Skip to main content


The summer holidays are little more than half a term away and many parents already have one eye on the private school assessments taking place over autumn and winter. For this GUEST BLOG, we asked Adam Goodbody, expert in interview preparation and mentoring at Oppidan Education, to divulge some of his valuable knowledge on the subject. 

Handshake at a school interview18 May 2023

At Oppidan Education, we recently passed 20,000 individual interview sessions with young people. It caused us to reflect on what we’ve learnt and why we’re mentoring students through interviews in the first place. 

What’s the problem?

In an ‘Update on student career readiness in 2021/22’ from the Careers and Enterprise Company (the UK government body tasked with career guidance in England) it was reflected that:

Most students rate their skills positively but nearly half are not yet confident talking about their skills in an interview.

Young people are getting better and better at developing long term skills, but many are still struggling to articulate and convey them to others. It’s a blocker for sustained success. 

Indeed, over the course of the Autumn term 2022, Oppidan worked with over 600 pupils who took part in its interview day workshop. When surveyed, students were particularly concerned about speaking to people they didn’t know and articulating their skills to others.

So, what’s our advice?

At Oppidan, we’ve been helping students prepare for the skill of interviewing almost since the company began. We know that having skills and being able to articulate them are two entirely separate things. Whether it’s getting ready for a new school, a new university or a new job, we all know that feeling of panic when you’re asked a question you hadn’t thought about.

Yet, if we can mentor students to thrive in interviews, and do so in a gentle way early on, we give them an infinitely better chance of making a successful first step into their next chapter. 

Here are some key things we’ve learnt: 

Preparing students for interviews before Year 5 is unnecessary and potentially detrimental. 

Some light (3 sessions max) preparation before a senior school interview is beneficial and leads to greater confidence and calm in advance of the process. 

Students might learn how to:

  • Squeeze the juice - extracting as much detail from each answer as possible to develop the conversation 
  • Steer the conversation – take charge and learn how to ‘pivot’ topic areas to things you feel most comfortable with
  • Think critically – learning how to assess a problem, reason clearly and consider both sides of an argument.
  • Show your working – think aloud and explain your thought process. Even if there is one, the interviewer is rarely looking for a ‘correct’ answer. They’re keen to see how you think and weigh up ideas. 

What can I do over the summer? 

No specific interview preparation is needed over the summer for children beginning the Pre-Test journey or applying to secondary school. The best way to prepare is to help your child get out and see the world and read! Open eyes, lots of walks and plenty of books.

Reading yourself as a parent, on holiday or in your free time, is essential for this. Parents can’t expect their children to become voracious readers if they don’t pick up and engage with books themselves. It’s worth getting them to think critically about what they’ve learnt when they finish a book: 

  1. What did you learn? 
  2. How was it different from other books you’ve read? 
  3. Why do you think the author wrote it? 
  4. If this book was a picture, what would it look like? 

These questions are used frequently by our mentors to help develop self-reflection and critical thinking.

Overall, getting an interview right is a great skill and some careful, gentle preparation to do so is valuable. Over preparation is not advised, nor is undue pressure. This should be a fun exercise and the chance to enjoy a conversation with someone new. 

Oppidan supports students with academic mentoring at home and skills mentoring in schools. Our mentors are trained to grow student confidence and improve results, especially at key transition points like moving to secondary school or university. 

Adam Goodbody is Founders' Associate at Oppidan Education, a leading mentoring agency, described by The Good Schools Guide as 'Impossibly cool, effortlessly charming'.

Oppidan supports students with academic mentoring at home and skills mentoring in schools. Our mentors are trained to grow student confidence and improve results, especially at key transition points like moving to secondary school or university. 




Most popular Good Schools Guide articles

  • Special educational needs introduction

    Need help? Perhaps you suspect your child has some learning difficulty and you would like advice on what you should do. Or perhaps it is becoming clear that your child's current school is not working for him or her, and you need help to find a mainstream school which has better SEN provision, or to find a special school which will best cater for your child's area of need. Our SEN consultancy team advises on both special schools, and the mainstream schools with good SEN support, from reception through to the specialist colleges for 19+. Special Educational Needs Index

  • The Good Schools Guide International

    Find top international, British, IB and American schools in over 40 countries. The Good Schools Guide International publishes impartial and forthright reviews of international schools across the world.

  • Grammar schools best value added

    We examined the value-added from KS2 to GCSE for 2022 to see which state selective grammar schools added the most value to their offspring. A note of caution - the more highly selective a grammar school, the less scope there will be to add value.

  • Grammar schools in the UK

    Grammar schools are state-funded, academically selective senior schools. The education a child receives at grammar school is paid for by the state unlike at private schools which provide education for a fee. There are currently around 163 located in 36 English local authorities, with around 167,000 pupils between them. Northern Ireland has a further 67 grammar schools, but there are none in Wales or Scotland. A word of caution: there are private schools that have the word 'grammar' in their name but this is purely for historical reasons. 

  • Music, drama and dance at Performing Arts schools

    At specialist music, dance or performing arts schools, the arts aren't optional extras. They’re intrinsic to the school curriculum. Students are expected to fit in high level training and hours of practice alongside a full academic provision. It's a lot to ask any child to take on, but for those with exceptional performing ability this kind of education can be transformative.

Subscribe for instant access to in-depth reviews:

☑ 30,000 Independent, state and special schools in our parent-friendly interactive directory
☑ Instant access to in-depth UK school reviews
☑ Honest, opinionated and fearless independent reviews of over 1,200 schools
☑ Independent tutor company reviews

Try before you buy - The Charter School Southwark

Buy Now

GSG Blog >

The Good Schools Guide newsletter

Educational insight in your inbox. Sign up for our popular newsletters.


Our most recent newsletter: