Preparing for Medical School Interviews

Receiving interviews is a very daunting yet exciting time, you’re one step closer to your dream. Interviews are part of the process of selecting the right students, they enable to demonstrate your interpersonal skills and other essential skills for Medicine and expand upon your application so preparation is essential to success!  Interviews generally take place from November to late April. When you’re invited for an interview bears no relation to how favourably your application is being considered. So we’ve decided to explain the different types of interviews, our top tips, key questions and what to do on the Big Day!

Types of Interviews

MMI

Panel

  • series of short structured interview stations
  • used to assess non-cognitive qualities including cultural sensitivity, maturity, teamwork, empathy, reliability and communication skills
  • candidates receive a question/scenario and have a short period of time (typically two minutes) to prepare an answer prior to start of station
  • either short exchange between candidate and interviewer or interviewer observes while the interaction takes place between an actor and the candidate
  • candidate evaluated at each station
  • multiple interviewers, usually a clinician, academic or medical student
  • more personalised questions asked
  • conversational interactions
  • each individual interviewer determining the mood and structure of the interview
  • Some schools may have set goals for each interview; for example, each interview is given a certain set of character traits to evaluate and comment on, or may have a structured interview format where interviewers are given standardised questions with sample answers.

Our Top Tips

  • Be yourself
    • The medical school have already shown that they are interested in you by inviting you to the interview; they would like your personality to shine through. By not being yourself you’re likely to mask what should you be your strongest selling point: you! Be honest, authentic and most of all be yourself; no one can ever tell you you’re doing it wrong. Be prepare to discuss your:
      • academic background
      • extracurricular activities
      • work experience & voluntary work
      • views on medical problems or ethical issues
      • why you want to be a doctor/ study medicine
  • Be prepared
    • To give yourself the best possible chance of getting an offer, it is very important to prepare in advance. This doesn’t mean you should prepare answers, learn them off by heart and be rigid in your responses.  Be careful not to memorise answers to the point where they sound rehearsed and no longer genuine. However, you should have a clear idea of what you want to say in answer to the classic interview questions so that you are confident, ready and prepared when they are inevitably asked and an appropriate strategy for answering unfamiliar questions.
  • Stay up to date with Health News
    • For interviews, knowledge really is power. As you read more, you will become smarter which not only makes you more confident, but also makes you better prepared to answer any question. When you do read, read books and articles that provide relevant information in an efficient way. Here are the categories you should focus on:
      • NHS Hot Topics: Stay in touch with current events, especially politics that may pertain to health care. Examples of useful sources include: British Medical Journal (BMJ), Student BMJ, New Scientist, The Guardian. Topics include: Staffing, Junior Doctor Crisis, 7 Day NHS, Organ Donation, Social Media use and Brexit.
      • Scientific advances: Reading about medical topics will probably be the most directly relevant to your interview process. Read to learn about ethics, new research and technologies, policies, life as a doctor, and medical/scientific thinking.
      • Healthcare bodies: It is important to understand that Healthcare bodies differ around the UK, e.g. NHS Wales differs to NHS England and NHS Scotland and so certain issues pertain to certain healthcare bodies while some remain unaffected.
      • Personal Interest: Read any books or articles that you find interesting. It can be about anything as long as you find joy in reading them and you will be more passionate when speaking about them.
  • Think ethically
    • Four Pillars of Medical Ethics:
      • Autonomy — Does it show respect for the patient and their right to make decisions?
      • Non-maleficence — Does it harm the patient?
      • Justice — Are there consequences in the wider community?
      • Beneficence — Does it benefit the patient?
  • Structure your answers
    • STARR: It is necessary to use a clear structure when articulating your answers efficiently. This prevents you from rambling and ensures you cover the most important points.
      • Situation: One brief line outlining the example
      • Task: What was involved?
      • Action: How you approached and performed the task
      • Result: What was the outcome/achievement?
      • Reflection: What did you learn and how will you apply it?
    • Rule of 3: When asked open ended questions, make three clear, decisive points and conclude if necessary. These points should act as cues that you can expand upon providing sufficient examples in your answers.
  • Use personal examples/ experiences
    • Write out 3-5 “most significant” attributes that qualify you for medical school. These are the words, sentences, or impressions that you want the interviewer to remember. Write out the stories that support each of these ideas and anticipate the questions that will allow you to discuss them. Your experiences are what make you unique.
  • Read GMC Tomorrows Doctors
    • This will help give you a clearer understanding of a doctors role in different capacities as a scholar, practitioner and professional. Yes this a lot to read but it is worth it in the long run, this will also help you identify key buzzwords when identifying the different characteristics of a doctor; try and find examples to back up how you possess these attributes.  Do you meet other competencies as stipulated by the GMC in “Tomorrow’ Doctors”?  Are you empathetic, do you have initiative and resilience, can you communicate, are you able to problem solve, can you work in a team, do you have integrity and have you got an effective learning style?
  • Consider both arguments & draw balanced conclusion
    • When presented with multiple arguments, think about different perspectives and do not be narrow minded in your approach. Differential diagnosis forms a large part of Medicine so think about this when answering and consider several influencing factors. There is no correct answer as long as you can back up your point of view.
  • Be mindful of your Body Language
    • Your body language can impact the way the interviewer perceives you. It can go a long way in reflecting confidence. Stand up straight, have a firm handshake, and make eye contact when introducing yourself – it can make a big difference. Smiling goes hand in hand with good body language, but remember that medicine is in essence a service industry; people want a  friendly doctor. Similarly an interviewer will come away with a better impression if you can smile and make eye contact while talking to them. Just don’t force a fake smile and stare at the interviewer for 30 minutes straight, find a nice balance!
  • Answer the actual question
    • Some candidates are so keen to say something, that they’re determined to say it, whether or not it’s anything to do with the question they were asked. Not answering your medical school interview questions won’t score particularly highly. The best way to ensure you answer the question is by concluded your answer with the question as the ending statement. E.g. Why do you want to become a doctor? – I’d like to be a doctor because…
  • Research the prospective university, course and city
    • Don’t think just about the academic course, consider university life as well as the city itself. Try to get inside information that you cannot find on the school’s website. Talking to a current medical student who attends that school would be a good idea.  It’s a good idea to look over the course structure, content and teaching style of the medical schools you applied to.
  • Appearance
    • Look the part and you will be the part! It is important to be smartly dressed and well-presented. Doctors are in constant contact with members of the public and appearance is important. For girls, a knee length dress or skirt with a blazer/ cardigan, tights and smart shoes or a smart shirt and trousers and loafers are suitable choices of outfits. For guys, a full dark suit, shirt, tie and smart shoes (e.g. brogues) is an ideal choice. We have a Medical Interview Look-book coming soon, so keep an eye out. Others: trimmed facial hair, minimal body piercings visible (stud earrings).
  • Know your Personal Statement
    • You must know your personal statement extremely well before you attend your interview. Remember what you said and why you said it as your interview is the final part of your application story. Therefore, if you cannot recall the previous parts of your story, your interview may be disconnected from the rest of your application. For example, if you give a reason why you want to be a doctor in your personal statement but give a completely different reason on your interview, that might be a red flag.
  • Work on time management
    • Limit your answers to about 2 minutes. Check it out on a stopwatch. Your answers are giving the interviewer a feel for who you are, so you want to engage them, help them see the interesting things that have gotten you to this interview for medical school and that takes some time. Also assess the interviewers body language. Are they right there with you, leaning
      forward, looking for more?
  • Listen carefully and Take your time 
    • Prompts are often given in the question so make sure you listen to the question thoroughly as this can guide the direction of your answer. Never dive straight into a question you’re not sure about. Take a moment to come up with a well thought out answer rather than to waffle for a while. To show you’re actually thinking and not just panicking, look up above the interviewer’s head and pause for a while. When you have your answer re-establish eye contact and shoot.
  • Know your interview format
    • Know what to expect from each school before you interview. You should know what type of interview you are walking into and also learn more about each school so that you could tailor your answers to be more appropriate for each school. A great way to learn more about a school is to talk to actual medical students who attend that school.
  • Practise! Practise! Practise! (Mock Interviews)
    • Ask friends, relatives, colleagues, doctors, research supervisors, professors, or anyone else you trust to help you do a mock interview. Try to simulate the real thing as well as you can and do at least 2 or 3 mock interviews before you go into your first interview & work on the feedback given. Additionally, make sure you are comfortable talking about yourself. You should be well aware of your personality, tendencies, accomplishments and experiences. Strangely enough, sometimes talking about yourself can be the hardest part about the interview, so practise!
  • Take care of logistics
    • You should be in your best mental and physical condition during your interview, so be conscious of your health. Consider necessary expenses and arrangements that need to be made e.g. transport, journey time, accommodation, school notification etc. This also means you should get enough rest before the interview, schedule travel that gives you sufficient time to mentally and physically prepare, and eat and drink properly.
  • Prepare possible questions to ask the interviewer
    • This is the final impression you will make on your interviewer. Take the opportunity to learn more about faculty, research opportunities, access to internships, or anything that else that is important to you when considering a medical school program. Avoid asking questions that you can answer yourself  if you research. Don’t ask questions for the sake of it. If you can’t think of any questions just say that everything’s been covered in the open day.
    • Possible Questions:
      • 1. What is your favourite or least favourite thing about this school?
      • 2. Why did you choose to work at this school?
      • 3. Can you tell me more about … program?
      • 4. How do you think I should decide on which medical school I should attend?
      • 5. Do you have any advice for me?
      • 6. What is your favourite or least favourite thing about being a doctor? (if your interviewer is a doctor)
      • 7. What are your thoughts about … issue? (You could ask this question if … issue was already discussed during the interview)

Key Questions to derive (rough) answers for!

  1. Why do you want to be a doctor?
  2. What are the pros and cons of a career in medicine?
  3. Why do you want to be a doctor and not a nurse, they both help people?
  4. Should the NHS be free?
  5. What would you do to improve the NHS?
  6. Read through your personal statement and be clear in your mind how your various experiences equip you to study medicine.
  7. Examples of leadership, examples of teamwork,
  8. Why should they pick you?
  9. What are your strengths and weaknesses?.
  10. What will you contribute to the university?
  11. Read around the history of the university, the structure of the medicine course- why do you want to attend that University specifically?

We have several more questions in our Question Bank. Check them out!

 The Big Day

  • Arrive early
  • Take the opportunity to talk to other other applicants and current students around
  • Re-read your personal statement before
  • Make a good first impression – smile, be confident, sit up straight and relax
  • Take some time to think about your answer first before responding
  • If you have struggled to understand a particular question, be calm and ask the interviewer to rephrase it for you
  • Thank the interviewers for their time

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