You’ve done it! Somehow you’ve conned the people at one or two of the medical schools you applied to that you’re a smart and a fairly decent human being that they wouldn’t mind training up to save people’s lives. Bravo. Just one little thing: they want to meet you first. The good news is that your friends at The Medic Portal are here to give you a helping hand. From having been on both sides of the interview table we know what goes on in the interview room (and how to answer those scary medical school interview questions), so keep calm and read on.
I know what you’re probably thinking, you’ll step into that interview room and the interviewers are going to go bad cop on you. It’s true that some interviewers can be tough with their medical school interview questions, but most of them just want the best candidates they can get. They’ll have a list of qualities that they want you to show. In a short space of time you have to demonstrate you have both the passion and the skill set to be a successful medical student and doctor. I know it sounds like Mission Impossible, but every doctor you’ve met so far has had to do the same.
First up, make sure you know what kind of interview you’re heading into by checking the university website. Then you’ll know what kind of medical school interview questions to expect. Basically there are two main types of interview: traditional (panel) and MMI. Traditional consists of between 2-5 people sat across from you taking turns to ask you questions, which tends to last around 15 minutes. In an MMI, you will go to several different ‘stations’ each aimed at testing different skill sets. Each station lasts around 7 minutes, but this varies between med schools, as does the number of stations – this information is usually available online.
The best way to prep for any type of medical school interview question is to practice, so get someone to interview you. You can bet that in any type of interview you’ll get hit with an Ethics question, so have a friend or family member ask you a few from our Ethics Question Bank. If you’re ever stuck, just take a deep breath and walk yourself through the four principles of medical ethics: beneficence, non-maleficence, justice and autonomy.
Remember to answer the question! Some candidates are so keen to say something, that they’re determined to say it, whether or not it’s anything to do with the question they were asked. As with most exams (I’m sure you’ve sat one or two) not answering your medical school interview questions won’t score particularly highly.
Secondly, never dive straight into a question you’re not sure about. It’s far better to take a moment and come out with a well thought out answer than to waffle for a while to buy yourself some time, and then come out with a half-decent answer. I’ve got a little tip for you: to show you’re actually thinking reeeeally hard and not just panicking madly, look up above the interviewer’s head and pause for a while. When you have your brilliant answer re-establish eye contact and shoot. Sounds silly, but trust me – it works. Don’t guess at random – if you don’t know then say ‘I’m sorry, but I’m not sure, but from what I know about something similar I would think that…’
During the interview, flaunting your talents without coming across as arrogant can be a tricky tightrope to walk. The general rule is show your passion. However, unless the medical school interview questions they pose ask you about how you’ve shown a certain quality, avoid just mentioning it. You can strut your stuff in a myriad of other ways. For example, they may ask you about your work experience. When talking about your work experience, how you convey what you’ve done is as crucial as the actual substance of what you’ve done. What’s the point of doing all those hours of working in a care home, or navigating the maze of acquiring GP and consultant work experience if you can’t show it off? Here’s a little magic formula. Say what you did, then (and here’s the kicker) what you learned from the experience. Funnily enough, interviewers want to know you’re eager to learn, and that you actually paid attention in your work experience!
You need to think about body language. It seems trivial, but it really is a crucial part of how you come across to the interviewer. Legs and arms need to be uncrossed – you can’t seem to be too comfy, and to some people you may seem slightly closed off or disinterested. Sit up and don’t slouch, if anything lean slightly forward to show interest. Eye contact is important. If there’s just one person interviewing you (MMI style) then keep regular eye contact. When there’s more than one person it can be slightly tricker, just make sure you share the love around.
To summarise: information is power. A good example is how the interviewers will expect you to be up to date on medical issues (see all things junior doctors). You should have at least one medical article up your sleeve. So keep an eye on our NHS Hot Topics to help you prepare for your medical school interview questions. I know it’s easy to say and hard to do, but relax! You’ve done all the work. This is the part where you get to really show people why you’re passionate about the subject, rather than just drearily plugging a bunch of facts and figures into UCAS. And when it’s over, you’ll hopefully have a place at one of the many fine medical schools this country has to offer. Good luck!
Words: Tristan, 29th October 2015
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