If you’ve bagged yourself an interview at Medical School, congrats. It really is quite a good achievement. When I first applied, I didn’t manage to secure a single interview.
Once the initial excitement wears off, however, it is natural to end up feeling scared. It is important to do some work for the interviews. The difficulty is in deciding how much work to do. On the one hand, you don’t want to do so little work that you end up coming across as underprepared and uninterested. On the other hand, you don’t want to prepare so much that you end up sounding rehearsed and robotic.
What format do the interviews take?
The first thing you need to do is research what format the Medical School interview will be at your desired institution. The three types of interview are:
- Traditional interview
- Group interview
- Multiple Mini Interviews (MMI)
A traditional interview is essentially a ‘normal’ panel interview. The number of people on the panel can vary. At one of the Medical Schools I applied to, there were only 2 people on the panel. At the Medical School that I am currently at, there were 5.
Group interviews are self explanatory – you will have an interview as a group with other applicants. I have never had one but from what I understand, you are often given some sort of case and all have to discuss it together.
MMIs seem to be the way that most Medical Schools interview now. You have a series of stations that are each of a specific length, and each station will have some topic that you need to discuss. In fact, sometimes the interviews are not interviews at all. I know of a Medical School that I shan’t be naming, for example, that once had a station in which you needed to wash someone’s feet.
How do I prepare?
There are several resources that you can use to prepare. You can find many expensive courses to attend, although these courses often charge extortionate prices for things that you can find online. The only resource which I would recommend paying money for is the ISC Medical School Interview book. Like with all paid resources that I list on here, I am completely unaffiliated and make no profit whatsoever by mentioning them.
It is all well and good knowing the theory, but you need to actually practise too. If you have any friends who are doctors or medical students, see if they will be willing to help. Otherwise, teachers can give good practice too. Make sure they critique you well, and don’t take any criticism personally either. I also suggest filming any mock interviews so that you can go over them yourself and get an idea of what you sound like.
What sorts of stuff do they ask?
The stuff that they ask at Medical School interviews varies from place to place. However, here is a list of examples of the types of questions that you could be asked. The list is in no way exhaustive, and are in no special order.
- Why do you want to study Medicine?
- Why do you want to study at this Medical School?
- At what point did you decide that you wanted to study Medicine?
- Is Medicine a science or an art?
- Why Medicine and not Nursing?
- Tell us about a time where you worked in a team and it went well/didn’t go well.
- How have your A-Level subjects prepared you for Medicine?
- How do you cope with stress?
- What would you do to save money in the NHS?
- How are resources distributed within the NHS?
- Are you a team player?
- Tell us how you have demonstrated your leadership skills.
- What sorts of things did you learn on your work experience/volunteering?
- Do doctors really make a difference?
- Why is teamwork important in Medicine?
- How do you organise your work to meet a deadline?
- Medicine is a difficult degree. What makes you think you can cope with it?
- We have x number of students applying for y number of places. Why should we offer the place to you?
- Tell us about an interesting Medical article you read recently.
And the list goes on and on, and this doesn’t include the ethical questions that you could be asked. Make sure you don’t sound rehearsed. Have some idea of what you will say (especially for the ones where you’re asked to tell them a story, such as when you worked well in a team) but don’t memorise an answer.
Ethical questions are always nerve wracking. The key thing to remember is that, unless there are specific GMC guidelines and you are being asked about those, there is no right or wrong answer. Just don’t say anything silly, however. Here is an example of what sorts of ethical stuff they could ask:
- Are you for or against euthanasia?
- What are your views on abortion?
- You have three patients, each of whom require a liver transplant. One is a 45 year old alcoholic father of two; the other is an 80 year old woman and the last is a 6 year old boy. Who should get the liver?
- You need to tell a patient they have cancer. This patient has previously said to you that if they are ever diagnosed with cancer, they will take their own life. What do you do?
- A man has been diagnosed with HIV but doesn’t want to tell his wife/girlfriend about it. What do you do?
- Under what circumstances, if any, would it be acceptable to breach patient confidentiality?
- A patient demands that you prescribe them opioids to deal with their pain. How would you handle the situation, and would you give them opioids?
- Should all drugs be available on the NHS regardless of cost?
Again, the scenarios are never ending and they can come up with any scenario they like. Make sure you give a balanced response for questions where your opinion is needed on ethical matter (e.g. abortion). Give one reason for; one reason against and then what YOUR opinion is. Be prepared to be challenged and don’t be afraid if you are. The interviewers are likely just trying to see how you defend your viewpoint.
The GMC guidelines and scenarios are key to go over.
What about MMIs?
The format of MMIs makes them very difficult to predict. Some Medical Schools may have stations where they simply ask the questions above, whilst others may have completely unpredictable questions. From my own experience, I actually ended up withdrawing my MMI interview when I got into the Medical School of my choice. Therefore, any advice I can give will be limited. All I can say is: expect the unexpected.