University Interview Questions
To help you prepare for your university interviews, we've compiled a list of common university interview questions that may be asked by admissions tutors at any interviews you attend.
These cover a broad range of subjects and situations, so not all of them will be relevant to you. You should make sure you review your personal statement and information about the courses and universities you're applying for, as many questions will be specific to these areas.
Also remember to check out our interview frequently asked questions to answer any common queries you have about the interview and our interview tips to ensure you're fully prepared for your interview.
Popular university interview questions (and answers)
We've put together a list of the most popular questions asked at university interviews, and provided model answers to accompany them, which gives you an idea of what the tutors are looking for.
Questions about you
Universities like to ask questions about you as an individual - they are a great conversation starter, and tells the tutor(s) a little more about your character, likes/dislikes, etc.
Some of these might be fairly open-ended, so it's a good idea to write down a summary of your main strengths and weaknesses so you can give concise answers (rather than rambling on too much!). Try to keep your answers to no more than a few sentences if possible, however tempting it is to keep talking.
If they ask you about weaknesses, just pick out one and tell them what you are doing to improve it, e.g. you are not very good at public speaking, but have joined a local Toastmasters to build your confidence.
Make sure you also have examples of your strengths, and if they ask what you do in your spare time, try to tell them something interesting, rather than just "I watch TV" or "listen to music". Even better, talk about something you do that is relevant to the subject/course you are applying for.
Questions about yourself might include:
- Tell me about yourself/How would you describe yourself?
- What are you best at?
- What are your main interests?
- What are your hobbies?
- What opportunities have you had for exercising leadership?
- Describe a situation where you were put under pressure?
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- Tell me an achievement you are proud of?
- Are you good at working on your own?
- What are you interested in reading?
- What was the last book you read and how did you choose it?
- What is your favourite newspaper or periodical?
- Do you follow a particular columnist in a newspaper or periodical?
- Have you been abroad?
- Describe your most interesting experience abroad.
- What are your views on the funding of universities?
- How do you think universities should achieve a good social mix in their intake?
- What positions of responsibility have you held and what did you learn from them?
- What have you most enjoyed at school?
- What do you dislike about school?
Questions about your school/college
Some universities might ask you about your current education, so prepare for questions such as:
- What is your school/college like?
- What courses have you taken, other than A levels, either at school or outside, and what have you gained from them?
- Why did you choose your A level subjects?
- What do you enjoy most and what frustrates you?
Try not make any direct complaints about your lessons and teachers, as this looks unprofessional. When explaining why you chose your A levels, don't just give a generic answer like "because they look good on my UCAS application", or "because I'm amazing at them". Instead, talk about one or two specific aspects that you found interesting, and why.
Questions about the university and your chosen degree
Universities want to make sure you are likely to accept an offer, so throughout the interview, they will try to gauge your enthusiasm for their instiution and the programme they are offering.
Remember, tutors only want to take students who are genuinely interested in the university and the course they are applying for. Therefore, expect to answer things like:
- Why do you want to do this degree?
- Why did you apply to this university?
- Why should we offer you a place?
- What do you know about this course?
- What in particular attracts you to this course?
- What makes you want to study this subject at university?
This means you need to do your research beforehand, and ideally, have already attended an open day, where you used the opportunity to speak to current students and tutors about the university and the course.
Look at all the modules on the course and identify any that particularly interest you. This is not the place to talk about how good the nightlife is, or that you can't wait to join their surfing club. Instead, you should be talking about what appeals to you about the university and the course on a personal and academic level.
Questions about your subject
It is very likely you will be asked questions about your subject. Fortunately, this doesn't mean you're supposed to be an expert, but the tutors are looking for a genuine interest and aptitude for the subject. They will want to test you about how you think and how you handle difficult questions.
When answering, think about anything else you’ve read that you can reference (i.e. something you’ve studied at school or something from your further reading). For example, if they ask about a book mentioned in your personal statement, then use this opportunity to talk about other books that explore similar topics.
Your aim here is to engage the interviewer in an academic discussion. Remember to respect their opinions, while offering your own. Don’t be afraid to disagree with them, but make sure you back up what you say with examples.
If you can demonstrate an enthusiasm and strong basic understanding of the subject, then this will help you secure an offer.
It's also possible that you will be required to complete a subject-related test during the interview. For example, English literature applicants will often be given a poem or prose extract to talk about; and in interviews for a medicine, nursing or social care subject, you may be given a case study to analyse.
You should practice these exercises beforehand if possible, so ask your subject teacher to go through some sample ones with you, and search the internet for any other examples previous candidates have had to complete.
Subject questions you might be asked include:
- How would you define your subject?
- Why is your subject important?
- What are the most important current developments in your subject?
- What do you enjoy most about this subject?
- Is there anything about it you don't like?
As you can see, it's possible you might be asked about topical issues relating to your subject (e.g. something that has been in the news recently).
The tutors could also deliberately throw out a controversial viewpoint to provoke you into a debate. As mentioned earlier, don’t be afraid to disagree with them, but don't start shouting them down - keep the conversation as a friendly discussion.
Always be prepared to justify your reasoning or provide evidence. Remember that there are always different sides to an argument and various ways to approach the question, but this does not mean you can't have your own opinion.
Gap year questions
If you are applying for a deferred place or have already done a gap year, the tutors may ask you questions like:
- Why are you taking a gap year?
- What are you planning to do on your gap year?
- How did you arrange your gap year?
- How does your gap year fit in with your career plans?
- Does not taking a gap year put you at a disadvantage in any way?
Not surprisingly, this isn't the time to start talking about how much time you plan to spend sitting on a beach, or the different types of cocktails you'll be swigging at the local bar. You need to talk about how your gap year will benefit you in terms of skills, experience and your future career. If possible, mention how it relates to the course you are applying for, or your field of study in general.
Things you could talk about include developing confidence, improving teamwork skills, learning a new language, dealing with challenges, how to budget, manage your time, be more organised etc.
Questions about your career and future after university
Universities want to see their graduates employed once they have finished their course, or are going on to other things such as Postgraduate course, or starting a business. Therefore, they may ask you:
- What are your career aspirations?
- How will your university degree benefit your future?
- What is your motivation for going to university?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years' time?
Be honest, although if you have no idea what you want to do after university, try to say something positive like "I hope university will help me finalise my career plans.” It’s not all about careers either; if you want to go to university because you are fascinated by the subject, then tell them this too.
They want students who have a genuine enthusiasm for the subject. Explain what you think having a degree will help you achieve or how you think university will benefit you.
Practice, practice, practice!
Remember that the best way to prepare for a university interview is to practice! Ask your school or college to set up one or two mock interviews to help you get a feel for it, and know what to expect during the real thing.
Your friends and parents are also a good source of help, and you should rope them into asking you some of the questions on this page so you can practice answering them.
There's no need to learn your answers off by heart though - if you rehearse too much, you won't sound natural, and universities don't want students that can't think on their feet!
For more ideas about the sort of questions you will be asked in the interview, take a look at our subject-specific interview questions that cover: