My Medical School Interview Experiences
Either this year or next year, I will be doing Medical School interviews. Except this time, I will be on the other side and will be the one asking questions. This will be a very different experience to say the least. Looking through social media, I have seen that some applicants are beginning to get interviews for Medical School.
If you have received an interview, congrats. It is a good feeling getting interviews but make sure that you don’t become complacent – you still need to do well at interview to get in. If you’re still waiting for an interview, don’t fret too much. There is still time in this application cycle to get one. In fact, at the time of writing, it is still early days in the whole process.
Reading through all the posts on social media is reminding me of my own application cycle when I applied. I didn’t even get an interview first time round. That hasn’t made much of a difference at all, however, and I am almost half way through Medical School.
I thought that I would write a piece about what my interviews were like. This post will not have much advice as such, but you can find more general advice here.
The first interview call
As I said, my first application cycle ended in disaster – I didn’t receive a single interview call. My first invite, therefore, came after over a year of waiting. I remember waking up one morning and opening my emails. That’s what I had been doing every morning for almost a year, just waiting for a Medical School to email me with some news. I did get plenty of news in that time, but it was all just bad news.
November 2013 – First rejection. February 2014 – Second rejection. Early March 2014 – Third rejection. Late March 2014 – Fourth and final rejection.
Imagine my shock and delight when, finally, in early November 2014, I received an email entitled: “Urgent – Medical School interview invitation.” After over a year, it had finally happened. I felt as happy as though I had received an offer. Of course, there was still a long way to go before getting that place, but I tried to put that out of my mind for the time being.
After the initial excitement was gone, it was time for me to prepare. I needed to be careful here. On the one hand, I wanted to go into the Medical School interview feeling prepared for anything that they could throw at me. On the other, I didn’t want to end up sound robotic and rehearsed. I wanted to appear as though I was being myself.
The preparation wasn’t easy. It consisted of me reading through the ISC Medical Interview book (which I fully recommend buying, by the way – I have no affiliation at all, it just helped me a lot) and having my family do mocks with me. I remember initially how awkward it was around them. A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into that preparation. The most memorably highlight of this has to be where my Mum wanted to ask an ethical question to me, but had to stop half way through asking it because my younger siblings were there.
“What would you do if you saw a colleague looking through pornog… – uh, why do you want to study Medicine again?” she went as my siblings looked at her curiously.
My preparation became even more mad from there. At nights, I would record myself asking questions and then answering. It was very odd. I’d go: “So why do you want to study Medicine? [10 second pause] I want to study Medicine because…” I looked very mad. And I was.
But I’d lie if I said I didn’t enjoy preparing. Perhaps the fact that I had to wait so long to secure an interview made me very enthusiastic.
The night before the first interview
The first interview I had, rather unfortunately, clashed with BMAT results day. BMAT results came out at midnight, and my interview was a few hours after that. I had already decided that I wouldn’t look at BMAT results, as I wasn’t too confident about them. But, now for the first time, I was beginning to feel extremely nervous. I couldn’t sleep at all.
I twisted one way. What if my BMAT result is crap? I twisted the other way. What if the interview goes crap? I turned and lay down on my front. If my BMAT is crap and this interview goes badly, I will have lost half my options. I opened my eyes and stared into the dark. What if I get rejections again this time, then what will I do?
My dad, sleeping in the same hotel as me, noticed how restless I seemed. “What’s up buddy?” he asked me. I explained what was going through my head: “I got rejected last time – I’m already on a gap year. If I get rejected again, then what will I do? I can’t keep taking gap years for the rest of my life!”
My Dad gave me a good pep talk. I then told him about how I was worried about the BMAT.
“What would you do,” my dad asked. “If you knew your BMAT results had met last years cut-off for the BMAT university you applied to last year?”
“I’d be over the moon,” was my reply. “I’d sleep soundly.”
“Great! It’s actually way past midnight and when you did manage to drift away for a second, I had a look at your results. You scored [fairly low mark which had only met last years cut off]”
“Oh no,” I said miserably. “That’s a terrible score. I doubt the cut off this year will be that low so I’m going to get rejected for that Medical School now. Now I won’t be able to sleep all night.”
“You just told me you’d sleep if you met it!” came my Dad’s reply, sounding exhausted.
My poor Dad.
(As it turned out, my BMAT score WAS high enough to meet the cut off that year – and I am now at that very Medical School where I thought I’d be rejected for a low BMAT)
Faking the bravery
I am, by nature, a rather shy person. I was even more shy at the time of my Medical School interviews. This worried me, I didn’t want the interviewers to see that.
On the morning of my interview, I went to the room where we are all meant to congregate and started speaking to the other applicants. They were all friendlier than I expected. I half thought that they would be trying to put as all of – we were, after all, in competition with one another. With some courage, I went to go and speak to the other applicants.
Now that I think about it, it was almost rather like those Freshers mingles that we had in my first year of Medical School. Except this time, there was the fear that something ominous is just about to come. Perhaps this is why we were all so friendly with each other. We all knew how everyone must be feeling, and so had the utmost empathy for one another.
Eventually, a lady came out and shouted the first name. We all froze. Someone got up slowly, smiled bravely and went to shake this lady’s hand. My heart started racing even faster. It was happening. Slowly, more and more names were being called. With each name being called out, my heart rate was getting faster and faster and my stomach felt lighter and lighter.
My designated time was just 10 minutes away. A man came out and called another applicant’s name. He didn’t hear his name being called out, so ignored it for a bit. The man called the name again, rather impatiently. The applicant jumped, went up to the man and apologised. The response of the man? “Not the best starts at all, is it?” If that didn’t instil fear into all of our hearts, I don’t know what did.
Then, it happened. My name was called out. I said “hello!” more loudly than I had ever done in my whole life. This was it. She shook my hand and led me to the interview room.
The first actual interview
“I hope you’re not feeling nervous?” the lady asked, kindly.
“Hmm, a little bit,” I admitted, with an embarrassed smile.
“Don’t worry,” she said kindly. “We’ll be as kind as possible with you.”
She opened the interview door and there I was met with the three other interviewers. They all smiled and walked up to me to shake my hand. I then took my seat, feeling very conscious. Every eye was staring at me, and I didn’t want to give any sort of wrong impression.
“So,” the lady who led me in began. “We’ll start off with a question that I’m sure you will have been expecting. Why do you want to study Medicine?”
I laughed nervously, looking like a muppet. The other interviewers smiled empathetically. I tried to answer. The key word there is ‘tried’ – it was a very confused, convoluted and – quite frankly – crap answer. I knew it too at the time, and was saying ‘oh no!’ in my head over and over again. I tried to compose myself quickly for the next question and, thankfully, I managed to get the general gist of what was being asked despite my embarrassment.
Then there was a question about something to do with ethics. I can barely remember it now but I remember finishing with: “…so, overall, I think it’s important to look at the medical, psychological, social and financial implications in this case.” I was rather impressed with how impressive it sounded that in my head, I started saying to myself: “Well done, good stuff, wow, how did you that?! etc.” But with this contemplation, I missed the next question once again.
Like that, the interview progressed. About 2 minutes after I entered the room, I was told that the interview was over. Well, I say 2 minutes – it was actually about 30 minutes. The time had literally flown by.
The second interview – hostile interviewers
The second interview – at the BMAT university where I didn’t think I would get called – took place in January. This was the Medical School which I really wanted to attend. I was therefore once again very nervous.
This time around, the Medical School had arranged a tour for us to attend before our interview. It was said to be optional but I had heard that the interviewers here always asked if we had attended the tour, so I made sure to do so. Of course, I would have much preferred to just sit on my own in my own company and just relax, but that wasn’t possible.
When my time for the interview came, it was a Medical Student who came to collect me. She was on the panel too. She shook my hand before remarking: “You’re very tense. Just relax – I promise we’ll be nice!” Well, whilst she was certainly nice throughout the interview, the other interviewers were anything but.
I entered the interview room and, without even saying hello or being offered a hand shake, was told to sit down. I obliged and the chair of the interview panel introduced everyone, and told me I could ask questions at any time that I wanted. The first question was about my work experience, asked by an orthopaedic surgeon. I told him about my time spent in ER (A&E) in a country abroad.
“You are aware that we’re in the UK, right?” he asked me. “We call it A&E here!”
All the interviewers started chortling. I stared back rather embarrassed but decided to hold my ground. “Of course I do! As I said, that was done abroad where it was called ER.” I was rather surprised by how confident I was to speak back to him (well, kind of). He seemed rather impressed too, and moved on to the next question.
Later on, the chair of the interviewer asked me if I had attended the tour and what I thought of it.
“I loved it,” I replied truthfully. “I really liked the buildings, I thought they were both beautiful and modern.”
“Erm…so that’s why you like the tour? Nothing good about the course?”
Again, they all started chortling.
“Actually, nothing was mentioned about the course on the tour,” I replied. “But from what I’ve read online, I really do like the sound of the course. I like how it’s both traditional and PBL here – I feel like both have brilliant advantages and I could really gain the best of both in that way.” (If you’ve read my other blog posts, you’ll know how much I actually ended up hating PBL but that’s besides the point).
“And I’m sure you will,” the chair replied with a smile, and ended the interview there.
Was that a hint?
I am pleased to say that I received offers from both these universities where I had interviews. I also had two other interviews but in both cases, I withdrew my place as I’d already received the offer from my Medical School of choice. Despite the interviewers being slightly hostile, I decided to go to the BMAT Medical School and have, for the most part, not regretted it.
But boy, was it some journey to get here.