Hey guys! First off, if you have made it to a medical school interview then hats off to you, you should be super proud! Your hard work has definitely paid off.
Now I’m not a med school interview expert, but I thought I could share some things that I found useful and some experiences from my interview, especially for those interested in the MMI (multiple mini interview) format. Here are some tips to help you boss your medical school interview.
Okay lets start with everything other than answering questions for now. I’m sure you know how important first impressions are, and how you appear in front of the interviewer is undoubtedly an essential part of it, even if it’s something they think about subconsciously. Doctors want to give the impression that they are professional, competent and organised, traits that all contribute to the confidence and trust a patient has in their doctor. There are several things you could do to show this to your interviewer.
The first is to wear smart, appropriate clothing – this site outlines the do’s and don’ts pretty well so I’d recommend reading it. Keep in mind that institutions (especially in different countries) may have different standards for attire – for example some have interviewees which typically wear suits whereas some are fine with a shirt and tie, so make sure to do enough recon beforehand.
Look good, smell good, feel good
The next thing to think about is other things which contribute to your look. You don’t want to appear tired in front of your interviewer, so make sure to get a good night’s sleep before the day of the interview. Take a shower to appear fresh and smell good (would recommend a cologne or perfume as well if its offline) and make sure your hair is neat and in order.
I know this all sounds blatantly obvious, but any thing can happen when you’re all focused on preparing for questions. The important thing is to show that you can be committed to being professional.
Confidence is key
Let’s talk a bit about how you might want to present yourself. I know it must be nerve-racking – I’ve been there before. The thing is, you have reasons to be confident. You have met the expectations regarding academics and extracurriculars. You’re also an awesome human. You have been given a shot at this for a reason. I know this is easier said than done, but you shouldn’t let the fear of failure affect your journey to achieving your dreams, and that applies to anything in life.
So stay calm and be confident in your answers. Be polite and respectful to the interviewer. Don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer to repeat something if you didn’t quite get what they said. Try to maintain good posture, and show your interest to them. Make appropriate eye-contact and most importantly, remember to smile.
Do your recon
Before looking at answering questions, I would strongly suggest doing sufficient studying on the institution, their study program and medicine in general. Start with the format of the interview – will it be an MMI (a series of stations with different questions and situations) or a traditional/panel interview? Take a deep look at the university’s website. Are there certain things about the university, like its facilities, location or sports teams that make you want to go there? What about the study program? Is there a specific method of teaching or a special rotation (e.g. at the national heart centre) that interests you? If you can pick out specific things that have pushed you to pursue medicine at that institution, you’ll be sure to impress your interviewer.
You can then go on to medicine. What areas of medicine are you interested in and what do you already know? You might get asked about medical scenarios involving ethics, so be sure to know the 4 pillars of medical ethics: autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence and justice, as well as the concepts of consequentialism, utilitarianism and deontology. Learn more about them here.
Don’t be too worried about covering all the bases, its just good to get an overview of what might help you answer the questions in the interview. You can always go back over the information and websites as you plan your answers.
Talk the talk, walk the walk
Now comes the fun part. The first part of a medical school interview, whether it is in the MMI or panel format, typically involves the classic questions like tell me about yourself or why do you want to be a doctor? or why did you choose to apply to this university? The great thing about these questions is that you can definitely prepare for them, and a lot of the answer comes from within.
If you haven’t already, take a look at some examples of these questions and try to come up with some answers yourself. I would also recommend looking at Ali Abdaal’s Medical Playlist to help you if you’re a bit stuck. The answers Ali and his friends provide are absolutely exemplary.
I’d like to discuss a bit about the tell me about yourself question. It really isn’t a trick question, as the interviewer is trying to get to know you, and maybe whether you have the traits of a doctor (are you an affable person, do you get along with people etc.). Your answer should really be no longer than 2 minutes.
The interviewer already knows about your academics and extra-curriculars so there’s no need to go and list everything on your CV, but you may want to talk about the experiences behind them and how they shaped you as a person.
When answering, I would start with where I grew up, and my family. Remember to reflect on how they have made you the person you are today. I would then talk a bit about my hobbies, what school was like, and then move on to volunteering or work experiences, and relate them to my interest in medicine.
Specific, specific, specific
When it comes to answering questions like why medicine or why do you want to become a doctor? , the best single piece of advice I can give is be as specific as you can to medicine. What I mean is that you need to distinguish why you want to do medicine instead of other careers which involve science/research, helping people and saving lives.
Definitely be completely honest and give anecdotes where appropriate like volunteering experiences and so on. The important part is being specific to medicine. If you loved science in school and want to help other people that’s great. But you also need to talk about how you love interacting with others one-on-one and seeing the effect you have on others, or love the idea of life-long learning to continuously improve your abilities and service to patients. Make sure you don’t give the impression that you want to do medicine because of someone else – it has to come purely from you.
You also need to be specific with questions that require you to sell yourself, like why is medicine the right course for you? In this case, be specific to the skills and traits of a doctor. Try and refer to relevant experiences in your life, and extract the specific skill or trait which would be useful to a doctor – e.g. empathy, communication, leadership, critical thinking, time management, organisation and importantly commitment. Medicine, as you know, is a long and difficult course, so it’s very important to show that you will be fully committed to completing the course, even when there are setbacks or obstacles.
Questions about the university need you to be specific as well. What do they have that other universities don’t offer? Have you looked at the website in detail? You could talk about the location, the university’s reputation, facilities, student organisations/bodies, teaching methods and specifics of the study program to name a few things. Essentially, find stuff which personally interest you and would motivate you to study at that university rather than somewhere else.
A bit about the MMI
The Multiple Mini Interviews format is an interesting format and one that I found generally quite fun. It involves a series of stations with different scenarios/tasks. There are many different kinds of scenarios so I won’t cover all of them, but rather talk about the general approach.
Some examples of the stations you might be given are instructions stations, where you have to give detailed, structured instructions to another person to complete a simple task (like open a box), role-play stations, which may involve medical scenarios, data interpretation/calculation stations, professional judgement and prioritisation stations (I would seriously recommend you to look at these stations in detail). Generally all of these stations involve a need for a break down of the problem, a logical, ordered, structured approach, and a need to share and explain your thoughts in detail, with limited time.
An example would be instructing someone to open a box. The task is clear, you need to get the person to open the box, but let’s break it down into steps. Maybe they need to turn the box around first, lift a small flap, and then take off the lid. Now comes the ordered, detailed steps, and sharing each detail. Where will each hand go, onto which side of the box? Do you rotate your hands 90 or 180 degrees and around which axis to rotate the box? Which finger do you use to lift the flap?
Remember, if you could have just asked them to simply open the box, it wouldn’t be a way to assess how you think. This approach/way of thinking pretty much applies to the other stations as well. In professional judgement and prioritisation scenarios you don’t see the direct consequences of your actions, but rather it is you who needs to explain what they would have been to the interviewer.
For me, the hardest part about the MMI was time management. The scenarios are quite straight forward in terms of what you have to do, but with the pressure of time it makes everything a lot more complicated. If you have done your prep properly, my biggest advice would be to stay calm and take some time at the start. Make sure you know what the task is, relax and think through it in your head before starting. It’s a lot easier to do when you relieve some of that pressure off yourself.
Practice makes perfect
If you have prepped your answers and gone through the scenarios, its time to practise, practise, practise! Get your family, friends and teachers to test you through the questions, and make sure you time your answers. Don’t worry if you fail a few times, it’s what you need to do to be perfect in the real one.
And that’s all from me for now! Wow that was a long one. I hope this has helped you in some way, and that you have some ideas about how you’re going to approach the interview. If I missed anything then feel free to drop a comment below.
Obviously best of luck from me, hope you smash it out there!
Featured image by Van Tay Media on Unsplash