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Medical school interview preparation: What to do and when?

A breakdown of what you need to be doing and when you need to be doing it to best prepare for your medical school interview
Published 21st Dec 2018

Introduction

An interview at medical school is your gateway to an offer. It’s such an important day and there are so many tasks that go towards successful interview preparation. I have outlined some of the things that you can (and should!) do to prepare for your interview at medical school. You can also download our ‘Medical School Interview Checklist’ at the end of the article.

Before you’ve been invited to interview:

Start reading about NHS hot topics

It is likely that you will be asked to talk about a current issue that is relevant to healthcare or medicine at your interview(s), so it’s important to have a thorough understanding of these issues and be able to discuss them. It can take a little while to build up your knowledge and understanding of these issues by keeping up with the news, so it is worth starting this as soon as possible. However, don’t worry if you’ve already been invited to an interview but you’re not familiar with these current issues – you can read about the NHS hot topics for 2018-2019 interviews here and then go back through old news articles online to find out more about what’s been happening in the last few months.

As soon as possible after you get your interview invitation:

Double-check the date, time and location of your interview slot

Make sure you write it down in your diary/calendar/an app on your phone. It’s so simple, but there are a few people who miss their interview because they turn up at the wrong time. Don’t be one of them!

Find out whether the interview is a panel interview or MMI

This information is likely to be on the interview invite email/letter, but if not it should be fairly easy to find out from the medical school’s website. While you’re looking at their website, check if there are any hints about what they’re looking for at an interview. For example, the University of Birmingham mention “motivation for medicine”, “empathy”, “communication”, “self-insight”, “ethical reasoning”, “data interpretation” skills and the “ability to evaluate information”. This may give you an indication about what they’re focusing on with the MMI stations.

In the weeks leading up to your interview:

Go through your personal statement again

You probably haven’t read it for several weeks, but it will be one of the only pieces of information about you that the interviewer may have seen. Therefore they are very likely to ask you questions based on it, particularly at a panel interview.

Practice as many examples as possible of each of the types of interview question.

It’s more important to practice the skill of coming up with an answer quickly on the spot, rather than practicing the same question over and over – you don’t want to sound rehearsed. You need to be able to answer questions spontaneously because they will ask you questions in the interview that you haven’t thought of before. You can’t have a pre-rehearsed answer for every single possible question, so don’t try to learn answers! Learn how you can formulate a good answer to any question on the day and practice this as much as possible beforehand.

Do at least one mock interview (preferably more than one)

This should be made as realistic as possible. Prepare in advance for the mock interview, dress smartly, turn up on time and behave as you would for the real thing. Try to avoid laughing your way through an informal chat – try to replicate a real interview by keeping it formal. Also try to ensure that the mock interviewer has some questions prepared to ask you. Use a quiet room with minimal distractions and set a time limit which matches the time allowed in the real interview. Ask for feedback at the end of the interview. If possible, consider setting up a video camera to record the mock interview so that you can watch it back yourself – often you will learn lots from this that you might otherwise have not noticed. The interview should be done with a teacher (who has good knowledge of medical school interviews) or a doctor. If you can’t find anyone suitable, I offer 30 minute online mock medical school interviews with personalised feedback. 

One week before your interview:

Plan how you will travel to and from your interview

Will you go by car, take the train, or use another method of transport? How long will it take to get there? If you’re going by car, where can you park? If using the train, find out in advance what time the train leaves your local station. Always allow plenty of spare time for an important journey like this one – you don’t want to be running for the train or getting annoyed if you get stuck in traffic. If you’re travelling a long way for your interview, consider whether you might organise overnight accommodation.

Work out in advance what you will wear for the interview

This may seem like an unimportant detail now, but realising on the morning of your interview that you haven’t got any clean smart clothes is an added stress that you don’t need. Many medical schools give advice about their dress code for interviews, but in general it’s smart – so a shirt and tie with smart trousers and dark shoes for men; and a smart dress, or blouse and skirt, or suit, for women. If in doubt, it’s probably better to err on the side of caution and go smarter than more casual. You can always take your tie and blazer off if nobody else is wearing them, and being smart will give a much better first impression to your interviewers. It should go without saying that anything that you wear should be clean, ironed and fit you properly. Pay particular attention to having clean shoes, and tidy hair and make-up.

Pack a bag

This should include anything that you have been asked to bring to the interview day (such as photographic ID, exam certificates etc) plus any other essentials, like a train ticket and the details of the interview venue and time.

Conclusion

There are lots of things to think about when you’re preparing for medical school interviews. Make sure you’ve covered everything by downloading our ‘Medical School Interview Preparation Checklist’ for free below.

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