Hello again everyone. I would like to apologise for my lack of posts since starting second year, it has been very hectic with lots of interesting things going on. I am going to try to post on a regular basis as much as possible, but as hopefully you can appreciate it is much easier said than done. Saying that if anyone has any specific questions or posts they want to see feel free to contact me (my email is in the contact section).
I am going to be doing a 3 part series on medical school interviews. I am obviously no expert on this, but I feel like having gone through the process I can share my advice to help people who are going through this for the first time (for many of you this may even be your first ever interview). I understand right now a lot of people have interview invitations and are anxiously preparing for those, or a lot of you are waiting for interview invites to come in. All I can say here is try not to panic whatever the outcome, medical school applications are a long process and stressing now is not going to help you.
Why do medical schools interview?
To some people this may seem like a no brainer, but I get asked this question quite a lot. I feel by knowing why medical schools interview candidates it prepares you much better for the type of things to expect on the day.
Medical schools interview applicants for many different reasons as outlined below:
- To be able to meet the applicant in person and assess their communication skills.
- To allow the applicant to elaborate on certain aspects of their UCAS application.
- To see if the applicant has the skills and personality suited to a career in medicine and has an understanding and interest in the medical field.
- To give each applicant a fair chance of an offer (believe it or not some applicants have their personal statement written for them).
- To ensure that the applicant meets/exceeds the standards expected of a medical student.
I think it is very important to stress that interviews are not there to catch you out, every interviewer wants you to succeed and hence questions will most likely not be harsh or mean in any way. Yes there will be some hard and thought provoking questions asked to you, but all of these are just assess the 5 criteria explained above. Unfortunately not every applicant interviewed will be offerred a place, this is due to the large amounts of competition for places in medicine. I want to highlight to applicants who may be disheartened with a post interview rejection that it is nothing personal and in no way means that you are not good enough for medicine, it just means that on the day someone else performed slightly better. Take home message here is dont be disheartened or scared by medical school interviews or post interview rejections, its just one step on the path to becoming a doctor which everyone goes through.
What to expect from a medical school interview?
Every medical school interviews at different times and in different ways. It is now widely accepted that there are 3 major types of medicine interview:
- Oxbridge interviews
- Panel based interviews
Multiple mini interviews
Most medical schools are now using MMI, this is a fairly new format and is very different to a traditional interview setting. MMI’s consist of a number of short stations each with different interviewers which you will rotate around during your interview. Each station will have a different theme and stations can consist of:
- interviewer asking traditional interview questions.
- exploration of the personal statement or work experience.
- ethical scenarios or dilemmas which aim to get you to discuss and solve problems.
- Numerical and data analysis skills stations.
- Role play scenarios which aim to simulate certain aspects of being a doctor (common ones include breaking bad news or how to deal with an angry patient).
- discussion or tasks involving all of the other applicants.
Not every MMI will contain all of those, but some will crop up and its important to be prepared for every possibility especially is you are easily panicked when caught off guard. The hardest part about these interviews is trying to get all your thoughts out in the timeframe, Considering you have made it to interview the medical school definetly have seen potential in you, but its now practising and learning how to verbalise your though processes and feelings in a short space of time (and this is what most people struggle with). MMIs traditionally last a couple of hours, and can be very physically and emotionally draining. Ensure beforehand you have eaten well and have water with you.
Universities which offer MMI interviews include: Aberdeen, Birmingham, BSMS, Bristol, Cardiff, Dundee, Exeter, HYMS, Keele, KCL, Lancaster, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, UEA, Nottingham, QUB, Sheffield, St Andrews, SGUL and Warwick.
Panel interviews involve you (the applicant) and a panel of 1 or more interviewers, and they can be very intimidating. Each panel lasts a different amount of time depending upon the medical school and they aim to ask candidates specific questions relating to many different topics such as:
- Motivation to study medicine.
- Motivation to study at that particular medical school/university.
- Knowledge of the NHS, the medical profession and the medical school curriculum.
- Understanding of medical ethics and current topics of medical interest.
- The applicants interests and achievements outside and inside of academia.
- The applicants work experience and voluntary work.
The interviewers are looking for an applicants who have teamwork, leadership, responsibility, critical thinking, problem solving, communication and empathy skills and traits. Look at panel interviews as if you are having a chat with somebody rather than somebody assessing you, that way you are more likely to relax helping you to think and express your thoughts clearly.
Universities which offer panel interviews include: Barts, Glasgow, Imperial, Plymouth, Southampton, Swansea, UCL.
Many people have heard crazy stories about oxbridge interviews, but in reality they are just a slightly different panel interview style. Oxbridge interviews are effectively a simulation of a tutorial which is a method used in teaching at the colleges. These interviews hence are geared towards science and ethical questions (as well as some personal questions) which get you brain working to solve problems. At these interviews its important to speak your thought processes aloud, and take each problem step by step. If you try to jump into the answer often you will become flustered and mix yourself up, oxbridge are looking at how you think and how you reason with your ideas here, not about whether you get the answer right or wrong.
For oxbridge interviews it is important to be prepared for tricky questions, and be confident in your answers even if they turn out to be wrong (or really you just have no idea).
Preparing for medical school interviews
Now hopefully the type of interviews and the purpose of them is much clearer to you, and you may be feeling a little more at ease with what to expect from each type of interview. I have to say this guide is not comprehensive, but gives you a basic idea of the different interview styles and what they entail.
It is very important to be prepared for a medical school interview. Although many will tell you that you cannot say what you will be asked (this is true) and hence cannot prepare (not true), I always reccomend spending some time before your interview preparing for every possibility. I will be exploring this is more detail in my next edition of this 3 part series.
Right now I want to urge every single medical applicant out there that its is very early days. We are in mid-november and medical schools will be interviewed until march (as they do every year), right now its important to stay calm, and keep going with your school work, after all an offer is great but you still need the grades.
Best of luck with your applications,