10 tips for medical school interviews

10 tips for medical school interviews

10 tips for medical school interviews
10 tips for medical school interviews
Colette Tolley
2nd-year Medical Student at University of Oxford
November 27, 2020

How to prepare for a medical school interview?

Suppose you’re hoping to gain a place on an MBBS course. In that case, this usually involves studying hard at school, having some work experience under your belt, writing a personal statement and doing the UCAT/BMAT exam.

Yet, beyond these, one more thing stands in the way of you and your shiny, much-awaited first day of medical school – the interview.

Pulling from my own experience (as a current second-year medic) and speaking to an advisor with experience on the interview panel, we’ve come up with a list of suggestions to you to help you succeed at your medical school interview.

Top 10 Tips for Medical School Interviews

  • Understand what you’ll be interviewed on
  • Make a plan for preparation
  • Learn some core concepts
  • Take time to reflect
  • Do your due diligence 
  • Practice Role Play
  • Look over your personal statement
  • Dress appropriately
  • Calm your nerves
  • Believe in yourself

Tips for med school interviews

1. Understand what you’ll be interviewed on

In the UK, interviews are of two kinds – Multiple Mini Interviews (termed ‘MMI’) and panel interviews. Whereas a panel interview is the ‘traditional’ table chat between you and the examiners, MMIs are a series of shorter stations. Each session with a different assessor and/or actor, each requiring a different task of you. 

Don’t assume all MMI or panel interviews will be identical across universities. Or that a specific university would not have recently changed their format of interviews. Follow the up-to-date guidance, usually published on the university website or sometimes sent in an email to you. 

Two bonus tips for MMIs – firstly, read the instructions for the station carefully before you go in. Secondly, put the station before behind you – every station is a chance for a fresh start.

2. Make a plan for preparation

In your last year of school, there is lots to think about. With upcoming A’Levels and other commitments – try to make a plan of how you’ll practise for your interview and set aside allocated time for preparation.

It is helpful to start early and be able to realise what you do know and what you don’t. And subsequently, work towards improving.

3. Learn some core concepts

There is usually background knowledge schools may like you to know before your interview. For example, before my interview, I remember reading about the ethical principles of medical practice, the fraudulent study on autism and the MMR vaccine, and the structure of the NHS (especially important if you’re from outside the UK!).

A good book I used was “Medical School Interviews” by Picard and Lee1, but there are many books, webinars and courses out there all designed to help you prepare. So do look into these and consider if any of them would be of particular benefit to you.

4. Take time to reflect

Being able to list your experiences is one thing. Digging deeper to find out what you have actually learnt from them, is another.

Reflection is something you’ll be doing a lot during medical school, and during your career, so it’s good practice to start the process now. Think about why a particular patient you saw on work experience impacted you, or what transferable skills you learnt whilst working in a coffee shop, or how training for that sports competition showed you how to overcome obstacles.

The STARR technique is useful in structuring your self-reflection well and coming across as well-articulated in your answers:

S: First give context to the experience; what was the Situation or your role?
T: In the Situation, what specific Task were you assigned with?
A: What Action did you take to complete the task above?
R: What was the Result or outcome of what you did?
R: On Reflection, what have you learnt from this experience?

5. Do your due diligence

Spend some time reading up on the university, the course itself, any optional modules, the student societies, the facilities and even the city. It is helpful to show that you have thought through your decision to study there and are fully informed of what you will be getting into for the next five years or so.

If you know anyone studying there already or meet current students during an open day, have a chat with them about what a typical day involves.

6. Practice Role Play

Now you know about what you might be asked, have reflected on your experiences, and done your research. The next step is to try to role-play or hold a ‘mock’ interview with your tutors at school (or even online), or simply family members and friends. This helps you to practice thinking on your feet and speaking concisely.

Another tip is that in the actual interview, there may be two examiners in the room – don’t be phased if one of them appears not to be interacting with you, they might just be there taking down notes. Try to maintain eye contact with whoever is engaging with you.

Mock Interviews (MMI)

Online mock medical school Interviews with personal feedback

7. Look over your personal statement

By the time your interview occurs, you probably would have written your personal statement months before. Go back to it and have a read – this is what the interviewers know about you, so be prepared to talk about what you have written in detail and elaborate further on the points you have included.

Side note: if you need help with your personal statement, you can try our Personal Statement Course or contact us for your Personal Statement Review.

8. Dress appropriately

Dress comfortably but formally, with clean shoes and neat hair – this helps you feel professional and gives a good first impression. If you’re travelling from far, I recommend taking a spare set of clothes with you, this avoids unnecessary stress if a button decides to pop last minute and you haven’t got anything else with you.

9. Calm your nerves

Interviews can induce some level of anxiety in all of us. Take active steps to keep yourself calm as the big day approaches:

Mental preparation

On the night before or on the morning of the interview, spend a few moments visualising yourself being fluent and succeeding, and you could even do some mindfulness or breathing exercises.

Physical preparation

Prepare any documents you need to take in advance (such as any proofs of identity, photocopies of results, certificates and so on). Make sure you have ample time for travel, whether you are driving, using public transport or even taking a flight!

Show up early on the day to find the building and confirm with a staff member that this is the right place to be. If your hands tend to get clammy easily, wash or wipe them especially if you need to shake hands – although “this may be less likely in the post-coronavirus world”, my advisor adds!

10. Believe in yourself

As cheesy as it sounds, have faith in your own abilities. You have been invited in the first place because they see potential in you, so you should see that potential in yourself too. Relax, smile and speak clearly. Be confident in yourself and let them see why you would be a great addition to their school. Finally, be yourself, that’s who they want to get to know anyway!


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