You should expect your Medical School interview to include questions about your background and motivation to study Medicine. Read on for some example ‘Why Medicine?’ interview questions and tips on how to answer well. Looking for more advice? Check our tips to show your motivation at interview.

The answer guides to these background and motivation questions have been put together by medics who have successfully navigated interviews at top Medical Schools. They’re included in our Mastering the Medical School Interview Guide which you’ll get if you join a Medical School Interview Course. It’s over 220 pages long and has everything you need to ace your interview.

Why Do You Want To Study Medicine?

This is a common background and motivation question, so reflect carefully on the answer prior to your interview. To answer this type of ‘Why Medicine?’ interview question properly, you will need to first understand what exactly being a medical student and a Doctor entails. This comes from research, work experience and talking to people ahead of you on the pathway.

When you answer this question, aim to strike a good balance between passion and pragmatism — many people come across disproportionately one way or the other. You should provide enough detail to be persuasive, but avoid waffling. More than three points are usually too much, and the impact will be lost.

Make sure you get across your desire to interact with – and ultimately help – people, because this is what being a Doctor is all about. Try to capture why the combination of scientific drive and human engagement involved in Medicine appeals to you. Use examples from your work experience and your personal life if appropriate to strengthen your answer.

Common Mistakes:

  • Knowing you want to be a Doctor but not being able to articulate why. This is usually a result of a lack of reflection.
  • Referring to financial rewards or social status. These are not good motivators for pursuing Medicine and there are other careers that offer more of both.
  • Saying that you come from a family of Doctors. This is not a mistake in itself, but you must stress that you have done your own exploration.

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If You Weren’t Offered A Place To Study Medicine, What Would You Do?

It’s a good idea to say that you would reapply to Medical School next year, and perhaps try to get a job or volunteering position in a related area in the meantime, because this shows resilience and commitment to pursuing Medicine.

This is an opportunity to show that you can turn misfortune to your advantage by outlining how you would make the most of the time — to gain more experience in healthcare, for example. You could also suggest looking into other healthcare career options such as Allied Health, because these also involve patient care and that is ultimately what you’re interested in.

Common Mistakes:

  • Simply saying “I will get in” shows arrogance, rather than strength — and might tempt them to prove you wrong!
  • Saying straight away that you would do something unrelated suggests a lack of commitment and resolve.

What Aspects Of The Working Life Of A Doctor Appeal To You?

Hopefully, you find it rewarding to help people who need it and to make a difference in people’s lives. Make sure you say so – and don’t be afraid of sounding cheesy! Remember that as a Doctor, you’ll have the chance to make a real difference to people’s lives every day.

Patient care and disease management (alongside the medical research that takes place) are intellectually stimulating, and it is a multi-faceted job that presents you with many exciting challenges. If you enjoy teamwork and problem-solving, this will also be a big draw. You should also consider the diversity of opportunities available to healthcare professionals.

Use work experience and other first-hand experiences to support the things that you say — make the answer personal to you. It’s a good idea to also show that you’re aware of the challenges that Doctors face, and that it can be a stressful job, but that you believe the positives outweigh the negatives.

Common Mistakes:

  • Focusing on career advancement, respect and remuneration.
  • Saying that the life of a Doctor is entirely positive and failing to appreciate the challenges involved.

What Aspects Of  The Working Life Of A Doctor Don’t Appeal To You?

It’s important to show that you understand, from research and work experience, that being a Doctor comes with a lot of challenges. Without belittling these challenges, you should also keep a positive outlook and demonstrate that you are up for the challenge.

For example, being a Doctor can be very stressful and requires a huge commitment, which might restrict your personal or family life. However, there might also be good ways of finding a work-life balance that works for you.

The death of patients is also an inevitable part of being a Doctor, so show that you recognise this will be a difficult thing to deal with. You could refer to the support available for Doctors experiencing difficulties with this.

Common Mistakes:

  • Being blindly positive. Positivity is an excellent trait but not at the expense of realism.
  • Saying that everything appeals to you and you can think of nothing that would be difficult about being a Doctor shows a lack of appreciation for the realities.
  • Referring too much to NHS cuts and working long hours for relatively small remuneration could make you seem like you have the wrong priorities.

Can Non-Scientific Hobbies Add To A Person’s Ability To Be A Good Doctor, And Why? Can You Think Of Any Examples In Your Own Case?

Medicine isn’t just a scientific career! It is people-based and therefore requires Doctors to be well-rounded people who can relate to others. Non-scientific interests can help Doctors to achieve this and relate to patients who don’t have a deep scientific understanding of their situation.

Some Medical Schools, like Imperial, focus a lot on extracurricular activities as a sign of well-rounded candidates, so you should look into each university’s stance beforehand. If you’re involved in music/sport/art/other, tell them about it and try to articulate why this might make you a stronger candidate.

Extracurricular activities can also demonstrate skills relevant to Medicine. Sportspeople often show teamwork and leadership, for instance. Use extracurricular achievements to signpost Doctor-worthy traits.

For example: “I love playing the guitar and I’ve played in bands in my town for several years. It’s a great way of meeting new people. I would like to continue playing guitar alongside my studies at Medical School, as I feel it would help me relax during stressful times and avoid burnout.”

Common Mistakes:

  • Focusing too much on extracurricular agendas at the expense of the Medical School. Remember, not everyone shares the same interests as you.
  • Being dismissive of non-academic pursuits and saying things like “a Doctor’s ability to diagnose illness/scientific knowledge is really the most important thing.”

What Do You Find Interesting About Medicine?

While this question appears to be asking you to talk in detail about scientific topics that you have studied and find interesting, it is really providing you with an opportunity to demonstrate the breadth of your engagement with Medicine.

Structure your answer to avoid being incoherent, or going into too much detail about one particular topic and running out of time.

Start by discussing a particular scientific aspect of Medicine that you have studied or read about and found interesting – e.g. the special structure of the epithelial cells in the myocardium that allows the heart to act as an effective and reliable pump. Then, connect this to any relevant clinical work experience you have had.

For example, did you see any patients with heart conditions or did you see an echocardiogram? What are the real-world manifestations of the Medicine that interest you? If you don’t have any relevant work experience, think about the reading you have done.

You could then move on to the practical side of Medicine. This lets the interviewer know you appreciate that Medicine is a practical science – and often it is less about scientific knowledge and more about soft skills, pattern recognition and logic. You could also combine the practical and scientific topics that you have discussed to talk about research or self-directed learning that you might want to do at Medical School.

Is there an Intercalated Degree that you have your eye on? Remember to demonstrate that you have thought about this question from multiple aspects – not just the scientific one.

Common Mistakes:

  • Not taking the time at the start to think about what you want to say and structure the answer accordingly. You run the risk of talking without any logical structure for an extended time, leaving the interviewer none-the-wiser on your position!
  • Focusing on just one aspect and not demonstrating that you appreciate Medicine is a multi-disciplinary and varied area of study and practice.

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What Do You Wish To Achieve From Your Medical Career?

You need to have a basic understanding of what a typical career in Medicine might involve. Aim to cover your interests in the areas of clinical training, academia, general skills development, and social activities. Take why you want to study Medicine and translate that into something tangible that you would like to achieve.

For example, you might want to train as a Consultant and then travel the world engaging in humanitarian work. You don’t need to have a solid plan that you’re 100% determined to fulfill – interviewers understand that you’re only at the beginning of your journey into Medicine. They just want to see if you have an idea of how a medical career could satisfy your interests and how you can contribute to society as a Doctor.

Common Mistakes:

  • Not being open enough. Many medical students and even Doctors end up changing their minds on what they would like to get from their career.
  • Forgetting to mention that you wish to help patients in some way. After all, that’s what being a Doctor is about.
  • Focusing on financial rewards or social status.

Why A Doctor And Not A Nurse?

Although this type of ‘Why Medicine? interview question might seem tricky at first glance, it’s really just an opportunity for you to further demonstrate your understanding of what being a Doctor entails, as well as showing that you’ve considered and explored other healthcare-related careers.

The best candidates highlight the similarities and differences of Doctors and Nurses (or other healthcare professionals) in an objective and professional manner. They also incorporate their own personal experiences to illustrate why they are more drawn to and/or better suited to the career of a Doctor compared to that of a Nurse.

Illustrate the similarities and differences with examples. Conclude by highlighting why you are a better fit for the career of a Doctor, with respect to interests, strengths, priorities (i.e. what you look for in a career), and/or qualities. Be respectful and understanding of all healthcare professionals, as they are all crucial for the care of patients.

Common Mistakes:

  • Criticising or belittling nurses (or other healthcare professionals) – this is definitely not professional and will not put you in a good light with the interviewers. More importantly, it shows that you have not considered the nuances of these professions in an objective manner.
  • Saying that “Doctors are more important than nurses.” Both professionals are absolutely vital in caring for patients in their own way. To give an example, while Doctors may be needed in decision-making with patients, nurses are often the ones who spend more time in the actual care and management for patients. Making such statements is not only a sweeping generalisation, it also shows that you have not considered the roles and responsibilities of each profession.

What Excites You Most About A Career In Medicine?

Although somewhat similar to “Why do you want to study Medicine?”, this interview question in particular focuses on the career aspect of a Doctor. The best candidates provide the interviewer with a clear demonstration of their understanding of what being a Doctor entails and their motivation for the profession.

You should show solid evidence of the steps you have taken to find out more about what a career in Medicine is like. This may include work experience or volunteering, further reading or research, as well as discussions with Doctors and medical students.

Explain how these experiences allowed you to learn about a career in Medicine and, more importantly, why this excited you. It may be helpful to cover different types of experiences which showcase different interesting aspects of a medical career.

For example, work experience is unique because you may have been able to observe patient contact. Further reading or research may have educated you about innovative advancements in Medicine. Discussions with Doctors and medical students may have taught you about the day-to-day realities of Medicine.

Common Mistakes:

  • Answers that focus on superficial aspects of a medical career (e.g. social status, financial gains) could make it seem like you have the wrong priorities.
  • Responses that lack personal reflection, and only include buzzwords such as “fascinating” or “captivating”. You can certainly use these words to describe experiences, but in addition to this, there needs to be an explanation as to why you felt this way and why this experience made you realise this career is something you would enjoy.

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