1. What is the HKU interview process like?
The HKU interviews have evolved over nearly two decades of selecting students like you from the Mainland to join us in our University and share your talents with our staff and other students from around the world.?
Some universities prefer individual interviews, but we believe that a group interview allows you to show other sides of yourself that might not be measured by Gao Kao results or an application form.?
As an applicant to HKU, you will be put together in a group of between 5 and 8, all seated facing each other.?After a very short introduction, you will be given a topic or a question to discuss in English, and this discussion will last for around 20-30 minutes.?Two professors from HKU will sit at another table, listening to your conversation. They won’t interrupt you, and, if o ne of those professors is me, I will tell you beforehand to not talk to us, but to have a group discussion just amongst yourselves, much like you might have if you are a group of friends going out to a coffee shop o ne evening, with a couple of professors sitting at a nearby table. In this sense, the interview is very easy – it is simply a reflection of what you might normally do!? The topic will be o ne carefully selected so that it shouldn’t require any specialist knowledge, and doesn’t really have any right or wrong answers – they are, indeed, topics for discussion and debate, where all contributions are welcome.
2. What is the purpose of the interview?
The group interview has another purpose, however.?It shows students what life can be like in HKU.?Studying in HKU is not sitting listening to professors, copying down their ideas and repeating them in examinations.?It is about shared learning.?You work with professors and other students to, as we call it, “construct” knowledge.?You do this by going to the digital library to research a topic, by thinking deeply about the problems you are set, but, most relevantly here, by discussing complex issues with your professors, tutors and with other classmates.?
In fact, in some ways, what we are seeing in universities like HKU is a merging of learning space and social space. They are two sides of the same coin!? So, the group interview mirrors what learning in HKU is like.?You often work with your fellow students, not just to build up a network of friends and contacts, but to actually learn together, to construct your own knowledge and your own interpretations of the world around us.
3. What is HKU looking for
I look for many things from the group interview, but the o ne thing we don’t attempt to assess is individual background, experiences or achievements.?We have all that information from your application form, which I assume you have carefully crafted to show how good you are.?So what do we assess?
a.English skills – both speaking and listening can be readily assessed in 20-30 minutes, and these are, of course, vitally important for studying in HKU.
b.Communication skills – communication is much more than language itself.? It is about how well you get your ideas across to your fellow interviewees, and how persuasive you are, as well as how well you understand not just the words but also the intent and meaning behind the words of your colleagues. There may be social elements to communication as well.
c.Logical thinking – we expect HKU students to be able to think rationally, logically and intelligently.
d.Ideas and creative thinking – these may be less easy to assess in a short discussion, but often it is possible to see who comes up with ideas that are different from others, compared with people who simply repeat, in slightly different words perhaps, the ideas of their colleagues.?True creative thinking is very difficult to assess, but you can get glimpses of this in a half hour discussion.
e.Teamwork – this is important in a group interview situation, as it is in HKU.? We want students and professors to work together, and to feed off each other.?O ne person’s ideas should start to generate new ideas from another person, and so o n.How you work together is important to benefitting from the outstanding HKU learning environment.?Leadership in a group situation – the other side of teamwork – is not about telling people what to do.?It is about working with the group and helping it to produce the best results.
f.Other social factors – these are less important and not so easy to assess, but it is sometimes possible to see who is not listening to others, who wants to always bring the discussion back to their own ideas, who wants to speak at the expense of others who have not found the opportunity to express their thoughts.?These are not good team players!
4. What hints might help you
There are many of these.Some are easy to follow, others take practice.?All are possible!?Let me list a few to help you (I hope!).
a.Try to relax – we don’t mind nervous students, in fact, we expect that to some extent.?The student who is so confident that they show no nerves whatsoever may not always be the best student.?But, relaxation helps you to think more clearly, and more widely.?There is lots of research o n this, but the ability to see the broader picture is usually associated with a state of relaxation.?As interviewers, we all know that telling someo ne to relax is so much easier than doing it! But, bear in mind o ne thing – we are all professors in universities because we like listening to student ideas and helping them to develop these.?We are, generally speaking, quite nice people!?So, try to think about that, and remember that your ideas, even if you sometimes present them in a rather clumsy way, are still interesting to the professors listening at the next door table in the coffee shop!
b.Be yourself – we value you as you are.?You bring to HKU your talents to share with our students and our staff.Don’t try to be otherwise, because it will show.
c.Work as a team.This is really important.?Listening to others, and responding by taking their arguments and ideas further, is part of constructing knowledge.?As a tip – try to get to know your fellow students before your go into the interview room.?Try to remember at least a few of their names.?Then, you will find that the discussion is much more natural and you really work as a group.?Don’t try to force the discussion in ways that you think are best for you.?It is easy to spot students to continually try to bring the discussion back to their own ideas.
And, if you tell the group how to discuss (for example, I’ve heard students start the discussion by saying, “OK, let’s all contribute our views, o ne by o ne, starting from student #1”), that does not help an interactive discussion and debate!
d.Talk!We understand that some students are quieter than others, and some are very talkative and loud!?But, if you don’t contribute to the discussion at all, you will not succeed in these types of interviews.?You shouldn’t need to put your hand up to speak – we don’t do that when we’re sitting around with friends having a coffee!?You can try to interject when someone has finished talking, and, if someone else is louder and more aggressive than you, try when he or she has finished. If the group is working as a team, they will know that you are trying to speak, and will soon turn to you to hear your views.
e.Look for moderation in some aspects of the interview – don’t be too aggressive, but, don’t be too timid.Don’t be too critical of others, but you don’t have to say that you always agree with others.?In a university debate or discussion within the traditions I am used to, there is less value to agreeing than to following o n with your own ideas.?Someone who says “That is a really good view, and I would like to take it further by arguing that…” is much better than someone who says “I agree with that view, and mine is the same”, or someone who says, “I don’t agree with that view at all”or words to that effect!
f.Be social.Don’t be too critical of others, everyone has a point to make…after all, criticism could be taken to mean that you don’t understand their perspective.?Help someone who has not spoken….they probably have excellent and thoughtful ideas, but are just too nervous to talk.?Again, if possible, try to get to know others beforehand.
g.Although this repeats what I have said above, remember the purpose of these interviews.?They are to construct knowledge across the group by buildingon each other’s ideas. Groups that flow – that is, interviewees that can build o n what the previous person has said – are the best.
h.Don’t try to change the structure of the discussion.For example, don’t go round the table o ne by o ne asking for each student’s views – ask yourself, is this what I would do if I was with these friends in a coffee shop o ne evening?
i.Despite my comments above, it is useful to structure the discussion somewhat.I don’t usually tell students how to do this, as I like to see how they do this of their own accord.?But, for the first time, let me give you a few hints.?
Start with thinking about the terms and words, as well as the concepts you can identify, in the question or topic that you are given to discuss.?Do you all agree o n the definitions You do not have to, of course, but that’s a good starting point for debate.?Then think about the different aspects of that discussion topic.?Don’t treat it as a Yes or No question, or an Agree or Disagree topic.?Then, every so often during the discussion, remind yourselves of the question or topic – have you strayed from that??If so, try remind others, or simply bring the discussion back to the topic yourself.? You may also wish to take the discussion to a different area – “we haven’t looked at this aspect of the question yet” is a good way to do this. And, towards the end, start to summarize the discussion in your own mind.?Or even try to discuss that summary with the team and ask whether that has addressed the question or topic in relevant ways.Reminding yourselves (and the professors sitting at the other table) that you have not covered certain aspects of the topic is a clever way of saying that, if you had more time, you would have developed the discussion even more!
Finally, may I wish you all Best Wishes and Good Luck.
We value talent in HKU, and that is why I find the Mainland interviews so rewarding to me personally.?I love to hear the diversity of arguments and debates, and I love to see how the outcomes of the group is so much higher than the sum of each individual’s contributions.?When we, as professors at HKU, go out for dinner each evening after a day of interviews, often all we talk about is the ideas that came up during the day.?That tells you much about our interest and excitement in listening to these discussions.?
You are all talented individuals.?Perhaps your Gao Kao results did not reflect that talent as much as you would have liked it to.The HKU interviews are a second opportunity to show us that talent.
If you come to HKU next year, please try to find out who I am and say hello to me o n the campus! It is always, for me, a pleasure to chat with students such as yourself.
Professor John Spinks
Director of Undergraduate Admission