10 Common Medicine Interview MMI Stations Explained
1. Role Play Station
Role play stations are very common as they allow the interviewer to assess a candidate's empathy and communication skills in an objective way.
These stations can seem daunting as there is no real answer however they normally have a few common features. They often occur in a normal social situation that you would encounter in the real world such as in a shop or a GP practice.
You are unlikely to be asked to play a role so you can approach the situation exactly as you normally would. The actor you are talking to will have a problem that you can help with or talk them through and will often be distressed. You can demonstrate your empathy skills by actively listening to the actor and using phrases that show you acknowledge why this is difficult and upsetting for them.
In some stations, empathising with them is enough to gain a good mark. The actors are given scripts and will give you cues on what kind of questions to ask. If you feel the actor is hinting at something but not saying everything ask them about the hint. The most important thing to remember is that these stations are not there to catch you out and if you are aware and follow up on cues you can pass comfortably.
"You are at the shops and notice an elderly person looking at a display and appearing upset- They tell you how they are struggling due to their eyesight getting worse preventing them from driving and making it hard to read. This has left them isolated. They also hint that they can’t read the labels and they can’t eat certain foods due to their medication."
Candidates should show appropriate empathy and offer to help them with reading. The most effective way to do this is to give buzz word phrases like “That must be hard for you” and to display active listening. The actor will give specific cues which can be explored by asking them to “Tell me more about that”.
2. Description Station
In this station you will be presented with a picture and be asked to describe it.
This picture could be of anything; a crowd, a house, a town or a forest scene. The thing the pictures will have in common is they contain a large amount of information and details. This station is designed to test your attention to detail and to present information in a concise, organised manner.
The most important thing to do is to take your time and plan your answer before you start your description. The most effective way to do this is to start generally saying what the scene depicts then break it down into the individual components. An important thing to keep in mind is to approach the answer like you’re talking to a person who can’t see the picture and knows nothing about it. Try to describe it in a way that would allow this person to recreate the image.
Start by explaining what you see in broad terms “A multi coloured stair case.” Then break it down into its individual components. Talk about the trees and the buildings that are visible at the top of the stairs. Talking about the steps- the colour of them and what colours are next to each other, what is the texture, what writing and other symbols are on the steps and how many are there. Then talk about the red barrier at the side of the stairs in the same level of detail as the steps.
3. Data Interpretation Station
Data interpretation stations are designed to test your ability to sort for relevant information and use it to make relevant calculations and conversions.
These are skills that doctors often have to use, particularly with drug calculations. The data presented to you could be from any source such as political or financial but is often medical and will be presented in a graph or a table. These formats are chosen as they are often used in a medical context and provide confounding information that has to be tuned out.
Alongside the graph or table there will be information like ratios, proportions, minimum and maximum values and specific questions. These values are used to calculate the answers using the information in the graph and the table. Often you will have several questions to answer using the data and speed will be important.
The best way to prepare for these stations is practicing arithmetic to increase your speed and fluency. In the station you will be provided with a non-scientific calculator so practicing using one will benefit you. Quantitative reasoning questions can provide good practice for data interpretation and calculation and are an important part of preparation.
A 45 year old woman who weighs 72kg comes into AandE with a broken femur in severe pain. A junior doctor prescribes an IV painkiller. The painkiller has a dose of 3 mg per kg of body weight per hour. It comes in bags with a dose of 450mg. What dosage of painkiller is required by the patient over a 4 hour period and how many bags are needed for this?
First isolate the important information to answer the question, in this question it is 72kg, 3mg/kg/hr, 4 hours and 450mg. Then carry out your calculation-
3 x 72 = 216mg/hr, 216 x 4 = 864mg total, 864/ 450 = 1.92.
Therefore the patient will require a total dosage of 864 mg split across 2 bags of medication.
In a real station you would have several questions similar to this one.
4. Ethical scenarios
There will almost always be a scenario to assess your understanding of medical ethics but their presentation can vary quite a bit.
This is a crucial skill for medical students and doctors and will help shape your decision-making processes. The key medical ethical pillars are: beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice. Further to these principles are capacity and consent which relate closely to autonomy. These principles should always be referred to explicitly in your answers to ensure you demonstrate your understanding of them to the examiner. A common way in which these principles can be tested is by asking interviewee’s to prioritise different patients for a treatment or presenting a medical situation where these principles come into conflict.
Do not worry if your answer is correct or not as there are multiple ways to answer these questions correctly. The most important thing is that you identify the ethical principles that are involved in the scenario. Then explain the way these principles are involved in the scenario and use this to justify your answer. To do this knowledge of these principles is crucial. After you have explained the ethical term, explain how it is applied in everyday clinical practice.
You are a doctor in A and E and 2 patients arrive in A and E both having lost a dangerous amount of blood. Both have the same blood type. One is a 33 year old father who works as an engineer and was stabbed during a mugging while the other patient is a 72 year old alcoholic who was injured in an accident while drunk driving. There is only enough of their blood type to give a transfusion to one patient, who should you choose?
There is no right or easy answer to this question. Consider how all the ethical pillars relate to this situation. For beneficence think about what is the greatest good you can do for the patient with your treatment. For non-maleficence think about how you can avoid causing harm to the patients. For autonomy consider what the wishes of the patients may be and how you can respect and empower them. For justice consider what is right and fair for the patients and for society, and what the law says about this.
5. Mock Problem-Based Learning or Case-Based Discussion Station
A mock PBL session is not the most common MMI and many medical schools will not include it at all.
However, it is guaranteed to be included in some MMIs so be sure to prepare if you apply to one of these medical schools. The way to approach this station is not immediately obvious so it is worth preparing. If you are not already aware PBL stands for problem-based learning and is the structure many medical schools use for teaching preclinical years. It involves a session at the beginning of the week where you are presented with a medical case or problem about which you will find key questions and important things to find out.
Over the week lectures, online resources and your own learning will help you to answer these questions, which you will discuss at the end of the week. The mock PBL stations in the interview will be on the session at the beginning of the week.
The most important thing to remember in these sessions is that it isn’t about being the ‘’best’’ candidate there as this can result in you appearing domineering and being an ineffective part of the team. An easy way to show you’re an effective part of the team is to encourage others, if someone has been quiet so far ask for their input. The interviewer’s will be looking for things like this.
The main function of the PBL session will be to form a list of questions about a condition or group of conditions so you don’t have to worry about having knowledge about these conditions. Important questions to consider include the physiology of a system or organ and what happens to it in disease, treatments, the mechanism of action of drugs, anatomy etc. Something less obvious to consider is the social and psychological impact of a condition and what social care is available for it.
You are presented with a case of a 68 year old man who experiences pain in his chest after exercise for the first time. He goes to A and E and is told that he is suffering from angina pectoris.
This is an oversimplified case, an actual PBL case will have many details provided but you should approach both in the same way. Think about the initial symptom, you want to research what causes that symptom. Then think about the condition and what you need to know to understand it; the symptoms, the causes, the physiology, the risk factors, how it is managed, how it affects someone's life. Then give a question that addresses one of these such as “What factors make someone more at risk of Angina?” Adding a question about the psychological and social factors is something many candidates overlook. By adding a question like “What are the psychological consequences of experiencing Angina,” you can distinguish yourself from other candidates.
6. Personal Statement
You can be asked about aspects of your personal statement across a wide range of stations with some interviews even devoting a specific station to it.
The best way to approach these questions is to reflect on an experience and relate it to medicine in a similar way to how you did in your personal statement. However, you should go into greater detail about what the experience was and give more detailed reflections than you did in your personal statement. This means that you should have a very detailed knowledge of your statement and also of the notes you made to write it as this will give you greater detail to help you form your answers.
When asked a question about your experiences, take a second to identify what it’s actually asking you, for example if the question is aimed at you giving an example of your use of communication skills. Then have an experience that allows you to demonstrate this, talk about how you demonstrated this skill and then relate this back to medicine and explain why it is relevant for a doctor or medical student.
While it’s important for you to have good knowledge of your statement and experiences, be careful not to over prepare. This can leave you giving answers that sound scripted and unnatural and can run the risk of missing the point of the question due to shoehorning in your prepared answer. A good compromise for this is to break your personal statement into your experiences and then for each statement list down the qualities and skills you demonstrated or improved your understanding of. This means in the interview when you’re asked a question and have identified the skill they want you to demonstrate, you can quickly pick out a relevant experience to reflect on.
Which skill do you have which makes you best suited to being a doctor?
Pick out a skill that medical professionals need, for example empathy. Then mention a scenario where you used empathy and how it helped in the situation. If possible then mention another time you displayed empathy more briefly to show continued development of empathy. Finally relate this skill back to being a doctor, talking about why empathy is important for doctors and giving an example of when you have seen medical staff use empathy.
7. Medical knowledge Station
While you would not be expected to have in-depth medical knowledge you will be expected to have awareness of issues facing the NHS and the medical profession as a whole, alongside some knowledge of research developments.
These are important for 2 reasons. Firstly you are expected to have a realistic view of what a career in medicine involves, including the problems and issues it involves. This will allow you to be better rounded and better prepared for life as a doctor and less likely to experience burnout. Secondly you’re expected to have an interest in and passion for medical science; knowing about some research is a good way to do this.
Pick an area of medical research that relates to something you found interesting in A levels and simply read up on recent advancements in this area, this demonstrates a continued interest in it. You will not be expected to understand or know about the fine details of these advancements so don’t worry about finding them out.
What are your opinions on plans to suspend non-essential treatments and surgery during the COVID-19 pandemic? What do you think the long term effects of increased waiting time for treatment and diagnosis on the physical and mental health of the general population will be? What are your thoughts about the lack of a pay rise given to junior doctors this year?
COVID-19 has had an enormous and wide reaching impact on the NHS from increasing waiting lists across all specialties and reducing the number of beds available to problems with staffing due to staff members being off work to isolate. An understanding of these issues will be crucial for your interview. If you are unsure about an area of research to look into, new developments in antibiotics occur regularly and allows you to talk about the threat posed by increasing rates of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
8. Scenario stations
These stations will present you with a scenario similar to the one you may encounter in role play stations, but you will only be asked to explain your actions instead of carrying them out.
This shifts the emphasis away from communication skills and introduces a problem solving aspect while maintaining the focus on empathy.
These scenarios will require you to justify your decisions and actions so make sure you don’t say the first answer that pops into your head. Take a few seconds to think about why this is your decision, taking into account the emotions of the people involved and the ways that this action solves the problem you were having. Approaching these questions in a similar way to the SJT section of the UCAT can be very effective, and practicing SJT questions before your interview will help you get in the right frame of mind. Be aware that even after justifying your answer the interviewer may challenge aspects of it, this does not mean that your answer is incorrect. It’s simply designed to make you think deeper about your reasoning.
“You see a classmate of yours being teased by other members of your class and looking very upset. This is not the first time you’ve seen this happen. How do you approach the situation?”
Questions like this are typical because they present a number of factors you have to take into consideration in your answer. When presented with this scenario remember there is no one right way to answer, but you must take into account all the risks and ways to solve them.
If you decide to intervene immediately, how do you deal with the prospect of them being aggressive to you. If you decide to wait till they leave, make sure you are considering the risk of the child who is being teased becoming further upset. It is also necessary to consider some of the long term problems posed in this scenario and how you can solve them and also the long term implications of your actions.
9. Instruction Station
These stations are designed to test your communication skills and your ability to present information which are vital for doctors.
You will have to explain to an examiner how to carry out a simple action such as writing a word, tying their shoelaces or riding a bike. While this may sound simple, the interviewer will do everything they can to make it more difficult and will not do anything that they are not explicitly told to do. Furthermore they will deliberately carry out an action incorrectly unless you specify everything about how to do the action.
For example when writing a word they may start writing the letters on top of each other if they aren’t told to move the pen over between letters. This adds another dimension to the station by testing your ability to stay calm under pressure and continue to deliver clear instructions.
There are two crucial things to remember in these stations. Firstly assume that the interviewer has no knowledge of anything relating to the action. Assume that they don’t know how to hold a pen, that they don’t know what laces or pedals are. This will make you less likely to miss out key instructions. Secondly, don’t feel pressured to start immediately. Take your time to think through and plan out the action, even taking pauses when necessary. This allows you to really structure the action and will make you less likely to become panicked on the station.
Explain how to write the word “Doctor.”
For this question start from the very beginning. Tell them how to hold the pen, explaining to clasp it between their thumb and first 2 fingers. Then tell them to press it to the paper at the correct pressure. Then explain how to draw each letter at a time, making sure to ask them to leave a gap between each. Really breakdown how to draw each letter focusing on the length of each curved or straight line and where they start and finish in relation to each other. It’s important to remember that the interviewer will make a deliberate mistake at some point during the action so remember to stay calm and correct them so you can continue.
10. Ranking Stations
These stations aim to test your reasoning skills and ability to make quick decisions.
These skills are important for a doctor as you must be able to triage patients and also which treatments and tests you will carry out first. You will be presented with a scenario and a list relating to it which can vary greatly in it’s contents. Some can be simple like imagining you are going on an expedition through a desert and asking you to pick 6 items from a list of 20. Others can be more medically relevant and complex such as picking out 6 patients who can be treated after a train accident.
The most important thing to remember in these stations is there is no right answer but there is a right way to answer. Whenever you pick an item from a list make sure to think about the positive qualities that made you pick it and break them down into an easily presentable way. Also don’t neglect to explain why you didn’t pick other items by giving some of their negative factors.
You are going on a beach holiday but are only allowed to pack 5 items out of the following 15: Book, flip flops, snorkel, swimming costume, smart shirt, t shirts, underwear, socks, trainers, shorts, umbrella, suncream, towel, sunhat, sunglasses.
As explained earlier it doesn’t matter which item you pick as long as you explain why it was chosen. For example if you chose to bring sun cream you could say it was because you will be spending a long time sunbathing and you burn easily. Conversely mention why you didn’t chose some of the items like not taking the snorkel because you are a weak swimmer.