Below is a selection of Medical School interview questions on the theme of ‘Knowledge of Medical School’.
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.
Knowledge of Medical School
Are you aware of the main method of teaching at this Medical School? What do you think are the advantages of this style of teaching?
It is absolutely essential that you know exactly what course structure the Medical School uses. Is it traditional/tutorial style, integrated, or PBL?
Read more about these course types generally on our website. But also read the university’s material to find out exactly how they use the structure. There are nuances involved
Make sure you are using very up-to-date information: universities change structure. For example, Cardiff now use a variation on PBL called Case-Based Learning (CBL)
Run through how the structure works — both in generally and specifically at this university – and, crucially, why you think it is an excellent way to learn and why it suits you very well
Focus more on the positives of the course structure they use, rather than fixating on the negatives of other systems
Some lecture-based advantages: dissemination of information is more consistent from lectures, and one can be sure that the information is correct and relevant to the course and exams. It means that everybody receives the same body of material, and thus a level playing field for the exams
Some PBL advantages: working in teams and developing people skills are central to the medical profession, and as such PBL can be a good way to simulate this working style. The earlier you get used to working together in teams, with the challenges this brings, the better
Be aware of whether the medical school does/does not offer dissection as part of the anatomy teaching, and be prepared to speak about the advantages of either approach
Not knowing the course type. Saying something like ‘I don’t really know but imagine that there will be a mixture of lectures and practical sessions’ is very unimpressive
Knowing the course type used but not being able to speak about it in detail. How can you commit to something to a number of years without understanding it?
Saying that it doesn’t really matter to you because you are confident in your ability to thrive in any learning environment. That’s not accurate: it does matter
Do you think cadaveric dissection is important for medical students?
First, you should know whether this is something that the Medical School you’re applying to does or not, and factor this into your thinking
On the positive side, it could be a good way to learn about the body, as plastic models and animations can only ever approximate anatomical structures
It also brings certain gravity to anatomy teaching, and dissecting a real human body can be a very inspiring and humbling experience
However, cadavers are not the only way to learn anatomy. Sometimes models can be helpful to generalise structures or represent things in a slightly different way that aids with one’s learning of a particular structure
Sometimes abstractions are the best way of learning about something, while seeing the real thing is the most effective way of understanding it. Therefore, a mix of cadaveric dissection and model-based teaching is probably a desirable thing
Not knowing what cadaveric dissection is. This is a key part of learning about the body and you have to get to grips with it
Not knowing what the university’s stance is. This leaves you playing an uncomfortable guessing game, where you do not know whether to expound the positives or be more withdrawn
Expressing trepidation (e.g. ‘I think I would find that revolting and probably wouldn’t want to try those sessions out’). The human body is what Medicine is all about
Saying that you don’t think that cadavers can be very useful, because doctors work with living patients and not dead ones
Why did you choose this medical school?
Make clear that you considered the type of teaching of the Medical School and how it is used, compared it to various others. This is where your knowledge of medical school is particularly important!
If course structure has not already been covered as a standalone question, make clear why you think that their course structure is a great fit for you
Pick out any key unique selling points that make this university stand out, and explain why you think they are important
Once you have covered the course, you can talk about the extracurricular activities and societies at the university
A good approach is to say that you are looking for somewhere that offers excellence in teaching, as well as good opportunities to get involved in extra-curricular activities
Make it clear that you are really passionate about their Medical School by saying something like ‘I would be delighted to have the chance to study here’’
Emphasising the location before anything else. For example, saying you want to attend a great institution like Imperial ‘because it’s in Central London and living in South Kensington would be cool.’ Start with the course!
Not knowing the course structure properly and consequently saying things that demonstrate a lack of knowledge of medical school, such as ‘I like the PBL teaching approach’ when PBL is not used there
Talking about anything to do with nightlife or bars!
Are you aware of the catchment area of the teaching hospitals that this Medical School has?
This is another essential to famiarise yourself with before the interview
First, you need to know the process: what is the relationship between Medical Schools and their teaching hospitals and how does this help improve your training towards becoming a doctor
It is essential you know which hospitals are associated with the Medical School, what they are like and where they are. They aren’t always very close!
Therefore, you will be able to tell them you know that the school is associated with hospitals in x area, and that you like the idea of being sent on placement to hospitals in that area
It is important as a Medical Student to get a window into as many parts of the NHS as possible, so being sent on placement to the various hospitals associated with this Medical School will be a good opportunity to do that
Not understanding the concept of teaching hospitals and how their association with the Medical School works
Not knowing which hospitals are associated with the university
Saying that you are aware that students can get sent to regional hospitals but that you hope that you are able to do all your placements in the city, as it will be far more convenient and exciting
This university offers a wide range of extra-curricular societies reflecting the diversity of students and courses we have here. If you were a student here, which societies would you be interested in joining?
Remember that some universities, like Imperial, place a lot of emphasis on extracurricular activity because it demonstrates you are a well-rounded candidate
If you are not interested in anything other than Medicine, you may look too insular, so you should have thought about this and had a look at what societies are available at the university
If there is something that you already do, like a sport, then that will be a natural thing to bring up. If you can cite something particular about this university’s club (e.g. their results last year) that is a plus
Example: I would like to get involved with the x (e.g. hockey) society, because it has been a hobby of mine for some years, and I feel I could contribute to the university team, who got to the semi-finals last year
If you do not have a natural fit, show that you are proactive and open-minded by speaking about some things you haven’t tried before but would like to at university
Example: I would like to try out x (e.g. karate), because I have not tried it before and I would really like to see if it is something I enjoy.
Example: I would like to learn about x (e.g. Arabic) because it has always fascinated me, but I have never had the opportunity to pursue this.
Being dismissive of extracurricular activities and not seeming like a well-rounded candidate. Saying something like ‘I imagine I will have too much studying to be doing to be getting involved in any activities like this’ is dangerous ground
Being closed minded and saying something like ‘trying new things is not something that I am really interested in’ or ‘I already am part of clubs for all of the activities that I enjoy doing, and so would not need to join any new student societies’
What would you do if you fell behind on this course?
Places at Medical School are precious commodities for universities. The course is also incredibly challenging. This question is designed to see if you have the self-awareness to recognise that things might go wrong – and that you know would deal with difficulty in the right way.
First of all, if you have done your research on the Medical School and know what pastoral care, learning support and peer support is on offer, then you are well placed to answer this question.
You will want to structure your answer by saying something like this: “Well, of course who I approached for help would depend on the nature of the problem I was having and how long I had been experiencing the problem for. But for serious problems, I would probably…”
And then run through an ordered list of the people you would turn to.
For serious problems, you would typically: Speak to your personal tutor first (who will direct you to the most appropriate Faculty member). Next would be the Course Director. Next would be the University Support team. You might also consider peer support (e.g. student peers or mentors) or asking the Students’ Union for support.
If you haven’t done any research and have no idea what support is offered by the university, then say that your first reaction would be to speak to a member of the Faculty and seek the help and support you felt you would need to get back on track. (Then do your research for your next interview!)
If you have experience of failure or difficulties studying (but have overcome them), then feel free to speak about them. It shows experience and resilience – but phrase it in the right way so that it doesn’t come across as a weakness (i.e. DON’T SAY: ‘Oh I always seem to struggle with everything at first…’).
Saying ‘I don’t know’ or not knowing enough about the Medical School to know what kind of support is provided.
Saying that you have never failed before and do not expect to at Medical School.
What is your knowledge of the health of the local population?
Your answer should aim to show an interest in the local area in which you will be based as a medical student, where you are likely to interact with patients on placements.
It is a good idea to comment on prevalent diseases in the local population. For example, in East London, there is a high prevalence of tuberculosis.
You may wish to speak about how the health of the local population is affected. Are there a string of fast food outlets and lack of healthy alternatives available in the local area? Can you briefly explain how this kind of diet affects people’s health?
If the medical school or associated teaching hospitals have been involved in any public health campaigns recently, mention them and how you think they will aim to improve the health of local people.
Is there a trend that is clear to see? You may wish to comment on people becoming healthier or a decline in health.
Are there any cultural factors involved? People from different backgrounds have differing approaches to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Interacting with a diverse population with different health conditions is useful in the training and experience of a medical student and doctor. Mention how this is likely to make you a better doctor in future.
If you have met a patient with a condition typical of the local population to the medical school, you may wish to reflect on that experience.
Being too critical of people for their ill health. Often people suffer from conditions which are far out of their control. Showing empathy is a huge part of being a doctor.
Not knowing about the general health of the local area. Even if there may not be any unique diseases that are prevalent in that area, there is always a common health condition you can mention.
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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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