Congratulations! You’ve scored an invitation to interview. Follow along to learn how to prepare for your med school interview, including interview tips, sample questions to ask during med school interviews, and more.
You want to prepare for your medical school interview – it can be your ticket into the school of your dreams. The interview can significantly boost your chances of admission, so you have to give it your all and put your absolute best foot forward.
This guide will prepare you for your medical school interview and give tips to show admissions committees why you’re the perfect fit!
Medical schools interview applicants to get to know them as individual people beyond their application materials. Interviews are an important aspect of many medical and dental schools’ application processes.
The interview is also a chance for you, the candidate, to learn more about the school you’re applying to. If you ask good questions, you can get a window into what life at that school would be like, which may help you make an easier decision.
Preparing for your medical school interviews is one of the best ways to ease pre-interview jitters. Once you know the interview’s format, you can effectively practice. Here are some helpful medical school interview tips:
Every medical school is unique; each specializes in different medical areas and has individual mission statements, so understanding 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 show you what the school is looking for in candidates and if the 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 focuses more on clinical medicine and research, while Harvard focuses on general healthcare and academic medicine. You’ll want to find aspects of the medical school’s mission and values that resonate with you.
In your interview, reference the medical school’s mission statement, and include key phrases to show interviewers you’ve done your research. Show them how the university’s mission aligns with your goals by using your supporting evidence.
Another topic to review is a medical school’s achievements. This requires a little more research, but discussing specific achievements 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 in particular. 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.
You’ll likely encounter at least one question regarding current events in medicine, so keeping up with what’s happening in the world is crucial to your success. Keep up with political issues, especially when it pertains to healthcare.
Platforms such as CNN and the New York Times are great 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 other great topics to read up on. When you discuss a current event during your interview, 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 you may be asked to give your stance on these issues. Interviewers are interested in understanding your knowledge of such topics and responses.
Remember, you don’t want to generalize your answer. It’s important to represent both sides of a topic fairly and then choose your stance and defend it. As usual, you want to be honest. If you’re unsure how to respond, ask questions based on what you already know to expand further upon the prompt.
Each medical school has a different format for interviewing candidates – knowing these formats can help you tailor your medical school interview preparation process.
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 30 minutes to two hours to conduct. Therefore, you only have one chance to make a first impression.
The panel interview is another common medical school interview format. Candidates are 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 admissions committee members.
Panel interviews can take 30 minutes to a few hours to complete, depending on the medical school.
The Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) format consists of several mini-interviews, each focusing on a specific topic or scenario. Candidates will participate in a set of short interviews designed to gauge their verbal and nonverbal communication skills. Each interview is conducted at separate “stations.”
You’ll be presented with a prompt outside of each station before being taken into the interview room, where you’ll have anywhere from five to ten minutes to answer the prompt or complete the task. The goal of the MMI format is to assess your abilities, 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 can redeem themselves with the next interviewer; however, great MMI prep can help you maximize your chances of success at each station!
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’s no human interaction.
Video interviews are a popular interview format. Candidates are interviewed virtually through platforms such as Skype and Zoom. Prepare for your video interview by attaining a space where you won’t be disturbed and that is brightly lit.
While not in-person, you must dress professionally from head to toe –yes, including bottoms. Also, ensure your device is plugged in and fully charged. Interviewers aren’t likely to offer a second interview if your device dies in the middle of the interview.
Interviewers are either open-file or closed-file. With open-file interviews, interviewers have access to your application materials – you might be asked questions related to your documents.
A closed-file interview is where the assessors haven’t reviewed your application materials. Therefore, you’ll 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.
It’s crucial that your medical school interview preparation is tailored to the format each school you applied to uses!
One of the best ways to get ready for a medical school interview is to practice with common questions. Here’s a breakdown of five of the most common med school interview questions and how to answer them.
The most important question you must answer will be why you want to go to medical school. This is your chance to state why you’ve chosen this career path and what it means to you. Consider the following in regard 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 who want to help people.
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 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.
Responding to “tell me about yourself” can be difficult, especially when the prompt is so broad. However, this is an excellent opportunity to highlight a few of your best character traits and most meaningful experiences. Many applicants like to start with a little bit about their background before describing what they’re doing now.
Remember to avoid rambling too long about your life’s story (particularly about your childhood) and instead focus on your current goals.
This is your opportunity to describe why you want to attend the particular medical school you’re applying to. Your answer here will depend on your motivations for applying and the unique attributes, programs, or opportunities the school offers.
For example, are you an aspiring oncologist ready to participate in a research project at one of the school's centers? Are you interested in working with underserved populations through one of the school’s programs? Connect your values, mission, and goals with the school’s offerings and vision.
Your answer to this question may be somewhat similar to the one above – when schools ask this, they aren’t looking for you to tear down other applicants to build yourself up. Instead, they want to see that you’ve done your research and know your acceptance would be mutually beneficial to you and the school.
Medical schools want to hear how you’d contribute to the campus while learning more about how you see yourself. While you don’t have to brag excessively here, be objective and let your personality and experiences shine.
It’s important to ask your interviewer questions. When, not if, they ask you if you have any questions, don’t say no. Have at least three questions ready for them to show your interest. Avoid asking questions you can find on the internet.
The strongest questions are ones that demonstrate your passion for the school. Make sure to do plenty of school research before your interview.
According to the AAMC, “an interview is a chance for medical schools to look at the intangible qualities not captured on paper.” Therefore, medical schools are looking at the strength of your soft skills, how well you communicate, and your ability to think critically while maintaining professionalism.
Receiving advice from a current medical school student can reassure prospective students. Medical school student John Williams of Ross University School of Medicine offers a few med school interview tips to elevate your performance:
Review some med school interview sample questions and use that as a place to start. This gives you an idea of how you’ll 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 to effectively structure your answer is important.
Practicing for an interview in front of a mirror is the best way to check your nonverbal demeanor. Small gestures or tics can indicate your nervousness, 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.
Maintain eye contact with your interviewer as much as possible. With such a time range for interviews, it’s no surprise you can sometimes get distracted. Your gaze may wander away from the interviewer to something else in the room. Don’t 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’re practicing at home, use an inanimate object as your “interviewer” and focus on it as you practice.
Seek help from professionals who know what admissions committees seek in candidates during the interview portion. They’ll conduct medical school mock interviews and provide expert feedback on how to perform your best during the real thing.
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.
Our number one med school interview tip is to be yourself. Interviewers want to see who you are beyond the grades and MCAT scores. Show them you’re a real person with the qualities they desire in their candidates.
Be authentic, and don’t make anything up. Whether your interview is in an open or closed-file format, you must be honest.
Know your entire application front and back because you may be asked questions about it. Your application includes the AMCAS application, secondary application, MCAT scores, academic records, and letters of recommendation.
It’s no secret that med 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 you’re nervous or worried. 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 sounds cliche, but smiling also makes a difference. Smiling can help calm you down and put your interviewers at ease as well. Never underestimate the power of a smile.
Here are our answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about medical school interview prep.
According to the AAMC, med school interviews are typically between 30-45 minutes long. The duration of your med school interviews will vary.
It’s recommended to give yourself six to eight weeks of prep time before your med school interviews. This gives you enough time to thoroughly research schools and conduct full-length mock interviews with a partner.
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.
You don’t want to say anything that would make you sound ambivalent about medicine or your career path. You also don’t want to say anything that would color you as unprofessional and dishonest.
You can start your med school interview prep months in advance – some schools don’t give very much notice between when they send an invitation and your interview day. Give yourself at least six to eight weeks to prepare.
The AAMC states that medical school interview invitations are normally sent out in late summer/early fall. Interviews commonly take place between the months of August and February, but not every medical school follows this timeline.
In your thank-you letter after your med school interview, you should express sincere gratitude for the opportunity. You can keep it brief and professional, but you should still personalize it.
The primary goal is to genuinely thank your interviewer for their time and express appreciation for the conversation you had. You can also subtly reinforce why you are an ideal candidate, but that should come as the secondary purpose.
For your med school interview, you should dress professionally but not overly formal. Business casual style is usually a safe bet. Stick with solid, neutral colors and err on the side of modesty. Also, be sure to appear neat and tidy -- no wrinkled clothes or messy hair.
Medical school interviews can be intimidating. However, by learning how to prepare for a medical school interview, what you should and shouldn’t 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!