Medical and Dental School Interviews

Last updated: 19/08/2021

Dreaming of that place in medical or dental school?

Interviews are your chance to make the right impression and show that you’ve thought this through.

What you will find in this article

Understanding the different types of interviews

The best ways to prepare for your interview

The types of questions you might be asked

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Medical school interview information

Dental school interview information

The article is designed to get you started. To make sure you’re fully prepared, buy our medical school interview course, which includes a highly detailed, book-length guide covering must-know terms, essential questions, model answer frameworks and crucial tips and tricks. All for just £20!

Types of interview

1. Understanding the types of interviews is key to being prepared

Medical schools have different ways of interviewing applicants: The most common are panel interviews and multiple mini-interviews (MMIs), though if you are applying to Oxford or Cambridge, you’ll have a completely different kind of interview.

How do panel interviews and MMIs compare?

Panel Interviews

Multiple Mini Interviews (MMIs)

A small panel of interviewers. One will pose a question while others take notes. Questions are rotated around the panel.

Applicants move through multiple stations consisting of scenarios or questions. Each station is designed to test a specific aspect of the individual.

Time is not as much of a factor, and you can go into greater detail.

At 5-10 minutes per station, you have to be concise.

You may be asked about your personal statement by every examiner.

Your personal statement is likely to be covered only at one station.

You can build up rapport with the examiners due to the 20-30 minutes you spend talking to them.

Rapport is harder to create due to the frenetic nature of this type of interview.

Usually 2-3 examiners If you give a poor answer, it is witnessed by every examiner.

Mistakes will only be noted by the examiner(s) at the station(s) where you make them.

2. How do you prepare for panel interviews?

  • Practise waiting to give your answer

Even though you don’t have time to prepare, you should take a few moments after you’ve been asked the question to quickly arrange your thoughts so that you can give a clear answer rather than a jumbled answer. Asking for a moment can actually give a great impression.

  • Practise speaking to groups of people

It is important to create rapport with the whole panel of examiners. When you’re in social situations, practice making eye contact with the whole group and making sure everyone feels listened to.

3. How do you prepare for MMIs?

We go into greater detail in our MMI article, but as a broad overview, you can prepare by working on the following:

  • Time management

Train yourself with a strict time limit of about 7–8 minutes to answer questions, learn to respond to prompts adequately in this timeframe. 

  • Simulating the structure of the interview

Since each station is like the start of a new interview, the structure takes some getting used to.

Simulate the interview by asking friends or family to ask you typical interview questions at separate stations. This can create some familiarity with the format, which will be a huge help on the day.

University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge

4. Oxford and Cambridge medical interview prep

Oxbridge’ (Oxford and Cambridge) interviews are designed to see how you deal with unfamiliar questions. The interview format is similar to their teaching style and they want to see if you would thrive in this environment.

Be prepared for random topics designed to test your problem-solving skills. Explain your thought process to the interviewer. 

An example of these kinds of questions:

  • What is the concentration of water?
  • How would you weigh a mountain?
  • How is a city like a cell?

You could also be presented with an X-ray or the results of an experiment to discuss. You don’t need to have an in-depth knowledge of X-ray images, but the interviewer will give you some hints and cues, which you should use when discussing your answer. 

Take on board everything the interviewer tells you to increase your chances of giving a good answer.

Top preparation tips for Oxford and Cambridge interviews:

  • Revise your A-Level content/School Curriculum

Make sure it’s fresh in your mind, as it can help answer questions

  • Read beyond your curriculum

Your interviewer will ask you science-based questions, so the more you read the more confident you’ll feel to answer their questions. Wider reading also shows that you have a passion for the subject.

  • Practise answering creative questions

These questions can be tough as they are unpredictable. Your mind may go blank at first, but with practice you can improve - even with so-called extemporaneous communication. Ask a friend or family member to fire unusual questions at you. You could also practise alone by looking up previous questions and quickly jotting down bullet points without preparation.

Students preparing for their interview

General interview preparation

1. The basics of medical and dental interview preparation

a) Work out your strengths and weaknesses

  • Make a comprehensive list of your positive and negative attributes framed around a healthcare context. Be honest.
  • Don’t try the classic trick of presenting one of your strengths as a weakness by saying something like 'I’m a perfectionist' or 'I work too hard'. Interviewees can tell that you’re dodging the question and that you haven’t really done much self-reflection.
  • Don’t say anything that is a major red flag for medicine or dentistry like 'I struggle to communicate with people', or 'I don’t work well under pressure'.
  • Discuss how you’re planning on improving these weaknesses.

b) Read as much as you can

Here are 5 books to read before medical school interviews.

Not much of a reader? Here's our top 5 podcasts for medical students.

Also read these two essential guides:

NHS values

Good Medical Practice guide

Read articles on ethics and other relevant topics, so you’re as well informed as possible. The more topics you’re familiar with, the more you can talk about.

Top 5 medical podcasts to learn about the world of medicine
Follow Medify’s Instagram account to get tips and advice on current medical stories - just the kind of thing you can talk about in your interview.

c) Stay up to date with current affairs

Know what’s going on in the healthcare, biomedical and medical fields. When you read news articles on non-healthcare related issues, think about how it can impact the medical and dental fields. 

Keep up to date while you’re on the go with the BBC news app. If anything in particular interests you then write it down along with where you found it. With this technique, you can mention where you found your information when discussing current affairs in your interview. This will make you sound much more credible. 

That being said, only talk about news you’ve found through respectable sources. It’s probably not a good idea to talk about things you’ve found on Reddit or Youtube.

How to identify fake news

d) Make a skills bank

It can be hard to think of ideas under pressure.

Few of us can recall a time we showed resilience or leadership on the spot. So in preparation for this kind of question, make yourself a bank of examples to show when you used a certain skill and reflect on it.

Here’s an example of what your skills bank could look like:

Quality

Example

Reflection

Good communication skills

'Had to explain percentages and fractions to a 10-year-old I was tutoring.'

Communication approach varies based on who you’re speaking to. It’s important to listen well in order to communicate well.

Ability to take responsibility for your own actions

‘Bumped into my neighbor's car, apologised and paid in full.’

Didn’t take time to check all the mirrors. Next time I will stay focused when driving.

Teamwork

‘Played in the school netball team.’

Communication is very important. Every role in the team is important. Be respectful to all.

A checklist of topics you need to read and research before your interview

e) Make a checklist of topics you need to read and research before your interview

Example pre-interview checklist for medicine and/or dentistry

▢ Finishing my skills bank

▢ Mastering knowledge of NHS values

▢ Gathering important medical/ dental stories from the past, e.g. Dr Bawa Garba, Charlie Guard

▢ Gaining sufficient knowledge of various bodies like the General Medical Council, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, British Medical Association, World Health Organization, General Dental Council, British Dental Association.

▢ Mastering relevant knowledge of the NHS (how it works, challenges, patient journey through primary and secondary care)

▢ Mastering ethics knowledge, particularly around:

       - 4 pillars of ethics: autonomy, justice, beneficence, and non-maleficence

       - Euthanasia

       - Abortions

       - Refusal of treatment

       - Organ donation

       - Consent

       - Confidentiality 

       - Capacity and Gillick competence

[Only for medicine] 

▢ Gaining sufficient knowledge of common conditions, particularly:

       - Diabetes

       - Obesity

       - Covid

       - Long Covid

       - Cancer

       - Heart disease

▢ Reviewing hot topics (i.e., topics in the news, which can change year to year)

[Only for dentistry]

▢ Units of dental activity

▢ NHS price bands

▢ NHS traffic light system 

▢ Sugar tax

▢ Fluoridation of water

▢ Private vs NHS dentistry

▢ Barriers to oral health 

▢ Health conditions:

       - Gum disease

        - Periodontitis 

        - Effect of lifestyle choices on oral health , e.g. smoking, excessive sugar consumption 

        - Oral cancer

        - Amalgam and Composites

        - Crowns and root canal

Medical and dental school interview questions

Medical and dental school interview questions

Check out our free model interview answers (medicine / dentistry).

1. An overview of some common question types

Here are some additional, commonly covered medical and dental school interview question types:

  • Extra-curricular activities: Know the specifics of the activities you listed in your application, including any organisational details. Interviewers also want to see how this experience relates to you becoming a good doctor or dentist.
  • Work experience: Know what you did, what you saw, whom you shadowed and what you learned. They may ask whether your work experience has changed your insight into medicine or dentistry or what qualities you or your colleagues demonstrated.
  • Reference: Know your letter of reference inside and out so you can answer questions about it.
  • School-specific questions: Some schools will ask you why you chose them. Prepare answers for why you were attracted to that particular school. Was it the course structure, location, research, extra-curricular activities or something else entirely?
  • The medical or dental profession: You may be asked a question about anything topical or newsworthy. Examples include the NHS response to COVID-19 and the current state of the NHS. Interviewers may also ask for your opinion on the qualities of a good doctor. Take time to reflect on this. 
  • Personal attributes: You may be asked to list examples of how you have demonstrated teamwork, communication skills or empathy.
  • Motivation and insight into the profession: Make sure you know why you want to be a medic or dentist. Avoid generic answers like 'I like helping others'. Make your reasons for doing medicine or dentistry personal to you. You also need to have an awareness of other roles within the medical and dental fields like nurses, physiotherapists, dental nurses and dental hygienists. You need to know how they are different from being a medic dentist. Also, make sure you understand the challenges of being a doctor or dentist. Neither is a bed of roses and so interviewers want to know that you have a realistic understanding of what you are getting into.

Sarah – Newcastle University

‘Before my interview, I was provided with an online news article about “locked-in syndrome” and was required to read around the topic and to consider the ethical arguments at play in the issue of assisted suicide.

I extensively researched the issues mentioned in the article online and even watched a French movie about the condition. This was to gain better insight into the experience of living with such a debilitating condition from a patient’s perspective.

This then allowed me to consider both sides of the argument and apply it in the context of the article during my interview.'

2. Commonly asked interview questions for medicine

  • Why do you want to be a doctor?
  • Why not a nurse or a physiotherapist?
  • Why this medical school?
  • Why is teamwork important in medicine?
  • Describe a time you displayed good communication skills.
  • What makes a good doctor?
  • Can you tell me about a patient condition that caught your interest during your work experience or volunteering?
  • What do you know about the city this medical school is based in?
  • How do you deal with stress?

3. Commonly asked interview questions for dentistry

  • Why do you want to do dentistry?
  • What qualities should a dentist have?
  • Why this dental school?
  • What are some recent advances in dentistry?
  • Why do you want to study dentistry rather than medicine?

Medify's interviews course contains many more questions for you to think about and practise.

Want inspiration for how to get started? Learn about Samar who got into Dentistry at Manchester on her second attempt.

4. Prepare with STARR to ace your interview 

Answer structures vary depending on the question, but one useful approach is the STARR technique. This helps to demonstrate skills or qualities in a similar way that you would demonstrate them in a job interview.

STARR stands for:

  • Situation

Describe the situation you encountered which relates to a quality:

'I was helping at the reception of a GP practice when a lady who didn't speak very much English came to the counter. She wanted to know how to get the flu jab, but she was struggling to understand what was being said to her.'

  • Task

Describe the actions required:

'I needed to explain to the lady how to get a flu jab and help her book an appointment and make sure she understood.'

  • Action

Describe what actually happened and how you responded:

'I explained everything slowly, using simple language and avoiding figurative expressions to reduce the likelihood of miscommunication. I waited for the lady to understand what I had just said, before moving on.'

  • Result

What were the outcomes of the situation and was the issue resolved?

'The lady was able to book her flu jab and understood all the information.'

  • Reflection

What did you learn from the experience?

5. Ethical questions

You may encounter a general ethical question. The General Medical Council provides ethical guidance for medics. These are virtually identical to ethics for dentists and so are worth revising no matter what you plan to study.

When you are asked an ethics question, follow a three-step process.

1.  You’ll first want to identify what ethical issues are involved. The first thing you will want to discuss is which pillar(s) of medical ethics is/are at stake.

There are 4 pillars in medical ethics:

Autonomy

  • A patient has a right to choose whether or not they want a certain treatment. Doctors and dentists have to respect that decision.

Beneficence

  • This is about having the best interests of a patient in mind, which means only doing things that will benefit them.

Non-Maleficence

  • This is about making sure no harm comes to a patient.

Justice

  • As a doctor or a dentist, you must treat everyone fairly and equally.

You could also briefly mention anything topical that you’ve read.

2. You’ll then want to discuss who is involved. This is an opportunity to show your empathy by considering who will be affected by your decision and how.

3. Finally, you want to discuss and weigh options. Explain potential courses of action and the advantages, disadvantages and implications of each.

An example ethical question: Should the fluoridation of water be allowed?

First and foremost, if you don’t already know what ‘fluoridation of water’ means, ask the interviewer(s). Then once they’ve explained it to you:

  • Stay focused on the question and don’t digress. 
  • Give a balanced answer by weighing up the positives and the negatives. 
  • Try to link in any news articles or studies you may have read. 
  • In the end, give your opinion. Don’t stay undecided as it can come across to interviewers that you lack decision-making skills.

Positives: 

  • Maintains the dental health of the public
  • Reduces cost of dental problems for NHS 
  • Fluoride is commonly present in groundwater and oceans anyway

Negatives: 

  • Takes away the autonomy of the public
  • Poses questions regarding to what extent other people can choose for us (should sugar be banned? Should tanning salons be banned?)
  • There are studies that suggest that fluoridation can cause bone problems and even cancer. This can cause fear in the population and lead to distrust in governments.
What interviewers are looking for

6. What does a good or bad interview answer look like?

It can be hard to understand what kind of answer interviewers are looking for. Here are examples of good and bad answers:

'One of your fellow students on your medical course regularly misses lectures and stays in her room a lot. What would you be concerned about? What would you do?'

Bad answer:

'I’d ask her why she’s not coming to lessons and explain that she risked not learning anything and not becoming a good doctor. I’d warn her that if she didn’t come to the next lesson, I’d contact the teachers and get them to make her come.'

This isn’t a good answer. The student isn’t being considerate about the reasons why she may not want to come. The student is rash in their decision-making process.

Good answer:

'Well, there are a lot of reasons why somebody may be missing lessons and staying in their room a lot, they may be struggling with their mental health, or with the course content. It’s even possible they have something going on at home or haven’t been feeling well lately. 

My main concern would be the well-being of this student. Along with that, I’d be concerned about the fact that missing lessons will create gaps in her knowledge. She’s missing out on information that could aid her as a doctor and so it may affect her ability to perform in the future and consequently affect patient safety negatively. 

In this situation, I would go and meet her and just have a casual conversation. I wouldn’t confront her about this straight away but let her get friendly with me and comfortable speaking to me.

I would start off by indirectly asking her how her classes are going. If she’s avoided the topic, then I would be more direct, and say:

‘I haven’t seen you in lessons for a while. Is everything okay?’. 

I would listen to her patiently and wait for her to finish. If it was something I could help with then I would do my best to help her. If it was something beyond my control I would encourage her to seek help and support, using the mechanisms in place at the university. 

Throughout my conversation, I’d emphasise that I was there to listen to her and help her. I would also offer to help her catch up on any of the classes she’s missed so that any gaps in her knowledge would be filled. 

So my overall approach would be empathetic, by listening to her circumstances and guiding her to get the support that she needs.'

This is a good answer. The student takes a thoughtful approach to the situation and appreciates the need to establish more information. The student also expands much more on her answer and is sensitive and compassionate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Interview FAQs

1. What qualities are medical and dental schools looking for?

Medical and dental schools are both training doctors and dentists to join the NHS workforce, so medical schools and dental schools will look for a lot of the same things. In the UK, both types of schools will want students who can live up to the NHS values:

  • Working together for patients
  • Respect and dignity
  • Commitment to quality of care
  • Compassion
  • Improving lives
  • Everyone counts
    The Medical Schools Council have created a list of core values and attributes they believe you should have if you want to study medicine:
The Medical Schools Council's core values for medicine

These are the skills and attributes of an ideal candidate for dentistry as described by the Dental Schools Council:

Dental Schools Council's core values for dentistry

As you can see, the qualities required are very similar. The biggest difference is that dental schools also look for manual dexterity. The role of a dentist is very hands-on, so it’s important to have steady hands.

Find out more about manual dexterity.

2. Where can I find more information about interviews?

Since each medical school has their unique style of interviews, you do not want to discover any nasty surprises on the day.

  • Read your interview invitation letter for instructions and any details of interview structure. For instance, the letter may tell you how many interviews to expect, where they are held and who will interview you.
  • The medical school website and admissions office will have useful information regarding the format of a school’s interview process, including the length of the interview and what type of questions they may ask.
  • Use open days to ask current students about what interviewers have previously asked.
  • Online forums are a useful source of information.
  • Use all information with caution, as questions do change. It is worth noting that students at certain universities may not be allowed to disclose what they got asked and you may face consequences if you are found to be seeking these questions.

Phoebe – Swansea University

‘I had one awful interview during my first application, then four really enjoyable interviews on my re-application which were followed by four offers. If the interview goes badly, don’t give up; sometimes it just doesn’t go as planned for whatever reason. It may seem tricky because they are trying to challenge you, or it may be because that medical school isn’t really suited to you and your personality or learning style. Generally, the interviewers want to get the very best out of you and aren’t there to trip you up or make you feel uncomfortable.’

3. Do all medical and dental schools require an interview?

It’s highly unlikely that any student would receive an offer without an interview. Many universities explicitly state that they will not do this and even those who don’t state it explicitly almost always adhere to the same policy.

4. How likely am I to receive an interview?

Your likelihood for interviews hinges on a range of factors including :

Generally, having a strong UCAT or BMAT score and good academics will put you in a good position to receive an interview. The way universities select for an interview will vary between schools, so don’t worry if you feel like one part of your application is weaker than the other, as some medical and dental schools may not use that part as much.

5. How do I make a good first impression?

Interviewers are trained not to have any bias based on gender, race, age or religion, so you can fully take that out of the equation.

To make a good impression when you enter the room, make sure you smile - a genuine one. Big fake smiles are off-putting! 

Greet all interviewers in the room politely. It's important to bear in mind that not all interviewers will want to shake hands, so you should use your own judgment for each interview and be aware of social distancing, where appropriate.

With MMIs you’ll have a different interviewer for each station and therefore a new opportunity to make a good impression each time. Don’t worry if your interaction with one of the interviewers was slightly awkward.

How to dress for your interview

6. What should I wear to medical school interviews?

You should dress smartly for your interview in order to make a good first impression. Interviewers need to be able to visualise you working as a doctor. 

It is best to wear a suit and tie, a dress or a shirt and skirt. Don’t wear bold shirts or overly patterned clothes. Instead, choose basic patterns and colours. Dress shoes, heels or flats are all appropriate footwear.

7. What if I feel nervous on the day?

It’s perfectly normal to feel nervous on the interview day. Your interviews are an important part of your medical school applications and that can put a lot of pressure on you. Here are some tips to help you feel less anxious for your interview:

  • Get there nice and early 
  • Make sure you’ve had lots of practice 
  • Remember why you’re doing this
  • Remember, interviewers don’t want you to fail 
  • Try some of these mindfulness tricks
  • Visualise the best
  • Prepare for the worst 
  • Plan something nice to do after your interview 
  • Be yourself 
  • Silence is okay

8. What if I’m late for my interview?

Try your absolute best to not be late. Maybe set out an hour early in case you run into any traffic, or maybe even stay overnight at a hotel near the university. Use a digital map to make sure you have a good idea of the route before you set off. 

If you are still going to be late, call up the university as soon as you can to inform them. Make sure you apologise and also make sure you explain why you’re late. Be prepared to face the consequences, as some universities will be prepared to wait while others may not.

Preparing for your medical / dental school interview

9. Should I memorise answers?

Absolutely not! 

Most interviewers you’ll encounter will have been doing their job for many years and can tell when someone is just regurgitating an answer they’ve learned by heart. Interviewers want to know your thoughts, not how good your memory skills are.

Instead, use bullet-point notes when you’re preparing to help you recall the gist of what you want to say. For example, for the prompt, ‘Tell me about a time you worked in a team’, you might simply jot down the following:

  • school hockey team
  • was team leader
  • good listener
  • had to communicate well
  • motivate others 

As we mentioned at the outset, this overview is meant to properly gear up for your interview prep, and if you work through it carefully, it will get you off to a really great start. 

If you really want to take your interviews skills to the next level, however, make sure you check out Medify’s Interviews Course, which offers much more in-depth and detailed guidance on interview formats, what interviewers are looking for, how to prepare, how to conduct yourself and how to spin your unique circumstances if you’re a graduate or international applicant, along with many many more possible interview topics and strategies for giving outstanding answers. 

10. How long are the interviews?

The length of interviews can vary from university to university. It can last anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours. Universities will give details on how long the interview will be in your interview invite. It’s important to bear in mind that you won’t be talking for the whole of the time mentioned in your invite,  which, in the case of MMIs, also accounts for the time spent moving from station to station. Some universities also give a tour of their facilities on the day.

11. Will I be asked about my BMAT essay?

The University of Leeds does ask about your essay at one of their interview stations. Although other universities don’t explicitly state whether or not they ask about the essay, they’ll give more information along with your interview invite.

Find out more about the BMAT.

12. Will I be asked about my personal statement?

Some interviewers will discuss your personal statement in the interview. This means that you should know your personal statement very well. It also means that it’s crucial to be honest when writing it. It’s really hard to bounce back in an interview if you’ve been found to be dishonest in your personal statement.

13. Will medical and dental school interviews be online or virtual?

Although the pandemic caused a lot of interviews to be online in 2020, it’s hard to tell what they’ll be like this year. It’s important to remember that whether they’re online or virtual, your preparation for them should generally be the same, but note these tips for online interviews.

Medical school interview information

University name

Interview information

Link

Aberdeen

Online MMI

Anglia Ruskin

Online MMI

Aston

Online MMI

Barts

Online panel

Birmingham

Online MMI

Brighton and Sussex

Online MMI

Bristol

Online MMI

Buckingham

Online MMI

Cambridge

Online panel

Cardiff

Online MMI

Central Lancashire

Online MMI

Dundee

Online panel

Edge Hill

Most likely an online MMI

Edinburgh

Assessment day/interview

Exeter

Online MMI

Glasgow

Panel interview, semi-structured

Hull York

MMI

Imperial

MMI

Keele

MMI - may be online

Kent and Medway

MMI, including a group activity station

King's College

MMI

Lancaster

MMI

Leeds

MMI

Leicester

MMI

Liverpool

Online but format yet to be confirmed for 2022 entry, may be semi-structured

Manchester

MMI

Newcastle

MMI for home students, panel interviews for international students

Norwich

MMI

Nottingham

MMI - face-to-face or online

Nottingham - Lincoln

MMI - face-to-face or online

Oxford

Panel interviews - online

Plymouth

MMI

Queen's Belfast

MMI

Sheffield

MMI

Southampton

Selection Days

St Andrews

MMI

St George's

MMI

Sunderland

MMI and numeracy test

Swansea

30 minute written SJT test and two 20 minute panel tests

UCL

Interview process under review. MMI anticipated. Further information to be available in October

Ulster

MMI

Warwick

MMI

Dental school interview information

Undergraduate entry

University name

Interview information

Link

University of Birmingham

MMI

University of Bristol

MMI

Cardiff University

MMI

University of Dundee

MMI

University of Glasgow

Online panel interviews

King’s College

Usually MMI (yet to be confirmed for 2021)

University of Leeds

MMI for home students, international students via video call

University of Liverpool

MMI format - further details will be released later

University of Manchester

To be confirmed for 2022 entry

Newcastle University

A panel interview with two academic and/or clinical members of staff

University of Plymouth

MMI

Queen Mary

Panel interview

Queen’s Belfast

MMI

University of Sheffield

Semi-structured panel interview and separate interpersonal skills test

Graduate entry

University name

Interview information

Link

University of Aberdeen

MMI

University of Central Lancashire

MMI and manual dexterity test

King’s College (4 year)

To be confirmed at the end of October

King’s College (3 year)

To be confirmed at the end of October

University of Leeds

Panel interview

Only open to students who have done the Leeds Dental Hygiene and Dental Therapy BSc

Newcastle University

A panel interview with two academic and/or clinical members of staff


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