Agile Minds for Interviews
Every year, January brings a few phone calls from parents whose kids have aced their 11+ exams (whoop!) and now have a handful of interviews at top schools to attend.
How to prepare for such interviews? What will be asked?
These are tricky queries to answer, since the best schools deliberately change the format and content of their interviews and assessment days to ensure kids aren't coming in with learnt responses. The best preparation, therefore (aside from having opinions on a favourite book / subject / hobby at the ready) is to work on mental agility.
Here are a few tasks to build an agile mind for interview:
Questions, not answers. This is a good one I heard recently. An interviewer might give a child the answers and ask them to come up with the questions. For example, give a child 3 packets of smarties along with their price and weight. How many Maths questions can they come up with in relation to the smarties? There are the simple ones - how many smarties are there? How many are yellow? But a good candidate might also think of probability questions, percentage questions, equations. Another version of this is to give a child a short passage from a novel. What comprehension questions would they come up with if they were setting a homework task on that passage?
Objects and images. Another good technique for brain-training is to give a child an object - say a fossil, a coin, an antique. Ask them to talk about it. This encourages them to express their thoughts and opinions confidently. They can start with the obvious (it's heavy, it's smooth etc) and then go on to more subtle observations (what era might it be from? what might it be made of? who might have owned it?) The same exercise can be done with an image. Print off an abstract work of art or a historical photograph or even a modern-day advertisement. What can the student notice about it? What story does the image tell? What emotions does it evoke - and why? I've had some great conversations inspired by Escher pictures (see above), which have touched on topics from gravity to fantasy novels to social hierarchies to ancient Egypt!
Inventive questions. Don't just think about the standard questions, such as 'What do you do in your spare time?' Think about more quirky questions. If you were a piece of furniture, what would you be? If you could have an extra room in your house, what would it be like? If you won a thousand pounds, how would you spend it? If you had a time machine, what period would you visit? What character from a book is most like you? Is a window still a window if it is painted black? What does 'being clever' mean?
Games and activities. Increasingly, schools are having assessment days in place of interviews at 11+. This means games and activities are frequently used to determine who is right for the school. So playing really is good practice - but play the right kind of games. Concentration games like 'Splat' or 'Zip Zap Boing' are fantastic for groups. At home you might challenge a child to make a sculpture out of newspaper or a dress out of toilet roll. Buy a book of riddles to solve in the car. Word association games, spelling games and general knowledge quizzes are all super.
The child is the teacher. Another typical interview task is to get a pupil to explain something they are interested in to the teacher. This forces them to think clearly and logically, articulate their thoughts, and show self-belief. Again, it's easy to practice these skills at home. Ask your child to explain how their violin makes a sound, or get them to explain how to make brownies, or even to teach you whatever they learnt in Maths that day.
Our team at Griffin + Bell have fingers firmly crossed for this year's interviewees. And those Year 5s who are aiming for 11+ next January: start getting your brain fit and flexible now! Some interview technique will be covered at our next 11+ course, coming up this Easter holidays - more details j