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How to Prepare for an Interview

Updated: Jan 14, 2021

You barely remember any of your life before you went to school. Your whole life is about to change. So my first advice to you is don’t panic. Big changes are a part of life. The change ahead of you is not as tough as when you started primary school. You survived that, didn’t you? There will be other challenges after secondary school: university, getting your first job, moving to another country, getting married, caring for a baby, retirement… OK, I am getting ahead of you a bit. Right now you just need to figure out how to pass the secondary school interview and then go to a new school.

There are two things the teacher is looking for in an interview.

  1. Are your marks high? That shows that you will be easy to teach. Be lazy in primary five, even repeat the grade, and it is less of a problem. You need good marks in primary 6 to get into a good school.

  2. Are you well behaved? Teachers do not want to have to be the police for a bunch of teenagers. They want children that will not be trouble for them. That is what the interview tests you for.

Why do you want to go to a good school?

Your parents know that a good school will help you go into better paying jobs and an easier life. That is boring, but true. Instead, I am going to tell you the other reasons that you want to go to a good school.

Bad schools are babysitting services that pretend to be schools. Think of them as jail-for-children! They want to keep you sitting in a classroom for six years and then throw you out when you finish. They will keep you busy by giving you extra school work and homework to do. They will want you to do a hundred pages of really boring worksheets.

Good quality schools want to be famous for having the smartest students. They also need you to work, but will give you more interesting tasks. They will ask you to read an interesting hundred-page book and then explain what was in it.

What can you do to impress your interviewer?

Wear proper clothes. When I was your age, that meant that boys must wear long pants and girls’ dresses must not be over their knees. In Hong Kong many school uniforms include dresses that show knees. Hong Kong is much more open. The safest choice is to wear your primary school uniform to the interview. Otherwise pick the long pants/dress, look conservative and ask your parents advice.

Also: Wash yourself thoroughly, brush your teeth, cut your fingernails, comb your hair. Boys must have short hair. Girls must not wear make-up, jewelry, hair color, or hair gel; come to think of it, boys should not have those too.

Arrive early. If you were the teacher, you would not want to deal with students who come to school late. Less than 10 minutes early is late. If you arrive an hour early, you can walk around and see what the neighborhood is like.

Read about the school before the interview. They have a web page and everything. This should be easy. Know the name of the school and have some questions ready.

Be awake. Go to sleep very early the night before: don’t stay up playing phone games. Eat a big breakfast.

Be more grown up. Turn off your phone. Look teachers in the eye when you talk to them. Say good morning or afternoon, use the teacher's name, shake hands (but not during Covid19), sit up straight, do not interrupt.

Be honest. Do not boast about reading some very large English books. The teacher may have read them and asked you questions about them. (I have!)

Beware of the hidden test. This is tough, but many secondary schools have a hidden test. It can be called the sitting-and-waiting test. They may have you sit and wait when it is not really needed. You are being watched. If you get up and play, you just failed the interview before it started. Bring an English book, a big one, and sit there very quietly and read it.

Last, but not least, practice for the interview. It may seem that the questions are easy and your English is good, but people have failed interviews by being nervous and not talking. Good teachers do a lot of one-on-one practice interviews with their students.


Author: Patrick Cummings


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