MMI Interview Do’s and Don’ts
20 June, 2021
You’ve prepared for and sat the GAMSAT exam. You’ve prepared your applications for GEMSAS and the individual universities. It’s been a busy time, full of many emotions: anticipation, excitement, self-doubt. But now comes the agonising wait until interview offers are released.
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You may be thinking that now might be a good time to start thinking about interview preparation, in case you get that coveted interview offer. You would be right. But how does one go about preparing for a medical school interview?
First and foremost: Do learn about the overall structure. Don’t obsess over specifics.
First and foremost, it is important for you to understand what you will be going into. The Multi-Mini Interview (MMI) has clearly become the favoured structure of the interview process for graduate medicine admissions in Australia. Students who are awaiting their offers should therefore make sure they understand what the MMI may involve and take steps to prepare themselves for it appropriately. We have other blog articles that explain the MMI in more depth, so it may be helpful to have a flick through these. However, universities may decide to change their interview processes, especially during these uncertain times, so be sure to read your interview offer letter carefully. Note that Flinders University still uses a traditional panel interview.
It can be very tempting to try to predict the questions that you will be asked so that you can prepare for them. While practice is obviously not a bad thing, targeting your practice towards specific questions is not necessarily the best idea, for reasons that I will discuss in the next section. Furthermore, many universities have required students to sign non-disclosure agreements, so recent questions will be hard to obtain. In short, while it is very useful to consider the types of questions that you might be asked, and perhaps look over a few examples if you have them handy, obsessing over the exact questions is not helpful. It is better to try and develop frameworks for dealing with types of questions instead.
Second: Do prepare. Don’t over-rehearse for the MMI interview.
This is probably the most misunderstood part of preparing for the MMIs. The general aim of the MMIs is to assess applicants’ suitability for a career in medicine—that is, whether that individual truly has what it takes to survive and thrive in what is a life-long and sometimes life-consuming commitment to being a doctor. Unfortunately, over-rehearsed answers do not convey these qualities: they only show the examiner that you are able to remember and regurgitate sentences that you have rehearsed in advance.
Avoiding this conveyance of inauthenticity sometimes drives students to believe that they should therefore not prepare for the interviews at all, and that whatever communication skills they inherently possess should shine through when it comes to interview day. This may be the case for the small percentage of applicants who are naturally and exceptionally good communicators; however, for the rest of us, the pressure and intimidation of the MMIs can often render us bumbling nervous wrecks, which of course isn’t very impressive for the interviewers. Preparation is still important—just not of the over-rehearsed answer variety.
My recommendation to you would be to compile a list of typical medical interview-style questions (many aspiring medical students find these on blog articles or forums), and practice answering them under MMI-typical time constraints to someone who can give you constructive feedback about your verbal and non-verbal communication skills. This also allows you to realise the paucity of time that you have in an MMI station and forces you to develop more effective and efficient ways of communicating your ideas. As you prepare, work on developing strategies to tackle different types of questions, rather than memorising answers to specific questions. It is highly unlikely that your practice questions will come up in your interview so, as mentioned earlier, developing those frameworks is a much better use of your time than obsessing over the specifics of each question.
By practising in this way, you can practice your MMI interview technique without rote-learning responses and without coming across as a robot on interview day. It also allows you to reflect on the true reasons why you want to study medicine, and why you think you will make a good doctor. This brings me to my next point…
Third: Do reflect. Don’t lie.
Whilst you are rehearsing as I recommended above, it is essential to leave time for reflection. Firstly, you should reflect on the constructive feedback from your interview prep buddy; secondly, and perhaps more importantly, you should reflect on your own motives and capacity to study medicine, and on the personal qualities that will make you a good doctor.
Remember, the interviewers want to know why you would make a good doctor. It would be very hard to convey such suitability without understanding your own strengths and weaknesses. My recommendation would be to search the internet, and perhaps read some medical non-fiction books, that will give you a good idea of what skills and attributes are required or desired for a medical doctor to succeed in their practice. Then, think about how these qualities apply to you and examples of times when you have demonstrated these qualities.
At this point, you may also be wondering what a ‘perfect’ response to the question, ‘Why do you want to study medicine?’ might be, and you may even be considering preparing your response based on what you think sounds correct. If this resounds with you, my advice would be to avoid ANY such confabulation or untruthful words.
The same way that over-rehearsed answers may come across as disingenuous to interviewers, so will an actual disingenuous response. These interviewers see tens to hundreds of applicants every year and are well-trained in detecting those who are simply regurgitating a pre-formed, ‘correct-sounding’ response to a question.
Moreover, if you genuinely aspire to study medicine and seek a career as a doctor, and if you can communicate reasonably effectively (see above notes about practice!), this genuine aspiration should be detected by your interviewers. Remember, there is almost never a “correct” answer to MMI questions. What matters is that you can communicate your reasoning well.
In short, when preparing for an MMI for graduate medicine, it is important to make sure that you understand your strengths and weaknesses well, and understand your own motives—not someone else’s. With adequate reflection and consideration of the aims of the MMI process, you may achieve this.
Overall, the MMI interview can be thought of in two ways: an intimidating and exhausting process that seriously tests your ability to communicate under pressure, or as your one opportunity to convince the interviewers that you have what it takes to become a medical doctor. It can be very daunting in the lead up, so feeling nervous about the MMIs is perfectly natural. Ultimately, if you have genuine intentions and are well-prepared, you may be able to overcome these nerves on interview day.
So lastly, here’s a summary of my do’s and don’ts of the MMI:
- Do make sure you understand the purpose and structure of the MMI
- Do prepare by practising responding to questions using the MMI format and timing (with a friend if possible!)
- Do reflect on your own strengths and weaknesses, and motives for studying medicine
- Do reflect on your performance (and any peer feedback) during your practice, and use it to improve on your weaknesses
- Don’t obsess about the exact questions that might be asked; use the practice questions to prepare frameworks that will allow you to tackle anything
- Don’t over-rehearse your potential answers
- Don’t fabricate answers that you think will ‘sound right’ to the interviewers
And lastly, something I always advise: don’t forget to smile!
If you're looking for some professional help to maximise your preparation and ace the interview, check out our InterviewReady Course!