In a few short weeks all final year DP visual arts students will be interviewed, either by people like you (the teacher) or by people like me (the visiting examiner).

And this time next year, as I hope we all know by now, no interviews will be conducted by the visiting examiner, because that role will cease to exist.

Examiners will still exist, of course, because we will be either listening to or watching a recording of the interview, but – like it or not (and many do not) – examiners will no longer visit the school, be in the presence of the artwork or talk to the candidate.

But either way the interview will continue…so what happens during the interview?

What’s its purpose and what’s the difference between a good one and a bad one?

Having recently interviewed my own students and then reflected on what was said, some things occurred to me…

1.  It makes sense for students to already know about the assessment descriptors: for example, some of my students spoke more or less without questions or prompts about cultural and historical perspectives – because they already knew that these issues were part of the assessment (an option A descriptor refers to ‘cultural and historical awareness’ and an option B one to ‘art from different times and cultures’).

2. Although during their interviews some of my students brought up issues such as homophobia, animal rights, racism, and the conflict in Afghanistan, in some parts of the world it might not feel appropriate to talk about these things, even in the interview. However, this is a school/location rather than an IB issue.

3. Visits to art galleries, art exhibitions and museums are not a formalized part of the visual arts assessment descriptors but students’ gallery visits came up during the interviews and were helpful in the context of things being discussed.

4. Some of my questions were very open, some were more specific, and sometimes I just let the student work out the answer, but as a proportion of the interview, the questions probably occupy less than 10% – reflecting the fact that it’s the candidate who should be doing most of the talking.

5. How long should a silence last? Not too long! All interviews have a time limit – but a silence can also serve a useful function – for example, one student may have been encouraged to say more because of the (non-threatening) silence, rather than for example, being asked to move on to another artwork

6. One big difference between the examiner as interviewer and the teacher as interviewer is that for the teacher-interviewer, there will (should) be a relationship of trust and familiarity with the teacher that should help – for example, knowing how to put the student at ease and making the interview as useful as possible. In this sense the teacher may be a more successful interviewer than the visiting examiner.