Medical interviews are split into Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) and panel interview formats.
MMIs are split into a series of short stations that assess a wide variety of skills and qualities that are important for medical students and doctors to have. These can range from communication skills to your motivation for studying medicine to your understanding of medical ethics. Some of these stations may present scenarios and questions that seem unrelated to medicine but it is important to think about what the station is actually assessing. You can then construct your answers based on that.
Panel interviews involve being intervied by a small panel in one go. They will ask questions such as your qualities, your experiences, your thoughts about the course and many more in a similar fashion to a job interview. This can be an intimidating prospect for some candidates but also gives greater clarity in what you are asked and why.
The most important thing to remember is that the stations are designed to assess specific skills and qualities. If a station is asking you to talk to an elderly person in the shops the station is asking to for you to show empathy and communication skills. If you are asked about how you spend your leisure time or playing sports make sure you reference team working and how it relates the multi-disciplinary team.
Prep time- before each station you have a short time, normally a minute, to read instructions and prepare yourself. Use this time to make sure you feel calm and ready and think about what qualities the station may be asking you to show. You can then prepare experiences to talk about that allow you to demonstrate those traits.
Explanation stations- Sometimes you can be asked to explain a simple process to an interviewer, such as how to tie their laces or ride a bike. These stations test your ability to communicate information and can be frustrating as the interviewer will deliberately do things wrong to test you. It’s important to stay relaxed as the station is looking at how you communicate information, not at if the interviewer completes the process successfully.
Personal statement- The interview team have access to your personal statement so a station exploring it is very common. Make sure that you are familiar with everything you bring up in your personal statement and are prepared to reflect in greater detail on your experiences.
Separate stations- Stations are marked independently of each other. This means you don’t have to worry about using the same experiences for different stations and can just pick the best experience and reflection for the station you are on.
Timing- Station duration can vary between medical schools but generally takes less than 10 minutes. It’s important to be aware of this limitation and not too spend too long on one question. Try to explain the experience quickly so you can link your reflection on it and it’s relevance to medicine quickly. Conversely, it’s not uncommon to finish the station with time to spare so do not worry if you finish a station early.
Calculations- interpreting medical data and making drug calculations are important skills for doctors and will are often assessed at interviews. Timing can be a challenge here so it’s important to practice mental arithmetic, particularly percentages and ratios, before the interview.
Preparing answers- It is crucial to be prepared for an interview but there is such a thing as over preparing. Interviewer’s will see hundred’s of applicants every year and don’t want to be given completely scripted answers. Furthermore if you prepare and memorise exact answers beforehand your answer may be clunky and miss the point of the question. It’s better to prepare more generally, for example knowing which experience you’d talk about to demonstrate empathy or your communication skills.
Why “….” Medical school? – Medical schools have very different ways of teaching and will want you to be committed to that medical school. It’s important to look on their website to see if they have a traditional or PBL teaching style, how anatomy is taught, how clinical skills are taught and what kind of clinical experience you would get.
Further interests- You will be expected to have an interest in medical science that goes further than what you’ve learned at school. An easy way to do this is to pick a subject like genetics or physiology or antibiotics that interests you and look at recent research into it. This can be as simple as a new scientist article as you only need to demonstrate your interest.
Web cam etiquette- Many medical schools will be holding interviews over zoom or teams this year to adapt to covid. It’s as important that you maintain positive body language and keep good eye contact, even if it’s with a webcam, as in an in-person interview. Make sure you organise a quiet place free from distractions to help with your focus
Making a good impression- In a panel interview you won’t be changing interviewer’s with stations so it’s important that you make a good impression on all members of the panel. Establish good rapport with all of them and try not to focus on a specific interviewer. Looking across your screen can be a good way to do this.
Building on reflections- As you are in front of the same interviewers for the whole time there is less opportunity to reuse experiences you have and should try to avoid this. However you can refer back to an experience you’ve already mentioned and then mention a new one to provide more evidence of the skill or trait.
Manage pressure- Pannel interviews can be more intimidating than MMIs due to the longer time frame and higher number of interviewer’s. Even when under pressure don’t panic or try to rush your answers, always take a few seconds before answering each question. You can use this time to think about what the question is actually asking you and think of an experience and reflection that matches that. Not over-rehearsing and scripting your answers can also help with this as if you have an answer prepared it can be tempting to blurt it out without thinking if it’s the best fit for the question.
MMI and Panel Interviews both offer very different challenges and some candidates will feel better suited to one than the other. It’s very important to consider the interview format of any medical school you apply for and if it’s the format you can excel at.