Medical School Interviews | Tips, Tricks, and Advice

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Medical School interviews can be daunting.  It's the unknown which tends to catch people off guard. Note, I hope to guide candidates about where they can find appropriate resources and how to prepare for potential sections or questions.  Be sure to check out my general interview tips here!  All of those tips apply to a medical interviews.  

1. Be personal. Link everything to personal experience.  The experience can have no correlation to medicine at all as long as you learnt or developed a skill that a doctor will require.  For example, practicing meditation to improve concentration and better manage your emotions, or being in a sports team where, during matches, you need to be a quick thinker under pressure which doctors must be.  Even if you have very minimal work experience- that doesn't matter.  It is not quantity but quality.  You can broadcast that quality by analysing your experience and the lessons you learnt.  There is no point having weeks worth of experience and stating observations like 'doctors have so much free time!', 'doctors earn so much!'.  I've heard those statements before, and they did not go down well.  Don't be that person!

2. Be punchy.  Make sure you don't ramble prior to stating the point. More often than not, stating the point before diving deeper can save time.  Time is precious in an interview- you do not have much of it to demonstrate why you are deserving to study medicine! However, this does not mean you should sum up open-ended questions in seconds, but take into consideration how much time is required to explain and deliver your answer.  Each word is priceless!

3. Practice makes perfect. This ties in with the second point.  Without risking sounding rehearsed in an interview, practicing beforehand can significantly improve your confidence and quicken your thinking.  Practice with friends, family, or and some schools offer mock interviews you can get involved in.  Try to ask your practice interviewer to be as strict as possible so you experience the worst before the real thing.  Nonetheless, as I aforementioned, do not rehearse answers verbatim because you will lose authenticity.  Everything you say should come from you, not pre-prepared answers.

4. You don't have to know.  Just demonstrate how you would find out.  Such questions measure how you handle pressure.  Try not to get overwhelmed or look frightened.  Instead, be honest and humble.  A doctor has to have humility,  or else the patient's life is at risk.  Thus, be informative and state 'I am not sure' or 'I haven't considered that before, but I would do this.'  Point '11' really helps here where thinking out loud and verbalising your problem-solving skills can help relax you and impress the interviewer.  

Stay calm! One bad question does not equate to a bad interview.  Try to forget about it after instead of dwelling on better potential answers.  On top of this, interviewers want to know you are willing to learn. Hence, illustrating how you would learn and go about independent work/study is a crucial trait of a medical student and doctor.  Ultimately, a candidate that can remain calm and explain how they would work out an answer will be equally as impressive, if not more, than someone who can verbatim recite a pre-prepared answer.  

5. Have questions ready.  When interviewers ask you, 'do you have any questions?', have some ready! This will make you look more interested in the course and university.  Make sure you cannot find more information on their website or online for these questions or else you may appear lazy.  Examples questions include, 'do you have any research opportunities outside of SSCs', 'I noticed that the curriculum has changed, and I didn't know what [module title] entailed. Do you mind telling me more?', 'How much emphasis is there on [topic/module] as it is something I am interested in'?, 'Can I go to a different university for my intercalation degree if I am not interested in the ones offer here?'

Interviewees that have no questions are usually at risk of being quick to leave, and we don't want to seem in a hurry.  Asking questions demonstrates that you are keen to learn more about the university and the course, and you've done research into many aspects of it.  Furthermore, it implies that you are reaping all of the benefits of the opportunity. I am aware that many MMIs do not offer this chance, therefore, ask the tour guide if you end up taking a tour.  

6. Pick a few current news topics or scientific findings.  I picked two particularly interesting scientific research papers that were fascinating to me.  Frankly, I tend to look at science news headlines everyday (and read the ones I like!) which is a good habit to grasp ahead of time.  It does not have to be complex! Just make sure you fully understand the paper's context, findings, and importance.  Ask yourself a few questions like: 

  • What gap does it fill in the evidence-base?/Why was the study conducted?
  • What were the findings? 
  • Who does it impact? 
  • Who will benefit? 
  • What are the cons or potential risks? 
  • How was the study conducted/what was the methodology? 


7. Have a few end goals in sight. Common questions include, 'where do you see yourself in 10/20 years'? And it is vital that you can show that you understand the training regime and length to become a doctor, alongside any personal goals.  Whether this be voluntary work, starting your own charity, or the speciality you have in mind.  If you mention a specific speciality (for me, it is cardiology), it is key that you back that statement up with the fact that you are aware that one can can easily switch gears once they begin to learn concepts in a clinical context.  Be open-minded!  Indicate that you can assimilate to situations but you still have long-term goals in mind.  It is good to be ambitious and consider all the opportunities available during medical school, foundation year, and once you are a doctor. 

8. Be pleasant and memorable.   Smile as often as possible, unless asked a question which deems that smiling is inappropriate such as 'how would you deliver bad news'. Nonetheless, the more pleasing to the eye you are (look presentable with a professional and formal attire), with welcoming body language, then the better the interview.  You wouldn't want a moody doctor that looked unimpressed, right? Try to emulate your future career.  Additionally, try to look excited to be there! I've seen so many interviewees look miserable on their interview; mainly due to nerves.  But regardless of the outcome, it is a learning experience you should utilise to the best of your degree. 

9. Go on the tour.  Look as keen as possible and don't hesitate to ask questions to the tour guide.  It is an opportunity to talk to other candidates as well.  I was blessed to get acquainted to one person at my interview who got into the same medical school! It made the entire move a lot less nerve-wrecking. Obviously, this isn't possible for everyone because there are interviewees who commute great distances for their interview and even fly in.  Thus, there is no pressure to do this.

10. Autonomy, non-maleficence, justice, and beneficence.  The answer to all ethical questions is that there is no answer.  Regardless of the ethical scenario, always consider these four factors to ensure you are capturing both sides of the coin.  Be vary in including your own personal opinion but emphasise the importance in taking every aspect of the situation into account to have an objective action-plan to solve the scenario.

11. Think out loud.  It's like a math exam- show your working and bag a few extra points.  Sometimes, the interviewer will show promising facial reactions or even redirect you to a better answer.  Even so, we tend to make more sense of information when verbalising and explaining our thought process.  Thus, we are more likely to land into the right or appropriate answer.  

12. Interviewers are trained to be neutral.  Contrasting point 11, it is important to realise that most interviewers are trained to be as neutral or unamused as possible.  That is not an indication of your performance, though it is off putting.  Don't let it get to you if they appear unresponsive to your answers.  Try to brush it off and keep reminding yourself of the fact that you earned that interview.  They won't encourage you, so encourage yourself!

13. Get a sense of public health.  This may seem very biased but getting a basic grasp over medical ethics, health economics, social determinants of health, and health systems can really help improve your understanding about current affairs in the NHS.  This includes junior doctor contracts, Brexit and its impact on the NHS and scientific research, and the future of healthcare (introduction of artificial intelligence, for example).  Remember: You cannot run the NHS without public health!

14. It's okay to buy time.  Simply stating, 'I will need a moment to think about that' or 'Oh that is a very interesting/good question...' will enable you to control your breathing or any tension you may feel when facing a hard or troublesome question.  This certainly helped me and interviewers are likely to respond with, 'of course, take your time' but if they say nothing, that is okay.  Make sure you aren't buying minutes of time, however, as that can lead to the interviewer needing to speed you along.  Make sure it doesn't take longer than a few seconds to get your thoughts together.

15. Practice quantitative analysis.  In case you end up having to do some math, go over whatever was done in the UKCAT or BMAT, alongside simple drug calculations and concentration questions.  This ensured I wasn't overwhelmed should such questions come up. 

16. Read over your personal statement.  Most of us do not know our personal statement like the back of our hand.  Look at what you mentioned and prepare yourself for questions on experiences of topics you may be asked to elaborate on. This highlights the importance in ensuring you remain honest in your personal statement.  On top of this, have a list of activities you did not mention due to the word limit.  It's okay to say, 'I didn't put this on my personal statement because of space, but I also did this [insert thing] which is relevant because [insert reasons]'.  

RESOURCES: 

Being honest, I personally did not purchase anything in preparation for my interviews.  The resources I did use however were the following:

For interview questions: 

  1. www.themedicportal.com (**Also great for calculations!)
  2. www.medical-interviews.co.uk/topic/interview-questions-medical-school-interviews
  3. www.medify.co.uk/guides/admissions-guide/medical-school-interviews/preparing-for-an-interview

 Science/Medicine News: 

1. https://www.sciencedaily.com/
2. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/topics/c34vnl2xl5pt/medicine
3. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health

And of course, the university website of the place you are interviewed at!

All the best to everyone interviewing this year and in coming years.  Even if all goes upside-down, do not worry.  This is not the end, just the beginning! 
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