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Is an 'allocation meeting' a second interview? (Civil Service/ ONS) Watch

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    I applied to the Office for National Statistics and the assessment process consisted of

    (a) an online application
    (b) a 60 min interview (following success at (a))

    I was recently informed that I passed the interview and should now wait for an 'allocation meeting' where my assigned business area will be determined.Does this mean I am definitely getting an offer? Is the 'allocation meeting' an interview and if so how can I prepare?
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    I'm pretty certain the allocation meeting is just going to be where the recruitment staff at ONS meet to decide which business area to place each successful candidate into, so you'll not need to worry about having to do another interview.

    Is this for the Statistical Analyst and Operational Research Analyst role? I got an email back about my application for that position basically saying the same thing a few weeks ago. Sent an email back almost straight away asking for a bit of clarification on whether or not that meant I would get a job offer.

    After waiting a week for a reply I'd heard nothing, so I rang up ONS and the guy on the phone seemed to suggest that anyone who got the email would get a job offer, but might not get it straight away after the allocation meeting in April (hence the bit in the email about a "reserve list" assuming you got the same email).

    However the next day I then got a reply to my email which said "Further information will be available once allocations have been confirmed, we will then be a position to advise you whether you have been allocated and provide you with a start date."

    So at this point I'm not sure where we stand to be honest, but hopefully when we do hear in April it'll be good news!
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    Allocations isn't anything like an interview. It is where people (like you) who have definitely got a job get placed with a certain team. Senior staff will looks at all the new recruits and 'bid' for who they want for their teams... so you don't need to do anything just wait and wait... But you def have a job so congrats!


    I'm already at ONS so am also waiting for the allocation meeting to tell me where my new role will be with my promotion to HEO level (stats analyst), but as I'm already here it's more of a formality as I know my team want to keep me.

    Happy to answer any other questions, civil service is almost impossible to understand, especially from the outside Out of interest, are you applying for Newport or Titchfield?
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    Well that’s good to hear that we will all definitely receive job offers, because I was starting to question what the guy I spoke to when I rang ONS had said. Saying that, I’ll still probably be paranoid about it until I actually get given a start date!

    Have you any idea how soon after the allocation meeting they’ll be wanting us to start? I’ve applied for Newport, but I’ll be moving over from Belfast for the job, so I’m hoping we’re given enough notice that I’ll be able to sort somewhere to live and all before moving.

    What business area do you work in / how do you find the work? I'll be coming straight from uni, so not really too sure what to expect at this point. Looking forward to it though
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    (Original post by KevDP4L)
    Well that’s good to hear that we will all definitely receive job offers, because I was starting to question what the guy I spoke to when I rang ONS had said. Saying that, I’ll still probably be paranoid about it until I actually get given a start date!

    Have you any idea how soon after the allocation meeting they’ll be wanting us to start? I’ve applied for Newport, but I’ll be moving over from Belfast for the job, so I’m hoping we’re given enough notice that I’ll be able to sort somewhere to live and all before moving.

    What business area do you work in / how do you find the work? I'll be coming straight from uni, so not really too sure what to expect at this point. Looking forward to it though
    When I started they just asked me when I wanted to start. I was still in uni so couldn't start for months anyway, so I think it's mostly up to you to propose a start date.

    I work in administrative data (data not collected for statistical purposes but that we might be able to integrate into our surveys and save money as well as put less burden on respondents). So I do lots of research into potential data shares with other government departments (DWP, HMRC etc) and some commercial companies (e.g. Zoopla). My job is all about matching business areas up to data that fits their needs and then gathering evidence to show that we have a need for the data. It's a lot more collaboration and talking to people rather than traditional stats than I expected, which is nice!

    It's not always thrilling work but my team are amazing so they always make it fun
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    Thanks for your responses Kev & Danielle, and congratulations on your respective interview pass and promotion !

    I am in an almost identical situation with Kev with the only difference that I've applied for a Social Researcher role (Newport). I have also rang/e-mailed ONS Resourcing and got quite vague answers that didn't really make it clear whether I am definitely getting an offer. The telephone call gave me the impression that following the allocation meeting, there may be more candidates allocated to a certain business area than there are posts, thus triggering the so-called 'reserve list' for this specific business area. But then again, this might be completely wrong as I wasn't directly told that and frankly the signal was quite bad!

    Also, one of the e-mails said that they allow at least 4 weeks to notify you prior to any potential start date.

    Danielle - it's very encouraging to hear that we are almost definitely getting offers! Pardon my paranoia, but I am wondering on what basis you think that? Is it that new recruits that reach this stage always get allocated or do you base it on the procedure you are currently going through with the promotion? I am thinking maybe the procedures differ for new recruits vs. internal promotion? It's this 'reserve list' part that makes me worry, as well as the ''whether you've been allocated'' part on Kev's email!
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    (Original post by markswinburne)
    Thanks for your responses Kev & Danielle, and congratulations on your respective interview pass and promotion !

    I am in an almost identical situation with Kev with the only difference that I've applied for a Social Researcher role (Newport). I have also rang/e-mailed ONS Resourcing and got quite vague answers that didn't really make it clear whether I am definitely getting an offer. The telephone call gave me the impression that following the allocation meeting, there may be more candidates allocated to a certain business area than there are posts, thus triggering the so-called 'reserve list' for this specific business area. But then again, this might be completely wrong as I wasn't directly told that and frankly the signal was quite bad!

    Also, one of the e-mails said that they allow at least 4 weeks to notify you prior to any potential start date.

    Danielle - it's very encouraging to hear that we are almost definitely getting offers! Pardon my paranoia, but I am wondering on what basis you think that? Is it that new recruits that reach this stage always get allocated or do you base it on the procedure you are currently going through with the promotion? I am thinking maybe the procedures differ for new recruits vs. internal promotion? It's this 'reserve list' part that makes me worry, as well as the ''whether you've been allocated'' part on Kev's email!
    You're right, reserve lists do exist. So if there are more candidates passing than places (because in theory everyone can pass) then those who perform less well will be put on a reserve list. However from working at ONS this seems a fairly rare occurrence and I've also been told that during this round of recruitment not enough people passed and so they will be recruiting again soon. Therefore I'm pretty sure you're in
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    Thanks for answering my questions the other day Danielle. I’ve a few more things I wanted to ask that have popped into my head since if you don’t mind answering them as well.

    Firstly, I noticed you came into ONS from a psychology background, so was just wondering how you found that switch/if it was easy enough getting settled into the role, because I’ve also been studying psychology at university. My main worry is that I’ve been doing a PhD for the past 3 and a half years and asides a couple of stats modules during my first year of it I’ve barely had a chance to do much stats outside of the “extremely difficult” one sample t-tests I’ve been using to analyse my thesis data!

    Secondly, do you know was the application process that you went through to gain your promotion the exact same as the one that the external candidates would have had to complete, or once you’re already in ONS are there parts you’re allowed to skip because it is assumed you are competent with a lot of the stuff already? And if you did get to skip parts, do you know will this be the case for other future promotion opportunities?

    On a related note, I noticed yesterday that ONS are currently recruiting Senior Statistical Analysts and was almost tempted to stick in an application (I decided I probably wouldn’t have anywhere near enough experience at this point though), but I was just wondering if you know do ONS recruit for this role on a regular/annual basis or could it be a few years after we start as HEOs before this promotion chance comes up again? Also, do you have any idea how long we would need to have been working as HEOs before having a realistic chance of being successful in applying for SEO positions?

    Finally, I started briefly looking into to trying to find somewhere to live in and around Newport a few days ago and realised I hadn’t much of a clue really as to what sort of areas I should be looking at, so I was wondering if you would have any recommendations on nice areas to live (preferably close to ONS and/or with good public transport services available, because I don’t currently drive at the minute).

    Anyway, this is quickly starting to turn into a short essay rather than the few questions I promised at the start of this post (sorry!), so I’m going to stop writing now!
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    (Original post by KevDP4L)
    Thanks for answering my questions the other day Danielle. I’ve a few more things I wanted to ask that have popped into my head since if you don’t mind answering them as well.

    Firstly, I noticed you came into ONS from a psychology background, so was just wondering how you found that switch/if it was easy enough getting settled into the role, because I’ve also been studying psychology at university. My main worry is that I’ve been doing a PhD for the past 3 and a half years and asides a couple of stats modules during my first year of it I’ve barely had a chance to do much stats outside of the “extremely difficult” one sample t-tests I’ve been using to analyse my thesis data!

    Secondly, do you know was the application process that you went through to gain your promotion the exact same as the one that the external candidates would have had to complete, or once you’re already in ONS are there parts you’re allowed to skip because it is assumed you are competent with a lot of the stuff already? And if you did get to skip parts, do you know will this be the case for other future promotion opportunities?

    On a related note, I noticed yesterday that ONS are currently recruiting Senior Statistical Analysts and was almost tempted to stick in an application (I decided I probably wouldn’t have anywhere near enough experience at this point though), but I was just wondering if you know do ONS recruit for this role on a regular/annual basis or could it be a few years after we start as HEOs before this promotion chance comes up again? Also, do you have any idea how long we would need to have been working as HEOs before having a realistic chance of being successful in applying for SEO positions?

    Finally, I started briefly looking into to trying to find somewhere to live in and around Newport a few days ago and realised I hadn’t much of a clue really as to what sort of areas I should be looking at, so I was wondering if you would have any recommendations on nice areas to live (preferably close to ONS and/or with good public transport services available, because I don’t currently drive at the minute).

    Anyway, this is quickly starting to turn into a short essay rather than the few questions I promised at the start of this post (sorry!), so I’m going to stop writing now!
    1) It's a lot of acronyms to learn but apart from that it was surprisingly easy to fit into my role. Most people who start seem to be worried about not having good enough stats knowledge but actually it's computer/programming knowledge that we should worry about more than anything else. I came straight from undergrad but know 3 others who just started from PhD and I think they are finding it quite different just because PhDs are so specific. But that's in relation to learning how government/civil service works, rather than stats knowledge.

    2) It's the same application, I didn't skip anything, it only varies depending on social research/stats analyst/operational research. This is usually the case as far as I know but of course once you're in there are many more opportunities that are ONLY available for internal-ONS or internal-civil service staff. For example sometimes they do one-post promotions instead of the board-style process we did. So that would be just an interview for a single role rather than a board where lots of people can pass and all get jobs. Often these are only open to internal candidates. This recruitment was external so the same for everyone.

    3) SRO and RO (ONS called than RO - research officer - regardless of whether you are stats or social research...) come up around about every 6 months so you'll have the chance to go again. If you look at your feedback scores online from the RO board you'll get an idea of how likely you are to pas at Senior level (as an idea, a score of 7 on the RO could be around a 6 on the SRO). From experience of friends going for promotion SRO is HARD - normally people are at RO-level for a good few years and a few different posts before they pass the SRO board and many people sit the board multiple times. ROs are expected to move every year-18 months and people seem to do this around about twice before getting promotion. The alternative is to go for a non-stats SEO post (because the SRO board is very hard people often go down this route to promotion instead).

    4) Most people who I work with do not live in Newport - it's not generally seen as the nicest city ever... I live in and commute from Cardiff Bay. The drive takes about half an hour because I go early before the morning rush (=flexi-time is the best!). But 8-9am and 5-6pm would take up to an hour. I only recently got a car so before that had to get the bus. It's the number 30 from Cardiff but it's....not great. Takes 50-60mins and not that reliable (as is true for most buses). Given that ONS is nowhere near a trian station you choices are limited for public transport. Nevertheless because of this a hell of a lot of staff carshare so if you wanted in on that you would almost certianly be able to find one.

    A fair amount of people also commute from the Bristol side, though this is longer, more congested, and Bristol accomodation is pricier. But again, lots of car shares.

    I can't comment that much on where to look for houses if you're set on living walk/short bus ride to work as I don't know Newport very well (I'm very much team cardiff haha).
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    Hi Danielle,

    I was shortlisted for the interview for this round but due to some unforeseen circumstances, could not attend it. Do you have any idea when are they expected to re-advertise the post?
    Thank you.
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    (Original post by Hiralmehta)
    Hi Danielle,

    I was shortlisted for the interview for this round but due to some unforeseen circumstances, could not attend it. Do you have any idea when are they expected to re-advertise the post?
    Thank you.
    The Senior Level recruitment was just before this level and has now re-opened again. I've heard a few people around the office saying that they didn't get enough people passing at our level so recruitment will be running again ASAP. Closing date for Senior-level is 3rd April so as a guesstimate I would say soon after that? That's just based on my experience though!

    Normally (as in, if they get enough people passing) recruitment rounds happen at least 6 months apart, so at least we know it'll be sooner than that
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    Thank You Danielle!
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    (Original post by Hiralmehta)
    Thank You Danielle!
    Any questions/advice feel free to message me on here or privately. No promises I can answer though!
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    (Original post by KevDP4L)
    Thanks for answering my questions the other day Danielle. I’ve a few more things I wanted to ask that have popped into my head since if you don’t mind answering them as well.

    Firstly, I noticed you came into ONS from a psychology background, so was just wondering how you found that switch/if it was easy enough getting settled into the role, because I’ve also been studying psychology at university. My main worry is that I’ve been doing a PhD for the past 3 and a half years and asides a couple of stats modules during my first year of it I’ve barely had a chance to do much stats outside of the “extremely difficult” one sample t-tests I’ve been using to analyse my thesis data!

    Secondly, do you know was the application process that you went through to gain your promotion the exact same as the one that the external candidates would have had to complete, or once you’re already in ONS are there parts you’re allowed to skip because it is assumed you are competent with a lot of the stuff already? And if you did get to skip parts, do you know will this be the case for other future promotion opportunities?

    On a related note, I noticed yesterday that ONS are currently recruiting Senior Statistical Analysts and was almost tempted to stick in an application (I decided I probably wouldn’t have anywhere near enough experience at this point though), but I was just wondering if you know do ONS recruit for this role on a regular/annual basis or could it be a few years after we start as HEOs before this promotion chance comes up again? Also, do you have any idea how long we would need to have been working as HEOs before having a realistic chance of being successful in applying for SEO positions?

    Finally, I started briefly looking into to trying to find somewhere to live in and around Newport a few days ago and realised I hadn’t much of a clue really as to what sort of areas I should be looking at, so I was wondering if you would have any recommendations on nice areas to live (preferably close to ONS and/or with good public transport services available, because I don’t currently drive at the minute).

    Anyway, this is quickly starting to turn into a short essay rather than the few questions I promised at the start of this post (sorry!), so I’m going to stop writing now!
    Hi Kev,
    Could you give an insight into the interview process since you have recently been through one?
    What kind of competencies are generally tested in the presentation? Do they want any thing in particular?
    Also for the stats test- how much knowledge are you expected to have of the various tests? I had done a bit of stats amd SPSS in my uni but I am not sure how much is good enough?
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    (Original post by Hiralmehta)
    Hi Kev,
    Could you give an insight into the interview process since you have recently been through one?
    What kind of competencies are generally tested in the presentation? Do they want any thing in particular?
    Also for the stats test- how much knowledge are you expected to have of the various tests? I had done a bit of stats amd SPSS in my uni but I am not sure how much is good enough?
    Even though it was only the end of Jan I did my interview it seems like ages ago, but I'll try to recall it as best I can:

    There was 3 sections to the interview. The first part was all about the civil service competencies, so this was pretty basic interview questions along the lines of team working, multi-tasking, meeting deadlines, etc... I wasn't asked anything too difficult or out of the ordinary here.

    The second part was the presentation where you had to talk about a recent piece of work in which you used statistical techniques. I just talked about my PhD research, although in hindsight I wish I'd talked about something a bit more simple to explain (my research is looking at how humans time events in the millisecond range), because I'm quite certain my interviewers were a bit confused by the end of my presentation. So my advice would be to just keep it simple and make sure it's something that you can explain fully within the 5 minutes (they were strict on time).

    In terms of the content of your presentation, just make sure you're able to make it clear how your data was collected and why that was the best method for collecting it and also how your data was analysed and why you picked that analysis. Be able to talk about the advantages/disadvantages of all the statistical techniques you used throughout the project as you'll probably have to touch on them either within the presentation itself or in the questions you get asked afterwards.

    The last part of the interview was actual questions about statistics. I think there was 5 different statistical techniques they were testing candidates on, but you had to let them know in advance how knowledgeable you were in each area and that way they make sure to only ask you about the ones you know. I got asked about hypothesis testing and ANOVAs in my interview. Some of the questions were quite open ended (for example, I got asked what would be the first thing I would do when presented with a data set) and others were a lot more specific (at one point I was asked to list the assumptions of ANOVAs). If you're stuck on anything I found the interviewers were very good at prompting you and pushing you towards the kind of answer they were looking for.

    There wasn't any sort of stats test in the application process for the position I've applied for, although I know if you go down different application routes (such as the fast stream) some of these have tests, but having not done one myself I can't really elaborate too much.

    Hopefully that helps you and if I've missed out anything else you want to know about feel free to ask!
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    Thank You Kev! That was really helpful! Just to confirm- you applied for the social researcher role right? Because I had applied for the same and was shortlisted for the interview but due to some personal circumstances, I could not. However, the interview pack that I was sent, consisted of two data sets and I was asked to present the findings of these data sets in the form of a presentation. The pack did not say anything about presenting my own piece of research.
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    (Original post by Hiralmehta)
    Thank You Kev! That was really helpful! Just to confirm- you applied for the social researcher role right? Because I had applied for the same and was shortlisted for the interview but due to some personal circumstances, I could not. However, the interview pack that I was sent, consisted of two data sets and I was asked to present the findings of these data sets in the form of a presentation. The pack did not say anything about presenting my own piece of research.
    No, I applied for the statistical analyst/operational research analyst position, so that probably explains the difference in the presentations we were asked to do. Asides from that though I would assume the interviews for both positions would probably follow a fairly similar format though, because I had been considering applying for the social researcher position as well (before I realised you could only apply for just one) and the application process seemed almost the same as the stats analyst one.
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    (Original post by KevDP4L)
    No, I applied for the statistical analyst/operational research analyst position, so that probably explains the difference in the presentations we were asked to do. Asides from that though I would assume the interviews for both positions would probably follow a fairly similar format though, because I had been considering applying for the social researcher position as well (before I realised you could only apply for just one) and the application process seemed almost the same as the stats analyst one.
    Thank you for your reply Kev. That explains the slight difference in the process. Good luck with your new job role!
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    (Original post by markswinburne)
    Thanks for your responses Kev & Danielle, and congratulations on your respective interview pass and promotion !

    I am in an almost identical situation with Kev with the only difference that I've applied for a Social Researcher role (Newport). I have also rang/e-mailed ONS Resourcing and got quite vague answers that didn't really make it clear whether I am definitely getting an offer. The telephone call gave me the impression that following the allocation meeting, there may be more candidates allocated to a certain business area than there are posts, thus triggering the so-called 'reserve list' for this specific business area. But then again, this might be completely wrong as I wasn't directly told that and frankly the signal was quite bad!

    Also, one of the e-mails said that they allow at least 4 weeks to notify you prior to any potential start date.

    Danielle - it's very encouraging to hear that we are almost definitely getting offers! Pardon my paranoia, but I am wondering on what basis you think that? Is it that new recruits that reach this stage always get allocated or do you base it on the procedure you are currently going through with the promotion? I am thinking maybe the procedures differ for new recruits vs. internal promotion? It's this 'reserve list' part that makes me worry, as well as the ''whether you've been allocated'' part on Kev's email!
    Hi Mark
    Congratulations on your offer! I am also planning to apply for the social researcher role. Could you please tell me how your interview was? Do they expect anything in particular for the ppt- particular analysis,etc. Also for the stats bit of it- how in depth are the questions on ANOVA, hypothesis testing,etc?

    Also, just out of curiosity, is the allocation meeting done? I wanted to know if the candidates have a say as to which department they want to work in.

    Thank you.
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    (Original post by Hiralmehta)
    Hi Mark
    Congratulations on your offer! I am also planning to apply for the social researcher role. Could you please tell me how your interview was? Do they expect anything in particular for the ppt- particular analysis,etc. Also for the stats bit of it- how in depth are the questions on ANOVA, hypothesis testing,etc?

    Also, just out of curiosity, is the allocation meeting done? I wanted to know if the candidates have a say as to which department they want to work in.

    Thank you.
    Hi Hiral,

    The interview was divided in three stages with each stage lasting approximately 20 minutes.

    The first stage involved answering competency based questions, reflecting the competency themes from the online application (Collaborating and Partnering; Delivering at Pace; Making Effective Decisions as well as Dissemination). Personally, I used the exact same examples I had used in my online application form and they made more specific questions on these. For example, I was asked for instances where I faced conflicting decisions within the context of one of my examples and how I dealt with it - that sort of thing.

    My suggestion here is to not get too caught up in an essay-type answer in your preparation, especially if the example comes from specialist work. Be really concise in introducing your example and explaining your role within the example, and let them dig in the details. I felt that my answers were unnecessarily long and perplexing - what they want is simple, straightforward, common sense answers pertaining to how you behave as opposed to how adept you were in a specific project.

    This part is easy to intimidate. Generic themes do not equal generic questions, and what is most important at this stage is thinking on your feet - tackling unexpected, specific questions regarding your example - so make sure you remember your role clearly and take it from there.

    It's also worth noting that they are very clear on which theme they are examining each time and they choose the order in which they examine them, so make sure that your examples are not too interdependent.

    The second stage was the presentation followed by Q&A. I was given two tables with frequencies and confidence intervals and was vaguely asked to 'present the data'. I focused on describing trends in the data while highlighting statistically significant points (max/min/ significant changes/differences based on time/regions etc.), which they seemed to appreciate. What I think was also important here is giving a clear description of what each statistic meant before describing the respective trends. The questions were quite theoretical. For example, I was asked about the pros and cons of survey recorded crime from the first table vs. police recorded crime on the second table and potential explanations for the trends (e.g. what could have caused a decrease in crime etc).

    So, the presentation itself is straightforward, as long as you are a confident presenter and don't miss out on any obviously important data point and show that you understand what the numbers mean you will be fine. As for the Q&A, it would be good to have some background knowledge on the dynamics of the statistics you are presenting. Do go and check the original Surveys out of which the data was taken and read the analysis for potential explanations to have up your sleeve.

    On a side note, I noticed you are asking about the 'ppt'. In my case they made it clear that Power Point will not be available so all I had was a couple of A4 sheets of notes, so be prepared to memorise your presentation and rely more on notes as opposed to slides.

    The last stage involved the Data Collection and Statistical Analysis competencies. These involve both examining the examples you provide (i.e. from the online application) as well as technical questions. In the case of Data Collection you will be asked for the pros and cons of different research and sampling methods (e.g. surveys vs interviews; census vs survey; stratified vs cluster) focusing on both methodological and practical issues (e.g. time, resources etc.) Of course you will also be asked why you used a specific method in your practical examples and so forth.

    As for the stats, after asking specific questions on the analytical method used in your example (both example-specific -i.e. why you used this particular one- and generic), they present you with the outputs of a Regression or an ANOVA or a Hypothesis Test (largely depending on your analytical skills statement).

    The questions were quite fundamental - for each method I was asked why the method is used and what it could help me understand and then some basic technical questions followed (e.g. when do you reject a hypothesis etc.) At some point my answers seemed to baffle them so they moved to quite simple questions such as describing what means/modes/medians are and when is their use preferable etc. Not sure if it's questions they normally ask or whether they resort to them when performance is low.

    Either way I would recommend not ignoring revision of basic statistics and not focusing on the analytical methods exclusively.

    As for the allocation meeting I believe it's not done as of yet as I haven't go a response. I did get two separate e-mails about it with one stating it will take place 'early April' and the other saying 'mid April' so I suppose it could take a couple of weeks more. They did ask me at the end of the interview about which department I would like to work in, so I think that is your chance to affect your allocation. I'd recommend to find two or three departments you like so that you don't end up somewhere you are not that comfortable with.

    Best of luck
 
 
 
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