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How to pass a PhD studentship interview

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0


How to pass a PhD studentship interview

This is the sequel to my article on how to pass an interview, passing a PhD interview shares a lot in common with passing a general interview, except that the focus of the interview is about testing your knowledge and understanding of the subject involved in the interview.

There are usually two types of PhD Interviews :

In the first type of interview funding has been gained for the studentship. In these interviews you will be likely be interviewed by the supervisors of the project, In order to ensure you are the best candidate to receive this studentship.  These interviews maybe less formal depending on the supervisor/s involved. In these interviews your suitability and enthusiasm for that specific studentship is everything. Before the interview you should make sure you have the PhD proposal and understand every element of why the project is important. Also important to make sure that you have the read the previous work of the listed supervisors(As they are the ones likely to be interviewing you.) in detail and any closely related work. It is also worthwhile finding out as much about the Supervisors as possible as they will likely be interviewing you. A major tip is to try and find out any methods, theories or studies that  they currently disagree with in there field and then take the same position. Equally understanding which direction they think the field is going could be just as useful. Questions will likely be about why you want to do a PhD if your capable of doing a PhD why the interest in this studentship,  questions about your knowledge of the studentship and where you think the field is going and what you intend to do with your PhD.

In the second type of studentship application several studentship are competing for funding. The aim of the interview is to find the best combined package of student and studentship possible in order to find the best place to spend the money. To be successful you must come as the most high calibre student academically. And show you are capable of getting through a PhD.  These interviews can be harder, as even if you perform well it is possible that you will not get the studentship because the subject isn’t of as much interest to the university or research organisation. Also it is much harder to predict who will interview you beforehand and therefore preparation is harder. In order to pass this type of interview (or at least come out at the best candidate) you must  show your enthusiasm for the university, the PhD process and show off your academic history. You will be asked some questions around the studentship but because the interviews aren't likely to be experts in that it they will not focus on the subject of the studentship but are more likely to probe your knowledge of the subject area more generally.  

Finding out the type of interview before the interview is important, the best way is to ask the administrator in the department directly but failing that. If the studentship does not have confirmed funding and it is funded by a public body then it is likely to be type 2.  If the studentship has a direct commercial or practical use to it and is funded  by a private body then it is likely to be type one. Also many PhD’s require some undergrad teaching, if yours does then make sure you have appropriate responses to you how you would cope with teaching undergraduates. For instance mentioning any previous teaching you have done.




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