How to answer interview questions about your education in English

In an interview, you'll probably be asked about your education, especially if you're in the first part of your career.

To give an answer that sounds focused and smart, you need to know the right vocabulary and tenses.

How to talk about your education in English. "I went to school in Boston."

Simple vocabulary for talking about your education in English

Here are some basic words we use to discuss education. 

This is American vocabulary – British English uses different words and phrases.

College: In America, we call the school we go to after high school "college."

"Where did you go to college?"

"I went to college in Boston."

or

"Where did you go to college?"

"My college was in Boston."

Incorrect:  "I went to university in Boston."  Americans don't say "I am at university" or "I went to university in Boston." Those are British English expressions. 

University: I just told you that we don't say, "I went to university in Boston," but there are schools called "Stanford University" and "Harvard University." Why is that? A four-year school with no graduate school is a college, but a four-year school with graduate school is a university. So "Dartmouth College" but "Duke University"; Dartmouth doesn't have graduate schools, but Duke does.

"Where did you go to college?"

"I went to Duke."

or

"Where did you go to college?"

"I went to college at Duke."

If you went to Duke after high school, you would say, "I went to college at Duke" even though it does have graduate schools, because Americans don't say "I went to university."

Freshman or first year: A student in their first year of college

"First year" is the more politically correct term now, because it isn't sexist. However, many people (usually older ones – including me) still use "freshman" for both male and female students. 

Sophomore: A student in their second year of college

Junior: A student in their third year of college

Senior: A student in their fourth and final year of college

Graduate school or grad school: After college you may get more education. You do this at a graduate school. However, if you are going to business school, law school, medical school, dental school, and some other types of graduate-level school, you don't call these "grad school," you call them "business school" or "law school," etc. In most cases, if you are getting a Master's or Ph.D., you are at a graduate school. 

"Where did you go to grad school?"

"I went to Columbia."

Undergrad school: This term does not exist in English. The opposite of graduate school is college, not undergraduate school. 

I have had many students say, "I undergraduated in Finance" but the correct thing to say is, "I got my Bachelor's in Finance."

Degree: Academic title or credential

"What degrees did you get?"

"I got a Bachelor's and an MBA."

Undergraduate degree: The credential you got in college

"Where did you get your undergraduate degree?"

or

"Where did you do your undergraduate work?"

Both of these are asking you where you went to college. 

"I went to UNH."

or 

"I went to school at UNH."

or 

"I went to college at UNH."  Even though UNH (University of New Hampshire) is a university, you still say "I went to college at UNH." 

Graduate degree: The credential you got in grad school

"Where did you get your graduate degree?"

or

"Where did you do your graduate work?" 

"I went to Loyola."

To go to school: This is the verb we use when talking about where we studied.

"Where do you go to school?

"I go to Harvard" 

or

"Where did you go to school?"

"I went to Berkeley." 

You can also use this verb with "college" or "graduate school." 

"Where do you go to college?" or "Where do you go to grad school?"

To graduate: To finish school. 

"When did you graduate?"

"I graduated in 2015."

or 

"When are you graduating?" if you're still in school. 

"I'm graduating in 2018."

Bachelor's: The degree you get after you graduate from college. You can either get a Bachelor of Science (a B.S.) or a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.). Those are the two most common types of Bachelor's, but there are others as well. 

"Where did you get your Bachelor's?"

"I got my Bachelor's at Michigan State."

Master's: The degree you get after you finish a two-year (or sometimes one-year or three-year) graduate program. 

"Where did you get your Master's?"

"I got my Master's at the University of Chicago."

Ph.D.: The degree you get after you get your Master's. Also called Doctorate. 

"Where did you get your Ph.D.?"

"I got my Ph.D. at Northeastern."

Major: The subject you specialize in during college. 

"What did you major in?"

"I majored in Physics."

or

"What are you majoring in?"

"I'm majoring in Physics."

Class: Lesson

"What was your favorite class in college?"

"My favorite class was Romantic Poetry."

or

"Why was Econ 502 your favorite class?"

"I loved it because it was my first macro class and I realized how much I enjoyed the subject."

Grades: Scores on tests and in classes. In America the grades are A (the best) to F (the worst).

"Did you get good grades in your major?"

"Yes, I did well in school."

GPA: Grade point average

"What was your GPA?"

"My GPA was 3.8."

Verb tenses to use to talk about your education in English

When you're answering interview questions about your education, you need to answer using the correct tense. 

Tense to use if you've already graduated: past simple

Here are some examples of an interview question you could be asked and some possible answers. Note that the verbs are in past simple.

"So tell me about your education."

“I received a degree in (subject) from (school).” For example, "I received a degree in English from the University of Michigan."

or

“I studied (subject) at (school).” For example, "I studied Civil Engineering at Boston College."

or

"I majored in (subject) at (school)." For example, "I majored in English at the University of Michigan."

or

"I got my Bachelor's in English at the University of Michigan and my Master's in Corporate Communication at Northeastern."

or

"I got my B.S. in Electrical Engineering from BU and then I got my Ph.D. from MIT."

These are all good answers. The last two - using the verb "to get" - are what I would use, as a native speaker.  

Tenses to use if you're still studying: present progressive or present simple

Here is an example of an interview question you could be asked and some possible answers. 

"I see you're still in college?"

“Yes, I'm studying (subject) at (school)." For example, "Yes, I'm studying English at BU."

This uses the present progressive. 

However, you could also answer that question a different way.

"I see you're still in college?"

"Yes, I'm a junior at George Mason."

This is the present simple. 

I hope this post helped you understand how to talk about your education in English at your interview. If you want some practice, ask me for some one-on-one interview prep. You can email me at jennifer@interviewgenie.com to schedule a consultation.

Interview Genie is an interview prep company. I specialize in coaching non-native English speakers. We'll work together on answers to questions you'll be asked in your interview. From communicating with your interviewer before the interview to greeting your interviewer and using the right body language in your interview, I'm focused on your interview success every step of the way.