First, we need to wrap our heads around what the medical school interview is and how it plays out before we can start to discuss how best to tackle it and go over some great interview tips. So, let’s start from the very beginning so that we can ensure everybody follows along - no matter their level of knowledge or experience.
There are two types of programmes that a prospective medical student can apply to; undergraduate and postgraduate. The former have longer degrees and graduate with a lower AQF level, but can begin straight after leaving highschool. The latter is a shorter degree with a higher AQF level, but requires a completed undergraduate degree before beginning. At the end of the day, both make you a doctor capable of joining the Australian healthcare force. The main difference between them is the journey that each student chooses to take.
Why is that information relevant to this article about medical interview tips? Well, it’s relevant in that it helps me explain to you the extent of differences (or lack thereof) between undergraduate medicine and postgraduate medicine. Of course, each university runs things differently within the course, but they are all ultimately the same. The same is true for the interview process.
What Are Medical School Interviews?
Now that we know there to be very little difference in the final destination between undergraduate medicine and postgraduate medicine, we can look at how similar their medical interview processes are.
The key lies in being able to differentiate between a traditional panel interview and an MMI.
MMI - Multiple Mini Interview
Never heard of this before? Don’t worry - most people haven’t. The MMI interview was developed by McMaster University and started being used just over fifteen years ago. Candidates run through a variety of stations, each being: timed, completely independent of one another, and run by a different interviewer or panel of interviewers. The candidate’s scores for each station are collated and an aggregate score for the whole MMI is given.
Why? There are two main goals of the MMI process. One, is to ensure that the medical school interview appropriately addresses and assesses the soft skills of a candidate. That is, their emotional intelligence or social awareness, their ability to communicate or their people skills. The other goal is to ensure that the medical interview more accurately predicts the performance of a prospective student in a medical school, and later their performance as a physician.
Traditional Panel Interview
This is the classic interview that we have always known about and see in all the movies. The candidate goes into a room and sits in front of 2 or more people. The candidate is then asked a variety of questions by the interviewers ranging from ‘why medicine?’ to ‘when have you demonstrated sound teamwork?’ to ‘what’s your opinion on the Medicare rebate freeze?’. The candidate answers these questions to the best of their ability and the interviewers either leave it at that or probe a bit further in a more discursive mode. The total experience lasts between 30 minutes to an hour and maintains the same set of interviewers throughout.
Why The Difference?
In the intervening years since 2004, when McMaster first implemented their MMI interview, it has taken over the medical school interview world. The data proved it to be a better judge of a candidate’s interpersonal skills, a better predictor of their capacity for professionalism, and a superior gauge on somebody’s moral fibre. There are many reasons and much data on why MMI interviews do a better job. However, the simple answer is that it does a great job of removing any potential personal or cultural biases from interviewers through having different interviewers in each station. More importantly, it gives each student multiple opportunities to prove themselves in their interview.
Which Universities Use MMI Interviews & Which Use Panel Interviews?
You’ll be happy to know that we have done the hard work for you and already sifted through each university’s interview process. Which medical schools use MMIs and which use a panel interview? If they use MMI, how many stations do they normally run a student through and how long is each one? What about the types of questions they ask?
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here is a guide for the ins and outs of each undergraduate university interview process and here is the same guide for the postgraduate universities.
Make sure you consult these tables well. They should play a pivotal role in your interview preparation by helping direct your time and effort. If you’re still a bit confused about what some of it means, or what the different MMI station types mean, have a read of this nifty document to help explain it all a bit.
If you can’t be bothered clicking away, then here is a quick list for you to glance at before reading on for our best medical interview tips.
Undergraduate Medical Interviews
Adelaide University - 2 x short panels
Bond University - MMI
Charles Sturt University - MMI
Curtin University - MMI
Flinders University - MMI
James Cook University - MMI
Monash University - MMI
University of Newcastle - MMI
University of New South Wales - MMI
University of Queensland - MMI
University of Tasmania - no interview
University of Western Australia - MMI
Postgraduate Medical Interviews
Australian National University - 2 short panels & MMI
Deakin University - MMI
Flinders University - panel + presentation
Griffith University - MMI
Macquarie University - MMI
Monash University - MMI
University of Melbourne - MMI
University of Notre Dame - MMI
University of Sydney - no interview
University of Wollongong - MMI
University of Western Australia - MMI
University of Queensland - MMI
And now, for our medical school interview tip bonanza! We’ve got MMI tips, we’ve got traditional panel interview tips, we’ve got tips coming out the wazoo!
MMI Tips (And Panel Tips)
Given that the large majority of medical school interviews are MMI these days, it seems most appropriate to address these! Bear with us here, because while you may think some of these are no-brainers, it’s prudent to trust the process that makes a precedent a practice, and a practice then a cliche.
Medical Interview Tip 1: Prepare For All Station Types
If you hadn’t yet clicked through to the guide above and seen that there are many types of MMI stations that you can encounter in your MMI interviews, then ta-da - there are many different types of stations. In the guide you will find that we have provided you with some insight as to how the universities might break down their choice of station types based on past years. However, using this as a strict and limiting blueprint to your method of preparation could be a disastrous move.
Why do we suggest you prepare for all station types irrespective of what universities have done in the past few years? Because it is a well documented occurrence for any and all universities to change it up year on year. Obviously each medical school has its own style and this informs the fundamental tenets of what they’re looking for in a student. However, this style does not preclude them from testing for these qualities in different ways.
With this in mind, don’t get caught out. Prepare how to tackle all station types. From motivation stations to practical tasks to medical ethical stations. If you want a better idea of what each type of station looks like, you can get an idea in this Guide To Medical Interviews. If you really want to dive a bit deeper into the different theory behind each kind of station, then feel free to take advantage of the Free Medical Interview Course. Seriously though, there are chapters of information paired with videos and practice stations.
N.B. This same practice translates perfectly well to traditional panel style interviews. Most panel interviews these days will ask questions or pose scenarios that follow similar themes to MMI interviews, it’s all just in one room with the same interviewers the whole time. So practicing for different station types with MMI in mind will without a doubt prepare you for a panel interview
Medical Interview Tip 2:
Once you’ve gotten your head around the kinds of stations at play here, your best bet is to start strategising how you feel most comfortable approaching each particular type of station. Do you have a structure for your answers that you like to use? Do you have some anecdotes that you feel comfortable weaving into your answer? Have you worked out your timing on certain answers versus other answers? Are you taking too long or moving too fast? Are you fumbling over your words? Are you missing major points?
If you’ve ever heard someone tell you that “too much practice stops you from being yourself” or that “going in there and just being yourself is the best approach”, then please disregard that. That is possibly one of the most dangerous rhetorics going around the medical interview landscape. If you’re such a robot that practicing how you might answer certain types of questions or developing strategies makes you lose all sense of personality, then there are probably other issues at play that you need to address before going into your interview.
Practice by yourself in a mirror, record your answers on your voice recorder, have practice sessions with friends, develop drills that you can smash day in, day out. If you’re lost for material to practice with, this MMI Question Generator is stacked with practice stations. You can sort and filter it how you please to best match the practice you want then and there.
Medical Interview Tip 3: Play It Cool
Even though the interview itself will only take up a couple hours of your day in total, you’ll be surprised about how long a day it actually is. Get your things in order in the days leading up to your medical school interview so that you don’t place undue pressure on yourself.
Do you have your outfit sorted? Are you wearing ultra-formal or striking that nice ‘smart’ look? Whatever you choose is fine. Most importantly, you have to feel confident and comfortable in what you wear so that you exude your best you.
Make sure you’ve eaten properly on the day. A couple of coffees is unfortunately not enough to keep you focused and switched on. Eat a nice meal that isn’t too heavy a few hours prior so that you’re all set on the energy front. You definitely do not want to find yourself unnecessarily anxious or unfocused.
Don’t cram on the day of your interview. You will have done all that you can in the weeks leading up and this extra bit will likely just stress you and remind you of all the extra things that you could know better. Just go in there and trust the process.
Medical Interview Tip 4: Be Yourself
As we discussed right at the beginning of this piece, the multiple mini interview provides you with many opportunities. In each one, you start anew. No carry over from the previous station. The new interviewer knows nothing about how well or poorly you performed in your previous stations. You need to give yourself the chances that the MMI style allows you. You deserve it. If you mess up one station, that’s totally fine, this is why they have multiple. One poor station performance does not a bad MMI make. Just take a breath, remind yourself of all your prep, run through your drills, and go in and smash the next one.
In order to best be yourself in these instances, you need to rely on your preparation. If you go through the right motions enough times, you will do the right motions without even thinking about it. Then, you can spend more time and energy focusing on giving a genuine, well thought-out answer rather than getting caught up in what you ‘should or shouldn’t’ be saying.
Don’t word-vomit out all of your knowledge at once as soon as the timer goes. You will be most authentic when you’re calm and collected. Read the scenario, ready the ideas that you want to address, and then present them in a clear and concise manner. When you do this, you will free yourself up to infuse your personality into your speaking.
Of all the medical interview tips that you should most take to heart, it is this one - the whole reason that medical schools interview prospective students, is because they want to see what kind of a person you are, beyond your grades. So the very best thing you can do, is make sure that you show them truly what kind of a person you are. Don’t be afraid to have a laugh or make a joke if it’s appropriate. Don’t feel like you need to give the ‘perfect’ answer if it comes at the expense of being yourself. Don’t forget to tie anecdotes into your answers so that they can see that you have relevant life experiences.
That’s All Folks!
And so we conclude our behemoth journey. You wanted medical interview tips, you got that and more. You got a history of the MMI. You got a discussion on the differences between MMI and panel interviews. You got to know which universities do what. Mixed in there you got a smattering of awesome resources to help you. And after all of that you got to read some killer tips.
Please don’t dismiss any of these as being too obvious or basic, because these are exactly the ideas that you need to keep in mind when preparing for and then sitting your interview. The minutiae of the exact ‘whats’ and ‘hows’ will come later. Get these down pat and then you’ll have created a strong foundation from which you can build your knowledge, your strategies, your communication skills - the lot.
That really is all folks. That’s all it is. Easy hey? See you on the wards one day!