A guide to the YLS interview

The reason for an interview

We interview applicants in order to get to know you better as a person, and to try to assess your personal suitability for the course. Given the distinctive nature of Problem-based learning (PBL) we feel it is important to try to assess skills that cannot be easily assessed on the basis of your UCAS form.

Length and structure

The interview will last for about twenty minutes, and will consist of seven questions. The questions fall under four broad headings. You will have one interviewer, who may be an academic or practitioner or both. There may also be another person in the room as a peer reviewer - i.e. to audit the quality of the interviewing process.

This guide

This document should give you an idea of the purpose of each section and what skills we are testing for. It also gives you a couple of examples to illustrate the type of questions you may be asked under each heading. The questions you are asked will be similar, but are unlikely to be the same as the questions shown here, so do not try to learn answers to the questions listed. In any case, we are not looking for rehearsed answers but the ability to think about and engage with the questions.

Recommended approach to the interview:

  • You will do best in your interview if you listen carefully and then try to answer the question you are asked
  • Most importantly, try to relax and try to be genuinely yourself, rather than giving us a prepared answer or telling us what you think we want to hear
  • There are no correct answers to any of these questions - our aim rather is to understand how you think and reason

Our approach to the interview

The interviewers are there to listen to your answers – not to engage in discussion with you. They are genuinely interested in your way of dealing with the questions, your personal opinions and feelings, your reflections on your experiences, and your ability to explore issues from a number of different viewpoints.

The interview day itself is not meant to be an itimidating experience. It is an opportunity to see the department, to hear a talk by the Head of Department, and to meet and chat with our current students.

Question 0: Warm up question

The first question is a general question that is not assessed and gives you a chance to ease yourself into the interview.

Question 1: Understanding of York Law School and Problem-Based Learning

York Law School teaches using a technique called Problem-Based learning (PBL), details of which you’ll find in our prospectus. The first assessed question in your interview will look at your comfort with active learning and the different sorts of teaching employed in PBL. This question is not looking for detailed knowledge of PBL theory, but some understanding of what PBL is, and also some demonstration of PBL-suitable learning styles. You may also be asked more generally about the YLS programme, as we would like to know to which aspects, as well as PBL, you think you are well suited.

Example questions:

  • What attracts you to Problem-based learning?
  • What sort of a learner are you? Can you give examples?

Question 2: Self-awareness and reflection

PBL works best if students are reflective in their approach to work and learning, which means being able to assess your own limitations and identify ways of addressing them. This question is not a trick question to get you to dress a ‘positive’ point up as a ‘negative’ one. This question assesses your awareness of your own ability to learn from what you do. We place a lot of importance on this attribute because we expect students to learn ‘by doing’ as well as by reading, so it makes a considerable difference to personal and academic development on the course.


Example questions:

  • Have you ever been in a situation where you realise afterwards that what you said or did was wrong? In hindsight, what would you have done differently?
  • How do you think you personally will judge whether you have been successful in your life? Why do those aspects of your life matter more than others?

Question 3: Groupwork

Problem-based learning takes place in small-group sessions. This question looks for an understanding of group dynamics and different group roles. We also assess your appreciation of the distinctive nature of a group-based learning environment and your ability to take advantage of the strengths of group learning and work with its weaknesses.


Questions we’ve asked under this heading in the past include:

  • What aspects of working in a group have you most enjoyed? What aspects have you found most challenging?
  • Can you give an example of a serious disagreement within a group of which you’ve been a part, and how it was resolved?

Questions 4 & 5: Logic and structured argument

These questions are designed to explore how well you can look at things in different ways and from different perspectives. They also test how well you can process information and think through different arguments clearly, building them up as you answer, evaluating them and reaching a conclusion. We also look for an awareness of the factors that influence your position.

Some of these questions may involve difficult issues, dilemmas, or current controversies. Don’t panic - there really isn’t a right answer, and don’t try to second guess the ‘preferences’ of the interviewers and don’t worry if you think your opinion might be something with which they personally disagree.

You will be asked two questions under this heading.

Example questions:

  • The government is considering allowing universities to increase tuition fees. Do you think it is fair if a significant portion of these increases go to improving academic pay?
  • Should the government be allowed to hold suspected terrorists indefinitely without trial?

Question 6: Creative thinking

While the previous questions looked at structured and contextualised thinking, this question looks at your ability to think in different ways, to present your own ideas, to make conceptual connections and to apply your own (general) knowledge and thoughts.

Example questions:

  • Do television programmes boost or damage the image of lawyers?
  • Is the law always fair?

Questions 1-6: Personal attributes and skills

Your interviewers will also be assessing how you demonstrate PBL related skills during the course of the interview. These skills include listening and verbal communication skills, judgement and empathy, self-awareness, an ability to construct succinct answers, and to articulate thoughts. Do not worry, we are not looking for particular personality types, and we recognise the limitations of the interview contaxt. Very different people can demonstrate these skills in different ways. For instance we welcome candidates with a diverse range of learning styles, and people with very different preferred group roles – but what they have in common is an aptitude for active learning and working in groups. The interviewers will also look for some attitudinal points in terms of suitability for working closely with others (e.g. patient, polite, and unprejudiced).

And finally:                                                                                           We just want to get a sense of who you are and how you work. If you simply try to be yourself throughout the interview, you'll be fine.