How to prepare for a medical interview

For many students the interview component of the selection process can be the most daunting. Candidates are generally concerned with the possibility of having challenging questions thrown at them during a panel interview or an MMI. With the MMI in particular, a student's anxiety will often cause them to struggle when forming clear, structured and logical responses during the preparation time before each station (if preparation time is offered - MMI structure may vary depending on the institution) or during their allotted response time. A candidate's performance and ultimately whether or not they are offered a place in a course like Medicine, predominantly comes down to how they prepare just like all of the other selection criteria - the UMAT and the ATAR (or equivalent).

One of the best ways to prepare for not only an MMI but also a panel interview is to anticipate the types of questions or scenarios that you are likely to be faced with and practice responding to them. You do not necessarily want to rote learn your answers and just spell them off unnaturally in the interview, because panelists and interviewers will be able to see through it. Practice responding in a natural manner, calm and logically so that when you are in your interview you are actually able to engage with your interviewer as opposed to speaking at them.

The following are a few tips to help you get started with your interview preparation:

1. SEE THE BIG PICTURE:

First consider why you are having the interview in the first place - you are trying to get into a Medical or Health Science course. Therefore, when responding to any scenarios or questions, answer them in a way that suggests to the interviewer that you would make a great Medical student and hence a great physician. In order to do this you should compile a list of all the qualities that make a great doctor or dentist or physiotherapist (or any relevant profession); things such as integrity, critical thinking, logical reasoning, excellent interpersonal skills and motivation come to mind (however there are more). Throughout your preparation, practice integrating these qualities into your responses so that in your interview you show that you can demonstrate these important characteristics, and would therefore be an excellent medical student and professional thereafter.

2. TIME MANAGEMENT IS KEY:

One of the major things that students struggle with whilst in an interview is pacing their answers so that they are able to answer the question effectively without their response being too short or too long and rambling. If your response is too short it may appear to the interviewer that you did not really consider or think about your response, and just said the first thing that came into your mind and that you cannot really expand on the topic. However, a response that is too lengthy can also suggest that you are struggling with the question. The best answers will address all aspects of the question in a clear and concise manner allowing the candidate to show that they have thought about their response and can communicate their ideas effectively, as well as ending their response appropriately (knowing when to end one's response is very important). Remember that in an interview like an MMI, once time is up at a station the interview must end - even if you have not finished answering the question yet. Practice your responses with a time limit of about 7-8 minutes to condition yourself to answering questions adequately in this amount of time. It is also a really good idea to wear a watch that is visible in the day so that you know where you are at within the station time frame. 

3. LISTEN BEFORE YOU SPEAK:

If you listen carefully to your interviewer's questions or scenarios you will be able to pick up certain prompts that they give you in order to provide you with some direction. The prompts they give will often highlight the specific issues that are the focus of the question or that station. You should also listen very carefully to the cues that the interviewer provides so that you can capitalise off any new information that is introduced. Ensure that your answer responds to the prompts or cues of the question. One of the hardest challenges in an interview is to actually answer the question you are given, without going off on a tangent. Like an essay – do not make up your own questions and respond to them, and do not ramble on about irrelevant issues. Always answer the question you are given!

4. MOCK INTERVIEWS:

There are many organisations that provide services such as interview preparation courses. They can provide you with guides about interview preparation and generally involve a mock interview. One of the best ways to prepare for an interview is to simulate the experience so that you know what to expect and also so that you build confidence as well as receiving professional feedback about your performance and pointers to help you improve. You will also discuss strategies to help with formulating appropriate responses and answering the tricky questions. Tips about body language which can be one of the unsung heroes in an interview. Having sat a mock interview students generally find that they are more cool headed and organised on their interview day.

How to prepare for an MMI:

Candidates typically exhibit anxiety in anticipation of challenging questions that may arise. Many people have difficulty formulating logical, cohesive, polished answers within the allotted preparation time prior to the start of each station.

How well you perform during the actual interview and whether you will ultimately succeed in gaining admission to medical school is dependant on the preparation you do in advance. The most effective strategy to prepare for a MMI is to anticipate the types of questions/scenarios you will face and to practice your answers. Here are a few tips:

Understand the goal:

You should aim to answer the questions in a manner that demonstrates that you are capable of being an excellent medical student. Make a list of the attributes that you believe are essential for success as a doctor, such as integrity and the ability to think critically. Practice integrating these key attributes into your answers.

Work on time management:

Many students experience difficulty with pacing and effectively answering the question in the allotted time, therefore, proper pacing is essential. Practice 7 to 8 minute presentations in advance of your interview to get comfortable with timing. Appropriately managing your time will give you the opportunity to end the interview in an organised and effective manner.

Listen carefully:

During the MMI, the interviewer will often provide prompts designed to direct you. Listen carefully to the cues provided so you can take advantage of any new information that may be introduced. The prompts may guide you to the specific issues that are the focus of each rotation.

Conclusion:

Although success cannot be guaranteed, your performance can improve significantly with knowledge about the interview process, strategies to avoid frequent pitfalls and knowing ways to sell yourself so that you get the place that you deserve. Poise under pressure can make the difference between achieving your goals and falling just short. As you get ready for the big day, consider including a mock interview as a key part of your preparation. Simulating what you are about to experience will help build confidence, allowing you to remain calm and more organised on the interview day.

Success in any interview situation cannot be guaranteed, however your performance can always be improved. To improve your performance you should become familiar with the interview process, particularly if it has a specific structure like a MMI. Also, you should recognise your weaknesses and devise strategies that allow you to overcome them in the actual interview. It is much better to assess your weaknesses prior to the interview rather than in the interview so that you can combat them. Poise throughout an interview and the ability to stay cool and calm may just be able to put you over the line and finally, sell yourself! You may know why you would make a good medical student, so make sure the interviewer knows too!