Top MS and PhD Interview Questions

Whenever you received a call for a master or PhD interview, this implies that the selection committee and potential supervisor thinks that you’re qualified enough to pursue a higher study in their institute. No one can predict the exact questions, interviewer going to ask. But the basic sense of the online interview will remain the same, they are checking your motivation and dedication. Given below are some of the most important asked questions in an online interview. This will give you the idea, how to prepare for the online interview and how to present yourself in a better way.

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1. Tell us about yourself

The very first thing the interviewer will ask at the beginning of the in-person interview is “Tell us about yourself’”. In this question, the interviewer is specifically looking for the answer that is not included in your academic CV. The answer to the question will be your first expression in the eye of the interviewer. Therefore, the answer to the question will be well-structured and will be briefly explaining your personality. Follow the mentioned tips to perfectly answer this question.

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  1. It is always devised by the experts to tailor your answer according to the applied position. This question is the most obvious opportunity to share your goals and objectives with the interviewer. However, keep in mind that your targets always satisfy their objectives. For instance, if you’re giving an interview for the material science research position. Try to relate your perceptions, targets, and intuition relating to this field.
  2. A very effective and advantageous formula recommended by Lily Zhang which covers all the aspects of this question: Past, Present, and Future. It is good practice to include your previous experiences in relevance with the job. Always talk about your present role (a previous achievement will be a plus point). Always end the answer with your future goals and your expectations relating to the applied post.
  3. Keep your answer positive and professional. Always speaks about the relevant skills, don’t talk about your all life story. This is not the ideal time to talk about your family and personal interest except if you know something quite certain about the organization.

 2 .Why are you applying for this specific program?

Every academic position and scholarship is different and looking for the different thing. In this part of the question, the interviewer is specifically checking your motivation and perceptions towards the program/university and they want to know the reason for choosing this specific university. One major reason behind this question is they want to check if they offer you a study place, and you don’t have any reason to reject that offer. The best way is to tailor your answer according to the position. It is preferable to do some research on the scholarship, host university, and professor profile.

  1. Honesty is the best policy. Clearly state the reason why you want to be in the program, but you have to answer it at the right level. Make sure that you’re not lying in the interview, and say the right things that are factual about yourself. Share some anecdote that relates yourself with the applied position.
  2. Two important considerations must be kept in mind while preparing the answer of the question. First, what are the skills, they are demanding in the candidate and secondly what are the core mission and values of the scholarship/programs.  


3. Why you selected this specific specialization or area of research?

This is one of the most repetitively asked question in an academic interview. The interviewer will be looking for the motivation and genuine interest in the specific program/specialization. The interviewer will be expecting to know about your motivation and the right reasons for choosing this program. The best and most suitable way to is to link your interest, work experience and future goals in answering this question.

  1. Don’t answer this question in a way that leave an impression on the interviewer that you’re choosing this program because of the less number of applicants (less competitive) or your parents/teachers forced you to apply for this program. Don’t let the interviewer infer from your answer that you’re pursuing this program because you have the chance to earn a lot of money after the completion of the degree.
  2. The best way to answer this question is to highlights your career objective and goals, what specific changes you bring in your country/field after this program or how it fits with your career goals. You can also answer the question in a way that lets the interviewer know that you enjoy doing this work because if someone is genuinely interested in a program, there is a great probability he/she will engage more in it.

4. What makes you an ideal candidate?

This is one of the hardest questions to answer, “Why you deserve this scholarship?”, “Why should we hire you?” or  “What makes you an ideal candidate for this program” because it requires critical thinking and introspection. The interviewer is expecting that you answer their queries, who they are awarding the scholarship and why. Here are some things you need to consider while answering this question.

  1. To make your answer unique and true to the interviewer, first, you have to do is to be yourself. Let the enthusiasm prevails in your answer which allows the interviewer to see your dedication, persistence, affection for learning, and motivation to excel in your field. It is great and a plus point to show your passion rather than telling the interviewer.
  2. Another important point which helps you to craft the answer positively is to think “Why you applied for this program”. Try to relate your previous experiences and learning-based approach to advocate your claims. Always spent some time in figuring out what sets your apart from the other candidate.

5. What you learned and accomplished from your previous jobs?

Learning experiences always play a vital role in describing your personality while presenting yourself in front of the interviewer. In this part of the question, the interviewer is wanting to know what you have achieved previously, what do you learn from your past experiences. There might be the chance, the interviewer will ask some technical questions relating to your past work experience. 

  1. Figure out how to clarify to the interviewer that you will continue learning from your experiences in the same way you learned it from the past.
  2. It’s perfectly fine to acknowledge your mistakes and failures, as long as you explained briefly how you faced it and learned from that experience. Somebody who won’t stop in any event, when some occasion eases back them down, is deserving of grants.

6. Questions from CV and Research proposal

For an academic in-person interview, the interviewer will always look at your CV and research proposal and ask questions from it. The purpose of questions from the academic CV and research proposal is to know that you’re able to defend yourself and your work. There are some points to be considered to properly answer the questions from the CV and research proposal.

  1. The key factor is to know the panel, and re-read your CV and research proposal many times and try to find out the weakness in your research methodologies and proposed solutions. This might be a chance the interviewer will ask” What do you think, what is the weakness in your research proposal.”
  2. There are no trick questions in this section, the interviewer will be looking at your engagement in the respective field and expecting the same kind of response, that highlights you spent great amount of time in preparing the research proposal.
  3. If it is possible for you, try to rehearse some parts of the research proposal. For instance, the problem that you’re trying to solve, uniqueness of the proposed solution, and conclusion and its effect on the current system.

7. What are your future career plans?

This is one of the repeatedly asked question in any academic interview and panel discussion. The interviewer will be expecting a kind of answer that clearly defines your future goals and perceptions relating to the applied program. Someone with clear goals in mind, probably going to be more committed to doing the masters/PhD. 

  1. Demonstrate your long term goals, how you going to utilize master/PhD studies in solving the particular problem of your field/country.
  2. Clearly state, what are your plans rightly after completing the master/Ph.D.

8. Is There Anything You Would like to Ask?

In this section of the interview, the panel or interviewer will be expecting some questions from your side. It’s better to ask some questions relating to an ongoing project which shows your motivation. Besides, technical questions, if you’re not so sure about the incentives, you can discuss with your interviewer as well.