So. It’s 2020. Things have changed and unless you are Patrick Star, you’ve no doubt noticed. Naturally, if you’ve applied for a medical school and are waiting on an offer for a medical interview, or have even already been offered one (congratulations!), you’re wondering how this year will be different. Even though not all interview offers are out, nor have all universities informed us of how they plan to run their interviews, we’ll try our hardest to assuage your concerns.
What Do Medical School Interviews Normally Look Like?
If you want a more in depth look at how it all breaks down, along with some important tips, this article will sort you out! Otherwise, let’s give you a very quick refresher on how medical school interviews run normally. Most universities employ an MMI - or Multiple Mini Interview - format for their interview process. The MMI involves applicants moving through a series of unique stations with different examiners. In each station they may need to do any one of: respond to a text, act, or even work their way through some practical task like trying to detechnicalise a difficult topic in a simplistic way. Applicants are then given individual scores based on their performances in each station and an aggregate score for their whole MMI.
For the universities that don’t use the MMI style, they interview their applicants in a more traditional way, which is known as a Panel Interview. This involves the applicant answering questions to a panel of people in one room. The questions might not even be too different from the kinds asked in an MMI. It runs for anywhere between 30 minutes to one hour. It is much easier for a university to run and definitely provides the interviewers a greater opportunity to get a sense of the interviewee. It does, though, run the risk of internal biases factoring in to the scores given to each student and research has shown it to be less effective at gauging an applicant’s success in a clinical setting than the MMI.
If you’re interested in the kinds of questions that you might encounter in a given university’s MMI or panel, this table gives a very neat summary. It doesn’t cover all bases, but it does give an insight into the character of what each medical school looks or tests for in their medical interviews.
How Are 2020 Medical Interviews Different?
Let’s jump into the nitty gritty of what this year will look like on the medical school interview front. It’s important to keep in mind that the changes we see this year are all a product of necessity. It is very unlikely that they will stay in place once we have a better understanding of COVID or a way to manage it. As for now, the medical schools are looking at how to maintain what they see to be the best possible ways to interview prospective medical students whilst also adhering to the necessary physical distancing protocols.
In order to best enlighten you as to the different ways that medical interviews will play out this year, it seems prudent to show you a ‘before and after’ snapshot. Thus, for each university, we will give you a little vignette of how they used to be run and then explore what we know so far of how it will be different. After we’ve run through the list, it would behoove all of us well to discuss the significance of these changes and what they mean for you as an interview applicant and prospective medical student.
Australian National University
What it was: The MMIs for ANU Medicine usually take place in-person at the Canberra campus. ANU begins with two short panel interviews that precede MMI stations. These will involve questions asked by a panel of examiners. They are the more traditional ‘why medicine’ and ‘why you?’ style prompts, that require you to impress a panel of different members of the community and ANU staff.
ANU MMI then has 6 stations of 6 minutes length and 2 minutes reading time. These questions can come from a broad pool of possibilities, but often focus on a range of ethical and public health scenarios. ANU is also known for strange ‘practical tasks’ such as playing a puzzle-style game with the examiner, requiring you to effectively problem solve whilst demonstrating clear communication, reasoning, and team-work.
What we know for 2020: Things are changing quite drastically for ANU medical interviews this year. The interviews are likely to run online between September 15th and 18th and will be held in two parts. Part 1 will consist of a scheduled online interview with recorded responses to a series of pre-recorded interview prompts. Part 2 will consist of a 30 minute panel interview over Zoom, which will also be recorded for quality assurance.
What it was: Deakin University usually holds their MMIs at the Waurn Ponds Campus, which is about a 10 minute drive from the centre of Geelong. The Deakin MMI is much longer than many of the MMIs done at other universities. There are 11 stations (one a rest), each with 2 minutes reading time and 5 minutes to respond. Deakin has a wide mix of topics across their MMIs. There are the standard scenarios on ethical or public health issues, or the classic “why medicine?.” There is always a strong emphasis on rural medicine and Indigenous health, as they are a major focus in the Deakin program.
What we know for 2020: It seems that Deakin medicine interviews aren’t changing too drastically. The interviews are likely to run online between September 14th and 18th. The online interview will be run over Zoom and will only consist of 6 MMI stations rather than their usual 10 and 1 rest. The stations will still be 5 minutes long and we expect the topics and themes addressed to be the same.
What it was: Flinders University usually holds their interviews on campus in the Health Sciences complex. It is the only university that doesn’t run MMI in any shape of form. There is normally a 10 minute presentation that students must give on information they were handed shortly before. Following the presentation, there is a standard panel interview with two or three interviewers and one medical student. The panel usually runs between 30 minutes and an hour long, depending on how the student answers.
What we know for 2020: Flinders are a dichotomy at the moment: South Australian residents might be expected to interview in-person whilst for interstate applicants. Flinders have not yet committed to moving their interviews online this year, but it is very much expected to be the case. If this does play out as such, the major difference for Flinders medical interviews is that they look likely to omit the presentation for 2020. As such, it will consist of a traditional panel interview run between September 21st and October 2nd.
What it was: Interviews for Griffith Medicine normally take place at the Griffith Health Centre on the Gold Coast Campus. There will be 8 MMI stations, each with 7 minutes between stations and 5 minutes to respond in the station. Usually 4 of the 8 MMI stations are acting stations that require a student to immerse themselves in a scene and role-play. It can be seen that Griffith looks for good communication skills and an ability to demonstrate empathy. The other 4 MMI stations are the more standard MMI scenarios that focus on anything from public health to ethical dilemmas.
What we know for 2020: Griffith doesn’t look to be running their medical interviews too differently to normal. They will likely be run online on September 30th over either Zoom or Microsoft Teams. The only apparent difference is that they will be cutting the amount of stations to either 4 or 5 rather than the usual 8. Expect the same types of stations.
What it was: Macquarie’s MMIs normally will involve 10 total stations of 5 minutes, with 2 of them being rest stations. These take place at Macquarie University Hospital, where the medical school is located. Macquarie place a strong focus in their questions on ethical issues and behavioural nuance. In some scenarios, candidates are shown a video in place of reading the scenario in text. Being a very new medical school, Macquarie seems to favour students with a progressive outlook and a strong moral and ethical foundation.
What we know for 2020: All that we know so far of Macquarie’s medical interviews for 2020 is that they are likely going to be run on September 26th. Apart from that, the university has not released any further information. It is very likely that they will be online like all other medical interviews in NSW, and based on the trends, they will likely trim the number of total stations too.
What it was: Monash medicine interviews for the postgraduate program are only offered to existing Monash students. In the past, if you were offered an interview, you needed to travel to the Monash Churchill campus in Gippsland. The Monash MMI consists of 6 stations with 2 minutes reading time and 8 minutes for responding. All 6 stations are exclusively ethical scenarios that present a dilemma on an Australian health topic or an interpersonal situation. There also tends to be a focus on rural health, seeing as the first year is based in Churchill, and a strong candidate will have a good understanding of the problems that rural communities face.
What we know for 2020: Monash interviews are looking to be run between September 22nd and September 25th and will be almost exactly the same as normal, just held online over Zoom. That is, they will still consist of 6 stations. They will, however, also require students to complete a Situational Judgement Test (SJT) over Moodle. Try out our mock Monash SJT here for a bit of practice!
University of Melbourne
What it was: The University of Melbourne’s MMIs take place on their main campus in Parkville, situated only minutes from Melbourne’s central business district. There are 8 5 minute stations, that encompass a wide range of situations. These include acting stations, ethical scenarios, detechnicalisation stations, and an assessment of contemporary medical issues for the Australian healthcare system. A very common MMI station is that which asks applicants directly about a particular Australian healthcare issue, which often flusters many. If you do not know the details of this issue, it is ok! You need to learn how to talk about what you do know, and express your thoughts on that rather than focus on what you don’t know.
What we know for 2020: There are two possible options for University of Melbourne medicine interviews:
1. A pre-recorded prompt with a recorded video response using online platform Sonru. It is important to note that in pre-recorded prompts, follow up questions are less likely. Rather you will have 5 minutes to respond to a single question.
2. An online live MMI via a video conferencing program that would directly mimic their in person structure (when and which program is unclear yet).
Irrespective of their choice, it is likely the University of Melbourne will retain its standard of 8 stations with 1 minute reading and 5 minutes responding format, but it wouldn’t be out of character for the Melbourne Medical School to change things up last minute on a whim.
University of Notre Dame Australia (Sydney & Fremantle)
What it was: The University of Notre Dame holds its interviews at their respective campuses in both Darlinghurst and Fremantle. There are normally 8 MMI stations of 8 minutes length including one rest station. The UNDA stations have been known to cover almost any type of topic apart from giving students practical tasks to do. It is important to note that their interviews are a little less medical than at most other universities, with the emphasis instead being on core ethics, ideas, and values. In line with this, a common station given by UNDA is that which asks students to interpret a quote or image and then discuss their thoughts.
What we know for 2020: It seems the Notre Dame medicine interviews will look very similar to normal, but likely pared back a couple of stations, and held online. That would suggest somewhere between 6-8 stations, on the kinds of topics suggested above. We are currently unsure of the dates. This online interview format will be the same for both UNDS and UNDF, and will very likely only differ in timezone.
University of Sydney
What it was: The University of Sydney usually holds its interviews about a month before most other postgraduate medical school interviews. Held on the main campus in Camperdown, the USYD interview is 5 MMI stations of 7 minutes. The scenarios that an applicant will encounter are almost entirely ethical and behavioural dilemmas with a possibility for a question on motivation. As such, we see that the Sydney Medical Program looks almost exclusively for prospective medical students that can show a strong sense for reasoning and critical thinking.
What we know for 2020: There are no interviews for University of Sydney medicine this year! That’s about as different as it could possibly be!
University of Queensland
What it was: University of Queensland medicine interviews only began as of 2019. MMIs at UQ are a relatively new occurrence. The MMI consists of 8 active stations, each lasting 7 minutes, and 1 rest station. In their first year, UQ had a mix of questions covering many of the traditional categories from other universities. These included ethical scenarios and general questions about dealing with stress and failure. There does seem to be a heavier focus on ethical scenarios at UQ compared to other universities, as well as public health topics such as rural and ATSI health.
What we know for 2020: UQ are well versed in running interviews in an online capacity, and have done so for international students throughout the years. UQ has an established ‘rotating tutor model’ that we would imagine any online live MMI would replicate. UQ’s website hints that there are likely to be 8 stations, however the exact duration and date of these stations is unknown at this stage.
University of Wollongong
What it was: The University of Wollongong (UoW) interviews are held at either the main campus in Wollongong or at the rural campus in Nowra. It is the longest MMI of all the medical school interviews with 11 stations of 8 mins each. It makes for quite a long process but allows you to give UoW a great idea of who you are beyond your GPA/GAMSAT score. The questions range from personal questions where you are asked to speak about your portfolio (a crucial part to the UoW application), to ethical scenarios that can be quite tough and often have a strong rural focus. Of all the universities, it is well known to have a more welcoming and open approach to the medical interview as they look for a well-rounded candidate who uses the MMI to show they are passionate about rural health care and with strong interests outside of academics and medicine.
What we know for 2020: UoW medicine interviews are going to be very different this year. Where they normally have the longest MMI of all, they are foregoing the MMI format entirely for 2020 in favor of a 45 minute traditional panel. This will be held online (not yet sure of the platform) between September 21st and September 25th. It is likely that even though this is a panel interview, it will follow in line with University of Wollongong’s standard medical interview style, which is that of an encouraging conversation.
University of Western Australia
What it was: University of Western Australia medical interviews consist of 8 MMI stations of 7 minutes, with 1-2 rest stations, depending on the year. The interview takes place at the Perth campus each year. UWA has a slightly unique way of selecting and grading their stations each year. Each station is marked on 7 criteria, including: communication skills, presentation skills, and motivation for medicine. The remaining four criteria for each year are selected from the following 6 possible options: awareness of social diversity, provision of assistance, self-awareness, trustworthiness, ethics, and working with others. With this in mind, UWA tends to have a wide variety of station types, including standard ‘why medicine’ questions, and other ethical or moral dilemmas where applicants need to explore how they might act in the given scenario.
What we know for 2020: UWA have just informed people that their 2020 medical interviews will be run online. The UWA medicine interview dates are up in the air though. Unfortunately the only other option is to speculate as we have with the other universities where we don’t know much about the ins and outs of the format. That is, fewer shorter stations held in late September.
What Does It Mean For You?
At the end of the day, the best way to approach medical school interviews this year is much the same as always. Learn the theory, practice, review, revise, go again. There is the added wrinkle of getting used to doing it on an online video conferencing platform, however that is unlikely to really make such a huge difference. Hop on Zoom with others preparing for interviews and practice with them. This way, you hit two birds with one stone!
Apart from that, make sure you’ve got everything sorted on the home front. Do you have a quiet place with a blank background that you can use for your interview? Is your internet connection trustworthy? Can you trust those you live with to be quiet during your interview?
After all, a medical school interview is still just that, an interview to get into medicine, whether it be in-person or online. The only other thing? Even if the webcam only sees your top half, remember to wear pants!