Preparation for interviews
What are the potential interview questions?
Since the medical interview can test you on the whole of your application, the key is preparation. This would include knowing your extra-curricular activities well, your work experience and what you learnt from it, as well as practising potential common questions in the time leading up to your interview, along with several mock interviews. Questions can be divided up into the following sections:
- Extra-curricular activities: Know the activities that you listed in your application well, including any organisational details relating to it, as interviewers would want to see that the student not only has an in-depth knowledge of what they did, but also how it relates to becoming a good doctor.
- Work experience: Know what you did, what you saw, who you shadowed, and what you learnt. They may ask whether your work experience has changed your insight into medicine, or what qualities you saw being displayed.
- Reference: Knowing what your reference has written will prepare you for what questions they may ask you about in that section.
- Medical school-specific: Some schools will ask you why you chose them, so you will have to do your research on why you are attracted to that particular school (whether it was the course structure, location, the research or the extra-curricular activities etc).
- Medical profession: A recent topical discussion on anything newsworthy, for example. the junior doctor strikes and the current state of the NHS. Interviewers may ask for your opinion on the qualities of a good doctor.
- Personal attributes: They may ask questions for you to list examples where you demonstrated teamwork, communication skills, empathy etc.
Think like a doctor
You are trying to get into medical school, so when responding to any scenarios or questions, answer them in a way that suggests to the interviewer that you would make a great medical student. In order to do so, make sure you have a list of personal attributes that you think a good doctor should have, and throughout your preparation, practice integrating these qualities into your responses so that in your interview you show that you can demonstrate these important characteristics.
You should use the PEE model of reflection to answer these questions. That is: Point, Evidence and Explain. Make a point, provide evidence for that point and then explain why it is relevant for medicine.
- Ethics: A standard question on medical ethics, or what was newsworthy at the time of the interview.
Remember that for ethical scenarios, there is rarely a simple answer, and they are looking at your ability to reason and argue/defend a point rather than the contents of your argument itself.
- Oxbridge questions: Scientific rigour and problem solving is the key to these interviews, and knowing your A-Level syllabus and having an in-depth interest in certain human biology topics will benefit the candidate.
Sarah – Newcastle University
“Before my interview, I was provided with a 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 about the legality of assisted suicide and apply it in the context of the article during my interview. "
Preparing for a medical school interview
- Medical knowledge: Know common medical conditions, to a basic degree, especially those that you may have encountered during your work experience. Do this when you do your work experience and throughout your A-level revision.
- Newsworthy events: Keep yourself with up-to-date events in the world of medicine and healthcare, by reading the BBC News, or reading the health section of newspapers. Do this for three months leading up to the interviews.
- Practising for interviews: There is no replacement for a mock interview to feel the stress, and pressure of multiple interviewers staring at you whilst you try and answer their questions. Do this one month prior to the interview itself so that you have time to prepare and improve on your weak areas.
One of the best ways to prepare for an interview is to simulate the experience so that you know what to expect, prepare for areas of weaknesses and also receiving feedback about your performance and pointers to help you improve.
Am I talking too much?
One of the major things that students struggle with is the length of their answers. If your response is too short it may appear to the interviewer that you did not really consider or think about your response. However, a lengthy response can also suggest that you are struggling with the question, and are resorting to waffle. The best answers will address all aspects of the question in a clear and concise manner allowing the candidate to show that they have thought about their response and can communicate their ideas effectively, as well as ending their response appropriately (knowing when to end one’s response is very important).
- Dressing for it: Make sure your suit or dress is ready a few weeks before the interview, and wear it to make sure that you are comfortable in it. The interviewers should feel comfortable with you as a potential doctor, so dress appropriately!
- The week before: Plan your route and alternative routes well so you won’t be caught out if there are any transport issues on the day.
- The day before: Relax! Perhaps look over your application portfolio to remind yourself of your extracurricular activities.
- On the day: Arrive in good time, do not get flustered. Try and talk to other interviewees to relax if permitted. Do arrive one hour before your scheduled interview slot, but do not arrive more than two hours earlier as you will get more and more nervous!
Take your time
One of the hardest challenges in an interview is to actually answer the question you are given, without going off on a tangent. The prompts given by interviewers will often highlight the specific issues that are the focus of the question or that MMI station. Ensure that your answer responds to the prompts of the question. Do not ramble on about irrelevant issues.
No-one can guarantee success in every interview situations, however your performance can always be improved. To improve your performance you should become familiar with the interview process (particularly if it has a specific structure like a MMI, or Oxbridge interviews). You should recognise your weaknesses and think of ways that allows you to overcome them in the actual interview. It is much better to assess your weaknesses prior to the interview rather than in the interview so that you can prepare for them.
Poise throughout an interview and the ability to stay cool and calm may just be able to put you over the line and finally, sell yourself!
You know yourself, why you would make a good medical student, you just have to make sure the interviewer knows too and gives you that offer!