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How to approach medical school interview preparation

If you’ve got an interview coming up but you’re not sure where to start your preparation, follow these suggestions.
Published 23rd Nov 2019

Different people approach medical school interview preparation in different ways. However if you’re not sure where to start, we recommend doing the following things during your interview preparation time. 

 

Keep up to date on NHS hot topics

Most interviews will include at least one question that requires an understanding of NHS hot topics, so it is important to read about these issues and keep up to date with the latest developments in the news. Key topics to be aware about are:

  • The impact that Brexit may have on the NHS. This is very likely to come up in interviews for 2020 entry, so make sure that you know about this
  • Lack of NHS resources, staff and funding often comes up in interviews. The NHS is under particular pressure during the winter months – this is around the time of medical school interviews so it will likely be in the forefront of the interviewers’ minds and will be covered in the news
  • Waiting times and targets in the NHS. The main NHS targets are waiting times in A&E, cancer referrals and elective surgery

Any of the hot topics from the past 12-24 months could also be asked about, so it is advised to be aware of these too. You can read our articles about NHS hot topics from previous years on the interview advice page

 

Wider reading about the NHS

There are things that you may be expected to know about at medical school interviews which are not strictly NHS hot topics. These things include: 

  • The NHS Constitution
  • The NHS Values
  • Good Medical Practice, written by the GMC (General Medical Council)
  • Tomorrow’s Doctors/Outcomes for Graduates, written by the GMC.

 

Learn about medical ethics

You may be asked a question that is based on medical ethics. You may already be familiar with the arguments for and against certain ethical issues, particularly if you have studied these in school. However, it is still important to go over them again to ensure that you understand them from a medical point of view. Ethical issues that may come up at interview include (but are not limited to) euthanasia, abortion, IVF, blood transfusion, organ donation and vaccination.

For each ethical topic you should be able to answer the following questions:

  • What are the arguments/viewpoints in support of this?
  • What are the counter-arguments/viewpoints against this?
  • Are there any guidelines that suggest what Doctors might do in this scenario?
  • How do the pillars of medical ethics apply to this topic?

 

Research the medical schools that you’ve applied to

Make sure you know about the medical school that you are going to for your interview. What style of teaching do they use? Do they have a pre-clinical/clinical divide or do they have early clinical exposure from the start of the course? Do they use dissection to teach anatomy? How big is the medical school? What is the medical school known for? Is there any important research that has come out of this medical school? Which hospital(s) is the medical school attached to and what specialties do they cover? What are the health needs of the local population? There are so many things that you could find out about for each medical school – being aware of these things will really help you to answer the question “Why do you want to come to this particular Medical School?”

 

Familiarise yourself with the question types that you could be asked

There are lots of different types of interview questions that may come up in panel interviews and MMIs. You can read about the most common types of interview questions here

 

Develop a structure to answer different types of interview questions

It’s important to have a structure when answering interview questions so that you don’t wander off on a tangent and lose the key points of your answer. Different types of questions lend themselves towards different answer structures, so practice until you find something that suits you for each question type. Your structure should be applicable to most questions of that particular type – for example a structure which could be used for most medical ethics questions; a different structure which could be used for most role-play stations in MMIs; another structure which could be used for questions about your personal experiences, and so on.

 

Practice answering example questions by yourself

Start practicing interview questions by yourself out loud in the mirror. This will help you to practice using the structures that you have developed and to try adapting them to the questions. Remember to go back over any topics that you struggle with. 

It is also worth recording yourself answering questions aloud at least once. When you watch the video back, you will probably notice things such as awkward mannerisms, words or phrases that you over-use (fillers such as “umm”, “err” and “like” are very common), or that you speak very fast. 

 

Practice answering example questions with someone else

When you’re comfortable answering questions in the mirror, start asking people who you trust to ask you a few interview questions. This might be parents/guardians, older siblings, aunts and uncles, other relatives, neighbours, friends or teachers. Keep doing this right up until the day before the real interview.

Remember to ask them for feedback. Don’t take any criticism personally, they are saying it so that you can improve for the real interview. It’s better to make mistakes when you’re practicing with your Mum than when you’re in the real interview.

 

Re-read your personal statement

At some medical schools, the interviewers will have read your personal statement just before you come into the room. 

  • In this case, there is a high likelihood that they will ask you a question about something that you mentioned on your personal statement so it is essential that you are very familiar with what you have written.
  • Ensure that you do not contradict anything that you have written on your personal statement.
  • Think back to the work experience that you mentioned on your personal statement so that you are ready to discuss it and reflect upon it. Don’t just repeat what you’ve already written though – make sure you can add another dimension to it.
  • If you have mentioned a particular book on your personal statement, read it again before your interview in case they ask you about it.

At other medical schools, the interviewers won’t know anything about you other than your name. 

  • In this case, it is still valuable to spend some time reading over your personal statement. It will probably remind you about lots of things which you could mention at your interview, such as why you want to study Medicine, what work experience you’ve had and how you might reflect on these things. This can be used as a springboard for your answers at interview.

 

Do a mock interview

About a week before your medical school interview, I advise doing a full-length mock interview. 

  • If you’re doing a panel interview, find out how long it lasts. Set a timer in your mock to match the amount of time you’ll have in the real interview.
  • If you’re doing an MMI, find out how many stations there are and how long each one lasts. Set up a timer for the length of one station and reset it between stations. If possible, try to get several people together at once so they can pretend to be the different interviewers at each station. It’s also a good idea to set up the interview stations in different rooms to replicate the environment of moving from one station to another and meeting a new interviewer there.

Take the mock interview seriously and ask the person who is interviewing you to do the same. You will get more out of the mock if the experience is similar to what you will face on interview day and you really simulate the real interview environment as much as possible:

  • Dress smartly, as you would do for a real interview
  • Stick to the timings. When the timer goes off, succinctly round off what you’re talking about and move on
  • Try to avoid laughing or going off-topic
  • Ask the person who is interviewing you to keep on-topic and wait until the mock is over before giving feedback, so you are not interrupted part-way through the time
  • Minimise distractions. Don’t have music or the TV on in the background; leave your phone on silent or in another room
  • If possible, set up the room with a table and chairs like the real interview will be
  • Ask the interviewer to be prepared with a variety of interview questions to ask you. They shouldn’t be scrambling around to think of questions on the spot. They must also not let you know in advance what questions they’re planning on asking – otherwise this gives you an unfair advantage which you will not have on interview day. Use the mock to practice answering unexpected questions on the spot using the answer structures you have developed.

 

Good luck with your preparation for medical school interviews! If you have any questions, remember you can contact us on Instagram, Facebook or using the Contact Us form on this website. 

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