How to Prepare for a Medical School Interview
Premedical students know that a successful interview is one of the highlights of the application process. However, it is one of the most nerve-racking steps of getting into medical school for many students. This post will give you some helpful medical school interview tips, introduce different interview question types and explain how to prepare for a medical school interview.
When Should I Begin Preparing for the Interview?
You can never be overprepared, so start as early as possible. Because some medical schools only offer applicants a few weeks notice, it is a good idea to start preparing for an interview as soon as you apply. If you want to start early, focus on basic knowledge like medical school interview styles and questions. Starting early means you won’t have to stress over a looming deadline, so take your time. Once you’re invited, get to work.
After receiving an invitation, you should confirm your interview date as soon as you can. This will help you show strong interest in a program and make a positive first impression even before you get on campus. In addition, you should try to schedule your interview as soon as possible to take full advantage of the rolling admissions process.
When you confirm your interview date, be sure to thank them for the opportunity and convey your interest in the program. Every interaction you have with a school, including every email, phone call, or discussion before, during, and after your official interview date, counts as an “interview,” so be your best self at all times.
Additionally, show the utmost respect to everyone you meet or contact, regardless of whether they are faculty, students, or the administrative staff.
As soon as you have a confirmed interview date, begin planning your travel and lodging arrangements. If possible, plan to arrive at least a day early to avoid any unforeseen problems.
Some schools may provide you with an interview day schedule before you arrive, but others will only tell you where to go and when. Regardless, you should do your best to keep your stress levels down on the interview day. Therefore, you should arrive early enough to find parking and your interview spot. An even better option is to go to the interview location one day before the interview to familiarize yourself with the location. Hospitals, which are often where med school interviews take place, can be hard to find your way around, and you don’t want to show up stressed out.
Medical School Interview Formats
Medical schools do not follow a single interview format. Here you can learn about these different formats:
Traditional Interview: Panel Discussion
Panel interviews are no longer as popular as they once were, but many medical schools still use them. This is a simple interview format that involves a standard formal interview with one or more interviewers, who will frequently take turns asking you questions. The interviewers could come from a wide range of backgrounds, including senior staff employees, faculty, and practicing physicians, among others. Depending on the school, interviews may last 20 to 60 minutes.
Traditional interviews can be conducted in an open or closed file format. In an open-file interview, the interviewer can look at your application before or during the interview, so your questions can be based on the information on your application. However, during a closed interview, interviewers are unable to see any information about the candidate’s application (or they may just have limited information).
These interviews seem to be very subjective because each interviewer has a unique way of asking questions. While some institutions insist on predetermined questions, others prefer a free discussion focusing on a few core themes.
Multiple Mini Interviews (MMI)
The MMI interview is a test of situational judgment administered by numerous interviewers who evaluate each applicant independently. Traditional interviews were criticized for being too subjective and failing to objectively assess applicants’ essential soft skills and medical competencies. Therefore, this particular interview format was formed in response to these concerns.
In this type of interview, you go through 8 to 12 stations supervised by interviewers, who could be faculty members, senior medical students, members of the public, etc. You’ll be given a specific question or prompt at each station, which could be a policy-based inquiry, an ethical situation, or a standard query. It could also be an acting station where you must react to a problem while “acting” out your response.
This type of interactive interview method allows interviewers to get to know students better and analyze how they react to real-life events. It is more common for MMI questions to cover a broader range of topics rather than asking about a student’s past accomplishments, motives, or aspirations because this is a closed-book interview. However, certain questions may be meant to get you to talk about these topics.
Modified Personal Interview (MPI)
The MPI interview is a relatively new medical school interview format that combines elements of MMI and traditional interviews. In this type of interview, you go to 4 stations, and each interviewer will ask you questions about different parts of your application and candidacy. The goal is to help medical schools evaluate your basic professional skills (like the MMI) and learn more about you and your application (as in a traditional interview). You’ll be asked a number of questions based on your application in this type of interview. You won’t be given a prompt, but the interviewers will ask several questions according to your application.
Some schools mix different types of interviews. This could take the form of a complete interview day with numerous types of interviews. You could be required to do multiple interviews in a single interview session, such as a regular interview followed by a reduced MMI, or first an MPI, then an MMI, and so on.
Some schools also examine students in pairs or small groups. You may be requested to collaborate with them to find a solution to various challenges or scenarios. You might also be asked to participate in a discussion about a specific issue.
How Can I Find Out About My Interview Format?
To prepare efficiently, know which interview type your chosen medical school uses. Most interview invitations will provide you with this information, including the interview format as well as what to expect on interview day. Don’t worry if your invitation does not include this information. It should be available on the school’s website, but if it isn’t, go to the Medical School Admission Requirements (MSAR) website. There is a section called “Selection Factors,” which will provide you with the most up-to-date information on the interview formats.
Medical School Question Types
Situational or Scenario Type Questions
You’re given a scenario and asked to describe and justify your reaction to these questions. These don’t have to be about healthcare or medicine; they might be about real life. These questions evaluate your ethics, decision-making, creativity, empathy, and other critical medical qualities.
For these questions, you must first understand the scenario (reread it if it is written) and gather all the data and facts without jumping to conclusions. Your response should be objective, unbiased, and thought-out. Your answer should be backed up with evidence and must include multiple solutions, but you are expected to highlight the best argument.
These questions require you to express your opinions on a specific medical policy, which is usually a controversial topic in medicine. You could be just asked for your opinion, or you could be asked to offer solutions.
Avoid taking an extreme stance when responding to these questions; instead, provide a balanced, well-supported response that addresses diverse points of view. If you’re arguing for a certain viewpoint, be sure to include both positive and negative aspects. After providing this information, give your opinion or the most sensible and ethical stance. Your answer should stress your commitment to “doing good” and “prioritizing patient care” and other vital attributes for the medical profession.
Personal or Unconventional Questions
These contain both conventional personal questions like “Tell me about yourself” as well as more unusual questions intended to assess your creativity and ability to think under pressure.
To help the interviewer get a sense of who you are and what you’ve been through, make sure to explain your background and experiences when answering these questions. To illustrate your main point, include examples from your own life, including your accomplishments. If you’re asked to talk about difficult past experiences, such as your challenges and setbacks, remain positive and concentrate on the lessons you’ve learned and how they relate to your future career in medicine.
In an MMI interview, you’ll typically face acting stations with a specific prompt, and you’re supposed to “act out” your reaction to the given scenario.
Make sure you stay calm and collected when answering these questions, regardless of how the “actors” act. Even if they become angry or violent, you must remain calm and focused on addressing the problem professionally and ethically. Using your body language to convey the proper emotion is essential; for example, if you’re delivering bad news, you shouldn’t be smiling. If acting isn’t your strong suit, practice delivering both good and bad news in front of a mirror. You can role-play with your friends and or take notes on how to transmit emotion through body language by watching emotional situations on TV or in movies.
Collaboration Questions Type: Drawing/Building
In MMI interviews, you may be asked to complete an interactive task such as drawing a picture based on the interviewer or another applicant’s description or constructing something out of Legos.
Use past MMI drawing station questions to figure out how to appropriately translate an image into directions for your partner or how to interpret other people’s instructions most efficiently.
How to Answer Medical School Questions
In your response to the interview questions, keep these tips in mind:
- Stick to what you said on your application.
- Make sure your responses are well-structured and properly address the topic.
- Take a firm stand on an issue when necessary
- Put the needs of the patient first.
- Make good eye contact and speak at the right volume, tone, etc.
- Inform the interviewer of any accomplishments you’ve made since submitting your application.
Some More General Medical School Interview Tips
- Go over your primary and secondary applications thoroughly.
- Learn about the interview process at each school.
- Practice doing mock interviews.
- Dress formally and professionally.
- Be prepared, but don’t memorize your answers.
- Be positive.
- Be respectful to everyone.
- Be honest and try not to sound arrogant
Should I Ask Any Questions from the Interviewers?
Almost all interviewers will ask if you have any questions for them. It is not advisable to say you have no questions. Interviewers may see this as a lack of enthusiasm.
Make sure your questions cannot be easily answered by some basic online research. Instead, ask them specific questions about parts of their programs that match your skills and research interests.
Tips for Online Interviews
- Learn interview format, technological requirements, and other specifics.
- Set up a calm, well-lit spot with strong internet for your video interview.
- Make sure you have all the technical prerequisites on your computer.
- It’s crucial to run through a few practice interviews in that area to make sure everything works as expected.
- Improve your “on-camera” communication skills to minimize any awkwardness.
- Prepare a backup plan in case of technological problems.
- Make the people around you aware of the interview to avoid being disturbed.
- Dress appropriately and follow the same standards of professional conduct that you would for an in-person interview.
Should I Send a Thank-You Note After the Interview?
Thanking your interviewers for their time is usually a good idea, so you can send a thank-you email or write them a letter. A readable, handwritten note leaves a positive impression. It is also a great strategy to distinguish yourself from other applicants and remain fresh in their minds.
However, remember that some schools clearly ask you to refrain from sending thank you emails.
Preparing for medical school interviews might leave you feeling anxious and overwhelmed. Consulting a professional and going over details of your application process can help you gain the confidence you need for this occasion. Check here to schedule an appointment with one of Jack Westin’s admissions consultants.