Being interviewed at the same time at other candidates may sound daunting. What’s everyone going to think of your responses? Are your responses going to be as strong as the other candidates? But, it’s easier than it sounds though! In this article, a UCAT Masterclass graduate shares their successful experience at a university admissions group interview.
I was thrilled to even get an interview offer, and my hands were shaky even just scrolling through the email that announced it. With the group interview being conducted in an online setting via Zoom, it was definitely not an experience I was used to having. So, I made sure to carefully read the email.
The key pieces of information I noted from the offer email were:
I referred back to this email quite a few times before the interview for peace of mind, and I would recommend favouriting or at least not trashing such interview related emails.
In the email presenting my interview offer, I was instructed to change my screen name to my full name with an unexplained number in front that they had specified.
After joining the online meeting with the appropriate screen name, I was left to wait for about 15 minutes before my ID was checked in a private meeting room.
I’m a very cautious person, so I made sure I had all required documents plus extra ones handy.
Once my ID was checked, I was transferred to a waiting room with all the other candidates.
In some group interviews, candidates are specifically asked not to converse with others in the waiting room.
However, in my case, we were allowed to freely talk to each other. I had initially planned to engage in conversation with others in the waiting room to appear sociable to the invigilators that were monitoring the room (they were muted with their cameras off. So, this wasn’t immediately obvious).
However, I was concerned that the colloquial language used and the topics discussed could create the wrong impression of me if I was not tactful. Ultimately, I chose to stay quiet.
While candidates aren’t directly assessed on their behaviour in the waiting room, I would suggest that you avoid swearing or joking about malpractice…
Since I didn’t have much else to do while waiting, I decided to familiarise myself with the names of the people who were probably going to be in my group.
I had correctly guessed that the random number that was assigned to screen names was our group number. I mentally rehearsed pronouncing my group members names, trying to put names to faces, so that I could confidently refer to them by name if I wanted to address their responses during the panel discussion.
After waiting almost an hour while all ID checks were completed, we were all given a short briefing by a presenter about the structure of the whole interview. They let us know the schedule for our panel discussion and written assessment (not all interviews have the same components, so check your interview offer email to find out what’s relevant for you).
After that, we were given the opportunity to ask any questions. From there, I was separated into a virtual room with the other people in my group. I didn’t know anyone in my group because they deliberately sorted students from the same school in different groups, but this might not be possible in all cases.
In my case, there was a timed written assessment that was conducted over Google Docs. Some generic questions will not require you to do much thinking on the spot, while for other situational questions based on moral dilemmas, you will need more time to consider and plan the appropriate response.
The invigilator told us how long we had to answer the questions, let us know when we could start, alerted when there was two minutes left, and then removed our access to the document once the time was up.
Check the time before the assessment begins.
There was no visual reminder of the start or finish times! But, fortunately, I checked the time before the assessment began, so I could have a sense of how I was tracking and when the time would be up.
Unfortunately, though, my nerves made me completely forget all this information and I had to rely on the invigilator’s alert for two minutes to the end. There actually was a candidate who tried to ask how much time there was left during the assessment, but the invigilator never heard them because their headset was not working… Moral of the story? Check the time and remember it.
After the written assessment, our group moved onto the panel discussion where one interviewer asked questions, while the other was muted and probably observing our behaviour. My best guess is that they were helping take notes and also looking out for any signs of malpractice.
That aside, the interviewer would present a question before asking if anyone would like to speak. The interviewer let us know that they would call on us if we didn’t volunteer to answer any questions, but everyone in my group took the initiative to speak. So, it never came to that.
All in all, this is my advice based on my experience:
All in all, if you are passionate about whatever you are being interviewed for, your interest and background knowledge will show through. It’s okay to feel nervous; it just means that you care. Believe in yourself and try to enjoy this experience. Best of luck!
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