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What admissions interviews are like

Wondering what to expect at an admissions interview? Peter Yeo talks to NTU professors to suss out what they’re looking for when they meet you face-to-face

Prospective students eyeing a place at NTU can improve their chances through a holistic admissions assessment that includes interviews, aptitude tests and portfolios. A prospective student who shows passion and enthusiasm for a chosen programme, as well as potential to succeed may have an edge over a more academically qualified applicant vying for the same course.

Says NTU Provost Prof Ling San: “NTU’s new holistic approach means that our professors are investing more time, resources and manpower to interview and assess individual students. But we are willing to do so, to better match student’s aspirations and passion for the subject, as long as they can show us that they can cope with the rigours of their chosen degree course.”

  • “Admissions interviews are not about impressing the interviewers but for us to learn more about who you are.”
    – Assoc Prof Yeong Wai Yee, School of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering

    1 / 13

  • “I often ask students what they’ve read recently that’s moved them – or even to just share their favourite book or movie. Many of them can’t name any meaningful book, play or film. Not having any ideas makes it hard for us to imagine the student’s commitment to a four-year degree course where reading is fundamental!”
    – Asst Prof Kevin Riordan, School of Humanities

    2 / 13

  • “Students should try to be genuine, natural and honest in their answers. Show us your true conviction and passion to pursue a career in medicine. Answers that are not ‘run-of-the-mill’ would be preferred. Instead of answering ‘I want to help people’, when asked why you want to be a doctor, share with us your unique reasons that distinguish you from others.”
    – Assoc Prof Kwek Tong Kiat, Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine

    3 / 13

  • “It’s often not what you say at the interviews, but your energy and enthusiasm that matters. Engage and retain the attention of the interviewer by making it a lively conversation. It is also important for students to communicate and not wait for questions from the interviewer before they speak.”
    – Assoc Prof Low Kin Yew, Nanyang Business School

    4 / 13

  • “Through admissions interviews, we are able to assess the potential of a student beyond his academic results, as well as his suitability for the programme as seen through his passion.”
    – Assoc Prof Nicholas Vun, School of Computer Science & Engineering

    5 / 13

  • “Qualities we look for in students include a drive to learn, confidence without being brash, the ability to articulate interest in their proposed major, and clear ideas about how NTU will help with their personal and professional goals. Willingness to contribute to society and having personal aspirations are also attractive qualities.”
    – Dr Rebecca Nichols, School of Social Sciences

    6 / 13

  • “Communicate your enthusiasm for the programme, and for the environment in general. It almost always grabs our attention when a student can link what we’re talking about to wider world issues. It’s a good sign when students can make the interview feel more like a conversation rather than just answering questions.”
    – Dr Natasha Bhatia, Asian School of the Environment

    7 / 13

  • “The Renaissance Engineering Programme conducts multiple mini interviews for its candidates. Through the five to six interview stages, we assess the students’ creativity, critical thinking, communication skills and leadership. There are no wrong or right answers. We just want to find out more about how you think, how you communicate, your interests and your passion. So if I were you, I’d just be myself – calm, composed and exuding confidence.”
    – Prof Lalit Goel, Director of Renaissance Engineering Programme

    8/ 13

  • “I have a favourite story with a candidate who was clearly not on the right wavelength:

    Interviewer: What aspect of media interests you most?
    Candidate: I like movies.
    I: Excellent! Tell us about a movie you've enjoyed recently, and why.
    C: Er... (long pause)
    I: In that case, just tell us about a movie you've seen.
    C: Er... (embarrassingly long pause)
    I: [Sigh] OK, name a movie you've seen.
    C: ...
    I: OK, name a movie, any movie.
    C: Er....

    We did not consider her a good fit for the school! Professors have devoted their lives to becoming experts in their subjects, so try to match their enthusiasm by showing you are really enthusiastic about some aspect of the school. And have a few examples of cool stuff (that are relevant) you have seen and noticed, and want to learn about.”
    – Asst Prof Andrew Duffy, Wee Kim Wee School of Communication & Information

    9 / 13

  • “Do not give short answers like ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Tell us your motivation for applying to the programme. More importantly, don’t feed fuzzy information as interviewers will chase the line of questioning if they find an answer fishy. In short, don’t be pretentious.”
    – Assoc Prof Tan Howe Siang, School of Physical & Mathematical Sciences

    10 / 13

  • “The single biggest obstacle is not knowing what you have applied for. I am not interested in generic answers. If there is passion for the subject, it usually comes out in the conversation.”
    – Assoc Prof Daniel Jernigan, School of Humanities

    11 / 13

  • “I once interviewed a candidate who said her next-of-kin was battling cancer as she sat for her O-level exams. She was able to demonstrate her strength of character and maturity while discussing the experience. That said, it can be risky to bring personal issues into the interview. In this particular case, it worked well.”
    – Dr Wilson Goh, School of Biological Sciences

    12 / 13

  • "As an interviewer, I am trying to figure out whether you are going to enjoy studying and reading history for four years. If you actually don't like history, then it’s probably not going to be the best choice for you. Don't be afraid to share parts of your life that may not be directly relevant to the subject you are applying for. I've been impressed by students who have worked at part-time jobs or done interesting volunteer activities."
    – Assoc Prof Hallam Stevens, School of Humanities

    13 / 13

Ready for your interview?

Keep these tips in mind

  • Be Punctual Respond promptly to interview invites and turn up on time.
  • Be presentable Don’t show up in flip-flops or with tattered jeans and unkempt hair. This could suggest you’re not interested in the interview.
  • Know why you’re there If you want to pursue science so you can be a researcher, show you know something about the subject of science and researchers.
  • Ask questions Ask relevant questions that you want answers to. The worst thing is to ask no questions.
  • Be relaxed The interview is a chance for us to know you, and for you to get to know NTU.
  • Be committed Don’t drop out of the interview at the last minute as it won’t reflect well on you.