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Traditional Medicine Interviews

Despite a recent shift towards Multiple Mini Interviews (MMI), many universities rely on the traditional medicine interview format, which usually consists of a single one-to-one or panel-based interview. 

This style of interview can appear intimidating at first, but having a traditional interview, where you remain in one room for the entirety, allows you time to build a good rapport with your interviewer/s and really show them why you’re a great candidate and what sets you apart from the competition.

The following universities currently use a traditional interview format: Barts, Cambridge, Oxford, Glasgow, Southampton, Swansea and UCL.

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What will happen during a traditional medicine interview?

Traditional style interviews are question-focused, rather than task-based. This means, that unlike the MMI, you are unlikely to be asked to perform a role-play scenario or communication task.

Instead, your interviewer/s will ask you a number of questions about your application, experiences and general understanding of medicine as a career and its role within society. 

Different medical schools may ask different types of questions during the traditional medicine interview. It’s wise to read through the admissions pages of the medical schools you’re interviewing at to find out as much information about the interview as you can. 

The interview may feel more like a conversation between you and who you’re being interviewed by, rather than a series of back-to-back questions. This is a strength of the traditional medical interview format.

How long will a traditional medicine interview last?

The length of your traditional medicine interview will vary, depending on the different medical schools you interview at. It is likely your interview could last for around 20 to 40 minutes.

You will have a greater length of time to think about and elaborate on your answers than you would have in an MMI.

Who will interview me?

In a traditional medical interview, you are often interviewed by a panel made up of a number of individuals. 

The panel could be composed of a variety of people associated with the university. For example:

Traditional medicine interview questions

No candidate can predict every question they could be asked during their traditional medicine interview. However, questions are likely to focus on a number of common themes. 

To help, we’ve broken down the ten themes that feature the most during traditional medical school interviews:

Candidates who respond with spontaneous, yet well-thought-out answers to questions are much more likely to perform well in their traditional medicine interview, than candidates who present rehearsed, robotic-sounding answers.

It’s better to convey genuine interest and passion, so know what the key points you want to make in your answers and let your personality and genuine suitability to medicine shine through. This should put you in good standing.

How to prepare for a traditional medicine interview

The traditional medicine interview will put great emphasis and focus on you as a person. It is essential you are fully familiarised with your personal statement

Make sure that you are able to discuss and elaborate on all of the points made in your personal statement, especially any voluntary work or work experience placements you have mentioned.

To prepare:

The medical school you’re interviewing at wants to know that, as a student, you will thrive and benefit from their approach to teaching, so you need to be able to explain to your interviewers how you will do this. 

Final tips for a traditional medical interview

1. Focus on yourself, don’t worry about the interviewers

In a traditional medical interview, it is likely that some of the interviewers will be taking notes whilst others will be asking you questions. Don’t worry if one of the interviewers doesn’t seem to be paying you too much attention or isn’t looking at you during the interview.

This doesn’t mean that what you’re saying isn’t great, the interviewer is simply concentrating on writing down all of the interesting points you’re saying. 

No matter how distracted the interviewer might seem, focus on your answer and try to maintain eye contact as much as possible.

2. Ask questions

You are likely to have some time to spare at the end of your traditional medicine interview. You will most likely be asked if you have any questions for the panel. It is good to ask questions because it shows you are enthusiastic and engaged with the process of applying to medical school.

Whilst not asking a question at the end of your interview is unlikely to ruin your chances of success, having a couple of well-prepared questions could improve the interviewer/s perception of you. Thinking through questions you could ask in advance may also help you to stand out as a candidate. 

Just make sure any questions you do ask aren’t something you could have easily found out by reading the medical school’s website, or that you should have already known before applying. 

3. Don’t panic at the unexpected

If you are asked a question you didn’t expect to come up and are not sure how to answer it effectively, stay calm and take a few seconds to compose and construct your answer. 

If you find thinking on your feet a challenge, ask a friend, family member or school teacher to practice interviewing you with a list of questions you haven’t seen or pre-prepared for. This should help to boost your confidence.

4. Practice and get feedback where possible

The more you practice answering interview questions, the easier you will find it to articulate yourself well and not waffle during your traditional medicine interview. 

Try videoing yourself answering questions, so that you can analyse how you respond and if there’s any part of your delivery that needs to be improved or adapted. 

If possible, complete mock interviews to prepare yourself for the formal nature of the traditional medical interview. Perhaps, consider enrolling on an interview course if you need further help. 

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