This is Part Two in a series on interview preparation tips, practical advice and games on how to prepare for your medical school interview, covering all interview question types and different learning styles. You can see Part One here.
1. Create flashcards for different questions
This is ideal practice for verbalising your answers to a friend. You could make flashcards with an example of a common interview question on one side, and some key bullet points of things you’d like to mention for this type of question on the other. These could take the following forms:
Motivation – For example, you could write ‘Why Medicine?’ on one side, and on the back, note down some key things you’d like to talk about in bullet points, such as ‘GP work experience’ – and you could then expand on why your placement was particularly rewarding and furthered your passion for Medicine.
Empathy –On the back of an Empathy question card, you may want to mention your care home placement where you interacted with elderly patients, or that you observed doctors in a GP giving a diagnosis to a patient – and in your answer, reflect on how these experiences impacted your understanding of patient care and the importance of empathy.
Teamwork – For a question such as, ‘Can you tell us about a time you worked well in a team?’, you could note down your experience of a group activity in your Duke of Edinburgh team and the ways you learned about the qualities of a successful team.
As interviewers are looking for natural responses (and the questions will always be different), it’s very important not to memorise your answers, but jotting down a few key ideas for each topic may be a good way to get started – and you can then practice using these cards with a friend. They can prompt you with the card’s bullet points if you’re stuck – and eventually you’ll have a good bank of examples and ideas to draw on in your real interview, and can tailor these to fit the question.
You could print each article and go through it with a highlighter to pick out the key points. Once this is done, give the article to a friend or family member to read, and then explain it aloud to them, making sure to mention the key debates and recent developments in your own words. Another good way to weave this research in to your interview practice is to ask your friend to test you on a range of ‘hot topics’. Here are three example questions:
What do you think about the junior doctors’ contract? Would you have gone on strike too?
Do you think the NHS Long Term Plan is viable?
Are high street heart checks the solution needed to prevent heart disease?
As mentioned above, while it’s obviously important not to learn these articles or answers off by heart, this can be a good technique to practice talking about what you’ve read aloud and linking your research to a current debate.
3. Structure answers using the STARR technique
The STARR technique is great to use when you’re asked a question such as ‘tell me about a situation when you saw good leadership skills’ or ‘give us an example of when you worked in a team and it was successful’. This doesn’t need to be repeated for every answer, but it can be very helpful to get you started if you’re struggling to structure your answers. This is the STARR technique:
Situation: what is the context of your point?
For example: you were one of the organisers of your school’s medical society
Task: what was the task at hand?
For example: to organise a medic to deliver a talk at your medical society
Action: what did you personally do to complete the task? This should be the longest section of your answer.
For example: you contacted the medic, arranged the logistics and planned the event with your team
Result: what happened as a direct result of your actions?
For example: the team behind the medical society learned excellent organisation and communication skills while running the event, it was an incredibly useful talk for the society’s members
Reflection: were you satisfied with your actions? This is the most important part of the answer.
For example: the event was very important in connecting the medical society members together and you learned the importance of teamwork and communication within a team – and that this is especially important for working in Medicine
To get to grips with this technique, you could jot down a few answers to questions from the Question Bank. This will work particularly well if you’re a visual or linguistic learner. Try plotting a few answers in this style.
To practice verbalising this, you could write the above STARR points down on a card and give this to a friend (you could use this in conjunction with the flashcards you may have made in Point 1) so they can prompt you during your answers to give an example, or to reflect on your actions. By practising in this way, you’ll become familiar with this structure and can implement this in your real interview.
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This is a perfect way to practice from the comfort of your bedroom! Via video recordings, you’ll be asked questions by the Dean Emeritus of the Royal Society of Medicine and a panel of doctors - and you’ll then receive a detailed feedback report on your performance.