End of Year Interview
PhD students are interviewed by the research school at the end of each academic year. For most students the interview takes place from early September to late Octorber but depending on when you started it could be in a different month. Most people consider the end of first year interview as the most important and difficult one.
The aim of the interview
The aim of the interview is to examine a student's work during the past year, and to give suggestion for future work. The interview is also used to find out those students who are VERY unlikely to finish their PhD in time if at all. Students who notice that PhD is not for them often drop out before the interview, or just write-up an MPhil thesis and leave the University. This is more likely to be a problem of motivation and external constraints rather than of capability.
Who will attend the interview
You, your supervisor and advisor, two interviewers (examiners) from the research school who are unlikely from your field. The examiners will ask you questions about your research. It is your responsibility to explain your work to them without receiving any help from your supervisor and advisor.
How the interview is structured
Just like any other interview, you start by introducing yourself. Then you are going to give a presentation on your work. This will last for 10 to 15 minutes. After that, your examiners will ask you questions with regard to your presentation and your work in general. This question and discussion will vary from 10 minutes to 20 minutes. Then you are free to leave and your supervisor, advisor and the examiners will decide on the verdict.
What you need to prepare
Basically, you need to "know what you are doing". Most students receive questions about their motivations, such as "why is your work important?". You also need to make it very clear to the examiners about your hypothesis, objective and aims. Otherwise, you are likely to have a hard time. In addition, time plan is also crutial. Even if you just finish your first year, you may be asked to depict your evaluation plan. This is to examine whether you think about your project as a whole.
Note that before attending the interview, you will need to hand in a long report (usually around 60- 80 pages) and a short report (within 1000 words) to the research school. Your examiners will read your short report and will probably ask you questions regarding the short report. Therefore, please think about your short report before submitting it.
Reasons for failure
There is no guarantee that everybody will pass; every year about one or two students are asked to leave (sometimes none). Many reasons may cause you to fail, such as bad time plan, lack of clarity what goal is to be achieved and how, lack of originality or unrealistic approach. Examiners are also worried about "system projects" where the PhD consists mainly of implementing a larger system, and then evaluate it benefits experimentally against other existing systems; these projects typically take longer than expected, and no time is left for proper evaluation.