Common Questions About Medical Interviews
Importance of Medical Interviews
Why are medical interviews used to select students for entry into medicine?
Medical interviews form one of three major criteria used by most universities to select students into medicine (the other two being UCAT and NCEA). Aside from written applications, medical interviews are the only way that universities can assess your non-academic (non-cognitive) personal qualities.
How important are medical interviews?
Medical interviews are a critical, yet often underestimated part of the medical admissions process. At some universities, they are as important, or even more important than UCAT and NCEA in determining entry into medicine. They may be weighted at 1/3 or even up to 80% of the admissions criteria. Some universities even use interviews as the sole criterion in determining entry into medicine, once a threshold UCAT and NCEA has been reached (eg at University of Newcastle and New England). Be under no illusions – medical interviews are vitally important!
Do I need to prepare for my medical interview?
Yes! It is vitally important that you prepare for your interview.
Medical school aspirants often overlook interviews, as they assume that interview skills are inherent: you either have them or you do not. Others believe the myth that you should not prepare for interviews. Still others assume that the interview is just a ‘chat’, and the questions will be straightforward. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Interviews are challenging and stressful. However, there are specific, proven and reliable strategies that you can use to boost your performance significantly. Having a solid understanding of interview questions and technique will give you an enormous advantage over others vying for a medical school place.
Although you may be an ideal medical school candidate, unless you can present your skills and attributes effectively in an interview situation, you will not gain admission to your dream course. It is therefore vital that you do not try to ‘wing’ your interview.
Why are medical interviews difficult?
There are a number of reasons why medical interviews are difficult. You will be required to think in novel ways, under time pressure and may be faced with complex scenarios that you haven’t considered before. Many people find interview situations stressful, particularly if you understand how important they are to the admissions process. Furthermore, even though you may have a breadth of valuable life experiences and possess the qualities that the interviewers are looking for, it can be difficult to convey these in an interview situation.
If you want to make a good impression and give yourself the best chance of success, you must become familiar with the format and types of questions that are likely to arise, and understand how to best present yourself.
When are interview offers for medicine released?
The interview offer release date varies depending on the university. Most universities release interview offers during October/November (as late as late December for Monash). For interstate students some universities release offers around mid January (rural students may receive offers earlier). For up-to-date information about offer and interview dates, please see our university admissions pages for each university.
What determines whether or not I will receive an interview offer for medicine?
How will I know if I have received an interview offer for medicine?
Timing of Medical Interviews
When do medical interviews take place?
Medical interviews take place at various times depending on the particular university and course. Furthermore, some universities may schedule local and interstate applicant interviews at different times. Most interviews take place between November and January each year.
If I receive multiple interview offers, should I attend them all?
MedEntry strongly suggests that you attend all interviews, including those for interstate universities. This is because there is always an element of subjectivity when it comes to interviews. Attending all interviews will maximise your chances of obtaining a place at medical school.
Medical Interviews Questions & Themes
What types of medical interview are there?
There are broadly three types of interview used in Australia and New Zealand to select students for entry into medicine and dentistry:
- MMI (Multiple Mini Interview): candidates rotate through various themed ‘stations’, each addressing a particular topic presented as a ‘scenario’
- Structured panel interview: traditional style of interview, where all candidates are asked the same or similar questions
- Semi-structured panel interview: traditional style of interview, where interviewers do not have to adhere tightly to a ‘script’, and can ask follow up questions
What types of medical interview are used at each university?
MMI interviews are used at all the universities except the University of New South Wales, the University of Adelaide, James Cook University and Otago University Dentistry (which use Panel interviews).
What kinds of medical interview questions can I expect?
Each medical school varies in the types of questions that are posed to candidates. No two medical interviews are the same. It is therefore important to know the types of questions that are likely to be asked at each university. For example, James Cook University has an emphasis on rural and Indigenous health, while UNSW has an emphasis on psychological profiling of the candidate.
What are the common themes that arise in medical interview questions?
Each university differs in the types of questions asked, and has a different emphasis on various themes. Some common themes that arise include:
- Motivation to study medicine
- Current issues in health
- Critical thinking
- Teamwork and leadership skills
- Understanding of the university and medical program
- Rural and Indigenous (Maori health at Auckland)
What criteria are used to assess medical interview performance?
In general, medical interviews are designed to assess qualities considered important in both the study and practice of medicine.
Each university differs in their marking criteria for medical interviews. However, common assessment criteria include:
- Communication skills
- Critical thinking
- Decision making
- Social responsibility
- Moral and ethical reasoning
- Awareness of health issues
- Teamwork and leadership
- Quality of motivation to study medicine
Who conducts medical interviews? What is their background?
The background of the interviewers depends on the particular university. However, interview panels are generally composed of:
- Academic staff from the medical faculty
- Medical professionals
- Graduates from the medical program
- Laypeople from the wider community
Multiple Mini Interview (MMI)
What is an MMI (Multiple Mini Interview)?
An MMI or Multiple Mini Interview is a particular type of interview used at some universities to select students for entry into medicine. It involves a series of ‘mini interviews’ conducted in separate rooms, booths or stations. Each station has a specific theme, and there are usually 6-8 stations which are each separately timed. In a typical station, the applicant receives a written scenario or excerpt, and then a series of pre-determined questions are posed. The number of questions asked and the duration of each ‘station’ varies between universities.
Why are MMIs used?
MMIs are considered a fairer and more reliable way to assess candidates. MMIs involve more interviewers, therefore potentially minimising bias. They give the university a broader, more holistic evaluation of your non-academic qualities.
What makes MMIs difficult?
MMIs can be challenging. As well as having to present interesting, insightful, concise and cohesive responses to questions, you will need to manage time, remain composed and establish rapport with the interviewers quickly.
What types of medical interview questions and scenarios arise in MMIs?
Most MMIs are mini panel interviews covering a specific theme. Students may be provided with a written prompt, and then interviewers pose pre-determined questions. You may be given a hypothetical situation, excerpt from a research paper or other passage to analyse or debate. Some stations may involve other tasks, such as evaluating videos, acting as a doctor to explain something to a patient, or completing a practical task. Some MMI stations test your reasoning, problem solving skills and values.
Medical Interview Coaching
What types of questions will come up in my medical interview?
Each university varies in the types of questions they pose to candidates. Some questions involve hypothetical scenarios. There are hundreds of potential interview questions that may arise.
Some sample questions are provided below.
- Why do you want to study medicine? Why not another profession that involves caring for others?
- Describe a setback or disappointment that occurred in your life. How did you cope?
- Tell us about a time when you worked in a team and things did not go well. What did you learn from the experience?
- What volunteer work have you engaged in?
- If you were Health Minister, how would you attract doctors to work in rural areas?
- A patient, who is a Jehovah’s witness, urgently needs a blood transfusion to save their life after an accident. Their beliefs prevent them from agreeing to a blood transfusion. What would you do?
How should I prepare for my medical interview?
Just like UCAT, there is an effective and systematic way you can prepare for medical school interviews. To best prepare for your interview, you should:
- Have an understanding of what interviewers are looking for
- Understand how to best present yourself during the interview, including:
- Your manner (eg. voice, body language, eye contact, confidence, passion)
- The content of your answer (eg. level of insight, length, clarity, use of interesting anecdotes/examples)
- Have an understanding of the types of questions that are likely to arise at each interview for which you have received an offer
- Practice answering the questions that will arise in each particular university’s interview
- Practice answering questions within time limits (particularly for MMIs)
- Have an awareness of
- Current issues in healthcare
- Rural and Indigenous/Maori health
- The particular university’s course
- Act as an interviewer, and listen to other people answering the same question. This will give you an invaluable insight into what makes an outstanding answer
- Seek feedback on your performance and take steps to improve
All of the above is comprehensively covered in MedEntry’s Medical Interview Coaching days.
What are the options for effective medical interview coaching?
All MedEntry UCAT students have access to the comprehensive Medical Interview Guide, available on the LMS. This covers basic interview strategies and common questions that arise. This comprehensive Medical Interview Guide can also be purchased separately.
Students also have the opportunity to enrol in full day Medical Interview Coaching sessions, that cover all aspects of interview technique, and are catered to a particular university. They provide invaluable training and practice that will not only be useful for medical school interviews, but for all interviews you will face in your future career.
Why do some universities say I shouldn’t prepare for my interview?
Just like with UCAT, there is a common misconception that you shouldn’t prepare for interviews, or that you don’t need to prepare for interviews. While universities discourage you from medical interview coaching, they coach their graduates for job interviews, which is hypocritical. Some people may feel that preparing for your interview will mean that your responses are not natural and authentic. However, preparation does not mean you should memorise your answers word for word – in fact, this is a terrible strategy. Preparation means knowing the types of questions, knowing how best to present yourself and understanding the features of an excellent response. Quality preparation will allow you to formulate genuine, interesting and effective answers. It is vital that you undergo coaching for your medical interview.
The trainers (doctors & professors) who offer medical interview coaching at MedEntry have extensive experience, having trained over ten thousand students. You will learn both the theory and practice, have all your questions answered and feel well prepared and confident before the first and most important interview of your life! Check out reviews of our medial interview coaching.