PGCE Interview Questions
Updated 11 October 2020
For postgraduates, the main route into a career in teaching is to apply for a teacher training programme through UCAS Teacher Training. You can apply for a place with up to three different training providers, and if your application with one or more of these is successful, you will be invited to an interview.
Each training provider will let you know its decision within 40 working days of receiving your application. Once you have received decisions from all of your chosen training providers, you will have 10 working days to reply to any invitations to interview.
Make sure you are available for interviews within this timescale and allow a full day for each one.
Usually, you will be given plenty of warning of your interview date but, in some cases, you may be offered one at short notice if an interview day is already set up. If you are unable to make this, the training provider should offer an alternative date.
If you are offered two interviews on the same day, contact one of the training providers to see if you can rearrange. If this is not possible, you may have to choose which interview to attend.
The interview process varies from programme to programme – some providers may have a two-stage process, some may set a written assessment and some may require you to do some preparatory work, such as a presentation or teaching task.
All the information you need should be included in the invitation to interview, so make sure you read through it carefully. Information about each training provider’s interview process should also be available on its website.
In this article, we explore the skills and qualities that assessors will be looking for at a PGCE interview and set out some examples of PGCE interview questions you are likely to encounter, along with tips on answering them.
Your interviewer will be looking for evidence of a wide range of skills and competencies. Some of the key skills you will need to show during a teacher training interview include:
- A passion and enthusiasm for teaching
- Strong communication skills
- Transferable skills from any previous employment
- Empathy and care for the students you will be working with
- An ability to reflect on your performance and make improvements where necessary
- Confidence in your abilities
- Motivation – the drive to take on the challenges of the job and the ability to motivate others
In addition to these key skills, your interviewer will also be looking for:
- An understanding of the role of a teacher and how you are suited to this career
- An understanding of the ethos of the school(s) or university you will be training with
- Sound knowledge of the subject area you will be teaching
- How you will apply what you have learnt from previous school experience
- Awareness of current policies, practices and issues in teaching education
When answering questions at the teacher training interview, you should do your best to personalise your response, so research the school or provider interviewing you beforehand.
Find out everything you can about their ethos, specialisms, curriculum and so on, and try to talk to people who work or train there, or have done so in the past. Find ways to include what you know in your answers.
During your preparation, ensure you have plenty of specific examples from your education, work or school experience to support your answers.
Below we set out 10 of the questions you are most likely to encounter at your PGCE interview and provide some hints and tips on answering them.
1. Why Do You Want to Be a Teacher?
When answering this question you need to make it clear that teaching is your first choice of career and not a fallback option.
Everyone’s reasons should be unique to them, so avoid giving a broad, general response. Instead, emphasise where your passion for the profession came from and what motivates you.
Talk about your experience in school to reinforce what you enjoy about teaching, giving specific examples of elements you find particularly satisfying or rewarding. You might also talk about a teacher of your own who you found particularly inspiring and explain why.
Nobody applying to be a teacher is unaware that it can be a challenging career, so don’t be afraid of discussing the more challenging aspects. It is a great opportunity to demonstrate why you feel you are equipped to face them.
2. What Attracted You to This Particular PGCE Training Course?
Here, the interviewer wants to see evidence that you have done your research into their organisation and are aware of what a PGCE involves.
Before the interview, study the school or provider’s website and any other literature that may be available, familiarising yourself with aspects such as:
- Educational goals and objectives
- The demographics it caters to
- Any standout initiatives it has championed
Think about what makes you a good fit for this particular training provider, using examples from your work experience, academic life or extracurricular activities to demonstrate how your values and objectives align with theirs.
3. What Have You Learnt from Your Work Experience in Schools?
This is an opportunity to expand on the information you provided in your application. Don’t just regurgitate what they already know but provide further evidence.
Be ready with some specific, detailed examples of what you did and what you learnt, as well as any aspects that you found interesting or surprising. This might include lesson planning or classroom organisation or observations about how students’ learn.
Try to think about examples that would be most relevant to the training programme you’re applying for. You could also draw on experience in different settings such as youth clubs or playgroups, where relevant.
This question is clearly about how you would apply what you have learnt from previous school experience, but it is also a chance to show your confidence in your ability and your ability to reflect on your performance.
4. Which of Your Qualities Will Make You a Great Teacher?
With this question, interviewers are evaluating your understanding of the role and what is required to succeed as a teacher. You should use your research into the training provider to form a picture of its requirements and match up as many of your qualities as you can with these.
Your answer should focus on the assets that you can bring to the school or schools you will be training in, explaining how your skills would benefit you on your course and the students you will teach.
This is not the time to be modest or self-effacing. Talk positively and confidently about your attributes and what you have achieved, trying to bring in as many of the key competencies as possible.
5. What Qualities Do Pupils Look for in a Teacher?
This question is about evaluating yourself from your students’ perspective and having an awareness that different students respond to different teaching styles.
Key competencies such as empathy, strong communication skills and the ability to present information effectively to a range of audiences will all come into play here. Above all, students respond to teachers who are passionate and motivated, so it is important to include evidence of these in your answer.
Again, you should also consider what qualities the training provider values and touch on these in your answer.
Give specific examples of how and when you have demonstrated the qualities you are discussing, plus the positive feedback or results you have received from your students.
6. Tell Me About a Lesson That Didn’t Go Well
Talking about your failures or setbacks in an interview can feel scary, and the impulse is often to go on the defensive. But don’t make the mistake of claiming that nothing has ever gone wrong in your lessons.
Everyone has room for improvement and interviewers are not trying to trip you up with this question, rather they are looking for evidence that you can learn from your mistakes.
See this question as an opportunity to demonstrate competencies, such as your ability to reflect on your performance, your resilience when working under pressure, and the skills and strengths you have gained through your school experience.
Prepare a couple of examples of where a lesson didn’t go to plan and focus on what you would do differently with hindsight and how your performance as a teacher has improved as a result.
7. Tell Me About a Time You’ve Given a Particularly Successful Lesson
This should be easier than talking about an unsuccessful lesson, but remember to give specifics rather than a broad-brush answer. The interviewers must get a clear picture of the lesson and how you made it a success.
The interviewer may have a checklist of elements they are looking for, so make sure to detail each of the key competencies you demonstrated in the lesson – and show that you understand how these contributed to your performance.
For a full answer, explain:
- What you were teaching
- The age group of your students
- The strategy that you employed
- The resources that you used
- Any challenges that you faced
Try to bring items from this lesson with you in your portfolio, such as your lesson plan, resources you created or feedback from your students.
8. Tell Me About a Time a Child Struggled with Their Learning. How Did You Support Them?
Here, the interviewer wants to get an idea of how you work as a teaching professional.
This is a chance to discuss how you have formed good working relationships with your students, parents and carers, as well as how you have worked with other staff as part of a team.
Your answer should also show awareness of relevant school policies and how you have applied them, an understanding of effective techniques to manage children’s learning, and a sense of accountability for students’ progress.
You should be prepared with one or two strong examples of where you’ve made a difference and be able to talk about the context, what you did and the results of your actions.
The STAR technique would be useful here to help structure a clear and convincing answer. Don’t be shy about highlighting your achievements and capabilities.
9. Describe a Time You Dealt with a Safeguarding Issue in School
Every teacher training interview will include a question about safeguarding in some form. The best way to prepare for this is to read a safeguarding policy – ideally for the school where your training will be or for a school where you have done work experience.
Any answer you give should include an understanding of the school’s policy and mention the school’s Designated Safeguarding Person.
Your answer should show empathy and an understanding of the needs and expectations of the students you are working with, but it is also crucial that you make clear your commitment to following set rules and procedures, and working with others when it comes to safeguarding.
If you have never been directly involved with a safeguarding issue in school, be honest and demonstrate, instead, your understanding of the issues involved.
10. What Issues Are There in Education at the Moment?
Interviewers want to know that you have an interest in teaching and education in general and that you keep abreast of key developments and issues.
So, make sure you are up-to-date with the news and be prepared to talk about a few current topics. This should include at least one issue that is specifically relevant to your chosen age group or subject.
Think about how the topics you are discussing impact teaching and learning, drawing on your own practical experience in schools when you can. You should be mindful of the training provider’s ethos concerning these issues, but don’t be afraid to put forward your own opinions and ideas.
At the end of the interview you will have an opportunity to ask questions of your own, so prepare a few that are thoughtful, intelligent and reflect your enthusiasm for teaching and the particular training programme you are applying for.
These could include questions around the training process such as:
- “What is the ratio of training to practical teaching during the programme?”
- “What is the format of the training?”
- “Will my placement be at this school (doing the interview) only?”
- “Where will the study part of the programme take place?”
You might also ask about processes and objectives at the school doing the interview, such as:
- “What is the school’s vision for the future?”
- “What would my key goals be as a teacher here?”
- “Do you have any particular developments planned for the school?”
Your assessors at a PGCE interview will be looking for strong evidence of your passion for teaching, your understanding of what is required from a teacher and your ability to meet these requirements.
So, before the interview, make sure you have a clear idea of a teacher’s role and how this applies to the school you are applying to train with.
You should also be aware of the key competencies and have a selection of compelling examples to demonstrate these. And you should be prepared to discuss your subject and it’s wider significance.
Finally, make sure you read through the invitation to interview carefully and do any preparatory work required. Arrive at the interview well-rested, on time and smartly dressed.