Updated: Jun 24, 2020
Having been to a total of 6 medical school interviews, I am no stranger to the feelings you have on your medical school interview day and its structure. The key is to remain calm and confident. The aim of the interview is to assess if you are suitable to Medicine, if you meet expectations and to get to know a bit more about you.
What happens on the day?
You would have been emailed your interview date and time in advance of the day. I advise you plan your journey in advance and aim to get there at least 30 mins before your scheduled slot. This is particularly important for MMIs (multiple mini interviews) as your interview slot forms part of a rotation around stations and will therefore start exactly on time. The medical school will not be able to delay the rotation if you are late. The email you receive will outline all of the necessary details.
Your interview slot will usually include a welcome presentation outlining the way the interviews will run and an opportunity to talk to current medical students and then the interview itself.
In an MMI (multiple mini interview), there will be a set number of interview stations each lasting no more than 10 minutes – the average time is 6 mins, but it can vary slightly between universities. There will be 1-2 questions or tasks per station covering areas or domains such as the course in your chosen university, ethics, your understanding of a career in medicine, the NHS, working in teams, self-directed learning, numeracy, motivation, empathy, resilience and communication.
Your parents/guardians are welcome to accompany you and there may be an optional Q&A session or workshop for you to attend which will usually be led by current medical students or admissions staff.
In a traditional interview setting, students will be called upon to attend their interviews in separate rooms or sectioned off areas. In one of my traditional interviews, I was emailed an article to read before the interview on a ‘hot topic’ in science (mine was ‘Designer Babies’). This will be discussed at the interview in length. Please note that this truly is a discussion. They will not ask you questions about why you want to study Medicine etc. but are more interested in your thoughts and opinions on the text you read. They are testing your ability to comprehend scientific articles and have an intellectual discussion about the points raised in them – and then relating it to the current medical climate. They are very likely to ask: Why do you think we asked you to read this text? Therefore, whatever they give you to read before the interview – do some background reading too! Is it a hot topic at the moment? Have there been any recent advances? What are the strengths and limitations of the text they have given you to read? Where was it sourced?
Traditional interviews will also consist of a panel (of approximately 3 people) and sometimes, an extra person who does not speak but observes your body language and marks you on that. Unlike MMIs, you do not get to re-introduce yourself to each interviewer as you go round stations therefore it is crucial that you make a good impression on the interview panel in a traditional interview. Be your authentic self, smile and answer the questions to the best of your ability. They tend to ask several follow up questions and these interviews become more of a discussion as there is rarely a time limit on the answers to your questions. Make sure you use the STARR (Situation, Task, Action, Result, Reflection) technique to facilitate the discussion and mention things that you can talk about in depth. Avoid providing empty or cliché examples and phrases like: ‘I want to help people’, ‘I learned communication skills’ and ‘I have always wanted to be a doctor ever since …’ . These can blunt the conversation and if they ask for follow-up, you can find yourself stumbling over your words and trailing off. Be specific and confident. What do I bring? You will need to bring photographic identification with you e.g. passport, driving licence (including provisional). They will provide all necessary instructions in the email. What do I need to do beforehand? PRACTICE.
I recommend that you read the General Medical Council (GMC) document 'Achieving Good Medical Practice - Guidance for Medical Students' prior to attending your interview. You may also wish to read the NHS Constitution and its core values along with medical or ethical topics that have arisen in the news.
What do I wear?
Dress smart. I wore a blouse, blazer, matching trousers and boots or smart shoes. Keep it simple, stylish, comfortable and appropriate.
How do I not let my nerves get the better of me?
Nerves are good. They add that necessary pressure you need to excel. However, you need to make sure that you have practiced enough and be confident in this. This is the only chance the interviewers get to finally meet you in person and they have liked you so far! Do not let your nerves get the better of you and fall at the last hurdle. You must remember that there is a 50-50 chance at this stage that you will receive an offer and it is all about getting across that you are suited to your chosen medical school and will be an asset for them to have. Read this blog post again before you go in if it helps!
Getting to interview stage is a massive achievement but do not take it lightly! Falling at the last hurdle isn’t a great feeling! Take it from someone who was not prepared the first-time round, did not know what she was getting herself into and let nerves get the better of her… They are expecting to meet a competent, confident and friendly person – someone they can see being a doctor and who they warm to easily during the interview but who also knows their stuff! Practice, research and prepare for your interview as if it were an exam. An interview is actually a lot more enjoyable though.