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How to prepare for quantitative psychology phd interviews


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I was invited to an interview for a quant psych program, and I started to prepare for the interview from answering some common Ph.D. interview questions that I found online. I am wondering what else I could do to prepare for the interview and what to expect from quantitative psychology interviews. 


One thing that worries me the most about the interview is that I don't understand very much about the techniques that are used in the research of my professor of interest. His research contains uses of factor analysis, structural equation modeling, and item response theory under the context of educational testing. I know some factor analysis, but I am unfamiliar with almost all the other techniques, and I could not make a lot of sense of his recent publications. If I were asked about how my research interest aligns with his, then I will only be able to expand on why I am interested in investigating educational testing, and that I would love to learn the quantitative methods that are associated with educational testing. I did have some research experience that utilizes multiple regression, but it is nowhere near the complexity of the research that the professor is doing. 


Should I spend some time to learn structural equation modeling and item response theory, given that I will have maybe a week to prepare for this interview? 
Should I just focus on be prepared to talk about my own research instead? 
Please help! 

 

Edited by dqz1213dqz
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1 hour ago, dqz1213dqz said:

I was invited to an interview for a quant psych program, and I started to prepare for the interview from answering some common Ph.D. interview questions that I found online. I am wondering what else I could do to prepare for the interview and what to expect from quantitative psychology interviews. 


One thing that worries me the most about the interview is that I don't understand very much about the techniques that are used in the research of my professor of interest. His research contains uses of factor analysis, structural equation modeling, and item response theory under the context of educational testing. I know some factor analysis, but I am unfamiliar with almost all the other techniques, and I could not make a lot of sense of his recent publications. If I were asked about how my research interest aligns with his, then I will only be able to expand on why I am interested in investigating educational testing, and that I would love to learn the quantitative methods that are associated with educational testing. I did have some research experience that utilizes multiple regression, but it is nowhere near the complexity of the research that the professor is doing. 


Should I spend some time to learn structural equation modeling and item response theory, given that I will have maybe a week to prepare for this interview? 
Should I just focus on be prepared to talk about my own research instead? 
Please help! 

 

Hi

I see what your concerns about. Of course, I do not know what your POI thinks about this issue but generally professors do not want students who are little clones of themselves. I think it is good that your have some common interests and you have some different backgrounds too. This is your room for improving yourself. You can explain your background and research interest. And then you should explain how motivated you are to learn other aspects of it. It would not be realistic to expect from prospective students to know all about literature or all about analysis. On the other hand, I think it would be smart to read about SEM to at least understand to gist of it.

Best of luck

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9 hours ago, bht said:

Hi

I see what your concerns about. Of course, I do not know what your POI thinks about this issue but generally professors do not want students who are little clones of themselves. I think it is good that your have some common interests and you have some different backgrounds too. This is your room for improving yourself. You can explain your background and research interest. And then you should explain how motivated you are to learn other aspects of it. It would not be realistic to expect from prospective students to know all about literature or all about analysis. On the other hand, I think it would be smart to read about SEM to at least understand to gist of it.

Best of luck

I got into a Quant Program this cycle and can share my experience and what I did. 
 

1) read the quant program website for the program you’re applying to. When you come up with questions about the program, make sure they aren’t already answered on the website or the FAQ. 

 

2) definitely review your previous research and be prepared to talk about the methods you used and why your experience led you to choose a quant program. What was the value you saw in pursuing a quant program vs any other psych sub-field. 

 

3) continuing on the last one, be prepared to talk about why a quant program is right for you. I spoke a little about how training in quant methods would grant me more freedom to tackle complex research questions. 
 

4) read your professors work! You don’t have to be an expert but you should be able to ask questions off the top of your head or seem conversational. 
 

You don’t have to be an expert on the methods your professor is using (you are going to school to learn those after all!) but you should brush up on them and make sure you are not clueless. 

More than wanting to learn specific methods I talked about why learning about quant methods in general is important to me and to the work I wanted to do down the line.

 

Those are the things I can come up with off the top of my head. Hope they help. Best of luck!!

 

 

 

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10 hours ago, bht said:

Hi

I see what your concerns about. Of course, I do not know what your POI thinks about this issue but generally professors do not want students who are little clones of themselves. I think it is good that your have some common interests and you have some different backgrounds too. This is your room for improving yourself. You can explain your background and research interest. And then you should explain how motivated you are to learn other aspects of it. It would not be realistic to expect from prospective students to know all about literature or all about analysis. On the other hand, I think it would be smart to read about SEM to at least understand to gist of it.

Best of luck

Thanks for the advice! I will definitely go and read a bit on SEM. 

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1 hour ago, 11082017 said:

I got into a Quant Program this cycle and can share my experience and what I did. 
 

1) read the quant program website for the program you’re applying to. When you come up with questions about the program, make sure they aren’t already answered on the website or the FAQ. 

 

2) definitely review your previous research and be prepared to talk about the methods you used and why your experience led you to choose a quant program. What was the value you saw in pursuing a quant program vs any other psych sub-field. 

 

3) continuing on the last one, be prepared to talk about why a quant program is right for you. I spoke a little about how training in quant methods would grant me more freedom to tackle complex research questions. 
 

4) read your professors work! You don’t have to be an expert but you should be able to ask questions off the top of your head or seem conversational. 
 

You don’t have to be an expert on the methods your professor is using (you are going to school to learn those after all!) but you should brush up on them and make sure you are not clueless. 

More than wanting to learn specific methods I talked about why learning about quant methods in general is important to me and to the work I wanted to do down the line.

 

Those are the things I can come up with off the top of my head. Hope they help. Best of luck!!

 

 

 

Congrats on your admission! Thank you so much for pointing me in a direction in this preparation process! I do have one follow up question on the 4th advice you provided -- my POI has so many publications that there are almost 10 of them are published in 2019, should I go through all of them? Or should I just maybe pick three papers that seemed the most interesting and focus on just these three papers?

Edited by dqz1213dqz
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You shouldn’t go through all of them in depth. I would just say to be aware of the kind of research he does and focus on recent papers like you mentioned. If some of those pubs are coauthored by his current grad students, maybe look at those to see the kinds of projects you might be working on when you get there. I’ve had a few interviews so far and they’ve all been a bit different but they have all started with generic opener interview questions (tell me a bit about yourself) so have something ready for those. 

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I can't offer any interview advice, as I'm still an undergrad myself, but I can recommend some papers on SEM and IRT that I read for an undergrad stats class and was able to understand with some work. For SEM: Formulating Clinical Research Hypotheses as Structural Equation Models: A Conceptual Overview (Hoyle & Smith, 1994) and Childhood Social Withdrawal, Interpersonal Impairment and Young Adult Depression: A Mediational Model (Katz et al., 2011). For IRT: An Introduction to Item Response Theory Using the Need for Cognition Scale (Edwards, 2009) and An Item Response Theory Analysis of the Subjective Happiness Scale (O'Connor et al., 2015). The first paper for each explains the concepts and the second paper was used as an example of how SEM or IRT could be applied. Let me know if you can't access the papers or if you need clarification on some points (I'm a bit rusty on the concepts now but I took detailed notes that made a lot of sense at the time). Good luck at your interview!

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4 hours ago, dqz1213dqz said:

Congrats on your admission! Thank you so much for pointing me in a direction in this preparation process! I do have one follow up question on the 4th advice you provided -- my POI has so many publications that there are almost 10 of them are published in 2019, should I go through all of them? Or should I just maybe pick three papers that seemed the most interesting and focus on just these three papers?

Maybe just read the abstracts of all of their 2019 papers, to get a gist of what kind of research their lab has recently been conducting. 

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I’d also look at and read their most cited papers! Most recent papers are definitely important, but look to see what kind of impact they’ve made in the field. If they developed a method or measure that nobody else used before, or a new way to do something more effectively, etc, that’s important to know as well. 

Edited by ImAFreudNot
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