Variety of doors representing the rooms you enter during the MMI for medical school

MMI for Medical School: A Comprehensive Guide

April 11, 2021
Part 1. IntroductionPart 2. What is the MMI for Medical School?Part 3. Purpose of the MMIPart 4. ‍MMI FormatPart 5. MMI StationsPart 6. ‍How is the MMI Used in the Admissions Process? ‍Part 7. FAQ‍sPart 8. Conclusion

Introduction

The MMI for medical school is known as being one of the most difficult interview formats. Luckily for you, we've got the insight to help guide you on your journey. As you know, medical school admissions are unique, and unlike any other admissions process on a global scale. This post will cover everything regarding the MMI for medical school, its purpose, format, use in the admissions process, and frequently asked questions.

Medical school interviews come in many different forms. You can go through more traditional interviews, where you're asked about your academic, volunteer-based, and professional background. Going through an MMI for medical school is a completely different beast. One we want you to be prepared for.

Don't sweat the small stuff. Study the subjects that this post covers and you'll be sure to ace your interviews. Alright, let's get to it!

What is the MMI for Medical School?

The Multiple Mini Interview, commonly abbreviated as "MMI" was developed by McMaster University and is known to be a daunting interview process. It consists of 3-12 interview stations (depending on the medical school you applied to), all of which are individually focused on a different scenario or question. These different stations assess your skills in some of the following areas: communication, self-awareness, maturity, critical thinking, and empathy. The MMI will also measure your teamwork and oral communication skills. 

The MMI for medical school is challenging because of the fear that surrounds it. The questions posed are less predictable and more complex compared to traditional or panel-type interviews. This is why applicants are fearful and sometimes even freeze up during these mini-interviews. 

The MMI format is distinctive because the applicant has a chance to display their values and skills to a variety of different admission committee members. Think of it as having the opportunity to create various lasting first impressions. If you feel like you didn't perform as well in one session, you will have more opportunities to do better in the next round. 

It is important to note that the MMI is constantly changing. It is a great idea to contact your school's faculty. A majority of medical schools are doing their MMI interviews remotely. Therefore, the format of your MMI is likely to vary and the experience could be modified. 

Purpose of the MMI

Why the MMI? Before we go through the MMI format and how to prepare for it, let's go over why this format has increased in popularity:

1. Multiple people are interviewing you, therefore there is less subjectivity or bias. Rather than basing decisions on one interview, the assessment is reliable due to the number of interactions. 

2. The MMI allows applicants to showcase their skills throughout the process. This interview process was created by the medical school community. Therefore, it is a more grounded theory.

3. Tests your stress levels and if you're capable of handling the pressure. You must learn to manage your stress before heading into your MMI. A common reason students fail their MMI is their inability to control stress levels. 

Admissions committees are using the MMI to assess if you have the skills necessary to be a future practicing professional. For example, they want to feel assured that you have strong communication skills, are an ethical individual, and can react well under pressure.

MMI Format

As previously mentioned, MMI formatting may vary and it is important to contact the faculty or admissions office if you’re unclear about anything. Typically, the format is a series of 8-12 interviews (depending on your medical school) that take place over 2 hours with a 2-minute prep time. After this prep time, you’re given 5-8 minutes to discuss the prompt with your assessor. The cycle then repeats and you’re off to your next station, repeating the rotation until the interview process is complete. 

To begin, you’ll wait outside of the examination room and read the prompt posted on the outside of the door or wall. There will be a description of the task to be completed, a question to be answered, or a scenario to address. The prompt is posted on the outside of the room, but is usually also posted on the inside so you can refer to it in case you get lost. However, please keep in mind that every school has a different procedure. Some schools will not provide you with a copy of the prompt inside the room, so you’ll have to memorize the prompt. If you’re unsure, check with your school’s admissions office before your interview. If you can’t verify this information, be sure you’re prepared for either scenario. A bell will ring, and this is the signal that the interviewer is ready to go. Applicants will sometimes be provided with a clipboard, paper, and pencil so they can take notes throughout the process. However, be sure to bring your own supplies just in case. 

The interviewers will not partake in discussions about the MMI process or how the individual is performing during the interview. You should keep their ears open at all times because new information can be introduced at any time. It is important to manage your stress levels before entering these interviews. You want to come off confident, collected, and able to communicate clearly. You also must prepare for follow-up questions. These questions can be asked after your initial prompt. 

Some students freeze up when these sorts of questions are asked. A follow-up question is very similar to the initial prompt. You still must follow the same steps as before, make sure to take your time. If you don’t have an answer to the question right away, don’t panic. Stay calm, cool, and collected until you’re ready to speak. 

The MMI uses a variety of short assessments that are timed, to obtain an aggregate score of an individual's soft skills. Soft skills are a combination of personality traits that are related to a person's relationship with a particular social environment. These kinds of skills can include language skills, personal habits, time management, emotional empathy, and leadership skills. 

You are graded on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the best possible score you can achieve. Applicants are given an aggregate interview score once the interviews are finished. These scores are based on how well the individual performed at each unique station. 

There are a variety of different subjects that will be brought up during your interview. The MMI is designed to assess non-verbal communication skills alongside assessing a student’s readiness to enter the field of medical practice as a professional.

It isn't too scary if you think about it, you’ll know about the topic before you have to discuss it. This is unlike any other format where you'd be asked on the spot, so the MMI provides you with an advantage. 

There are multiple different types of questions that can show up on the MMI. The question types include scenario, policy, personal, writing, collaborative, and quirky questions. We will go over a few examples of possible scenarios and questions that may arise. 

MMI Stations

Teamwork/Collaborative

The MMI teamwork, or collaboration stations, are designed to assess how you would behave in a team environment. This is done to show admission committee members how you would get along with members of a clinical team. Once you’re a physician you’ll  rarely be working alone, therefore, you must understand that admission committees are always on the lookout for team players. 

For teamwork questions, depending on the school, you will often be responsible for completing a task. For example, you could be required to assemble Legos — perhaps alone or with a partner. You could also be put in a scenario where you have the instructions to build said Lego structure, but your partner does not. Therefore, you're responsible for using your words to explain how to build the structure. The roles can also be reversed. 

Tips for the Teamwork Portion of the MMI:

1. Use a clear tone of voice and speak slowly when giving instructions to your peers. Make sure that the directions you are giving aren't overly complex. Use your best judgment to ensure that you aren't leading your partner in multiple directions.

2. Check-in with your partner regularly. No matter what role you're in (performer/instructor) make sure that lines of communication are open at all times. Use "we"  statements while working with your partner, instead of "I". 

Despite what you might think, the project you’re working on with your teammates doesn't need to be completed. Admissions committees are interested in viewing your teamwork and communication skills first-hand. They aren't checking to see how fast you complete the assigned project. Most candidates make the mistake of thinking they need to rush to complete all the tasks. This is not the case. It’s more important to demonstrate your ability to communicate clearly and effectively than it is to complete the task at hand. 

Acting

Admissions committees want to see how you go about day-to-day life and what your personality is like outside of the field. For example, you may be asked to stage and act out a problem that is going on between you and your best friend. The best way to prepare yourself for this situation is to use your 2 minutes thinking about when you've had to make tough decisions in your life. There will be an actor who is assigned another role. The purpose of the scenario is to resolve the issue at hand. 

These acting questions tend to be extremely hard because the scenario puts you in difficult positions. For example, you could be faced with dealing with a situation such as this:

You are faced with an actor playing a 70-year-old woman who just got diagnosed with Alzeihmer's disease. She is coming to gain valuable information about her diagnosis when she suddenly starts to panic and breaks into tears. How do you deal with the situation at hand? 

This acting question is putting you in a situation to test your empathy with future patients. It's important to treat the woman with as much empathy as possible while also teaching her about her condition. Spend as much time providing comfort and act as if she was a close family member.  

Assessors essentially want to see your core values as an individual. These types of questions and scenarios will give a good picture of how you have behaved  in past situations. The bonus to these types of questions is that they should be easier since there is a high likelihood that you've faced a similar experience in real life. 

You must be sure that you are respecting other's values while holding high moral standards yourself. Make sure your ethics are up to date before heading into an MMI. This brings us to the last type of question set that will be presented. 

Personal

You will probably be familiar with some of these personal-type questions from previous job interviews. However, these questions are still different because they will be presented to you in MMI contexts. 

You will be given two minutes to prepare your answer outside of the room and up to eight minutes (depending on the school) to answer the question. Admissions will be looking to see if you possess personal qualities such as altruism, compassion, integrity, and empathy. Be completely prepared to answer questions ranging from: "Tell me about your biggest accomplishment in life? What makes it so important?” to "What is your greatest weakness and why?". 

In your two-minute brainstorming phase, you should reflect on your skills and experiences  and draw from personal experience. For tough questions such as "What is your greatest weakness and why?", make sure you're answering as honestly and openly as possible. Always admit that you have a weakness (everyone does) and be as vulnerable as possible.

However, don't offer a weakness that might be a key part of your future role. Don't say "I'm always late" or "I don't perform well under pressure". Be sure to go through how you are also taking the necessary steps to correct the weakness. 

Scenario

Scenario-based questions are by far the most common type of MMI question you're likely to encounter. These types of questions focus on a hypothetical scenario, where you'll often be asked "what would you do?". The scenarios are often based on an ethical or moral dilemma, such as witnessessing a friend cheating on a test or an employee showing up to work drunk.

Policy

You may also be asked to respond to policy-based questions and to questions that are not entirely relevant to medicine. An example of a policy-based question could be: “The current COVID-19 vaccinations are not recommended for pregnant women. Discuss whether you disagree or agree with the government's decision”. To answer this type of question, you’d have to be up to to date with your current knowledge of the vaccine. You would also need to keep the public in mind while answering. It is important to look at this situation from all angles and answer reasonably. For example, if the mother was about to pass from COVID and the vaccine was readily available to save her life - that is one scenario. If the mother just wanted to get vaccinated, without showing any symptoms of COVID, your answer could change. 

Quirky

The final type of question we will be going over is the quirky type, these types questions are not always relevant to medicine. They can spring up unexpectedly and leave you in confusion. Examples of questions asked could be: “What was the most recent movie you’ve seen or book you’ve read?”. When answering these questions, think strategically about how you could link your answers to medicine. These types of questions are designed to throw you off a little. Remain calm and answer intelligently, you also will probably have a chance to show your humor off with these types of questions. 

How is the MMI Used in the Admissions Process? 

Admissions committees use the MMI as an admission tool to aid the process because it is generally seen as being more reliable than other interview format . Evidence shows that the MMI is a less-biased and more feasible way to gain valuable information on candidates. It highlights how they would act in real-life situations and contexts. The individual who is taking the MMI has the chance to impress multiple admission committee members. There is also less room for subjectivity because of the number of mini-interviews you must go through. 

The MMI format is used in the admissions process to your advantage. You have many people working together to formulate ideas and opinions on who you are as a candidate. This may sound daunting, but it's more beneficial for you than traditional types of interviews. 

MMI’s are becoming increasingly popular and being used in the selection process for admissions. For example, Harvard University states that: “it may help to think about why medical schools interview applicants. They hope to evaluate your personality, professionalism, and maturity; to hear your motivation to pursue medicine in your own spoken words; to hear how you have tested and confirmed your desire to become a clinician; to learn if you have realistic expectations of life as a physician, and to decide if you are going to be a great colleague and peer”.

This interview format was initially a research project aimed at understanding how to select medical students that would grow into ethical and competent doctors. When preparing for the MMI it is important to note that it is a situational judgment test (SJT). If you have made it to the MMI interview stage, it means that you have achieved academic accomplishments, scored well on your MCAT, and have created a compelling application. The MMI is used in the admissions process to see if you possess communication skills, professionalism, and sound ethical standards amongst all of the other traits you possess.

FAQs

1. How should I prepare myself for the MMI?

The MMI format is designed to test individuals on their people and critical thinking skills. Therefore, the best way to prepare is by expressing scenarios you've been through in your life - to yourself. The more practice and repetition of the scenarios you go through, the better performance you will have during the live interviews.

When answering questions, you must synthesize the information and develop a synthesis statement. Students who start by answering questions with a restatement of the question are not demonstrating that they understood the question thoroughly. If the question you’re being asked is “why do you want to be a doctor” and you reply with “hmm, well… I don’t know”. That will not come off too great. You will want to know your exact reasoning for wanting to be a doctor. Make sure you have thought your answer through thoroughly before heading into the MMI.

Make sure you’re also demonstrating empathy in most, if not all, of your answers (if applicable). It is important to put yourself in the shoes of everyone involved in the scenario. For example, if you’re working with a partner, you can check-in and ask “What are your views on this situation? Share with me how you see it”. One major perspective people often miss during MMI’s is the perception of the public. Always make sure you have their best interest in mind. 

Also, you should practice with practice tests and questions before heading into your MMI. For example, you can practice with experts here. Going over questions is important because it will prepare you for the MMI. Practicing with an expert can enhance your confidence, improve your answers, understand the MMI structure and overcome your MMI anxieties. 

Practice Questions: 

1. You are working for a clinic that deals with poor communities. A 15-year-old girl comes in to seek pain medication. After a thorough physical examination and look through her medical history, you conclude that she doesn’t need the medication. She states she will go find another doctor to prescribe them if you don’t. What would you do?

2. Discuss an experience in your life that allowed you to learn something important about yourself. How did this experience help you in your career? 

3. A close colleague of yours tells you he’s thinking about dropping out of school because his dad developed lung cancer. He is feeling overwhelmed by his studies and wants to be there for his father. How do you counsel your friend? 

2. When should I start preparing myself? 

On average, medical students tend to start preparing for their MMI two months before their interview. However, this varies from person to person. We recommend practicing as much as possible until you feel 100% confident in your ability to answer any question type well.

Realistically, you have been preparing for the MMI your entire life based on the accumulated life experiences. The more diverse and well-rounded your life has been, the easier it may be for you. This doesn’t dismiss the fact that there is a lot to practice for when it comes to the MMI. Timing also has a crucial role to play, you must be mentally prepared before entering your MMI. 

Building up your confidence and practicing beforehand is essential to your success. Even the most outgoing people overthink and can end up coming across without confidence. Talk to your peers about how their MMI’s went, gain valuable tips and insights from those who have already been through the process. 

We recommend finding solutions to manage your stress before your MMI. Staying calm during the process is important. Your evaluator wants to see that your tone and body language is relaxed and professional. Routinely check in with yourself to ensure that small amounts of stress aren’t building up. 

3. How long does the interview process take? 

At most MMI interview stations, you’ll have between 4-8 minutes to respond to the prompt before moving onto the next station. Depending on your school, you will likely participate in 8-12 stations. Overall, it usually takes 1.5-2 hours to complete the process. 

4. Are MMI interviews hard? 

They are usually only as difficult as you perceive them to be. Applicants tend to stress about the entire process, leading them to further difficulty. If you take the time to relax and plan, you will do great! Be sure to prepare well in advance. 

5. What should I wear to my interview? 

You will want to dress and appear as professional as possible. Your  MMI is an opportunity to start a career, therefore you should dress your best. It is also important to make sure that you are dressed comfortably to remain calm and collected.

Conclusion

The MMI process comes off as complex and frightening. As long as you study and practice mock-up scenarios regularly, you will do a great job. It is important to go over the different types of scenarios and questions presented in this post. Practicing, staging, and going over answers to questions with a friend or spouse could greatly benefit you during preparation. 

Make sure to also manage your stress levels before entering an MMI, as this is the top reason why students make mistakes. Again, think of the process as something that is working with you, rather than against you. Scholars have created this process to ensure validity and transparency. We hope this post helps you out on your MMI journey! Best of luck. 

Additional Resources

Harvard University: Interview Preparation & Sample Questions

Wiley Online Library: Multiple mini‐interviews: same concept, different approaches

Taylor & Francis Online: Multiple Mini-Interviews in the Age of the Internet: Does Preparation Help Applicants to Medical School?

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