Whether you’re preparing for an MMI or a traditional interview, timing is key. This blog will detail our top tips on how to manage your answer length.
1. Judge by the format of your interview – and then prepare
This is important! At an MMI, your timing is very much decided for you. Most stations will last around eight to ten minutes, but most universities will say how long their stations last on their website – so a good way to prepare might be to practice your answers within that time slot to get used to it.
For example, if your medical school has a minute’s break between stations, two minutes to read the question and six minutes to answer, then try practising in this format with a friend (and a phone with a stopwatch!). This will ensure you’re not worried about timing on the day.
At a traditional interview, your timing is all down to you! This can be quite daunting as you may not know how long your answers should be. There’s no strict rule for this, but we recommend answering an open-ended ‘Why Medicine?’ kind of question with three clear points and explanations.
Making six or seven points in an answer is excessive – and, equally, a twenty second answer is too short. You can practice using our Interview Question Bank, and answering in a three-point format.
2. Use an answer technique to manage your timing
This will work well for traditional interviews, and those stations at the MMI which ask more traditional interview questions.
The STARR technique is a good way to structure your answers for less open-ended questions, such as ‘Tell me about a time you worked well in a team’. The STARR format is as follows:
Situation: One brief line outlining the example
Task: What was involved?
Action: How you approached and performed the task
Result: What was the outcome/achievement?
Reflection: What did you learn and how will you apply it?
Try to practice more example-based questions, such as those on work experience or teamwork, using this format – and perhaps ask a friend to test you and prompt you to answer along these lines. This can keep you from rambling, or spending too much time on one example while forgetting to specify what you learned from it.
This doesn’t need to be followed step-by-step if it doesn’t suit the question, but it can be a good technique to remember if you’re struggling to structure your answers!
3. Think about the weighting of your answers
This will be a good way to manage timing – for example, if you measure how long you spend on each section of an answer, you may find that you’re spending a minute on explaining a certain situation on your work placement, but only thirty seconds on what you learned from the experience. This may be an indication that you need to spend less time on explaining the details and more time on your reflection.
Another good way to structure your answer is to use signposting if you find yourself drifting from the question, such as ‘secondly’ or ‘for example’. This indicates that you’re making a further point or demonstrating a skill with an example – and can also be useful in setting yourself on the right track if you feel you’ve rambled.
Interview answers are not an exact science, so don’t feel you need to stick rigorously to the three-point rule or STARR technique if it doesn’t feel right – these are just some useful ways to structure your answers if you find yourself struggling. As long as you try your best to answer the question as fully as you can, you’ll do well. Good luck!
Preparing for your interview for 2020 entry? Try our one-day Interview Course!
Our bespoke tutoring sessions are entirely tailored to suit your needs and can cover MMI, Oxbridge, Traditional Interviews, interview strategies or full mock interviews to help practice your timing. Book your space today!