What Is An Acting Station
So, what is an MMI acting station? If you didn’t yet know that most medical school interviews employ the MMI (multiple mini interview) format for their interviews, then let’s just quickly address that before moving on. The MMI is an interview process that runs candidates through multiple timed stations, each with its own basic scenario and a unique interviewer. Scores across the multiple stations are aggregated and ‘voila’, that’s how they assess and give you a score in an MMI! And an acting station, well it’s just one of the stations within the round-robin.
In MMI acting stations, the goal is to test your capacity to think fast and behave accordingly in a difficult situation. You may or may not be informed prior to walking into the room that it will be role-playing. If you are, it will tell you who you are in the situation. If you aren’t, you’ll have to work it out on your own. This might sound scarier, but is often easier as your role is less fluid and generally more based on empathy rather than knowledge of how to behave in a given environment.
The utility of an acting station from the university’s perspective, is that it is a great way to push a student out of their comfort zones. Most often, a student will have prepared for how to answer certain questions, have the knowledge, recall it in a clear manner, and be able to rote learn it all. What you can’t learn by rote, is how to speak to someone when you or they are in a difficult situation, nor how to show empathy for another person. Obviously these are skills that can also be learned and practiced. However, they can’t be memorised prior. The confronting nature of many of these scenarios forces a student to behave reactively. This then limits the student’s capacity to preempt or prepare what to do or say.
The benefit of all this immediacy? It unwittingly shows the interviewers more genuinely what kind of a person the prospective medical student is. It gives them insight into how you communicate, your capacity for empathy, emotional reasoning, and whether or not you're able to think laterally when problem solving is required of you.
MMI Acting Stations Examples
To wrap your head around all of this, below are a few examples of the kinds of scenarios you may have to deal with in an MMI acting station.
Breaking bad news to patients
Consoling a depressed friend
Dealing with rude/angry strangers
Managing customer confrontation
While these all seem to be very distinct scenarios, they all have one thing in common: they rely on you being able to assess a situation and deal with it in a tactful manner. Now obviously you can’t actually prepare for the exact scenario you may come across in an acting station. You can, however, prepare strategies for how you want to approach a variety of different types of stations.
What About Online Acting Stations this Year?
It may sound super daunting to do an acting station over video conferencing, but odds are, it won’t change too much about it. The basic premise of these stations will likely be the same. You get assigned a role, you play that role, they assess you based on your performance and corroborate that assessment with certain qualities they were looking for. Simples.
A couple of things to keep in mind though, just to ensure you don’t get tripped up.
The first is that given the potential difficulties with maintaining a fluid ‘scene’ over video chat, universities may just cut down on (or even entirely cut out) acting stations. However, that isn’t to say that you shouldn’t prepare for acting stations. It’s to highlight that there is still a lot up in the air about how medical school interviews will run in the age of COVID.
The second is to keep lag in mind when acting out a situation. Allow the appropriate pause after other role-players have finished speaking before you begin. It seems blindingly obvious, but these are the sort of things that we don’t even notice when we’re in-person, and let slide (unknowingly) over online meeting platforms. This will ensure you find the right flow in the discussion. No speaking over anyone. No letting your comments go unheard.
MMI Acting Stations Tips
As always, here are some tips that you can use in MMI acting stations. If they sound too obvious to you, then you’re in a good position to improve on what you’re doing. If some of these resonate with you whilst reading for the first time, or if you find acting stations difficult, then please make the most of it all! Unfortunately, it’s not really viable to provide you a written example of how to do an acting station, so theoretical discussion will have to suffice. If you want a more in-depth look at practical application, feel free to jump on our Free Medical Interview Course. Get on it, have a look - there’s a surprising amount of high quality content there.
What To Do
Make sure to read the situation thoroughly, be it on the door outside the room, or by intuition once you enter. Know your role in the scenario. Work out who you are, how you’re meant to behave, and what is expected of you.
Pay attention to how you communicate. Don’t be too assertive or brash. Speak with the correct formality for your position and play to that.
Let silence be your best friend. Listening is as powerful a tool in many of these acting scenarios as it is in real life. Let your silence speak for your capacity to appreciate the nuances of human behaviour.
Try to empathise with the subjects of the scenario before jumping to any conclusions. Sure, they may be behaving inappropriately, but don’t assume you know why. And beyond that, remember to never say “I understand”. Because you don’t. You “appreciate”, “see where you’re coming from”, and “think that’s reasonable”.
Be yourself! Despite the fact that you will be acting, these are the stations that best permit you to highlight your personality. Don’t let having to role-play get in the way of showing the interviewers what kind of a person you are. Never forget that medical school interviews are first and foremost a chance for you to show the faculty who you are as a human being!
Practice! Only through trial and error can we see where our faults lie and how best to address them. Use this Station Generator to practice with friends. Take turns acting out different roles and give feedback to one another. The more you prepare, the less chance you have to be caught off guard.
What Not To Do
Don’t overstep your bounds. This one is much like knowing your role. Don’t try to do or say more than you need to. They’re only looking to gauge your responses on a small variety of topics. Less is more with things like this.
Don’t say things you otherwise wouldn’t. As much as you may believe there are particular things that are ‘right’ to say - don’t. It shows and will seem awfully contrived. This is a sure-fire way to be marked down. Seems strange to tell you not to ‘act’ in an acting station, but hey, this is all very strange from the get-go. Regardless, try hard to be true to who you are while answering … in your acted role ...
Don’t be negative. That’s not to say you need to be super positive. Rather, it’s important you remain neutral/non-judgemental in your conversations. You would hate for your interviewers to mark you down for not showing that you can empathise. This one is particularly important in stations where the actor is themself being very negative.
Don’t forget that people can be like this in real life! Hopefully this reminder can help you bring a touch of ‘normality’ to your behaviour. The more natural you are with your role-playing, the better you will score.
Hopefully you’ve learned a thing or two about MMI acting stations and feel a little more prepared to take them on. Just remember, nothing in a medical school interview is supposed to be too hard, it would defeat the entire purpose! So with that, march onwards with your heads held high, confidence brimming for a very attainable goal!