University interview tips for civil engineering, quantity surveying and construction degrees

University interview tips
Find out how to impress if you have been invited to a university interview for a civil engineering, construction or quantity surveying degree course. We explain what to expect and give you hints and tips on how to prepare.

If you have applied to a construction, quantity surveying, civil engineering or related degree at university, the admissions tutors might invite you to an interview before deciding whether to make you an offer. This interview might also be called a ‘recruitment day’ or an ‘assessment’.

Whether you are asked to an interview will depend on each individual university’s policy: some do and some don’t. But if the university degree is sponsored by a construction, engineering or quantity surveying employer, you will definitely be invited to an interview.

Find out more about the sponsored degree programmes available in construction, civil engineering and quantity surveying and how to get on one.

What happens on a university interview day for construction-related degrees?

Many universities invite a number of students on the same day and give them a tour of the faculty and campus and lots of opportunities to meet current students. Food is often provided! You will usually have an interview with admissions tutors/lecturers, which can last between 20 minutes and an hour. You may also be given a group discussion task with other students, just to see how you would discuss topics in class.

If the course is employer-sponsored, you will also meet and be asked questions by different representatives from employers (HR managers or managers working in the industry) to match you to a ‘sponsor employer’. They may sit in your interview with admissions tutors or interview you separately.

Example university interview questions

You might be asked about your reasons for applying and your interest in the construction industry, for example:

  • Why do you want to study this subject specifically (as opposed to a similar one)?
  • Why have you applied to this university?
  • Why are you interested in the construction industry?
  • Tell us about a news story you’ve read about construction or civil engineering.
  • Why did you choose your A levels/highers/BTECs (as appropriate)?

You might also be asked about your suitability for university study and your strengths and weaknesses, for example:

  • Why do you think you are suitable for this course?
  • What do you expect to get out of the course and the university?
  • What are you looking forward to at university? What are you not looking forward to?
  • What are your interests outside of studying?
  • What is your biggest strength? And what is your biggest weakness?
  • What is your greatest achievement?
  • What did you enjoy the most about your A levels/highers/BTECs? What didn’t you enjoy?

You might also be asked your thoughts about your future career, especially if your course is employer-sponsored, for example:

  • Do you have any career goals? What are they?
  • What roles would this degree qualify you to do?
  • What does a [eg quantity surveyor] do? What would you do day to day in the role?
  • What skills would you need in order to be a good [eg site manager]?

If you have applied for an engineering or another maths-based degree (particularly at a highly academic university), you might be asked:

  • Maths or physics questions (typically from the A level syllabus or equivalent or what you would have learned on your BTEC).
  • To apply your knowledge of maths or physics to the outside world – an example question from the University of Oxford requires you to consider the engineering design of a vertical-faced gravity dam wall and discuss the forces acting on the wall.

These are just likely topics, though; we can’t guarantee that you will be asked these exact questions.

Hints and tips for university interviews for civil engineering, QS and construction courses

  • You may not be given a formal dress code to follow, but it is wise to dress smartly on the day. Make sure you can walk comfortably in your shoes in case you are given a campus tour. You won’t want to be distracted by a blister!
  • But remember that the interviewers will try to help you relax on the day; they won’t try to scare you! They want you to want to go to the university.
  • So don’t worry if you don’t know the answer to a question. Your interviewers will help you work it out. They are more interested in how you think and whether you have the potential to learn than whether you know the ‘correct’ answer straight away.
  • At heart, the interview is just a conversation and it is a chance for you to work out if the university and course is for you. Don’t be afraid to ask your own questions to find out more about the subject, the course and what recent graduates do now. Think of questions in advance.
  • Before you go, practise answering the likely questions listed above. See if your school/college tutors or a family member can give you a ‘mock interview’.
  • Before you go, review your A level/BTEC notes (or appropriate) in case you are asked construction-, maths- or physics-related questions.
  • When answering questions about your reasons for applying, don’t hesitate to talk about what first sparked your interest – whether that is you always liking maths or that you saw an iconic bridge when you were little. Interviewers will be interested in how passionate you are about your subject.
  • To find out more about the different job roles available in construction, civil engineering and quantity surveying, visit the 'construction and property' career sector in the menu above.
  • If you are given a group exercise, make sure that you are friendly and contribute – but try not to talk over others.
  • Read our other tips on impressing during interview days.

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