The Medical School Interview. It is the last hurdle on what can often seem like a highway with no end! Once you make it to the interview stage you have proven you have what it takes academically. The next step is to demonstrate your personal qualities to get you over the line. Consider the medical interview an opportunity to showcase yourself as more than an ATAR, GAMSAT or GPA.
What makes the medical school interview different to any ordinary interview?
Medical school interviews take a unique approach in assessing candidates. There is a certain atmosphere that surrounds the medical interview – a strong pool of very driven applicants and in most cases for every successful applicant interviewed another will be interviewed yet be unsuccessful in gaining a place.
What are the major differences?
One type of interview that takes place are structured or panel interviews, whereby students have lengthier conversations surrounding broad topics such as ‘why medicine?’ and ‘how will you deal with the potential stresses of medical school?’. Typically there will be multiple interviewers and the conversation will be a guided discussion. The more common type of medical interview is the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) format. Depending on the university, this involves students rotating between 6-10 stations of 5-8 minutes each. Each station will include a different format or topic and will have interviewers from a range of backgrounds – medical professionals, past graduates and even community members.
Unlike a standard interview, the questions are more vigorous and often involve highly ethical and complex topics both within the medical field and beyond. Each question is usually posed with a main prompt read outside the interview room followed by a series of follow-up questions. These questions tend to add additional layers of complexity and push your moral limits. While some questions may be based around common everyday situations e.g. a student cheating on a test, much of the focus is on tough medical scenarios e.g. abortion or euthanasia.
What should I wear?
Unlike a normal interview, you need to consider that you will likely need to wear this outfit for a few hours and you will most likely be moving around quite a lot. Some stations at universities require you to ‘act’, but also you will just need to move from station to station, in and out of rooms and you don’t want the added stress of a wardrobe malfunction! Your outfit needs to be sharp but you also want to be comfortable, practical and not wear anything that will distract too much from your incredible verbal responses!
Do all medical schools require interviews?
All Undergraduate universities with the exception of University of Tasmania require a medical interview.
For postgraduate medicine, the main body for admission is the Graduate Entry Medical School Admissions System (GEMSAS) and includes the medical schools involved with the GAMSAT consortium. This consists of the following medical schools:
· Australian National University
· Deakin University
· Griffith University
· Macquarie University
· The University of Melbourne
· The University of Notre Dame (Sydney & Fremantle)
· The University of Queensland
· The University of Western Australia
· The University of Wollongong
Students will only interview at one school from the GEMSAS pool and the score of the interview will be standardised across all universities. This score is then able to be applied to all preferences on the candidate’s list equal to or below that of the school that they interview at. For example, if a student interviews at the university that is their 4th preference, their interview score will also be passed on to the 5th and 6th preferences on their list but not their 1st, 2nd and 3rd preferences.
There are also two GEMSAS independent universities, The University of Sydney and Flinders University. Monash University also runs a separate process but is only applicable to graduates of Monash University.
Medical school interviews in 2020
In the current chaos of 2020, interviews may look a little different. The undergraduate timeline varies across universities but interview offers are released in October/November/December and held in January and offers to study made in late Jan/Feb. Some universities follow their own timeline, particularly those not including an interview e.g. University of Tasmania.
The expected postgraduate timeline is interview offers are released in early September with interviews being held in late September/early October and offers to study made in early November.
Many universities are opting for online interviews, others are hoping to continue with their normal method of face-to-face interviews, and other universities are still deciding. This constantly changing environment can be daunting – with a lot left in the unknown the best approach is to have a clear strategy and to be best prepared for any format you could be faced with.
MMI interviews vs Traditional interview
For undergraduate medical schools, all universities use the MMI method of interviewing.
For postgraduate medical schools, the majority also adopt the MMI approach. The exceptions are Australian National University which also includes a panel on top of the MMI and Flinders University that conduct only a structured panel interview. There are a few key differences between MMIs and panel interviews that we go into detail with in the article @here.
Commonly asked medical school interview questions
The questions asked in medical interviews are not always your classic interview questions like ‘what is your biggest weakness?’ (hint - a good answer wouldn’t be ‘I am a perfectionist!’ in this context). The questions asked are carefully created and encourage you to show a genuine passion for medicine and that you have the right skills and mindset needed.
Questions will often be specific to the university, such as asking how you would work in a team during ‘PBL’ (Problem Based Learning) at The University of Melbourne, or how you would manage keeping on top of GIL (Guided Independent Learning) at The University of Wollongong. For this reason, it is important to be knowledgeable about the university you are interviewing for, how their curriculum is structured and most importantly what values and principles are key to that university.
One of the most commonly asked questions is ‘Why Medicine?’ or even ‘There are many professions where you can ‘help people’. Why do you want to be a doctor?’. These questions often stump applicants when in fact they should be the easiest questions of them all! Even if you know why you are interested in medicine sometimes it is hard to put this into words yet it is crucial that you do and that you PRACTICE this because it is more than likely going to be asked!
Medical school interviews often include questions related to public health and current medical issues (think … COVID-19!). These questions can also be things such as ‘what are the advantages of rural healthcare’ or ‘what are the current issues facing Indigenous healthcare in Australia’. It wouldn’t be a medical school interview without some difficult ethical scenarios too! When you start to practice these questions it can be quite overwhelming. The scenarios come in all forms, you could be asked ‘which patient should be treated first’ when presented with competing priorities or ‘how would you deal with a minor asking to keep information confidential from their parents’. To best answer these questions it can be helpful to use a framework or break down the four pillars of medical ethics and go from there. This comes with practice, and a lot of it!
How should I prepare for my medical school interview?
Just as an interview for a café would have a different focus to an interview for a bank job, each medical school focuses on different types of questions. Be sure to thoroughly research the university that you are interviewing with and consider – What are their values and principles? How is their course structured? What are they looking for in a candidate? More information on such topics can be found here.
If you’re wanting more in depth detail, please do peruse our free webinars where we help applicants get started with their preparation by setting the expectations of the MMIs from the beginning. We have all the free webinars and plenty more resources in our Free Medical Interview Course.
Getting used to the styles of questions
As with anything, practice really can make perfect (or at least reduce some of the stress on the day knowing you have done this before) but it is also important you don’t become a robot! Remember – the aim is to show your personality and why you are more than a set of numbers!
It is a very wise idea to practice all your theory and frameworks on actual past questions that universities have utilised in their interviews. It is for that reason we created the Free MMI Question Generator, equipped with all the past stations and subdivided into the universities’ topics and sub topics, such as Hierarchy within a Communication station. For all the nuances of the interviews themselves, such as whether the station background information is given to you in reading time or merely just read out aloud by the interviewer, please have a look @at this page for the most up to date information (it is updated as more information comes apparent).
Again, if you need all information and resources in one handy place, our Free Medical Interview Course has it all.
What do we do at Fraser’s to prepare our students?
Last year, 1 in 4 medical interview applicants prepared with our course. Our courses have been designed over years of university analysis and pedagogy refinements. We provide our students with online theory and modules so they can understand the rationale of all the stations, whilst also providing them with model answers to exemplify exactly how to intertwine as much content into the short response time of 1-2 minutes.
Our Live Workshops provide frameworks for all station styles to ensure every student has a fallback for every station no matter the question style. This enables our students to continually build and develop their responses to represent themselves as mature and holistic as possible.
Finally, we end our training with fully simulated mock interviews. Whether your interview is a panel or MMI that is online or in person, we ensure we simulate the day to a tee and provide the most constructive one-on-one criticism out there.
Sing Up to Free Medical Interview Course!
Free Past Question Station Generator
Theory And Rationales For The Medical Interview Questions
Hours Of Recorded Explanations And Model Answers
Up To Date Webinar Recordings For All Changes To Admissions