What to expect from the teacher training interview and selection day
Your teacher training selection day could include written tests, a presentation and teaching a mini lesson in school, as well as a panel interview. Gill Kilvington from the University of Hull explains what admissions tutors are looking for.
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This article has been written in partnership with AGCAS.
Training providers may have changed how they run interviews and selection days due to the Covid-19 pandemic. You should check details with your chosen providers to see how they will complete it all. The below information details how interviews and selections days are typically carried out.
The format of the day can vary depending on the provider and route, for example if you're already employed in the school. If it is going ahead in its usual format, the interview process may include a selection of activities such as:
- a face-to-face interview
- an assessment centre
- written tests, for example in maths, ICT or English and literacy
- a presentation
- a group discussion or exercise
- teaching or planning a mini lesson
- interaction with staff and pupils in school
- a subject-specific task such as a practical exercise for PE, music or drama candidates
- a review of your original exam certificates and skills test results or details of when these are being taken.
If your interview format changes due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it may be held online on a virtual platform such as MS Teams, Zoom or Skype. Typical activities could include:
- a video interview
- written tests (in an online environment)
- a presentation
- presenting a lesson.
For applications through Apply for teacher training, interviews must be held within 40 working days of your application being received and may last at least half a day, so leave a full day free for each interview. If you're offered more than one interview on the same day, contact one of the providers quickly to see if they can reschedule; if not, you need to decide which one to attend. If you’re unable to attend an interview you must let the provider know. It's important to visit the school or university beforehand, wherever possible, and for many schools this is considered a part of the application process.
Applicants for the Teach First programme who successfully pass the online application stage are invited to a selection day at the Teach First Development Centre. The day involves an interview, a group task and a mini teaching episode, with time for feedback and self-reflection in between. Applicants are supported at all stages of the Teach First application process with advice on what to expect and top tips for success. Due to Covid, the Development Centre is currently being held virtually with the same activities included.
What teacher training providers will look for at the interview
Choose a smart outfit and look professional, as some selectors allocate marks for this. PE and drama candidates should check whether there are any selection activities requiring other clothing or sportswear. Remember that you're being assessed from the moment you contact the school.
For online interviews, this dress code also applies. Check your technology (microphone, camera) before the interview and change your background accordingly.
The individual interview usually lasts around 20 minutes but may be anything from five minutes to an hour. Depending on the context, the selection panel could include a lecturer, a school governor, a head or senior member of a school team, a class teacher, students or young people.
The selection panel will want to see that you have the qualities necessary to become a successful teacher and will look for evidence of your:
- understanding of the role
- commitment to teaching
- passion for working with children/young people
- enthusiasm for your subject and age group and how both are taught
- communication and interpersonal skills
It's important to show that you can reflect on and learn from your experience, so use every opportunity to bring in examples from your own education and work in schools or other contexts.
What you need to get across in your presentation
The selectors will be looking for language skills demonstrated through:
- a logical structure, with an introduction, main idea and conclusion
- content and language suitable for the intended audience
- engaging the audience
- communicating clearly.
Try to convey your enthusiasm and include an interactive element, showing how you would perform in a classroom setting.
The group discussion or exercise for teacher training
This will be a timed exercise and selectors will observe your:
- ability to listen and respond appropriately
- effectiveness in engaging and interacting with others
- ability to communicate ideas and opinions clearly.
Make sure you actively contribute and encourage others to do so too. Where appropriate take opportunities to show leadership ability. Read any material provided as part of the exercise carefully and keep the group focused on the objective.
Interacting with pupils in school
If your selection day includes a school visit or takes place in school, you are likely to spend some time helping in a class or delivering a mini lesson, so that selectors can see how you engage with the students.
Teaching or planning a mini lesson
You may be given a selection of topics to choose from in advance or may be given resources to work with on the day, such as pictures, books or objects. The mini lesson will usually last 10-15 minutes. Selectors will be looking at how well you interact with the group, the appropriateness of your material for the age group, your enthusiasm and creativity. You may be asked to answer questions afterwards or discuss the lesson with your interviewer.
Selection tests for teacher training courses
Primary. A maths test might involve fractions, percentages, long division and multiplication and mental arithmetic. The English task will test spelling, punctuation and grammar. Tests may assess your own ability or could involve you marking a child's work. You may also be asked to do an ICT test or audit.
Secondary. You may have a written exercise, such as a short essay on the qualities of a good teacher, a subject specific exam or an article with questions to answer. If you're applying for a modern languages course, be prepared to be interviewed in the language you propose to teach and to answer questions about your time abroad.
How to prepare for your teacher training selection day
Research the education sector and read up on current issues, such as safeguarding, using resources such as Tes and BBC News: Family & Education. Other relevant news sources include The Guardian on Tuesdays and The Independent on Thursdays. Selectors will be interested in your opinions, ideas and attitudes relating to education and teaching.
Research the national curriculum for your subject and age range using GOV.UK: School curriculum.
Have all relevant documents with you, such as certificates, skills test results or details of when these are being taken, evidence of experience and any paperwork you received prior to the interview. Make sure you read through your application form again to refresh your memory about what you have written.
Think about how you would handle different interview situations. Some teaching interviews take place in a relaxed atmosphere on a one-to-one basis, whereas others involve a group interview where candidates discuss a number of topics in a group of perhaps six to eight.
Try to arrange a practice interview with a school recruiter, university tutor, careers adviser or friend and think about typical interview questions you may be asked. With thorough preparation, you can go along to the interview day with confidence.
Training providers must let you know their decision within 40 working days (if they haven't responded in this time, the application is automatically made unsuccessful). Once you've heard from all your choices, you've got ten working days to respond to any offers you've been given. Remember that you can only accept one offer. Make sure you respond in time or your choice will be automatically declined.
If you want to accept an offer before you've got replies from all of them, you can. However, think carefully before you do this as you will need to withdraw from any providers you’ve not heard from before you can accept the offer you want. If you don't want to accept any of the offers, you can decline them all.
If you're not accepted through Apply, or if you decline all your offers, you can use Apply Again to reapply.
This article was last updated August 2021.
© In partnership with AGCAS
This content has been written or sourced by AGCAS, the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services, and edited by targetjobs as part of a content partnership. AGCAS provides impartial information and guidance resources for higher education student career development and graduate employment professionals.