Sorted – tutors CAN positively influence your child’s UK boarding school interview

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Over the past few years, I have prepared around fifteen Chinese and Hong Kong students for their UK boarding school interview. I consider myself to be a hardworking tutor with strong leadership skills. Therefore, preparing students for their boarding school interviews invariably brings the best out in me. 

Read on to find out why hiring an interview preparation tutor has its merits.

Why should you hire a tutor for your child's UK boarding school interview?

If your child has a reasonable command of the English language, there are plenty of reasons in favour of hiring a tutor for their UK boarding school interview. 

First of all, Hong Kong and Chinese students tend to have issues with opening up, coming out of their shell and talking about their achievements and talents. As a tutor with thirteen years of experience behind me and a master’s degree in English Language Teaching, I believe that I’m adept at getting students to open up.

Sometimes, it’s all about the manner of questioning when it comes to getting a student to speak more uninhibitedly. Frankly, I've found that's it fruitless task to begin questions with what, where and how. On the contrary, the word describe can unlock many doors: “Can you please describe …?”

Tapping into a child's mindset and pinpointing their talents

I strive to tap into each child’s mindset and pinpoint their talents. I remember tutoring a boy called Tyler. It took me three short sessions to learn that he was a high-flying mathematician who’d won a few competitions. Moreover, he “led” his group when it came to solving complex mathematical problems and giving advice to struggling students.

The penny dropped - we had a winning combination that I think all interviewees, parents and tutors should take note of:

  • favourite subject; 
  • leadership skills;
  • generosity in the form of helping and advising others.

A tutor may also help applicants to strike a balance between talking about their academic achievements, sport, music and other extracurricular pursuits. I remember tutoring one girl who, without me, would have gone into her interview only knowing how to talk about her passion for painting. It took me a few more sessions to redress the balance and discover that she is also a keen mathematician and violinist. Crucially, she considered herself to be a leader on the basketball court.

Should a candidate memorise answers to potential interview questions?  

In a word, no. 

I would never prepare a word-for-word script for children which they can memorise. Interviewers are not foolish - they know when a candidate has memorised answers.

At the end of the day, children need to say what’s in their heart.

How many hours does a candidate need to spend with a tutor to be well-prepared for a UK boarding school interview?

More often than not, parents get carried away and demand that their child has an hour-long session with me every day over two of three weeks. I usually tell them that solid preparation and learning do not always go hand in hand with quantity and intensity. 

Four to six hours is a decent length of time for me to prepare a child for a boarding school interview, even if there are more schools involved. I’m currently tutoring a Chinese girl who will have interviews at five boarding schools. We’ve already spent roughly three hours talking about her achievements, favourite subjects and leadership skills. We’ll spend another two or three hours talking about the schools she’s applied to. Indeed, it’s crucial for a candidate to get to the heart of every school’s ethos.

During interview preparation sessions, I make comments on a google doc. For instance, I offer alternative vocabulary and phrases which sound more convincing and sophisticated. Overall, it’s vital that a candidate has a personal revision guide which they can read through every day.

Questions, questions, questions

It might be somewhat reassuring for you that it is impossible to predict the questions your child will be asked, and therefore you don’t have to compile a detailed list of questions and answers. Nevertheless, I tend to focus on different areas of a child’s self-development in order to cover all the bases. Here are some of the skills and traits I am focusing on right now with Kathleen, a student from Taiwan:

  • Adjustment skills - changing schools, living in another country
  • Favourite subjects
  • Leadership skills - any instances, no matter how trivial, of how the candidate has displayed leadership skills
  • Reading interests - for pleasure and academic
  • Family
  • Hometown
  • Extracurricular pursuits - music, art etc
  • Self-discipline - punctuality; meeting tight deadlines
  • Future career ideas - no matter how vague
  • Community service - UK schools encourage pupils to do service in their local community. Many schools also run initiatives for pupils to help disadvantaged people in developing countries
  • Current affairs - it’s beneficial for a candidate to be well-informed about two or three hot topics in the news


When it comes to your child’s UK boarding school interview, they do not require hours and hours of tuition. A tutor should only need around four to six hours to enable a candidate come out of their shell and reveal all about their qualities, talents, leadership skills and adjustment skills.

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