The coronavirus pandemic has significantly changed school applications. Where previously we could visit potential schools, speak to pupils and teachers and prepare for entrance exams and interviews, we are now entering uncharted waters.
As the parent of a child who has sat online exams, entrance tests and interviews in the last few months, I know how unsettling the new process can feel. I can also testify that with careful thought and preparation, the new experience can be seen in an extremely positive light. You will not need to worry about being in the right place at the right time, your child will be in a familiar environment and there is obviously no risk of infection.
However, it is important that you prepare properly so that your child stands out. Based on my experience in helping boys and girls prepare for school entrance exams, here are five tips that I have found helpful.
1. Do your homework
Find out as much as you can about the school. You may not have been able to visit it in person, but you can do your own research. Look at the website and as well as familiarising yourself with the background to the school, try to find out more about what goes on day to day.
Your child will probably be asked why they want to go to the school so make sure they have an answer which is personal to them. If your child loves sport, talk about the facilities. For maths enthusiasts, there may be a thriving maths department. Musicians will be interested in the variety of ensembles at the school.
The most important point here is that your child must show that they know what the school has to offer them and in return, share with the interviewer how they will contribute to the school community.
2. Keep revising
Your child has spent months practising maths and English papers. Don’t abandon the revision because the exam format has changed, as the online interview may well include verbal tests on these subjects. Adjust your child’s preparation according to what you are told the online assessment will involve. Add some mental maths to the final preparations, some to be done without paper and some with, and discuss a poem or short written passage together.
Have a few formal ‘practice’ conversations at home. You might talk about things that never come up but this will help your child to develop a more formal tone for the interview. Reassure them that it will be just like having a conversation with one of their teachers at school and that the interviewer will want to get the most out of them. Talk about the books your child is reading and make sure the answers given are interesting. The interviewer wants to have a good conversation and if your child can elaborate on a subject, so much the better. This is also the time for you to ensure your child is respectful as well as confident; there is a difference between confidence and cockiness.
4. Presentation is Key
There is also a difference between television and radio. When recording a radio programme, it doesn’t matter how you look, but when filming for TV it does: what is behind you, what you are wearing, your hairstyle and your attitude are all on show. It is no different on Zoom. Your child will need to listen to what is being said, look at the interviewer and smile when appropriate. “Hello,” at the beginning of an interview and “Thank you very much” at the end will not be out of place either. Consider whether your child will wear school uniform or a bold colour, what is behind them in the camera shot, the light levels in the room and the angle of the webcam.
5. On screen practice
You can set up your own practice interview at home. Think about all of the things above and have a go. It will make your child feel far more comfortable with the whole process. You might not know exactly what the interview will entail, but it will take away some of the nerves.
Typical questions you could ask include:
Why do you want to come to this school? What is your favourite subject? What book are you currently reading? Tell me about the activities that you do outside of school? and ...If you could solve one problem in the world, what would it be and why?
Your role in the run up to the online assessment is to build your child’s confidence, encourage them to listen and smile, and in doing so, help them to show the best version of themselves on screen.
For a 30 minute practice interview with on-screen consultation and feedback, contact email@example.com