are a series of questions schools might ask. They will not ask ALL these questions in any given interview. They will ask a selection. It is impossible to predict these. SOme of these can be ruled out in certain situations. If your daughter is applying to a mixed school they will not ask her how she feels about being at a mixed school. If you are not staying in a hotel before the interview they will not ask you how your hotel is.  If the child is from the United Kingdom the school will blatantly not ask about cultural differences between the child’s country and the UK.

Some very selective schools ask some very tricky philosophical questions. This is to gauge how intellectually agile a pupil is. They wish to see if the child has the vocabulary to deal with such a question.

At the end the interviewer may inquire if the interviewee wishes to ask any questions? A sensible question is welcome. It should not be a silly one – something to which the pupil should already know the answer. ‘Can I do Maths at your school?’ would be a foolish question because the answer goes without saying. ‘Are there boys in the school?’ is a question that the pupil should not need to ask.



Hello, How are you?

How was your flight?

Which hotel are you staying at?



Where are you from?

What are your parents’ jobs?

How is your country different from this one?

What is school like in your country?

Where do you go to school?

Do you have any sisters or brothers?

Might any of your siblings join us here at this school one day?



Which  subjects did you do in the admissions tests?

How did they go?

You have some admissions tests coming up. How do you feel about them?




Are you musical?


Do you like acting?

What sports do you like?

Tell me about your sporting achievements?

What are your hobbies?

What do you do in your free time?

Which instruments would you like to play here?

What grade are you in those instruments?

Would you want to join the choir?




Why do you want to come to this school?

What are your favourite subjects?

Which subjects do you find difficult?

What are you doing to improve in those subjects?



Are you well behaved?

Have you ever been suspended or punished?

How should pupils behave towards teachers?

Can you recognise when you have done wrong and apologise?

How good are you about doing your homework?

Do you like your present school? Why or why not?



How do you feel about boarding?


This school has a Christian ethos and you must attend chapel. How do you feel about that?

Do you know any pupils already in our school?


What do you know about this school?

Might you want to join the CCF?

How would you feel about being the only one of your nationality here?

This school is very international. Do you like that?

Which other schools might you apply to?

Are we your first choice?

If you do not get in where will you go?

This is a mixed school – how do you feel about that?

This is a single sex school: how do you feel about that?

Do you have any questions for me?



What do you want to do after you finish school?

What job do you want to do?



Is it right for parents to select the sex of their baby?



About Calers

Born Belfast 1971. I read history at Edinburgh. I did a Master's at UCL. I have semi-libertarian right wing opinions. I am married with a daughter and a son. I am allergic to cats. I am the falling hope of the not so stern and somewhat bending Tories. I am a legal beagle rather than and eagle. Big up the Commonwealth of Nations.

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