The medical school interview

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Congratulations on getting an interview! All those hours working on your application paid off.

When I was applying to medical school, I was fortunate to have been interviewed by three of my chosen medical schools and was then accepted to all three. Owing to this, I got to experience three different interviews with different interviewing styles. I’ll try to give you all the tips I can to prepare you for your interview!

Again, do your research

Medical schools operate differently and therefore interview differently. Although, most do follow the standard interview of 10min, some medical schools include practical aspects on the interview like comforting a crying actor or analyzing and discussing a scientific article. Most accept Skype interviews (so you don’t have to fly over to the UK!) and others don’t. Get as much information as you can prior to the interview to be prepared!

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Be confident!

Be confident and smile, they chose your application from the thousands for a reason. You’re awesome, that’s why! Most of the times, the interviews are for getting to know you better. Show your best sides, be even more amazing than the person they fell in love with on your application. Walk in there and own it!

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Know your personal statement

I cannot stress this enough. During your medical interview, the interviewer will have your personal statement in front of them. Know what you have written on your personal statement and be prepared for possible questions and explanations! I recall being asked on what I learnt when volunteering with the homeless, and how my approach was with them. How did this experience prepare me for medical school? Be ready to answer that question for everything you have written on your personal statement!

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Know the medical school and their medical program

The medical school you are being interviewed at want to know you made an informed decision when you applied to them. It is common for them to ask for your opinion on their medical program. Why did you choose their medical program at their medical school and not others? Be prepared to answer these questions.

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To be a doctor, you should look like one too

In the UK, the clinical attire of medical students and doctors are professional clothes meaning shirt, skirt/trousers and nice shoes. For your interview, you want the interviewer to see you as the perfect candidate, so you should look the part too! Wear your ironed shirt and maybe even put on a blazer. You already look ready for the hospital.

Some candidates though choose to “show their personality” by coming to the interview in a t-shirt and jeans or even with pink hair. Some of my old classmates in medical school claimed this is how they came to their interview and it clearly turned out well for them. However, stay on the safe side! You can wear a t-shirt and jeans as much as you want, after passing your interview.

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Prepare your answers!

Apart from preparing your answers about their medical program and your personal statement, prepare answers for common questions asked during a medical interview. You can find a list of common questions asked in medical school here. Questions you should definitely focus on however are:

  • Why do you want to be a doctor?
  • What makes a good doctor?
  • Why medicine and why not something else like nursing or a science subject?
  • What is empathy and how does it differ from sympathy? How is this significant to the medical profession?
  • What are your career prospects? How would you like your career to be?

Ask your parents, teachers or maybe even friends to give you mock interviews. I recall asking my chemistry and biology teacher to give me mock interviews, which they did after school. They even played the good cop, bad cop role. Practice makes perfect!

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Be aware of pressured interviews

During my first interview, I was unfortunate to have been a victim of a pressured interview. Not like being on my first medical interview was stressful enough. I remember coming out of the interview on the verge of tears, only to receive my acceptance letter two weeks later in February. It was the worst 10min of my life then, but it definitely made my other interviews after it seem easy. You wouldn’t know whether you will get a pressured interview or not, but you should be aware of them anyway in case you do!

During pressured interviews, the interviewers want to see how you react in pressure, and whether you can stay calm in stressful situations. Critical skills in medicine once again. These are the tricks they used on me which they might use on you:

  • Avoid eye contact with you. My interviewer was constantly glancing at his watch, looking out through the window, looking at his fellow interviewees, looking at the floor, looking at the wall clock… leaving me feeling like the most uninteresting person ever.
  • Use closed body language. I remember my interviewer having his arms crossed throughout the entire interview, and being on the back of his chair the entire time.
  • Keep pushing you for your answers. I was asked about possible health problems arising from floods. I gave about five answers, but the interviewer kept asking me for more. And what else? and then? any more?
  • Question your answers. The interviewer will question your answers and ask you in a condescending manner to explain them.
  • Tell you your answer is wrong. I remember being asked about my opinion on a recent movie that I watched (Inception) and being then told that my answer is wrong. The interviewer then quickly changed topic. At this moment, I felt extremely stupid. What am I doing wrong I thought?

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If you notice any of these tricks being used on you, STAY CALM. Keep smiling, keep eye contact, use hand gestures, open body language, lean forward and stay confident! They are only testing to see how you would react and whether you can cope in stressful situations. If you don’t have anymore answers, or don’t know the answer, it’s okay to say that you don’t know. If the interviewer questions your answers, don’t doubt your answer and stay strong!

I hope I haven’t scared you now, but keep in mind, these interviews are RARE. I only know of a few who like me, were a victim of a pressured interview. On the positive note, I have been told that interviewers of pressured interviews have a lower barrier of passing. In other words, in a way, it’s “easier” to do well. If you survive the 10min without breaking, you can be assured of receiving an acceptance letter shortly afterwards!

To ask or to not ask a question?

At the end of medical school interviews, you are usually given the opportunity to ask a question. This question is crucial, as it is the final impression you will give the interviewers. Some choose to use this opportunity to ask something about the medical program as a way of showing interest – but this could backfire as showing ignorance. During my three medical interviews, I chose to be on the safe side and not ask a question, and tell them I have received all the information I need. If you don’t have a question, don’t make one up. Although, if you genuinely have a question, do ask, but first make sure you can’t find the answer online!

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Get ready and good luck!

I personally loved interview season, and found it quite fun. I’m sure you will too. Prepare well and have fun! You’re almost by the finish line – medical school!

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