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7+ exams: Why you don't need to prepare for the interview

It’s my job to prepare children for the 7+ exams and due to their competitive nature, families are always on the lookout for ways to make their child really stand out from the rest of the prospective students.

I am often asked to coach children before the interview stage of the exam and every single time, I refuse.

The best way to prepare for the interview section in my opinion, is not to prepare at all.

We must remember that we are dealing with 6 year old’s here and I think that even the use of the word ‘interview’ evokes a sense of fear among parents, who have had experience in their adult lives of being grilled before a panel of interviewers and have felt under pressure to prove their skills with anecdotes of their many achievements.

The 7+ interviews are simply just not like this and not only because it would be unethical to subject young children to a formal interview. Schools offering the 7+ exam simply want to put a face to a name, to get a feel for your child’s personality and discover their interests, hobbies and any other attributes that wouldn’t be transparent from the written exams. They are not looking for students to regurgitate facts about the history of the school, reflect on notable alumni or chat about current affairs. In fact, if a child did do any of the above, that is simply a strong indication to examiners that this student has been overly prepped by a tutor.

In the past, previous students of mine have been successful in the interview phase by offering some of the following comments:

Question: What do you like about this school?

Answer: Nothing!

Question: What have you enjoyed most about your day?

Answer: The cakes you gave us during snack time.

These comments are honest – albeit humorous – and that is what schools are looking for.

Of course, the majority of students preparing for the 7+ exams have a tutor, but our job should be to teach skills in English and Maths, to fill the gap between what has been taught in school and the content of the 7+ exam papers. Our job is not to change their personality, their opinions, their idiosyncrasies that make them all so unique.

I don’t want to quote from Bridget Jones here, but needs must. If Mark Darcy was overseeing the interview process, I have no doubt that he would be yet again remarking, “I like you very much. Just as you are”.

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