My Medical School interviews were 3 years ago now which sounds like a long time ago, but the period of time leading up to those interviews and the waiting game before hearing back with offers was definitely the most stressful experience of my life to date. Stress so great you don’t forget so easily so I do still remember all about my interview prep, and seeing as I get asked about it a lot, I thought I’d run through it here…
A couple of years ago, I made a little graphic with different ways you can prepare for your medical school interview. These ideas weren’t just plucked from nowhere, but these are actually the 6 things I did repeatedly to prepare. So what I’m going to be doing in this post is going into each suggestion in greater detail, talking about how I specifically did it, how often and most importantly how much and why it helped when it came to the actual interviews.
Just so a quick overview and so we’re all on the same page, here are the 6 different ways you can prepare for your medical school interview (i.e. the different ways I did)…
Read Example Answers
This was my first approach and the way I slowly eased myself into the ocean of interview preparation. I think it is important start off with something like this so you can get an overall idea of the types of questions that can come up in an interview, you can also start to gage the route that you’d want to go down when answering questions. The way I did this was my reading through the ISC Medical Interview Question book. Don’t read it like a novel or simply skim, you really need to absorb what’s written in there. I read portions of it out-loud to make sure I was actually reading each word. Some questions, I tried to think about points before reading the example answer.
It’s important to still remember that the purpose behind reading example answers is not to memorise the answers or anything like that so do not read any example answers with that in mind.
Stay up to date with current news
The idea of staying up-to-date with current news initially terrified me a little because I thought I’d never be able to remember every article I read or I worried about how I’d never know about different news topics in enough detail. Detail and depth aren’t the reason why you’re doing this though, so remind yourself of that and don’t worry. By keeping up with the news you’ll be building that general awareness of healthcare, how it works, current pressures on the NHS etc. and whilst you may not be directly asked about these things at interview, that extra insight will come across and benefit you.
If you’ve applied for medicine you’ll definitely be interested in Medicine so chances are you’ll already be reading the odd interesting healthcare news article here and there…and that’s all that you really need to do. There’s no need to buy subscriptions to any fancy journals and wade through complex case studies or anything like that. All I did was read BBC health for about 15 mins a day. Each day I’d catch up on the new articles that were published and some days I’d get carried away clicking on suggested articles from the past too. I just read with interest, don’t make notes or anything like that, just simply enjoy it.
The healthcare related episodes of BBC panorama are absolutely brilliant and I really enjoyed those too. A very relaxing and easy way to learn about the current climate of the NHS and healthcare.
Engage in medical debates with friends
This is important because your interviews aren’t just about answering questions, but you need to be able to discuss a particular topic with your interviewer. You have to get yourself to start developing the skills to be able to explain your points of view, consider others’ viewpoints and retaliate or compromise your original views. You’ll be able to see why this is important for MMIs quite easily, but even for panel interviews, you must be able to do this and do it well. Your interviews are going to be a discussion and not an interrogation, you will get loads of follow up questions based on what you say. Your interview questions are not going to be predictable so as simple as it sounds you will have to truly be able to listen to what the interviewer is asking you and then respond accordingly under what will feel like a pressured environment.
Leading up to my interviews, every day I sat with a friend for about an hour to 2 hrs and we decided on a topic which we then debated and discussed with each other. After our little discussion I jotted down a few of the main points from our discussion as a little summary of that topic so if a similar topic was brought up in my interview I’d have different avenues that I can go down already brainstormed.
In hindsight this was the single best thing I did to prepare for my interviews and I highly recommend you all do try and get talking about Medicine to anyone: it could be friends who are also applying so you can all mutually benefit, or even someone who isn’t; a sibling, a parent etc.
Try a mock interview
Mock interviews and the feedback you get from them are gold dust, nothing can compare. Particularly for the MMI format, you have to experience an MMI before going for your first one! There was a significant number of students applying form my school so they organised one for us using past students. I also booked the Medic Portal MMI circuit, which was great help. The whole experience of a complete MMI in a foreign setting will help break the fear of the unknown and give you a much better idea of the type of questions you’ll be asked, the way to approach them, how “follow up questions” may work etc. I currently take part interviewing aspiring medical students with the Medic Portal and I can tell you they all gain so much from the experience!
All of my interviews were MMIs, but that doesn’t mean you ave to limit yourself and only practise circuits. We had a careers hub in my school so I got in touch with them and booked some mock interviews with them. This was more of a traditional interview approach where I was asked a question and answered. But again, it puts you on the spot and any practise is good. See if you can get any similar forms of support from your school, teachers and if not, you can always google up a list of medical school interview questions and get a parent or family member to fire them at you. They can give you feedback about how you came across etc. But remember it’s not always about feedback from the person interviewing, self-evaluate what you would have wanted to do differently next time as well.
Practise out-loud in front of the mirror
Sounds a bit awkward, but it does help. Like I said above, self-evaluation is so valuable and in some ways teh best way you can get yourself to improve. You may think you are coming across in a certain way when in reality it’s the total opposite. Lock eye contact with yourself in the mirror, note your body language, whether you seem hesitant, nervous, are you smiling etc; those little things will make such a huge difference.
Using this method is like going through mock interviews but with yourself. What I did here was picked random questions from the ISC Medical Interview Questions book and spontaneously tried answering them. I stumbled almost every time, but the point is that you keep trying new and different questions so you stop being put off by sudden fire questions. Hear yourself too, you may say something a little stupid, learn from it and don’t say it again. I did this a lot and this repeated verbal practise was an immense help. I did not make any notes on any of these questions or draft out answers to any questions because interview are verbal so that’s what I needed to master and trying to theorise a very practical activity will certainly not help.
Reflect on your work experience
I know I’ve said this for every point, I’ve made, but again, this is so important. This is particularly relevant for the more personal questions that you might get asking you about skills you have, your motivation for medicine, what you learnt from your work experience etc. What I did here was I made a list of the key skills important in medicine: communication, teamwork, listening etc. I then read through all my reflections from my work experience and created a spider diagram brainstorming times when I had observed those skills in practise and also activities I’d done in which I had to exercise/develop those skills. By the end of it I had multiple little phrases written under each skill so if any of those were mentioned in my interview I’d straight away have an arty of examples and experiences to draw upon. I’m telling you this was useful, because often you’ve done so much so when you’re suddenly asked to talk about empathy for example, your mind may go blank and you’ll forget about all the empathetic doctors you observed and times you showed empathy. In your interviews you’ll want to lace all your answers with as many examples as possible and this method will help you prepare for that.
Again, here you’re not drafting answers or anything like that, simply brainstorming so you can categorise your experiences in the way they might come up in interview. And trust me, when you actually take the time to read through your reflections there will be a lot you’ll have forgotten and you’ll pick up on many valuable little gems.
So there it is, all the ways I prepared for my medical school interviews and all the ways I recommend you also use. Good luck to you all!