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How To Prepare For Med School Interviews: A Complete Guide

August 12, 2022
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How to Prepare for a Medical School InterviewMedical School Interview Tips from a Med StudentCommon Medical School Interview QuestionsFAQs: How to Prepare for a Medical School Interview

”Akhil

Reviewed by:

Akhil Katakam

Third-Year Medical Student, Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University

Reviewed: 8/12/22

Congratulations! You’ve scored an invitation to interview. Follow along to learn how to prep for your med school interview, including interview tips, sample questions to ask during med school interviews, and more.

The most significant error med students make is underestimating the importance of the interviews, so you want to prepare for your medical school interview. This interview is your ticket into the medical school of your dreams. The interview can make or break your chances of admission, so you have to give it your all and put your absolute best foot forward.

Researching medical schools' interview processes can be tricky because each medical school has a different interview format. However, the goal of this guide is to help you prepare for your medical school interview. 

We will provide you with the information and tips you will need to help you succeed during your final opportunity to convince the admission committee that you are the best fit for their program.

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How to Prepare for a Medical School Interview

Practicing your interview is one of the best ways to ease your pre-interview jitters. Once you know the format in which the interview is being conducted, you will want to practice it. Here are some helpful medical school interview tips:

1. Research Medical Schools

Every medical school is unique; each specializes in different medical areas and has individual mission statements, so having a thorough understanding of each medical school you’ll be interviewing at is a great place to start. 

Begin by looking at the mission statement for the medical school of your choice. You want to find a medical school with the same outlook as you. It will give you an idea of what the school is looking for in its candidates and if the medical school’s goals line up with your pursuits. 

Take a look at the following mission statements from two of the top medical schools in the United States: 

“To nurture a diverse, inclusive community dedicated to alleviating suffering and improving health and well-being for all through excellence in teaching and learning, discovery and scholarship, and service and leadership.” -Harvard Medical School
“The mission of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine is to prepare physicians to practice compassionate clinical medicine of the highest standard and to identify and solve fundamental questions in the mechanisms, prevention and treatment of disease, in health care delivery and in the basic sciences.” -John Hopkins University School of Medicine

While both mission statements convey a similar passion for medicine, John Hopkins School of Medicine focuses more on clinical medicine and research, and Harvard Medical School focuses on general healthcare and academic medicine. You will want to find aspects of the medical school’s mission and values that resonate with you. 

For example, Harvard mentions the importance of a diverse, inclusive community. This may be important for you and you have experiences that support this, such as volunteer work, working with refugees who speak a foreign language, etc. 

In your interview, reference the medical school’s mission statement, and include key phrases to show the interviewers you have researched their institution. Show them how the university aligns with your goals by using your supporting evidence. 

Another topic to review is the achievements in medicine the medical school you choose has accomplished. This will require a little more research, but having prior knowledge of this and discussing it in your interview will show the admissions committee you have put in the work to learn whether the school is a good fit for you. 

Interviewers often ask why you chose to apply to their school rather than another, so having information about the school is a great way to convey your interest. Tying your medical school knowledge with your desire to pursue medicine will impress the admissions committee more than a general statement stating your willingness to go to their university.

2. Stay Updated on Current Events in Medicine

It’s very likely that you will encounter at least one question regarding current events in medicine, so keeping up with what is happening in the world is crucial to your success. Keep up with political issues, especially when it pertains to health care. 

Platforms such as CNN and the New York Times are resources to help keep up to date on health issues. Researching scholarly articles and books is also a great way to expand your knowledge. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) is an excellent resource as it publishes original research, reviews, and more about medicine. 

Bioethics, innovative technologies, and medical policies are great topics to stay updated on because they are ever-changing in the medical field. 

When you discuss a current event in medicine during your interview, you will want to elaborate on the topic provided. Interviewers want to see you know more about your topic than shown at face value. 

For example, if you discuss the COVID-19 pandemic, you shouldn’t make a general statement. Instead, it would help if you elaborated on COVID-19, the struggle for creating the vaccine, what current scientists developing the vaccine are saying, and any bioethical dilemmas.

Some topics may be highly controversial, such as marijuana use and abortion, and it is very likely you will be asked to give your stance on these issues. There are no right or wrong answers to these questions; interviewers are more interested in understanding your knowledge of such topics and responses. 

Remember, you do not want to generalize your answer. It’s important to represent both sides of a topic fairly and then choose your stance and be able to defend it.  As usual, you want to be honest. If you are unsure how to respond, ask questions based on what you already know in order to expand further upon the prompt. 

3. Know the Types of Medical School Interviews

Each medical school has a different format for interviewing candidates, so you will want to be aware of the various methods.

One-On-One Interviews

The one-on-one format is a traditional interview style. Candidates will have one interview with a single interviewer. The one-on-one interview format can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours to conduct. Therefore, you only have one chance to make a first impression. You will want to go in prepared to answer any question or scenario.

Panel Interviews

The panel interview is another common medical school interview format. Candidates will be asked questions from a group of interviewers during a single interview. Unlike one-on-one interviews, you have one chance to make a first impression on multiple members of the admissions committee. Panel interviews can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a couple of hours, depending on the medical school. 

Multiple Mini Interviews (MMI)

The Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) format consists of a number of mini-interviews, each focusing on a specific topic or scenario. Candidates will be asked to go through a set of short interviews that are designed to gauge their verbal and nonverbal communication skills. Each interview is conducted at separate “stations.” 

You will be presented with a prompt outside of each station before being taken into the interview room, where you will have anywhere from five to ten minutes to answer the prompt or complete the task. The goal of the MMI format is to assess abilities interviewers can’t receive from an application, such as problem-solving skills and critical thinking. 

Unlike one-on-one interviews, the MMI format allows candidates to make multiple first impressions. Therefore, if they feel they didn’t do well on one question, they have a chance to redeem themselves with the next Interviewer. 

AAMC Vita

The AAMC Video Interview Tool for Admissions (AAMC VITA) is a new interview method created by the Association of American Medical Colleges. The AAMC VITA is a one-way, one-time recorded interview designed to help medical schools assess an applicant’s competency to be successful in medical school. The interview consists of six questions provided in text prompts, and applicants have one chance to record their responses. You have one minute to read the prompt and three minutes to record your answer; there is no human interaction.  

Zoom/Meets/Skype Video Interviews

Video interviews are also becoming a more popular interview format. Candidates are interviewed virtually through platforms such as Skype and Zoom. Prepare a space ahead of time where you will not be disturbed, and make sure you will maintain your privacy for the duration of the interview. It should be in a brightly-lit area so the interviewers can see you clearly. 

While not in-person, you must dress professionally from head to toe–yes, including bottoms. You will want to convey yourself as you would at an in-person interview, so dressing casually is not an option. Also, make sure your device is plugged in and fully charged. Interviewers are not likely to offer a second interview if your device dies in the middle of the interview.  

Open/Closed File Interviews

Interviewers are either open-file or closed-file. With open-file interviews, interviewers have access to your application materials. Some questions may therefore ask you to expand on aspects of your application. 

A closed-file interview is where the assessors have not reviewed your application materials. Therefore, you will be interviewed as though they know nothing about you except your name. If your interview is closed-file, you’ll want to ensure you highlight your background, passion, and experiences while answering questions.

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Medical School Interview Tips from a Med Student

Receiving advice from a current medical school student provides reassurance to prospective students because they hear firsthand what they went through to get into the school they are in now. Medical school student John Williams of Ross University School of Medicine offers a few tips for handling medical school interviews:

1. Review sample questions

Review med school interview sample questions and use that as a place to start. This gives you an idea of how you will shape your responses. For scenario-type questions, it’s important to remain non-judgmental, explore all possibilities, and keep any vulnerable parties in mind while you’re answering.

Interviewers not only want a thorough response, but they also want to understand your thought process, so preparing ahead of time for the style in which you wish to convey yourself eases much of the tension with medical school interviews

2. Practice in front of a mirror

Practicing for an interview in front of a mirror is the best way to check your nonverbal demeanor. Small gestures or ticks can indicate your nervousness to interviewers, so you want to identify them early and manage them prior to the real medical school interview. It will also show you how you are coming across to your audience. 

3. Maintain eye contact 

Maintain eye contact with your interviewer as much as possible. With such a time range for interviews, it is no surprise that you can sometimes get distracted. Your gaze may wander away from the interviewer to something else in the room. Do not let that happen. 

If you find yourself getting distracted, focus on what the interviewer is saying and repeat it back to them in your own words. This will not only keep you focused but also make sure you understand their question. If you are practicing at home, use an inanimate object as your “interviewer” and focus on it as you practice.

4. Conduct Mock Interviews with Experts

Seek help from professionals who know what the admissions committees seek in candidates during the interview portion. They will conduct a medical school mock interview and provide you with expert feedback on how to better perform when the actual interview takes place. 

Mock interviews are a great way to get an unbiased opinion on how you present yourself at an interview and where your strengths and weaknesses lie. 

5. Be yourself

Our number one med school interview tip is to be yourself in your interview. Interviewers want to see who you are beyond the grades and MCAT scores. Show them you are a real person with the qualities they desire in their candidates.

Be authentic, do not make anything up. Whether your interview is an open or close-file format, you must be honest. They know when you are lying, and if they don’t, they will find out. You will not be offered admission.

6. Know your application

 Know your entire application front and back because they will ask about it and base their questions around it. Your application includes the AMCAS application, secondary application, MCAT scores, academic records, and your letters of recommendation. 

7. Be Confident, and Smile! 

It’s no secret medical school interviews are stressful and nerve-wracking, and it’s okay to feel that way. However, you don’t want to give your interviewers the impression that you are nervous or worried. They will question your ability to handle the pressures that come with medical school and being a physician. Maintain a positive demeanor and be confident in your speech. 

Keeping a clean, polished look internally and externally goes a long way during medical school interviews. It will leave a lasting impression on the admissions committee. It sounds cliché, but smiling also makes a difference. You will be nervous, and it is okay to smile. It will help calm you down and put your interviewers at ease as well. Never underestimate the power of a smile.

Common Medical School Interview Questions

Here’s a breakdown of two of the most common med school interview questions and how to answer them. 

“Why Medical School?”

The most important question you must answer will be why you want to go to medical school. This question is your chance to state why you have chosen this career path and what it means to you. Consider the following in regards to this question:

Don’t use cliches such as “I want to help people” and “I want to make a difference.” The admissions committee interviews hundreds of applicants, and they all want to help people, so simply stating that you do will not impress the interviewers. If you do make such a statement, you will be asked to elaborate. 

Highlight experiences and moments during your undergraduate years that reinforced your desire to pursue medicine. In other words, what was the defining moment in your life that made you say, “This is what I want to do”? Being as concise and detailed as possible is the best tactic.

Derailing from your application may weaken your answers' authenticity, so try to highlight your medical school application's critical components during this question. There is nothing wrong with retelling a story from your personal statement–as long as you focus on a different aspect of the experience.

“Do You Have Any Questions for Me?”

It’s important to ask your interviewer questions. When, not if, they ask you if you have any questions, do not say no. Have at least three questions ready for them. It communicates interest. Avoid asking questions you can find on the internet.

Examples of Weak Questions to Ask During a Medical School Interview

Examples of Good Medical School Interview Questions to Ask

The strongest questions are ones that demonstrate your passion for the school. Make sure to do plenty of school research before your interview.

FAQs: How to Prepare for a Medical School Interview

Here are our answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about medical school interview prep.

1. How Long Are Medical School Interviews?

According to the AAMC, med school interviews are typically between 30-45 minutes in length. The duration of your med school interviews will vary between schools.

2. How Long Should You Prepare for a Med School Interview?

It is recommended to give yourself six to eight weeks of prep time before your medical school interviews. This will give you enough time to thoroughly research schools and conduct full-length mock interviews with a partner.

3. How Do I Stand Out During a Medical School Interview?

Confidence is sure to help you stand out from other candidates, as well as thorough school research. To gain confidence before a medical school interview, practice in the mirror until you are very comfortable answering each practice question. 

Final Thoughts

There is a lot of pressure when it comes to the interview portion of the admissions process. However, this guide has provided you with the information you need to prepare for your interview in advance.

By learning how to prepare for a medical school interview, what you should and should not discuss, and special tips from a current medical student, you’re well on your way to a successful interview performance. Follow our guide to place yourself at an advantage over other candidates and strengthen your chances of getting accepted into medical school.

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