One of the more notorious elements of Medical School interviews is the creativity questions you can be asked. These are designed to show the interviewers how your mind works, and how creatively you can think. Prepare with these example interview questions and answer guides.

The answer guides to these creativity and imagination 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 when you join a Medical School Interview Course. It’s over 220 pages long and has everything you need to ace your interview.

How Much Does A Mountain Weigh?

As with all questions like this, you won’t be able to get an exact answer. The interviewers just want you to talk through a systematic methodology. It is about applying reasoning and scientific rationale to an unusual scenario.

You don’t have to answer straight away. Take a little time to think and map out a good starting point. Ask for a moment if you need to. But you do have to start articulating your thought process at some point — probably before you know it is complete.

You could ask logical questions such as: What shape is the mountain? How tall is it? What is the radius of the base? Getting these parameters would allow you to use an appropriate mathematical formula, such as the formula for the volume of a cone.

If they are not prepared to provide any further information, then you would need to work out how you would get some of these answers, like consulting existing maps. You can then ask about other important factors that would have a major impact, like the type of mountain it is and what type of rock it is made of. Perhaps you would take a rock as a sample and extrapolate the weight.

Common mistakes:

  • Freezing and not knowing what to say. You need to articulate some sort of logical thought process.
  • Thinking for a moment and then coming out with a random number. Even if, by great chance, this was accurate, it defeats the purpose of the exercise.

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How Different Would The World Be If The Wheel Wasn’t Invented?

This is about implementing a logical process in a difficult situation — and covering all the angles. You might start by talking about uses of the wheel currently. Transport would be a good starting point, since many types of transport depend on the wheel, e.g. cars, bikes, aeroplanes, boats with wheel engines.

Be creative, though. Wheels are used for transport, but you should try to cover as many angles as possible to show that you can think outside the box. What about water wheels in electricity production? In machinery, the wheel evolved into gears and propellers. So without the wheel, all of these areas would be affected.

You might want to speculate whether humans would have created alternatives, or whether the advancements made possible by the wheel would simply not have been made. Then, move ahead to the next logical step. What are the implications of this? Would it have affected the evolution of society? (The world would definitely be a smaller place.)

Remember, the wheel has also affected lots of other major things, like war and trade. You should try to cover as many bases as possible. You might spark some lively debate, which could even end up being quite fun.

Common mistakes:

  • Not considering the wide variety of implications, causes and effects. It’s obvious to just say that there would be no cars, but you need to show that you can think outside the box.

How Many Words Are There In An Average Book?

You need to get as much detail before launching into an answer. First, establish what type of book it is. They might not tell you, in which case just state that you’re assuming it is a novel, because this makes life easier. If it were a textbook, for example, there would be diagrams and tables, and this differs a lot from book to book.

Think logically. Start with the average number of pages in a novel. This doesn’t have to be right, just reasonable. Try to use round numbers, so you can multiply them more easily. In this case, let’s say 300 pages.

Then, estimate how many words are on each page. Again, break this down. Possibly 20 lines, each with 10 words. So 200 words. 300 x 200 equals 60,000 words.

To really show that you are thinking of all angles, estimate how many pages would be wordless (or have fewer words e.g. dedication and review pages). Say this could be equivalent to 10 wordless pages. 10 multiplied by 200 equals 2,000 words. Subtracting this from 60,000 means that your average book is 58,000 words long.

Common Mistakes:

  • Coming up with a completely random number. This question is evaluating your thought process.
  • Not showing a thought process. It might be that your parent is an author and you know the actual answer, but they want to see you talk through a problem, so try to respect that.
  • Using difficult numbers. Saying that each page has 184 words and there are 317 pages will leave you with some difficult sums to do.

To What Extent Do You Think Fear Is Beneficial?

This is an example of a more abstract, and less process-driven, creative interview question. As such, it requires a slightly different process. You should take a moment to think up a balanced argument, which reflects both sides of the situation. You can’t be black and white about such a complex and subjective issue.

Arguments for: Inhibition, in the sense of keeping yourself out of dangerous situations, is an evolutionary instinct to promote self-preservation. It modulates your relationships with other people and it gives you a social conscience.

Arguments against: Fear can limit your human experience. It is not always necessary, and it can be dictated by your past encounters with a certain stimulus. Past a certain point, it can be detrimental to your health.

You could then link the question to the medical environment. Disease puts patients in vulnerable situations in which there is an element of fear, and this can be harmful when it comes to good decision-making.

You should make it clear that you understand fear will have an impact on your interactions with patients. There will be moments in your career when you may be unsure of your decisions and fear the possible outcomes/consequences. This is natural and you should show an awareness of this.

You could also state that this will lessen as you gain more experience and confidence, and that even when you are worried, you would be confident that you acted within guidelines, consulted your colleagues and made a reasonable decision.

Common Mistakes:

  • Giving a one-sided answer. Questions like this merit more than a simple binary answer of ‘yes’ or ‘no’, ‘good’ or ‘bad’. You have to recognise and show that you can appreciate the shades of grey and the complexity involved.

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Why Do We Wear Shoes?

This is another esoteric-sounding question that requires you to think logically about something that we usually take for granted. Though it seems quite arresting, this question isn’t too bad if you think about the practicalities, which is the key to a lot of creativity questions.

Shoes are a social norm. Most people have never questioned why we wear shoes, because it’s what is generally accepted. Not wearing shoes is considered abnormal. But was it always this way? And what could have led to it becoming so? Perhaps it made walking long distances and hunting easier, centuries ago.

From a functional perspective, shoes are protective. They prevent injury. Some shoes, like steel-toe work shoes, are designed specifically for this function. What other functions require specific shoes? Hiking, climbing, sport, etc.

Consider different cultures. Don’t only think about your perspective — this is part of what can help you stand out. There are groups of people in other parts of the world who don’t wear shoes. Of course, there are also aesthetics to consider. People put a lot of thought into how they look and this extends to their shoes.

People may wear shoes they consider uncomfortable to increase their height or make their legs look longer. From here, you could contrast the functional reasons you touched upon earlier with the recent (first-world) shift towards aesthetics. Be creative!

Common Mistakes:

  • Feeling inhibited. Sometimes questions like this, where there are no short and simple answers, make people retreat into a shell. They are afraid to speak about ideas, rather than certainties, at the risk of sounding silly.
  • Not practising this kind of discussion. By getting used to thinking this way, either with friends or around the table at a family meal, you can train your mind to think creatively.

If You Were Stranded In A Remote Rainforest And Trying To Escape, Who Is One Person You Would Want To Accompany You And Why?

Take some time to think about a few people, then single it down to one person and be prepared to explain why. Go through the thought process of who you would want with you. Mention both practical and personal reasons to give a unique answer.

This question has an underlying theme of teamwork. Think about how you would work with the person to come up with the best means of escape.

If you are struggling to come up with someone, think about a person in your life who has always been reliable. Pick them as a safe choice. You may wish to draw on experiences you had with this person where you were able to work towards a goal effectively.

You may also wish to show interest in the question by asking questions of your own, such as what equipment you would have access to. If the person you have picked is good with navigational equipment, you could mention that.

Common Mistakes:

  • Not choosing anyone and sticking to yourself. Although you may think this is a clever answer showing off how capable you are, this is likely to backfire as it gives off a sense of overconfidence.
  • Focusing solely on how you would escape. Although it’s a chance to show off your creativity, this is not answering the question in its entirety.

How Many Atoms Are There In A Glass Of  Water?

With a question like this, the interviewers are interested in your thought process rather than an actual solution to the problem. Talk them through your thinking step-by-step when giving your answer.

Think about the problem practically and take into account the different values you would need to know in order to reach a solution. You will be using logical reasoning as well as some scientific knowledge in your answer.

How much water is in the glass? Think about the dimensions of the glass and how full it is, which would allow you to work out the volume of water that it contains. Depending on the shape of the glass, think about which formula would allow you to deduce this volume, such as V = pi(r)2 x h for a cylindrical glass, where h is the height that the water comes to.

Once you know how to find the volume of water, you need to figure out the number of H2O molecules that this volume would contain. Chemistry at A-Level is a requirement for prospective medical students at certain universities, so some chemistry knowledge may be required in answering questions like this.

By dividing the mass of water in the glass by the molar mass of H2O, you would be able to calculate the number of moles present. Avogadro’s number 6.02 x 1023 multiplied by the number of moles of H2O would tell you how many molecules of H2O the glass contains. As H2O is comprised of 3 atoms, multiplying this answer by 3 would give you the solution.

Common Mistakes:

  • This type of question is all about how you approach the problem. You probably won’t have time to plan out your entire answer before responding, so just take the problem step-by-step, explaining your thought process as you go.
  • Trying to give a precise number. This is not what the interviewers are interested in and there is very little chance of you actually coming up with the correct figure.

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