Below is a selection of Medical School interview questions on the theme of ‘Depth and Breadth of Interest’.
The answer guides have been put together by medics who have successfully navigated interviews at top Medical Schools.
Remember, though, that an interview is about an individual, so there are no hard and fast rules. The answer guides are only examples and are not exhaustive. They should be used to stimulate your thinking — not repeated verbatim at your interview.
Depth and Breadth of Interest
Do you read any publications that are relevant to your interest in medicine? Tell us about an interesting article that you have read recently.
This is an opportunity to demonstrate that you have explored your interest in medicine in your own time, outside of your school curriculum and work experience.
New Scientist and Scientific American are a couple of examples of publications that produce content relevant to an interest in medicine. They both have articles that are available online without a subscription, although you may choose to subscribe for access to more of their content.
Prepare in advance. It is worth having a few articles that you have read in mind in case a question like this comes up. You should be able to give a brief explanation of what they were about so be sure to glance over them again ahead of the interview to jog your memory.
When you give your example, explain why you found that article so interesting or exciting. You want your enthusiasm for the subject of medicine to come across.
Throwing out the name of a publication or online resource that you are not actually familiar with. You will probably not be able to back this up if you have not read any of their articles and a mistake like that could really derail your interview.
Not looking back at the article ahead of time. You do not want to be trying to recall an article that you read weeks or months ago on the spot.
Have you heard about any public health campaigns recently? What is your opinion on the role of public health campaigns in medicine?
Public health campaigns aim to raise public awareness about issues like the dangers of smoking or sun exposure, for example. They are important because they promote a healthier lifestyle which is intended to reduce the prevalence of disease in the population in the long run.
Give an example of a recent campaign that you have heard about. This can be researched ahead of time.
Act FAST is one example of a public health campaign which aims to spread awareness of the symptoms of stroke using the ‘FAST’ acronym to help people know when to call 999. Other examples can be found on Public Health England’s Campaign Resources website under ‘Campaigns’.
Discuss your opinion on the importance of public health campaigns. What is their purpose? Do you think they are generally effective or ineffective? Do you think the funding for this type of campaign is money well spent?
Not having an example ready. It will not take you long to research this beforehand and it is better if you’re able to discuss a specific campaign rather than giving a vague answer.
Failing to mention the long term aim of public health campaigns which is generally to help reduce the prevalence of disease in society.
Have you thought about what you would like to specialise in?
You don’t have to be certain. In fact, if you are it might seem a little strange, since you are only 17 and have a lot to learn. So make sure you are interested but open
Pick something that might interest you to show awareness of the specialities out there. This is your chance to show off about a book you’ve read, research you’ve followed, or a time (maybe on work experience) when you’ve truly been inspired
If you are going to choose something, it might be better if it is a general speciality because it shows you are still open to the wider possibilities Medicine offers. Choosing something too niche might make it seem like you are studying Medicine as a whole for the wrong reasons
Your answer should be focused on your interest: why a certain pathway appeals to you and how skills you already have now match that speciality
Know how long training for your chosen speciality is. They may ask you and it’s good to show you have done some research and have realistic expectations.
Make it clear that you’re aware that your view can change; that you’re excited to be exposed to all aspects of Medicine; and that you’ve got 5/6 years (hopefully at this Medical School) to make that decision.
Being overly specific. There’s a danger of getting questioned on topics you don’t understand. In this case, never lie. Talk about the experience/knowledge of this speciality that you do have – and admit you don’t know it all
Being negative about certain specialities. You don’t really know enough about any aspect of Medicine yet to rule out anything and you need to show them your hunger to learn new things
Have you read about any interesting research recently?
Have a specific example ready. There’s always research in the news. They don’t expect you to know everything back to front, but as a rule it’s good to have awareness about as much as possible and a deep understanding about a few select topics
When introducing some research, don’t waffle. Mention the key points: topic, method, outcome, what you found interesting. If the interviewers want to know more then they will probe further
Strongly consider looking at the research that the Medical School has recently put out. You could pick one of those studies to talk about. You will score extra points for pointing out that certain research was pioneered at a certain medical school/hospital
Mentioning an unreliable source, such as a tabloid newspaper. If you do, say that you looked up the original study or that you looked at the NHS news app which presents unbiased analysis of the health stories in the news and provides the main points of the studies/claims
Saying you’ve read something you haven’t or pretending to know something you don’t. If you don’t know the answer to a specific question, don’t panic. They want to find out what you do know. You can show off your independent thinking and potential by stating that whilst you don’t know, maybe it has to do with
What have you learnt about Medicine from the doctors you’ve spoken to?
Talk about the doctors you’ve encountered on your work experience, or through other interactions, perhaps on a personal level, as a patient or a relative of a patient
Show understanding of the daily schedule of a (specific type of) doctor: what they do routinely, what challenges they face and the ways in which they overcome the challenges (through team work, communication skills etc.)
Show a realistic understanding of working hours, job stress, and the huge responsibility that doctors carry. But balance this by talking about the rewarding aspects of the job and how stress can be managed
Acknowledge that there’s so much more to learn and that’s there’s some aspects which you can only fully understand through experience
Basing your answer on opinions. Stay focused on the practical aspects of Medicine that you’ve learnt about
Being overly negative. While realism is appreciated, you must also showcase your determination, positivity and appetite for a challenge
What do you think is the most exciting development in Medicine recently?
Do the work before the interview
Keep up to date with medical news in the build up to your interview and keep interesting articles about medical developments. Read around them and add them to your personal portfolio so you can revisit them before interview
Pick a specific example which really stands out to you. It should be one that will benefit a lot of people — or has the potential to do so in the future
Be clear and concise in your description: what it is, who’s working on it, where did you come across it and why you think it’s significant/interesting
Say how you think it will affect clinical practice and better the lives of patients. By thinking about this ahead of time, rather than in real time in the interview chair, you will come across as a strong candidate
Getting too technical. Yes, it looks good if you can speak with some authority on the science. But stick to what you are comfortable with and understand
Relying on a poor source. If you start talking about something based on a tabloid article, you might come unstuck. Stick to authoritative sources, like the NHS, BBC, Student BMJ or New Scientist
What do you think the most important development in Medicine has been?
As with a creative question (such as how much does the Earth weigh?) this question requires you to vocalise your thought process in answering the question.
Let the interviewer know your thought process by starting with a phrase like: ‘There are several different ways that one could answer that question, all of which centre around how we define importance in medical innovation. For instance, if we were to define importance as reducing preventable deaths…’
Some of the areas to think about would include the introduction of the scientific method to Medicine (which led to the practice of evidence-based medicine); the revolution in medical training through the development of teaching hospitals (look up William Osler); the discovery of antibiotics and cellular biology; the use of propaganda and politics to improve public health (see Stoptober or Change4Life); the institutionalisation and centralisation of medicine through Hospitals; the introduction of technology into Medicine (not just in terms of X-Rays and dialysis machines, but also ordinary computers).
Bring in your own reading and work experiences to highlight your engagement in Medicine during the application process. For example, discuss the CT scan that you saw and its clinical importance.
You MUST finish by saying what single thing you would choose above everything else!
Remember as with all open-ended interview questions, your main job is to communicate that you have undertaken a wide range of reading and work experience that is informing your answer. But also that you are logical enough to choose one thing and explain why you have chosen it.
Not answering the question by selecting the most important development. Instead, listing a whole range of developments and saying they are equally important.
Not having done enough broader reading to be able to answer the question.
Have you taken on any extracurricular projects that demonstrate your interest in Medicine?
Good examples include research placements, EPQs, essays, blogs, first aid training – and any other type of healthcare-based work outside the regular science curriculum
Example: some sixth forms encourage students to become health champions and educate other students on issues such as alcohol abuse and obesity. If your school doesn’t do this, why not suggest it? Then you can say you pioneered it at interview
Speak about your involvement with your Medical Society at school. If you are not heavily involved, correct this before your interview. If your school doesn’t have a Medsoc, start one! There’s a guide in the Teacher Services section of our website
Start by briefly introducing and explaining the project. Then focus on why you chose it, what you learnt and what particular aspects of the project you enjoyed the most.
Indicate that undertaking said project has inspired you take on similar projects in the future. Bonus points for linking this with the structure of the university’s course (SSCs, library projects, intercalated degrees etc.)
Getting too caught up in the technicalities of the specific project. The most important aspect of your answer should be demonstrating your interest, and your willingness to put in time outside of your studies to pursue your interest. Don’t give everything away; they can always ask follow up questions
Giving the impression that what you’ve done so far is the only thing that you’re interested in. You should state that you want to learn about and take on new and different medically-related projects as well
How important is evidence based practice in medicine?
Have a clear understanding of the definition of evidence based practice in medicine. It is often abbreviated to EBM (evidence-based medicine) in literature.
Get across the notion that you understand how it is important to be up-to-date with recent high quality research that you can translate into clinical practice.
Mention good sources of information that are available to assist you such as NICE guidelines.
It may be good to come up with a specific example of how medical practice has changed over the years to demonstrate the importance of evidence based medicine.
Mention the possible risk to patient care if evidence based medicine is not followed.
Talk about the varying level of quality evidence available in different areas of medicine. For example, there may only be a few research papers that have been published in a very niche area which affects only a few patients in the whole world.
Show an understanding of how evidence based medicine combines high quality research with personal clinical experience and patient preferences.
If you saw evidence based medicine in action during your work experience, mention it and how you think it improved patient care.
Regurgitating word for word definitions on evidence based medicine. Come up with your own wording.
Focusing too much on what evidence based medicine is and not mentioning how important it is in medicine, which is what the question is asking.
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*According to an article in the Journal of Medical Regulation, A Census of Actively Licensed Physicians in the United States, 2016, vol. 103. no 2.
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