How to Prepare for Medical School Interviews
Medicine interviews are often talked about as being some of the most difficult interviews you will ever face, however with good preparation you will be able to tackle any question or task put in front of you. The key to doing well in any interview is knowing what you are talking about – or being able to come up with a solution to any problem you are presented with.
The first step: knowing what type of interview you’ll be facing
To start your interview preparation, you must know what types of interviews you could face. Knowing what interview a university offers could be a deciding factor in applying to that medical school, so you should know what to expect from each interview.
Multiple Mini Interviews
The MMI is the most common type of interview offered, and involves multiple interview stations in a circuit, with each station providing a different task between 5-10 minutes each. Examples of questions that could come up are:
- Talking about how you overcome a problem
- An unseen task that you have to work through e.g a maths problem
- A role play station where you have to interact with someone or provide advice
- Watching a video and responding to questions
- For and against discussions about popular topics
Panel interviews are less common and involve a ‘sit-down’ discussion with the interviewers. This type of interview may focus more on talking about topics relevant to medicine or wider society, and may ask you to answer questions about your character and motivations to study medicine. These interviews may also involve more of your personal statement than other interviews.
Some universities might also have a group discussion task after the initial interview (e.g. at Southampton), where you will be sat at a table with the other candidates and be observed as you debate a topic.
“Traditional” interviews – at Oxbridge
Oxbridge interviews for medicine are similar to standard Oxbridge interviews for other subjects in that the interviewers are looking for you to demonstrate an aptitude in science and towards being a doctor, but also suitable for the teaching style at Oxbridge. Most Oxbridge interviews are now online but some do involve going to visit the college you have been allocated or applied to.
Oxbridge interviews are modelled on the ‘tutorial’ or ‘supervision’ style of teaching which happens there, which is more about having a discussion and showing critical thinking skills. You might be shown some data and be asked to discuss it through a critical lens, be asked questions based on your science knowledge, or be asked more philosophical questions which invite you to think out loud and show off your ability to think critically about something.
You can find out what type of interview your university uses by checking on their website.
How should you prepare for the interview?
Once you have decided where you will be applying, it is important to tailor your preparation towards what could come up. For the majority of applicants, their interviews will be MMI which means that there is a vast range of questions and tasks. It would be impossible to prepare for everything that you could face, but by focussing on the key themes and topics you will be able to tackle anything.
It’s very likely that you will be asked questions about your motivations behind wanting to study medicine. Be as genuine as possible: reflect on your personal experiences, the role of a doctor in society, and if it has any personal meaning to you. Reflecting on your experiences is a key skill which are medical students are expected to show throughout their degree.
Often medical applicants will choose to focus on reoccuring themes such as:
- Healthcare in the news
- Talking through points in your personal statement
- Experiences in volunteering
- Motivations to study medicine
- Medical ethics
This is not an exhaustive list but it’s worth thinking about how you can do some preparation to be aware of these different aspects. It’s important to feel confident talking about these topics, without feeling so rehearsed that it seems too overprepared! This can be a hard line to tow, but it’s worthwhile practising talking out loud about these topics.
Recording yourself speaking and playing it back is also an invaluable tool to help you deliver your answers with confidence. Having someone to practise with will help prepare you for the being to respond to questions quickly and help to improve your overall confidence. Other people will also be able to give you feedback about your answers and your delivery. Practising with someone who you are comfortable with is a good place to start, however as you will have never met any of your interviewers before, practising with someone that puts you out of your comfort zone will be a more accurate representation of the interview. Even just practising speaking to the staff in the local shop can be really useful practice (it doesn’t need to be about medicine of course!)
How do I find potential questions?
Check out interview question books in your school or local library, or have a look at our 🔗 Application Insights section.
What about the things I can’t prepare for?
Although having prepared answers to the common questions will help, many of the questions or tasks will be things that you have not prepared and cannot prepare for directly. These stations are testing your ability to make decisions on the spot, or to see how you are able to work through a problem. It is important to remember that you are not a medical student yet, so the answer you end up with is not always the most important part, but being able to show how you have worked through the problem will score you the most points.
Examples of some low these stations could include; helping a friend work through a problem, discussing a recent health topic, maths problems, answering questions about
a video or having a debate. Although you cannot prepare for these directly you can practise the skills involved.
If you’re struggling to answer, take a deep breath and remember you can do it! Ask for a moment to think – it’s ok to pause to take a minute, regain your composure, structure an answer, and then get back to business.
It there is a long period of silence, that’s ok! Don’t let it put you off. Asking for time to think is better than rushing an answer.
Key tips for standing out
- Know your medical school! Research the medical school and the area it is in – this shows a genuine interest in the university and the community you will be learning in and around. For example, in my interview, I asked about the optional modules offered in third year, and the language courses they offered.
- Keep up with current affairs. Staying up to date with recent medical breakthroughs and health in the media is a huge part of being a doctor, and you might be asked a question about it! This can easily be done by keeping up to date with the news in the weeks leading up to your interviews – keep up to date with any strikes, any emerging healthcare issues, and new breakthroughs in medical science e.g. vaccinations or treatments. You can do this by checking BBC news’ science and healthcare sections!
- Check the requirements and selection processes before you apply. Each university will decide who to offer interviews to through a slightly different process. For example, some might use UCAT scores, UCAT scores and predicted grades, but use them all slightly differently. This can help you to apply strategically according to your strengths!
Good luck everyone!
To find out more about medicine interviews, check out our 🔗 Application Insights – a database full of hundreds’ of real medical students’ advice.