Getting into Medicine

How to Prepare for Medical School Interviews

It’s coming up to the time of year a medical school applicant dreads. Interview season. The feeling when you see the email notification of an invitation to interview is indescribable, and shows that the hard work up until this point has paid off. But it also comes with the dread that you have to prepare for this next hurdle. Take a minute to congratulate yourself, but now the hard work starts again.

It sounds like a scary topic, but medical school interviews are very varied and some are not the horror stories you might imagine. This sounds crazy, but I actually really enjoyed one of my interviews, I felt like I built a rapport with a lot of the interviewers, and I felt like I was pushed to show off my capabilities, but in a good way, not a scary way. Anyway, I must have done something right as I got an offer and it’s where I’m studying medicine now.

If you’re looking ahead to interviews but you haven’t taken your BMAT or UCAT yet, I have posts on advice for those.

To help you get started on your interview preparation I’ve written this post to include: 

  • Useful resources
  • The different types of interviews and interview stations
  • How to prepare effectively
  • Common question topics and examples
  • Practical advice for the day of your interview

So get yourself a cup of tea or coffee and let me walk you through what you need to be doing!

Useful Resources

Websites

  • The Medic Portal
  • ISC Medical
  • Both great resources for everything to do with medical school interviews. They both offer paid courses but also have large question banks for free. The Medic Portal also explains some questions in depth and covers common mistakes made by applicants.

Books

YouTube

I obviously have to talk about the King of Medical YouTube himself, Ali Abdaal, who has some great videos on interview advice. But if you just search ‘medicine interview tips’ there’s loads of different videos that should be helpful.

For a full list of useful resources for applying to medicine, check out this post!


Different Types of Interviews

Traditional/Panel

Traditional interviews are conducted by one interviewer, or one set of interviewers, and all questions are asked in one setting, similar to what you would expect at a job interview. Traditional interviews are also more question-focused and you don’t really get scenario tasks such as role playing exercises. This style of interview is good because it allows you to build a rapport with your interviewer(s) and gives you time to relax into your settings and open up a bit more. Often the interview will develop into more of a back and forth conversation rather than continual quick fire questions.

Multiple Mini Interviews

This type of interview is broken down into multiple stations that you rotate around with a different interviewer at each station. Each university varies in the number and length of stations but there are usually around ten and last for around ten minutes each (they also give you time to move between stations). The good thing about MMI’s is that if you feel a station didn’t go particularly well, you get a fresh start with a new interviewer at the next station. In this style of interview it’s really important that when you leave a station, you forget about it and mentally prepare for the next one, don’t dwell on things that you might or might not have said.

Different types of station:

  • Traditional interview question – this involves answering a standard interview such as the ones included further on in this post. Whilst answering the question, the interviewer may prompt you and question you further to really test you.
  • Role Play – you may be asked to take part in a scenario with an actor. A common scenario is breaking bad news to someone, for example, you have run over their cat. It’s important to remember in these scenarios that you’re not being tested on your acting skills and you should react how you would genuinely, even if it is a bit difficult in such an artificial setting.
  • Group task – you may be asked to complete a station as a group, such as debating a particular ethical topic. Here it is important to contribute, but not overrule other members of the group.
  • Individual Task – you may be asked to complete a written task, these can be quite varied and may involve calculations or data analysis.

How they score interviews

Different universities score different aspects of the interviews and these will be weighted in different ways so make sure you look up your prospective universities scoring procedure prior to your interview. How they use your interview score may also vary, for example, some universities will base their decision to make you an offer solely on your interview performance, whereas other universities may take it into consideration along with your UCAT/BMAT performance and your personal statement. Most universities have detailed selection criteria on their websites, and are normally quite open about how they score interviews and how they use those scores in their decision making.


How to Prepare

Note!

Don’t wait until you get an invitation to interview to start preparing, you should start preparing as early as possible. Some universities can give less than two weeks notice of an interview, and that just isn’t enough time to prepare properly, especially if you are studying alongside interview prep.

Start of with some basic research:

  • Research current topics in the NHS, health news, etc. Interviewers may ask your opinions on current events, which is going to be really difficult to answer if you don’t have a clue about what’s going on. Memorise key statistics about current topics to really impress.
  • Read about the history of the NHS, who started it, when etc. Look at the GMC’s Good Medical Practice and other key topics such as the four pillars of ethics.
  • Start reading medical journals or at least find some articles that you find interesting and could talk about in an interview, without feeling out of your depth
  • Review your work experience diary

When you get an invitation to interview:

  • Research that particular medical school: their style of teaching, prosection vs dissection, a particular area of study that they are researching at the moment. 
  • You should also research the interview format: traditional or MMI? number of stations, what they assess, what you’re expected to bring, how long it lasts etc
  • Research the top four common health problems in the city or area the university is in.

Once you’ve done some research:

  • Collate common interview questions. Use question banks and books to make a list of common interview questions and prepare how you would answer them. There is an almost endless possibility of questions they could ask you, so don’t expect to get them all, but they can be quite similar to one another, so you may be able to adapt your answers. I have included a list of common interview topics and example questions below for you to get started. 
  • Make mind maps on popular question topics.
  • Have key points but don’t memorise answers. You can have key points that you want to include in your answer but don’t memories your answers completely as this sounds really robotic and doesn’t come across well in an interview
  • Practice in front of a mirror or record yourself. This is to make sure that you don’t fidget whilst you answer questions.
  • Get family and friends to ask you interview questions. You might want to start off more informal as you get used to answering the questions and then get more formal. Before your interview you should have practised having a formal interview a few times. You also need to practice answering succinctly and not waffle on. You can do this by practicing giving 8 minute presentations (particularly useful if the interview is MMI)
  • Practice role play stations. Get one of your friends or family members to be the actor in the scenario. You don’t want the first time you try to do this to be your actual interview.

Common Question Topics

THE AGE OLD QUESTION: Why Medicine?

In fact it’s so common that some universities don’t ask it anymore because they know it’s the one question that applicants will have prepared an answer for. Even if they don’t ask it as much anymore, it’s still a really important question to consider, because you should know why you want to do medicine. Why are you choosing to subject yourself to five years of university, basically the hardest and most stressful course there is, and tens of thousands of pounds worth of debt? Surely you should think about this before you actually start. 

The cliché is, of course, ‘to help people’ and whilst this can be your answer, it definitely shouldn’t be the only thing you say. Try to think of about three reasons you want to study medicine and build an explanation around these points. Even if they don’t ask you this question in an interview, you’ll be able to look back years later when you’re crying into a textbook thinking ‘why did I do this?’ and remind yourself exactly why.

Motivation to Study Medicine

  • What have you done in order to prepare yourself for medicine?
  • Why do you want to be a doctor rather than a nurse or a Physician’s Associate?
  • Why do you think students drop out of doing medicine?

Knowledge of Medicine and the Medical School

  • What do you like the most and least about our medical school?
  • Medicine involves a lot of independent study, what previous experience of independent study have you had?
  • Can you tell me what problems the NHS has aside from lack of funding?

Depth of Interest

  • Talk to me about an interesting article you have seen in a medical publication
  • In your opinion, what was the greatest medical discovery in the last 100 years?
  • Do you do anything outside of studying that demonstrates your interest in medicine?

Ethics and Tolerance of Ambiguity

  • Would you prescribe the oral contraceptive pill to a 14-year old girl who is having sex with her boyfriend?
  • What are your opinions on euthanasia
  • Do you think the NHS should offer treatments for self-inflicted diseases and conditions?

Empathy

  • Give an example of a situation where you have helped a friend in a difficult situation
  • What do the words empathy and sympathy mean to you? Which is a more important trait in a doctor?
  • An ex-alcoholic patient has just been told that they have irreparable liver damage, what thoughts and feelings do you think they are experiencing?

Personal Insight

  • What do you think the most difficult part of medical school will be and how do you plan to deal with it?
  • How have you developed your communication skills?
  • How do you cope with criticism and do you think there is such a thing as positive criticism?

Team Working and Leadership

  • Tell me about a group activity that you organised, what went well and what could have gone better?
  • Are you a leader or a follower?
  • Who do you think will be the key members of your team whilst working as a doctor?

Work Experience

  • Tell me about an experience during your work experience that you found quite challenging
  • What did you learn from your work experience that helped you decide you wanted to pursue medicine?
  • Give me an example from your work experience that highlighted the importance of good communication in healthcare.

Creativity and Imagination

  • Describe as many uses as you can for a mobile phone charger
  • If you could invent anything in the world, what would it be?
  • If you had to leave your house forever and could only take one thing from it with you, what would it be?

On the Day of the Interview

  • Stay close to the interview the night before. If your interview is in another city and it’s early on, consider staying over in that city the night before the interview. This year it may be slightly different as most universities are doing virtual interviews.
  • Make sure you’ve done the preparation, not leaving it until the last minute. The last thing you want to be doing on the morning of your interview is suddenly looking for examples of journal articles that you can talk about. Get your preparation started early to avoid this.
  • Have your interview outfit ready and clean and ironed. Just because you might be being interviewed from your own home does not mean that you should look unprofessional. Your outfit should be clean, ironed and formal. Your hair should be well groomed and any makeup should look natural.
  • Eat breakfast. Even if you normally don’t eat breakfast or you feel too nervous, you should try to eat something, you will be able to focus so much better.
  • Review key notes, don’t spend ages studying. Have a few flashcards of key things that you want to review on the morning of your interview, but don’t spend ages studying all your notes.
  • Arrive in plenty of time. Again this will probably be different if you’re taking your exam virtually, but the same rules apply. Make sure your computer is working properly, you don’t have any connectivity issues and you’re ready and waiting for your interview. The last thing you need is your laptop to update five minutes before your interview start time.

In the Interview

  • When you go into/start your interview, remember: you have got this far because they like who you are as an applicant and think that you stand a good chance of being accepted. For most universities it is harder to get an interview invitation than it is to get an offer, so you’re likely well on your way to receiving an offer. Be confident in yourself, the interviewers want you to be successful.
  • Never lie. They will always catch you out.
  • Be professional. Don’t swear, use slang or be derogatory.
  • Take a moment to think about the answer. It’s much better to take a moment to construct your answer than to rush into saying something and end up waffling on about something that’s not even related to the question.
  • If the interviewer asks for elaboration, they are trying to help you showcase your achievements, show yourself off!
  • Don’t just be a robot, they want to see your personality. Be formal but if they initiate a more informal conversation then don’t be afraid to be a little bit more relaxed. Although don’t forget that you are in an interview and there are still professional limits to the conversation. 
  • Don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat the question. It’s better to clarify the question that waffle on about what you thought they said.
  • Maintain good eye contact. If there are multiple interviewers make sure you interact and make eye contact with both of them roughly equally.
  • Answer the actual question they’re asking, not what you want them to ask. This is why it’s better to have key points to your answers not to memorise them completely because often the question will be similar to something you have practised, but not exactly the same.
  • Don’t rush, take your time in answering the question. As you are answering the question, you may think of more points that you want to add in.
  • Turn your phone off, but preferably don’t take it into the interview with you.
  • In role play stations, if you have nothing else to say, don’t feel the need to keep rambling on just for the sake of it.
  • If they offer their hand, give a firm handshake.
  • Don’t ask your own questions unless they invite you to do so.
  • Thank them for their time at the end of the interview/station.

After the Interview

Relax, reward yourself, medical school interviews are mentally and physically draining.

Don’t sit and analyse every answer you gave, there’s nothing you can do about it now. However, if you are fortunate to have multiple interview invitations, you should briefly evaluate your answers and consider what you could do differently or keep the same for your next interview.


I hope you found this useful! If you want any more advice or have any questions please feel free to email me or contact me on social media, I am more than happy to help (Duh, it’s why I started this blog in the first place)

A big thank you to my boyfriend and one of my best friends for helping me write this. They’re both in fourth year now so I definitely tested their memories with this, but it’s nice to get other people’s opinions so that I don’t just give a one sided view of the interview process.


Want to become a more productive student? Want to work on your personal development? Want to learn about how to get into medical school?

If you said YES to any of the above, then stick around because you’re in the right place!

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