As you already know, applying to medical school requires a lot of preparation and is a long process. Interview invitations usually start rolling out around mid-August. If you’re lucky enough to receive an invitation, you’ll be on your way towards completing one of the last steps and, for most students, one of the most intimidating parts of the entire admissions process.
While interview policies can vary from medical school to medical school, the main goal is to identify mature, prepared, educated, and motivated candidates. There’s no way to predict what exactly the interviewer will ask you, but there are some common themes and questions that seem to be recurrent and present in most medical school interviews.
Questions about your academic background, extracurricular activities, experiences, personal views, and motivations to become a doctor are some of the topics you’ll have to be prepared to talk about confidently.
Today, we’ll talk about the most common medical school interview questions, how to prepare for them, and how to address them successfully to ace this essential part of the process to admission.
Nothing is more critical to ace an interview than to be confident and secure. Even if you’re the most sociable and open person in the world, anxiety is likely to kick in as the interview date approaches, so we’d like to give you some tips on how to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible.
Practice makes perfect. Some students believe that preparation is not needed for the interview. The truth is, some questions can catch you off guard, and the in-person impression you make to the committee is going to make a big difference. Good preparation is essential to ace the interview process.
You’ve been invited to the interview; your academic and extracurricular credentials and everything you’ve included in your application has made the cut. In other words, all the information you have provided is good enough and has made a good impression on the admission committee. You’ve done the most challenging part already!
In the medical field, unprofessionalism can be a big issue, so it makes sense that medical schools pay close attention to that. Act professionally at all times.
Also, whenever you have the opportunity, show that you’re adaptable and explain how you’ve been professional in the past, either in the work experiences you’ve mentioned in your application, research, or clinical experiences.
Being unprofessional means a lack of awareness about your surroundings and the context in which you’re serving or delivering care, so pay close attention to that.
Asking smart and well-researched questions at the end of your interview is an excellent way to convey your interest and, again, your professionalism.
Questions like: “What research opportunities are available for students?” or “What stress management resources do you offer for students?” will let the admission committee know that you are engaged and took the time to think thoroughly and consider their medical school.
Your interpersonal communication skills will give a good impression; they will make you stand out from those students who either didn’t have any questions or asked redundant and obvious ones.
Like you probably guessed, no equation equals a perfect interview. However, these four tips will help you set a strong base: be confident, prepared, professional, and communicative. This will ensure you present the best version of yourself, not only in the process of medical school admission but throughout your career.
While every interview is different, there are several themes of questions you should be expecting. It’s important to prepare beforehand and start working on them as soon as you receive an interview invitation.
Even if it’s in your written application, medical schools will want to hear about your academic background, the reason behind your educational choices, and how work and other activities have helped you grow as the dedicated and passionate student you are.
This is perhaps one of the most underestimated types of questions but it is more important than you think. Be ready to answer questions about yourself and relate them to your application. Talking about oneself can be challenging, so you must prepare beforehand; think genuinely about your strengths, weaknesses, past experiences, personal growth, and influential people in your life.
It might sound obvious, but you’ll be asked about the medical field, why you choose it, your opinion on current issues, and about how you plan on making a difference.
You will most certainly be asked questions relating to hot topics in the field of medicine and current events. For this reason, it’s essential to keep yourself up to date on what’s happening around the world as well as in the medical field.
You may have already established an opinion regarding certain topics but during the interview, you’ll have to articulate your opinion professionally. Think about what your thoughts are on current issues, not only related to medicine but also our society. Cultural competence says a lot about you.
Policy questions are a good way for medical schools to evaluate if you are an open-minded critical thinker. When answering policy questions, you’ll need to take into consideration and discuss both sides of the issue in question, to then pick a side and defend why you feel a certain way.
Being able to analyze both sides and understand the pros and cons of each will demonstrate a level of maturity and education that will be highly valued by the admission committee.
You should plan to be presented with different scenarios to consider and think about what position you have on the issues. While there’s no right or wrong answer here, you want to get to a well-thought conclusion and be able to explain your choice.
To answer these questions, you’ll have to identify the vulnerable parties at stake in each situation and formulate a reasonable solution that ensures safety for all. For this reason, not only your answers, but how good you are able to articulate them and how confident you are about them will say a lot about your problem solving and critical thinking skills.
These will be an essential part of the interview since what motivated you and what you expect to encounter as a medical student says a lot about you and your potential success. These questions will be your space to get creative and let the admissions committee get in touch with the most authentic and most genuine version of you.
It’s a little obvious but important to mention. Every medical school will ask you why you are interested in their particular programs and school. If you don’t already know, you’ll need to research each medical school you’ll be interviewing at to find out why you are truly interested in their school and program.
The interview process varies from medical school to medical school. You should do research prior to every interview and know what format to expect from every school. Practicing different scenarios will help you be ready for the interview, regardless of the format.
This is the typical one-on-one interview with a faculty member, community member, or practicing physician that usually lasts for 30 to 45 minutes. These interviews can be either open or closed-book.
A traditional open-book interview means that the interviewer has already seen your application and knows about your background; this is the most common type. On the other hand, in a closed interview, the interviewer knows nothing about you or your background.
This type of interview is a type of traditional interview, with the difference being that candidates face a panel of two to four assessors interviewing and evaluating them. The panelists will often represent the school faculty, as well as current students or residents.
Group interviews use the same approach as traditional interviews, but you’ll be interviewed with another student simultaneously. This can be a little intimidating, but it can also help alleviate anxiety since you can feel companionship. These types of interviews might present you with an additional teamwork exercise.
Schools usually invite a small group of students to discuss or debate certain topics, and they observe and take note of their reactions, behaviors, and communication. Group interviews are a good way for medical schools to assess your collaborative and communication skills and make informed decisions based on what they see.
The MMI is probably the most special and unique of all. As the name suggests, it involves several mini-interviews. Usually, 6 to 10, each of them focused on a different scenario or question. The Multiple Mini Interview approach can also be the most daunting since it is very different to the standard traditional interview.
During an MMI, you’ll be given scenarios, a couple of minutes to prepare, and you’ll have 5-8 minutes to discuss a topic, role-play with an actor, or work with another student on a group task. This approach will assess your critical thinking, decision making, verbal and nonverbal communication skills.
If a school uses the MMI format, be ready for a collaboration station. At least one out of all the stations will be dedicated to assess your collaborative and interpersonal skills, so you’ll be working with fellow candidates and will have to discuss a topics or come up with a solution to a problem. Take a look at our guide on how to prepare for the MMI to ensure a successful interview.
These are usually a one-time, online interview with six questions presented in text prompts. You will have limited time to read each of the questions and up to three minutes to record a response.
A video interview can also be done over Skype, Zoom or any video conference platform. If that’s the case, the format will most likely look like a traditional interview.
You’ll have to make sure you have perfect internet connection and also that you’re familiar with the platform used; remember that a video interview is scheduled just like a regular interview and you won’t have a second chance.
Be aware of your interview format before you begin so you can practice with sample questions and participate in mock interviews. Top institutions like Harvard, John Hopkins, or the University of Pennsylvania use the traditional interview format, whereas Stanford, for example, uses the MMI.
Some institutions like NYU School of Medicine, UCLA Prime, and University of California Davis School of Medicine combine traditional interviews and MMI, so be prepared for the possibility of encountering hybrid interviews as well.
As you can see, there’s a wide range of questions you can be asked. Still, all schools will ask you questions that will assess your personal and educational background, motivations, cultural competence, ethics, communication, and critical thinking skills.
The sooner you start, the better. The idea is to start as soon as you receive your interview invitation, but if you can start preparing beforehand, even better.
The amount of time will vary depending on the format of the interview and whether you ask further questions or not. However, expect to spend at least around 30 to 45 minutes if the interview format is the traditional or panel one. If your interview happens to be MMI, be ready to spend a little longer; all the stations put together take approximately 2 hours to complete.
The most commonly asked medical school interview questions are the personal-based ones. This includes “why do you want to be a doctor?”, “When and why did you decide you wanted to go to medical school?” and “Tell me about yourself”. Another very common question is the “Why our school?” question.
You should dress according to the event, so the answer is yes. How you present yourself says a lot about you, and first impressions are extremely important, and even more in a medical school interview setting, where you want to appear as professional as possible. Take a look at our recommendations regarding medical school interview attires.
If you find yourself in a video interview, in which there’s a human interviewer on the other side of the screen, pay special attention to your hair and face; if you decide to wear makeup, keep it simple and natural, and make sure your hair is clean. The idea is to appear fresh and ready to tackle the interview.
It is common to have an exceptional application, with a stellar academic background and experiences, yet arrive at the interview nerve-wrecked. Breathe, you are not alone! An interview is always an intimidating event, but remember that the most challenging part is already done; you’ve been invited to an interview, which means you’ve already made a great impression.
One of the best ways to lower stress levels and bring out your personality is to participate in mock interviews. These give you a clear idea of what the day of the actual interview will look like, and you’ll already be familiar with it.
Practicing with actual questions you’ll encounter, receiving unbiased feedback, improving weak spots, and working on your timing is extremely important; the more prepared you are, the less nervous you’ll be!
You’ve successfully taken the MCAT, maintained a strong GPA, and finally submitted your application; now, you have to get ready for the interview, an essential part of the medical school admission process.
Receiving an interview invitation can be exciting but intimidating at the same time. Preparing will help alleviate anxiety and make for a successful medical school interview.
Admission committees want to know who you are, behind an exceptional application, and they want to assess whether you have the personal qualities that are needed to be a successful medical student and future doctor: maturity, professionalism, critical thinking, problem-solving, empathy and communication skills.
By following this medical school interview questions guide, you’ll be able to show them how you can exceed their expectations and needs; start preparing early, think like a professional, build confidence, and ace your interview!