Want to excel in medical school interviews? This guide will show you how!
Most medical students would agree that the most nerve-wracking experience of any university application is the interview. Often, the best antidote for these anxieties is to feel well prepared for the interview itself. So, in that spirit, we’ll briefly advise how to prepare for a UK medicine degree interview.
Please note, this is not a list of common interview questions, or advice on how to answer specific types of questions but instead some broad guidance on what a medical school interview is and what to expect. This is also by no means the end-all-be-all of interview advice, so get ready for more guides from AIMS.Guide!
Section 1 – What Is A Medical Interview And How Do They Work?
A mainstay of the application process, the modern medical school interview is made to be accessible to all applicants. Though there is some expectation of the applicant to have done some reading around the area, universities do not expect applicants to have a wide range of experiences and knowledge of medicine. Instead, the focus of the medical school interview is for applicants to demonstrate everyday skills and experiences that fit well with the field of medicine, as well as giving the applicants the opportunity to demonstrate their own personalities and drive.
There are two general interview styles– MMI and panel (AKA ‘traditional’) interviews.
1. Multiple Mini Interviews are 5-10 stations, each lasting around 5-10 minutes, where the interviewee answers questions related to one theme. At each station there is a different interviewer, meaning that applicants have multiple opportunities to make impressions on the people who are interviewing them.
2. Panel interviews involve interviewees being asked a series of questions by a panel of 2 or 3 interviewers in a single sitting. This gives interviewees more of an opportunity to get into a flow and show more of themselves to the interviewer, but also means that if you make a mistake or stumble, you should be able to pick yourself up on the hoof of the next question.
The types of questions you’ll be asked between the two interview styles tend to be similar. However, MMIs can also have practical stations, such as role-playing or problem-solving scenarios. Each university assesses candidates in their own way, but we’ll talk a little more about that later in the article.
Interviews during COVID-19
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many medical schools have opted to run online virtual interviews. These can still be panel or MMI-based interviews, but the change of medium necessitates a different dynamic and overall feel to the interviews.
Nonetheless, the content of the questions remains the same, and interviewers will be lenient with issues due to internet connectivity or finding an appropriate time for you to conduct an interview in peace. It is currently unclear how long virtual interviews will exist, and whether or not they will be performed post-pandemic.
Section 2 – What Should I Wear? How Should I Act?
A common worry about interviews is how to dress for the occasion, but the answer is relatively simple: Smart-casual and don’t worry about going in full suit and tie or formal attire. The standard is wearing clinical dress– This is the way doctors are expected to dress on the ward. This is a buttoned shirt with smart trousers (not jeans) and a nice pair of formal shoes. You can wear a tie if you wish but it’s not required. Alternatively, a blouse with a skirt below the knees. You needn’t worry about any hospital hygienic dress measures though, such as being bare below the elbow or limited jewelry.
When conducting yourself in the interview you should attempt to present yourself as professional, while also showing your own personality. If you don’t have any experience of the workplace or interviews, you might find that a hard balance to strike. This is something that can really improve with practice, so I would highly recommend getting as much mock interview prep as possible. When practicing, get feedback from friends and family about your tone and body language.
Remember – communication skills are a key part of being a doctor, so putting some early practice can only help!
Section 3 – What Type Of Questions Will They Ask Me?
Each medical school has its own criteria for what it wants to see in candidates and will have different ways of assessing interviewees. As a result, the number of questions that can be asked is so large, it would be impossible to cover them all in any article. However, there are usually certain styles of questionsthat warrant similar responses, and that’s how we’ll try to categorise them. Please bear in mind, these are broad categories we have created, and they cannot encompass every single question. Further, certain questions easily fit into one category:
Questions based around a set of skills commonly used by doctors such as communication and teamworking. Candidates are often asked to show a time when they have demonstrated these skills.
Experiences of Healthcare
Questions about candidates work experience or volunteering and what they gained as a result of their experiences.
Usually a question which asks the interviewee to consider both sides of an argument, or a hypothetical situation where the interviewee must resolve an ethical conflict.
Knowledge of Medicine
Questions assessing how much broad reading a candidate has done around medicine. Often around common areas of knowledge such as the annual NHS budget or the role of an MDT.
Questions around why the interviewee wants to be a doctor and trying to find out how much thought they’ve put into the career.
Questions trying to get the interviewee to think about their own strengths and weakness and apply that to university and being a doctor.
Course Content and University Life
These can be specific questions about the details of the individual university’s course or more generally about adapting to university and independent living.
Usually specific to MMI interviews, candidates must act out a simulated situation with the help of an actor. This aims to show how you would react in a clinical setting to a problem that can be solved without needing medical expertise.
Questions to test a candidates lateral and creative thinking. For example, this can be analysis of arguments or thought puzzles to solve as well as interpretation of data.
Section 4: General Advice
Find advice, practice, read books, learn – the more effort you put into the process, the more confident you will be when the time comes to be interviewed. For our parting words, here’s a little advice to keep in mind throughout your interviews, no matter the questions or styles:
-Be feel confident in your ability to perform. Ultimately, the point of an interview is to showcase your own personality, motivations, and skillset. The best way to build that confidence is practice, so try to do as many mock interviews as possible. Talk to your school teachers or fellow students, or even your family. The university has invited you to interview meaning they want to meet you and talk to you. Show them how good you are!
-Focus your answers on your own experiences and skills and how you will apply them to the question. You should also think about how the question applies to medicine or student life. Remember, your experiences don’t have to be directly related to medicine, but the skills you gained from them (such as team working or communication skills) will certainly apply in a medical environment.
-Give yourself time to answer! Don’t run into answering something if you’re not sure how to respond. If you need more time, ask the interviewer to repeat or rephrase the question. Don’t be afraid to pause before you speak or ask to think about it. If you’re anxious, deep breath, compose yourself, crack on.
-You can’t prepare for every question, but you can think of experiences that can be used to demonstrate a variety of skills that you can use for multiple questions. Jobs and volunteering work are usually great for this. Having 3-4 of these experiences can be helpful in covering a lot of questions that might come up.