Author: Krsna M
Fourth Year Medical Student
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 fourth-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.
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.
Watched Our Latest YouTube Video?
Virtual Work Experience Week
This course is a week-long online course covering all the preparation elements a student needs when applying to medical school.
Topic: Interview question: Hot topics in the NHS
Date: Wednesday 9th december 2020
Time: 7pm (BST)
Mock Interviews (MMI) – A practice run for your medical school interview
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. 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.
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.
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:
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.
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!
Present the best you at interview – Mock Interviews (MMI)
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