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Interviews for research students

Introduction

All academic departments are expected to interview applicants before making an offer of a place on MPhil/PhD and some MRes/PhD degree programmes (unless the applicant is already well-known to the Department). 

You will only be interviewed if you are shortlisted by the academic department you have applied to.

This document provides you with general information about the interview and what to expect. Interviews are intended to be an opportunity for information exchange between you and the academic department. They are not like a job interview where you would be interviewed by several people and provided with detailed feedback on your performance.

Purpose of interviews

The purpose of interviewing potential research students is likely to vary between different academic departments. However, the primary aim is for you to give further information to selectors/potential supervisors about your motivation, commitment and potential for study at the doctoral level. 

Before interviewing a potential research student, the department will have already assessed a number of criteria from information you provided in your application:

  • academic qualifications and history;
  • English Language ability;
  • academic references;
  • research proposal;
  • personal statement; and
  • sample of assessed work.

The application form is used as a short-listing mechanism. The interview forms the next stage of the application process.

Who will arrange my interview?

The academic department to whom you have applied for a place will make the arrangements for your interview. This will include establishing the format in which it will be conducted ie whether it will take place in person, on the telephone or by video conference.

After making an application, you should wait to hear from the academic department who will contact you to invite you for an interview and make the necessary arrangements. The department will provide you with information that will normally include: a summary of what the interview will cover; what it is for; and who will be involved.  

If you need any special arrangements to be made for your interview, for example, if you have a disability, you should raise this when the department contacts you.  

Who will conduct my interview?

The academic department will confirm who will be interviewing you. This can include one or more members of academic staff and might include your potential supervisor. 

What will my interview include?

Individual interviews will vary, although the main line of questioning is likely to be similar. You will find some example questions below|. Also, the interview will usually provide an opportunity for you to ask any questions you might have.

Research students are expected to have particular attributes: your interview will be an opportunity for you to demonstrate which of these you possess. They include:  

  • an ability to process complex concepts and reason analytically
  • motivation and perseverance in achieving objectives
  • capacity for independent thought
  • organisational skills
  • the capacity to conduct independent research and learning
  • enthusiasm for the research programme
  • a capacity to establish good working relationships

What should I do to prepare for my interview?

Most interviewers are looking at your ideas, attitudes and opinions; they are not looking at getting the "right answer". They will be looking for evidence of a strong interest in the subject as well as enthusiasm for it. It will be important to be well prepared for your interview and there are a number of sources of information you might find useful including: 

If you are attending an interview in person, casual dress is acceptable.

When will I be told the outcome?

Decisions about whether or not you will be offered a place is not provided at the interview itself. The Graduate Admissions Office will notify you of the department's decision once the selection process has been completed; this may be some time after the interview.  

The interview is part of the selection process and therefore does not form any part of the 'contract' between the School and a student once they are registered.   

The department who interviewed you will keep a short record of the interview and its outcome. This will be kept in a secure and confidential place. The Department will make sure that only relevant people use this information for the relevant purposes, in accordance with obligations under the Data Protection Act.

Sample interview questions: general  

This list provides a sample of interview questions and has been provided to all academic departments at the School. Whilst your interview may contain additional questions, the following should help you in preparing for it.

Motivation for doctoral study (at the LSE)

  • Please tell me something about you, what you have been doing/studying/working on during the past year?
  • What made you apply for this programme at this particular time? Why did you choose the LSE? What made you choose this department?
  • Where do you anticipate/hope a PhD will lead in terms of your career development?
  • What contribution do you think you will be making to your chosen field of research?

Readiness for doctoral study

  • What academic skills do you possess?
  • What is the relevance of your previous study to your proposed research?
  • What potential areas of research have you identified?  How did you arrive at these? What interests you about them?
  • Have you previously led seminars/taught undergraduates?
  • How do you intend to fund your study?

Understanding of doctoral study

This is likely to be an area in which information is being exchanged between you and the interviewer(s). The interviewer(s) might provide information on:

  • The programme/department/School;
  • What past doctoral students have gone on to after completing their PhD;
  • What opportunities there are to develop transferable skills, within the department/School.  

You might be asked questions such as:

  • Are you aware of the requirements of the programme (including taught courses)?
  • What are you expecting by way of supervisory arrangements?
  • How do you anticipate combining the demands of doctoral study/completing a PhD with other commitments you might have? What do you expect those demands to be?

Special consideration for part-time study

If you are applying to study on a part-time basis, you will be asked the same questions as for full-time applicants. However, it is likely that your interviewer(s) may wish to focus on particular aspects such as how you expect to balance your other commitments with doctoral study. You might be asked:

  • What do you expect by way of arrangements as a part-time student i.e. what access to your supervisor(s), services and facilities are you expecting? 
  • What do you expect your attendance at the School (for taught courses) to be?
  • Have you considered a forward-plan of how commitments to employers will harmonise with the intensive requirements of doctoral study? 
  • Have you reached a formal agreement with your employer?
  • What time/travel demands do you think will be necessary to undertake fieldwork? How will this be managed with your employment?
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