Asking a series of questions to a new private student has many benefits as you get some idea of:
their listening skills
how fluent they are
their ability to produce extended speech
range of grammar and vocabulary
common errors they make
gaps in their knowledge
ideas for future lessons
With higher-level learners, I use a set of questions which I have tried and tested over the years. Rather than a scripted interview (one in which you only ask the questions you have prepared), I prefer to give a semi-scripted interview in which I follow most of the questions in order but may modify some, omit others and even add some, if I feel they are suitable.
Here’s a list of questions you might find helpful (you certainly don’t need to ask all of them):
What’s your full name?
How do you spell it?
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up?
What were you like as a child?
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
What’s your earliest memory?
What hobbies did you have as a child?
Who were your heroes / role models when you were a child?
Who was your best friend as a child and what did you like about him/her?
What do you do for a living?
What are some of the things you like and dislike about your job?
What qualifications or training did you need for your job?
Tell me about a typical working day.
Do you prefer working alone or in a team?
What are your professional ambitions?
What qualities do people need in order to do your job successfully?
If you could do any job, what would you choose?
What do you like doing in your free time?
At weekends, do you get up early or do you prefer to stay in bed?
Describe your perfect weekend
What do you like reading?
What kind of music do you like listening to?
Do you watch much TV and if so, what programmes do you like?
What is your opinion of social media such as Facebook or Twitter?
If you could invite 5 people to your home for a dinner party, who would you choose?
How long have you been learning English?
Do you think you have a talent for learning languages?
Why do you think some people pick up languages easier than others?
Do people from your country have a reputation for being good at learning languages? Why? Why not?
Have you ever been to an English-speaking country? How was the experience?
Rank the 4 skills (reading, writing, listening, speaking) in order of importance.
Do you think you are primarily a visual, auditory or kinaesthetic learner?
Do you think you are a global or analytical learner?
What, in your opinion, are the characteristics of successful language learners?
What are the characteristics of effective teachers?
How do you like learning? What teaching methods or activities do you dislike?
If you were the teacher, how would you teach this class?
What other questions might you ask a new private student?