The answer guides to these depth and breadth of interest 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 that you get when you join a Medical School Interview Course. It’s over 220 pages long and has everything you need to ace your interview.
If you’re asked to talk the interviewer through your Personal Statement, it’s a good idea to highlight key aspects of it in a systematic manner while also adding in supplementary points to boost your response.
In order to prepare for this question, make sure that you are familiar with your Personal Statement before the interview! This is a helpful point regardless of whether or not you are asked this question, as you can likely supplement answers to other questions with parts of your Personal Statement anyway.
When you answer, try to pick out the key parts of your Personal Statement that you feel most strongly about, and explain these sections while also justifying how they strengthen your application. This may be your work experiences or volunteering activities. When speaking on these points, try to add in an original aspect to avoid repeating what has already been written. For example, if you would like to speak about a work experience placement, you could add in additional qualities of good doctors that you observed.
If you have completed additional relevant activities since submitting your Personal Statement, this can also be a good opportunity to add them in.
Remember to be confident and enthusiastic in your response! This is a piece of your original work that reflects you as a person, and as such, your attitude can also add to the impression that you leave on interviewers.
This is an opportunity to demonstrate that you have explored your interest in medicine in your own time, outside of your school curriculum and work experience. New Scientist and Scientific American are a couple of examples of publications that produce content relevant to an interest in medicine. They both have articles that are available online without a subscription, although you may choose to subscribe for access to more of their content.
Prepare in advance.
It is worth having a few articles that you have read in mind in case a question like this comes up. You should be able to give a brief explanation of what they were about so be sure to glance over them again ahead of the interview to jog your memory. When you give your example, explain why you found that article so interesting or exciting. You want your enthusiasm for the subject of Medicine to come across.
Public health campaigns aim to raise public awareness about issues like the dangers of smoking or sun exposure, for example. They are important because they promote a healthier lifestyle which is intended to reduce the prevalence of disease in the population in the long run. Give an example of a recent campaign that you have heard about. This can be researched ahead of time. Act FAST is one example of a public health campaign which aims to spread awareness of the symptoms of stroke using the ‘FAST’ acronym to help people know when to call 999.
Other examples can be found on Public Health England’s Campaign Resources website under ‘Campaigns’.
Discuss your opinion on the importance of public health campaigns. What is their purpose? Do you think they are generally effective or ineffective? Do you think the funding for this type of campaign is money well spent?
You don’t have to be certain. In fact, if you are it might seem a little strange, since you are only 17 and have a lot to learn. So make sure you are interested but open pick something that might interest you to show awareness of the specialities out there. This is your chance to show off about a book you’ve read, the research you’ve followed, or a time (maybe on work experience) when you’ve truly been inspired. If you are going to choose something, it might be better if it is a general speciality because it shows you are still open to the wider possibilities Medicine offers.
Choosing something too niche might make it seem like you are studying Medicine as a whole for the wrong reasons.
Your answer should be focused on your interest: why a certain pathway appeals to you and how skills you already have now match that speciality. Know how long training for your chosen speciality is! They may ask you and it’s good to show you have done some research and have realistic expectations. Make it clear that you’re aware that your view can change; that you’re excited to be exposed to all aspects of Medicine; and that you’ve got five-six years (hopefully at this Medical School) to make that decision.
Have a specific example ready. There’s always research in the news. They don’t expect you to know everything back to front, but as a rule it’s good to have awareness about as much as possible and a deep understanding about a few select topics When introducing some research, don’t waffle. Mention the key points: topic, method, outcome, what you found interesting. If the interviewers want to know more then they will probe further. Strongly consider looking at the research that the Medical School has recently put out. You could pick one of those studies to talk about. You will score extra points for pointing out that certain research was pioneered at a certain medical school/hospital
Talk about the Doctors you’ve encountered on your work experience, or through other interactions, perhaps on a personal level, as a patient or a relative of a patient. Show understanding of the daily schedule of a (specific type of) Doctor: what they do routinely, what challenges they face and the ways in which they overcome the challenges (through teamwork, communication skills etc).
Try to show a realistic understanding of working hours, job stress, and the huge responsibility that Doctors carry. But balance this by talking about the rewarding aspects of the job and how stress can be managed. Acknowledge that there’s so much more to learn and that’s there are some aspects which you can only fully understand through experience.
Do the work before the interview! Keep up to date with medical news in the build up to your interview and keep interesting articles about medical developments. Read around them and add them to your personal portfolio so you can revisit them before interview.
Pick a specific example which really stands out to you. It should be one that will benefit a lot of people — or has the potential to do so in the future. Be clear and concise in your description: what it is, who’s working on it, where did you come across it and why you think it’s significant/interesting. Say how you think it will affect clinical practice and better the lives of patients. By thinking about this ahead of time, rather than in real time in the interview chair, you will come across as a strong candidate.
As with a creative question (such as how much does the Earth weigh?) this question requires you to vocalise your thought process in answering the question. Let the interviewer know your thought process by starting with a phrase like: ‘There are several different ways that one could answer that question, all of which centre around how we define importance in medical innovation. For instance, if we were to define importance as reducing preventable deaths…’
Some of the areas to think about would include the introduction of the scientific method to Medicine (which led to the practice of evidence-based medicine); the revolution in medical training through the development of teaching hospitals (look up William Osler); the discovery of antibiotics and cellular biology; the use of propaganda and politics to improve public health (see Stoptober or Change4Life); the institutionalisation and centralisation of medicine through Hospitals; the introduction of technology into Medicine (not just in terms of X-Rays and dialysis machines, but also ordinary computers).
Bring in your own reading and work experiences to highlight your engagement in Medicine during the application process. For example, discuss the CT scan that you saw and its clinical importance. You MUST finish by saying what single thing you would choose above everything else! Remember as with all open-ended interview questions, your main job is to communicate that you have undertaken a wide range of reading and work experience that is informing your answer. But also that you are logical enough to choose one thing and explain why you have chosen it.
Good examples include research placements, EPQs, essays, blogs, first aid training – and any other type of healthcare-based work outside the regular science curriculum. For example, some sixth forms encourage students to become health champions and educate other students on issues such as alcohol abuse and obesity. If your school doesn’t do this, why not suggest it? Then you can say you pioneered it at interview. Speak about your involvement with your Medical Society at school.
If you are not heavily involved, correct this before your interview. If your school doesn’t have a Medsoc, start one! There’s a guide in the Teacher Services section of our website. Start by briefly introducing and explaining the project. Then focus on why you chose it, what you learnt and what particular aspects of the project you enjoyed the most. Indicate that undertaking said project has inspired you take on similar projects in the future. Bonus points for linking this with the structure of the university’s course (SSCs, library projects, intercalated degrees etc.)
Have a clear understanding of the definition of evidence based practice in medicine. It is often abbreviated to EBM (evidence-based medicine) in literature. Get across the notion that you understand how it is important to be up-to-date with recent high quality research that you can translate into clinical practice. Mention good sources of information that are available to assist you such as NICE guidelines.
It may be good to come up with a specific example of how medical practice has changed over the years to demonstrate the importance of evidence based medicine. Mention the possible risk to patient care if evidence based medicine is not followed. Talk about the varying level of quality evidence available in different areas of medicine.
For example, there may only be a few research papers that have been published in a very niche area which affects only a few patients in the whole world. Show an understanding of how evidence based medicine combines high quality research with personal clinical experience and patient preferences. If you saw evidence based medicine in action during your work experience, mention it and how you think it improved patient care.
As a “how” question, this asks you to show steps in which you have taken in order to prepare for a career in medicine. This question primarily asks you to showcase your drive, motivation, and dedication.
Clear proof that you have researched the career thoroughly and have taken the initiative to immerse yourself in the field. This may include doing further reading or research work, carrying out shadowing or work experiences, embarking on volunteer programmes, or attending lectures and webinars. Aside from briefly explaining the experience itself, highlight how this contributes to your dedication to medicine. This should include a more personal element instead of standard clichéd responses.
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