Looking for medical school interview tips? We speak to an admissions tutor on their top tips for students preparing for their interviews – read them below!
1. Do be yourself
I really can’t stress this enough. The point of a medical school interview isn’t to test how well you can prepare for an interview: it’s to determine whether you and medicine are right for each other. If you pretend to be someone different from the person you really are you are this can’t happen. You might end up gaining a place for a course and career that you will not succeed in, or you might end up convincing the interviewers that you’re a brash, over-confident salesperson when you are actually a quietly sincere and caring person who is trying to project a false personality.
2. Don’t assume questions have a correct answer
Most medical school interview questions don’t have a “correct” answer. The interviewer wants to know what you actually think about something, not what orthodox opinion is or what someone else has told you to say. If you try to guess what answer the interviewer wants to hear – rather than say what you actually think – you will find it very difficult to justify your answer when you are asked to explain it. In any interview station where you are asked to express an opinion the interviewer will almost always disagree with you (no matter what their own opinion is) – we want you to explain why you think something, not just tick a box for the “correct” answer.
3. Do use examples to illustrate your answers
Interviewers are not going to take your word for anything: you have to provide evidence. If you are asked about how you have contributed positively to a team, for example, you are not going to get much credit for just saying you were in team X and it achieved Y. You have to explain what your contribution was, and ideally give an example of a situation where you demonstrated important characteristics or skills (patience, tact, negotiation, resilience, initiative, etc) to help the team achieve something. Remember that team-working isn’t only about leadership: people fulfilling the roles they’ve been given as well as they can is what makes teams work.
4. Don’t play buzzword bingo
This is something I particularly dislike. I don’t want to hear interview candidates trotting out technical terms, whether they be acronyms for medical/surgical procedures or ethical principles: I want to hear them demonstrating that they understand key issues. If you are presented with a scenario that raises significant ethical questions it is much more important to demonstrate that you can identify those questions and discuss them than it is to use a textbook term for an ethical principle. If you use technical terms that you clearly don’t understand the interviewer will not be impressed. If you keep using jargon the interviewer is likely to conclude that you are unable to communicate effectively with non-specialists.
5. Do engage with the interviewer
The interviewer has been asked to assess a particular aspect of your application. Particularly in an MMI, the interviewer will have to focus on that aspect and can’t take anything else into account. It is therefore vital that you listen to the interviewer’s questions and engage in a dialogue to make sure you get as much evidence as possible of your strengths in the particular aspect being assessed. If you answer a different question from the one you were asked there is a very real chance that you will score no marks, especially if you keep talking without looking for signals from the interviewer and run out of time before they have a chance to clarify or to ask a further question. Effective communication is essential for a future doctor; communication involves listening just as much as it involves talking.
6. Don’t pretend to be a doctor
Some MMIs include role-play scenarios. These can take a variety of different forms, so it is unwise to try to rehearse for a particular scenario. What you should be aware of, however, is that it is very unlikely that you will be expected to act the part of a doctor in a scenario. Unless specifically instructed otherwise, you should approach the role-play scenario as if it were something happening to you for real now (i.e. at your present age and stage of education), demonstrating your own personal qualities (empathy, compassion, etc.) and skills (communication, negotiation, etc.).
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