Congratulations on reaching the interview stage of your PGCE (Postgraduate Certificate in Education) application! This pivotal step brings you closer to realizing your dream of becoming a qualified teacher.
Here, we will walk you through the PGCE interview process, provide essential tips on how to prepare effectively, and offer examples of common interview questions and strong answers to help you ace your interview.
What to expect at a PGCE primary interview? Understanding the PGCE Interview Process
The PGCE interview is a crucial part of your application process, allowing the admissions team to assess your suitability for the program and your potential as a future educator. Here's a breakdown of what you can expect from the PGCE interview process:
Invitation to Interview:
Once your initial application has been reviewed, successful candidates will receive an invitation to attend an interview. This invitation typically includes details about the interview format, location, and any required documentation. Sometimes you only receive a few weeks notice of your interview dates, which can cause problems if you live outside the UK. Don't be afraid if you need to contact the university to ask for a date change; they were always very accommodating with me!
Different universities have different interview processes, such as individual interviews, group interviews, and observed teaching sessions. You may also be asked to complete written tasks or tests.
There may be a lot of candidates there on the day who then get divided for group activities and individual interviews. The process can often take a few hours and may include a tour of the campus.
Interviewers will evaluate candidates based on specific criteria, such as their passion for teaching, communication skills, subject knowledge, and suitability for working with children.
Your interview panel may consist of experienced educators, admissions staff, and possibly current or former PGCE students. They will assess your responses and overall suitability for the program.
Questions and tasks:
You can expect a combination of general questions about your motivations, experience, skills, and how you would approach different teaching scenarios. Some interviews may also involve a micro-teaching session where you deliver a short lesson (though this is more unusual).
After the interview, you will typically receive a notification of your interview outcome. If successful, you'll be offered a place on the PGCE program, pending any further conditions or requirements.
How to Prepare for Your PGCE Interview and Succeed:
Preparing for your PGCE interview is crucial to making a positive impression and increasing your chances of securing a place. Here are some essential tips to help you get ready:
Research the program:
Familiarize yourself with the specific PGCE program you've applied for, including its structure, curriculum, and any unique features. Tailor your responses to show your genuine interest in this particular program and university.
Plan your travel to the interview and give yourself plenty of time:
The last thing you want is to arrive stressed at the interview because you thought you weren't going to make it. Make sure you plan your journey carefully and leave lots of time for delays.
If you are going to a huge city (such as London) for your interview and you are from a small place, take into consideration that arriving in and navigating a big city can be daunting (especially if you just got off a plane). I would suggest staying the night before near the interview location so that you can reduce any stress from traveling on the day of the interview. Having someone travel with you can also help reduce anxiety.
Understand the school's ethos:
If your PGCE program is affiliated with a school or educational institution, research its ethos, values, and teaching methods. Demonstrating alignment with these principles can be impressive during your interview.
Review your application and personal statement:
Be prepared to discuss the content of your application, including your personal statement and relevant experiences. Many questions often focus on your personal statement. Consider how your experiences and skills make you a suitable candidate for a teaching career.
Reflect on your motivations:
Think deeply about why you want to become a teacher. What motivates you? How do your experiences and values align with teaching? Craft a narrative that conveys your passion for education.
What should I wear to a PGCE primary interview?
There can be a lot of variation in outfits for PGCE primary interviews. Smart casual is the safest and most common. Remember to wear shoes that you can comfortably walk in because there may be a campus tour, and for interviews, it's always better to be overdressed than underdressed.
Prepare for teaching scenarios:
If your interview includes a micro-teaching session, a brainstorm for lesson planning, or a teaching scenario, plan and practice concise lessons that showcase your teaching potential. Try to find examples of lessons online. In the UK, there is a very strict format for what lessons are expected to be. Research some interesting lessons and learning games in advance that you might be able to adapt to different lessons.
Research UK customs and celebrations:
Sometimes you can be asked to plan a lesson around something that is specific to UK culture. If you aren't from the UK, this can be a problem, as you can find yourself trying to plan a lesson about a topic you know nothing about. If this does occur, it's best to explain your situation and ask for an explanation of the topic.
Practice interview questions:
Rehearse responses to common interview questions. Consider using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to structure your answers and provide concrete examples.
To help you prepare for your PGCE interview, here are 20 sample questions and strong responses:
Note: Remember to adapt your responses to your own experiences and beliefs. Adding stories of your personal experiences is a nice way to connect with the interviewers and demonstrate how you can apply your skills and beliefs. These sample answers serve as a guide to help you structure your thoughts and provide thoughtful responses during your PGCE interview.
1. Question: Why do you want to become a teacher?
Answer: "I am passionate about education and believe in its power to transform lives. I want to be a teacher to inspire and guide students, helping them reach their full potential and become responsible, lifelong learners."
2. Question: Can you describe a memorable teaching experience you've had, even if it's not in a formal teaching role?
Answer: "During my time as a volunteer tutor, I worked with a struggling student who had lost confidence in their abilities. By tailoring my approach to their needs and providing continuous support, I witnessed a remarkable improvement in their understanding and self-esteem."
3. Question: How do you plan to create an inclusive classroom environment that accommodates diverse learners?
Answer: "Inclusion is a top priority for me. I plan to differentiate my instruction, adapt assessments, and provide additional support when necessary. Moreover, I will cultivate an atmosphere of respect, acceptance, and appreciation for diversity in my classroom."
4. Question: How do you handle classroom management and discipline challenges?
Answer: "I believe in setting clear expectations and addressing issues with fairness and empathy. I also strive to create engaging lessons to minimize disruptions and maintain a positive learning environment."
5. Question: How do you stay updated with the latest educational trends and best practices?
Answer: "I am committed to continuous professional development. I regularly attend workshops, read educational journals, and collaborate with colleagues to exchange ideas and stay informed about the latest research and trends in education."
6. Question: Describe your approach to lesson planning.
This question is unlikely as they will know you may not have much experience with this.
Answer: "I begin with clear learning objectives and tailor my lessons to students' needs and abilities. I incorporate active learning strategies, assessments, and real-world applications to engage students and ensure they meet the desired outcomes."
7. Question: How would you address a student who consistently struggles with a particular subject or topic?
Answer: "I would first identify the root cause of the struggle through assessments and one-on-one discussions. Then, I would develop a personalized learning plan, offer additional resources, and provide ongoing support to help the student succeed."
8. Question: What strategies do you employ to foster positive relationships with students and parents/guardians?
Answer: "I prioritize open communication and active listening. I establish rapport by showing genuine interest in students' well-being and academic growth. I also maintain regular contact with parents and guardians to keep them informed and involved in their child's education."
9. Question: How do you assess student progress and ensure that all students are reaching their potential?
Answer: "I use a variety of formative and summative assessments to gauge student understanding. If I notice any students falling behind, I provide additional support and tailor my teaching methods to address their individual needs."
10. Question: Can you share an example of a creative teaching method or project you've implemented in the past?
Answer: "In a science class, I organized a hands-on experiment that required students to collaborate and think critically. It not only reinforced the curriculum but also encouraged teamwork and problem-solving skills."
11. Question: How would you handle a situation where a student is disengaged or uninterested in learning?
Answer: "I would initiate a conversation to understand their concerns and interests. Then, I'd adapt my teaching approach to incorporate their passions into the curriculum, making learning more engaging and relevant for them."
12. Question: What do you consider the biggest challenge facing education today, and how would you address it as a teacher?
Answer: "I believe one of the challenges is bridging the educational equity gap. To address it, I would strive to provide all students with equal access to resources, personalized support, and a culturally responsive curriculum."
13. Question: How do you handle stress and pressure in a demanding teaching environment?
Answer: "I maintain a healthy work-life balance, prioritize self-care, and seek support from colleagues and mentors. I also believe that effective organization and time management help me manage stress efficiently."
14. Question: What do you think are the essential qualities of an effective teacher?
Answer: "An effective teacher should possess empathy, adaptability, excellent communication skills, patience, passion for teaching, and a commitment to lifelong learning."
15. Question: How do you plan to involve parents or guardians in their child's education?
Answer: "I intend to maintain an open line of communication, share regular updates on student progress, and encourage parental involvement in school activities and events. I believe that strong partnerships with parents are crucial for a student's success."
16. Question: Can you describe a time when you had to adapt your teaching approach to accommodate a student with special educational needs?
Answer: "In a previous role, I had a student with dyslexia. I adjusted materials, provided extra time for assignments, and used multisensory techniques to support their learning. This helped the student make significant progress."
17. Question: What is your philosophy of education, and how does it guide your teaching practice?
Answer: "My philosophy of education centers on the belief that every student has unique potential and should be empowered to reach it. I aim to create a nurturing and inclusive environment where students feel valued, supported, and motivated to excel."
18. Question: How do you ensure that your teaching remains culturally sensitive and respectful of diverse backgrounds?
Answer: "I regularly educate myself on various cultures and backgrounds to foster cultural sensitivity. I incorporate diverse perspectives into my curriculum and engage in open dialogues with students to promote understanding and respect."
19. Question: How do you encourage critical thinking and problem-solving skills in your students?
Answer: "I design lessons that challenge students to analyze, evaluate, and synthesize information. I encourage them to ask questions, explore different viewpoints, and apply their knowledge to real-world scenarios."
20. Question: What do you hope to achieve as a teacher in the long term?
Answer: "In the long term, I aspire to make a lasting impact on my students' lives, helping them become independent learners, responsible citizens, and compassionate individuals. I also aim to contribute to the educational field through research and innovation."
Your PGCE interview is a significant milestone on your journey to becoming a qualified teacher. With thorough preparation, thoughtful responses, and a genuine passion for education, you can navigate the interview process with confidence and secure a place in the PGCE program of your choice.
Remember that your interview is an opportunity to showcase your potential as an educator and your commitment to shaping the future of young minds. Embrace the challenge, stay positive, and let your passion for teaching shine through. Best of luck on your PGCE journey!
Department for Education (UK) (n.d.) Get into Teaching: PGCE Interview Questions https://getintoteaching.education.gov.uk/getting-ready-for-your-interview/pgce-interview-questions
Prospects. (n.d.). Teacher training and education courses. https://www.prospects.ac.uk/jobs-and-work-experience/job-sectors/teacher-training-and-education
UCAS. (n.d.). Teacher training interviews https://www.ucas.com/teaching-in-the-uk/apply-and-track/interviews