Ten practical ways to improve your Assessment skills

Congratulations on being selected to attend a Maths Scholarships Assessment. For the last few years these have been held online, and here are ten practical tips to help you prepare.

1. Read, read, read

Read everything you have been sent regarding your application. Highlight the important bits and make sure you understand the process. Read through this information multiple times if you need to.

Read through the Scholarships website. It is important to spend a couple of hours reading through articles, as there is a wealth of information which is available.You should have already read the website when first making your application, but go through it again now.

In particular, read this important article:  The low down - what to expect in a Maths Scholars Assessment 

2. Practice your answers

All candidates are given the questions in advance, which makes practicing even more important. You are allowed notes in the Assessment but you need to reach a stage where you can answer the questions without sounding wooden or like you are reading fro m a script. Start off by practicing the answers out loud on your own and keep going till you are a natural. Then, if you have a friend who is willing to ask you the questions, you should practice with them.

3. Think of follow up questions

Once you have been offered an Assessment, it is not a competition with others who have been invited to an Assessment – if you meet the criteria then you will be awarded a Scholarship. This means that your assessors want to get the best out of you and help you to achieve your potential. Simply put, they want to help you to meet the criteria, and to do this, they may ask you follow up questions based on your answers. To help practice for this, you should try and think of a likely follow up question for each of your answers. Get a friend to ask follow up questions to get you in the habit of thinking on the spot.

4. Practice online

Once you are feeling confident, you may want to set up a zoom call with a friend to go through your answers in an on-line setting as the actual Assessment will take place online. Some candidates will now be used to conducting meetings or attending interviews online. However, this step will be really useful for some people.

All candidates are offered a drop-in session where they can practice entering a virtual meeting room of the Scholarships Team’s preferred videoconferencing software.

5. Test your equipment

You will never lose out on a scholarship due to connectivity issues. If your internet goes down, or you have a poor connection during the Assessment then it is important to relax while your assessors work with you to sort the problem out. In a worst-case scenario where you totally lose connectivity, an Assessment can be rearranged. Having said that, some problems can be avoided if you have tested your camera and microphone in advance, and in the location where you plan to sit. It can also be helpful to check nobody else in your household is streaming films or doing anything which might reduce your internet speed. If you think you might need to hotspot from your phone as a backup, then have it ready.

6. Prepare your space

We are not concerned about the condition of a candidate’s online backdrop, or for conducting their Assessment in a tiny kitchen or bedroom. However, it is important to clear your space so that you feel as relaxed as possible.  Is there any clutter you can move out of the way to get you in the right frame of mind? Got an old dressing gown hanging up behind your head? You will certainly feel more prepared if you move it out of the way. This is more about you feeling confident and relaxed. It will also be helpful to have a few other essentials to hand such as a glass of water and a box of tissues.

Important: if you are having problems finding a suitable quiet space where you can access good internet connectivity, then you must speak to the Scholarships team in advance, as we want everyone to have the chance to be assessed fairly.

7. Dress professionally if you can

In this particular online setting you won’t be judged for what you wearing. This is different from an in-person interview in a school where you will be expected to dress professionally as a teacher. (If you are in any doubts about what to wear on your first teaching placement, you really should speak with your mentor.)  However – what you wear can affect how you feel, and your confidence, so make sure you plan what you are going to wear in the Assessment. Choose the most professional outfit you own and treat this as serious interview. There is no need to buy something expensive, and you can look and feel smart without breaking the bank.

8. Get ready early

You won’t be able to enter the online Assessment room early; however, you should make sure you are fully ready to go 15 minutes in advance. Sit relaxing with your notes and a glass of water and you won’t feel flustered when it is your turn.

9. Phones on silent!

It can be so easy to forget when you are in your own home – but put your phone on silent. This is mainly because it will distract you and make you lose your train of thought in the Assessment. Think about any similar distractions such as unplugging your doorbell, landline phone etc. (All within reason!)

10. Invest the time and it will pay off

The simple answer here is that you need to allow enough time so the that you feel fully prepared and are comfortable with your answers. Don’t try and do this all at once – breaks the tasks into smaller sessions in the run up to the assessment centre.

You’ll need to allow yourself time to:

  • read the documentation the team sends you and have a look at the scholarship website

  • prepare your answers to the questions

  • practice saying your answers out loud

  • test your IT, decide where you will be when you have the interview and what you will wear

This probably sounds like a lot, but it is a small investment, when you consider the benefits of the Maths Scholarship.

This article was prepared by a member of the Maths Scholarships Assessment team.