Preparing for Medical School Interview
01 July, 2020
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It’s that strange time of year. The rush of the GAMSAT is over, you’ve just submitted your GEMSAS and other medicine applications, and now what? The wait for interview offers and preparing for medicine interview questions
If you’re like me, you’re probably already wondering, if I get a medical school interview, what kind of questions are they going to ask me? What kind of preparation should I be doing? Should I be doing any at all?
Unsurprisingly, the prospect of sitting a medical school interview can be daunting, especially given the stakes involved. Many applicants every year feel overcome with nervousness and apprehension for the last hurdle in the medical school applications system (that is, the interviews). For this reason, I’ve compiled some tips on how to prepare yourself for the interview day.
First: Understand Yourself
So, why do you
want to study medicine?
This is a question that apparently comes up in many medical interviews, and is often seen by aspiring medical students as a guaranteed question. Many fret over whether their answer is similar to their friends’ and whether it sounds ‘right’. But the greatest piece of advice I can give you in regards to this question (and well, for every question really), is to be honest and genuine in your response.
For some, answering this question can be easily drawn back to a life-changing moment that led them to aspire for a career in medicine, however for many the answer isn’t always so clear. It may take some self-reflection to gain an understanding of what truly underlies your ambition. And perhaps what you will find is that your response isn’t so simple.
This is why it is so important to spend some time to understand yourself and your motivations for studying medicine before
the interview. The interviews are extremely time-sensitive, and often the first words that come out of your mouth are the most important. Spending time thinking about why you want to study medicine, and then considering how you might communicate this genuinely but succinctly to an assessor, is essential.
Once you start thinking about your reasons behind applying for medicine, you will also open the door to understanding more about your values and perhaps even your personality. Demonstrating such an understanding will also come across very strongly in an interview, and particularly relates to my next piece of advice…
Second: Understand the Goal
What do they actually want to know about me?
In the stress of applying to medicine and preparing for the interviews, it can be all too easy to forget why
you’re actually doing the interview (that is, the goal).
One common pitfall when preparing for medical interviews is forgetting to understand the goal—to understand the values and skills the interviewers are looking for. Aspiring medical students may spend hours searching through forums for previous applicants’ questions, but forget to actually consider what those questions are trying to ascertain.
For example, questions that are about ethical issues (be it medically-related or other), assess your ethical decision-making and problem-solving skills, as well as your communication skills and ability to demonstrate empathy (and much more).
It would also be safe to say that the whole experience of the interviews looks at applicants’ aptitude for poising under pressure. Some questions may look at your ability to resolve conflicts, or your capacity to lead or work in a team.
You may be beginning to realise that these are in fact desirable (if not, essential) characteristics of a medical professional. And, evidently, medical school interviews aim to assess applicants for their suitability to thrive in a career in medicine. This is why it’s extremely important when preparing for the medical interviews to understand the skills and values pertinent to practising as a medical doctor. Having a list of these attributes will allow you to think about how you might demonstrate them or incorporate them in responses to different questions or scenarios. This raises another important point…
Questions in the interview may not necessarily be direct. You may not be asked, for example, to describe a time when you have demonstrated empathy. As in my above example about ethical scenarios, any single question is probably designed to assess multiple skills and it is up to the initiative and capabilities of the interviewee to exhibit these. You may walk into the interview to find an actor crying or shouting, and be required to diffuse the situation, without anyone asking you an actual direct question.
The last goal to be aware of is the university wanting to know why you’ve chosen them
. Just like in interviews for any job, they may ask you why you
program specifically. For this reason, students should make sure that they check out the website of the university they are applying to, and consider aspects about that university and the medical program that are particularly suitable to their individual needs and aspirations. Think back on the time when you were choosing a medical school in Australia
and consider the aspects driving your decision.
Third: Understand the Setting and the Medicine Interview Questions
This third point comes down to two main aspects of preparation: research and practice. Different universities use different interview structures, from the multi-mini interview (which seems to be the most popular these days) to the panel style. Some universities may use role-play scenarios for many of their questions, and some may even contain practical components. When you receive your interview offer (and after celebrating of course), do some research about the style of interview at your university of choice and make sure you carefully read the instructions given to you by that university. It is all too easy to forget these things in the excitement of the moment.
Now to practice answering medicine interview questions. This is possibly the most important aspect of your preparation for the medical school interview. Of course, you may have heard from the universities themselves that it is unfavourable to see applicants regurgitating answers that they’ve rehearsed so many times that it loses meaning. And this is true. Whilst it is important to practice giving responses to medical school interview questions in the appropriate time constraints and professional manner, students should not take this as advice to rote-learn responses. Medical interviewers will very quickly detect an interviewee who is merely blurting out a response they’ve committed to memory.
The advice about practice that I personally stuck to, and like to give to friends who are applying to medicine, is to become comfortable giving responses in a ‘mock’ interview scenario. This may mean asking a family member or friend to read out questions to you and give you advice on your responses (considering the above-mentioned skills), or perhaps using a mirror to assess yourself. Whilst rehearsed answers are not the way to go, you need to be able to get your message across efficiently and effectively, which can take practice. Having the capacity to utilise appropriate pauses to think, and to demonstrate good verbal and non-verbal communication skills, is not so easy when under the pressure of an interview.
Fourth: Don’t Forget to Smile!
Lastly, the best piece of interview advice that I have ever received was to not forget to smile! Interview day can be filled with nerves and butterflies, and walking into a room to see an intimidating interviewer (or multiple!) is enough to wipe the smile off any medical-hopeful’s face. However, if you are honest with your responses and accompany them with a genuine grin, you will be sure to come across in a much more positive and memorable way. As cliché as it sounds, smiling is contagious!
Overall, preparing for medical school interviews can be both an exciting and a nerve-wracking time. You’re getting closer to an offer for a place in a medical program, but still have this one last hurdle to overcome. If you’re stuck on how to prepare, some of the best steps you can take are to: reflect on and consider your aspirations and suitability for a career in medicine; research your university and the values and skills pertinent to being a successful medical doctor; and practice communicating your responses effectively to answer medicine interview questions (whilst smiling!) in a timely, honest and professional manner.
If you're looking for some professional help to maximise your preparation and ace the interview, check out our InterviewReady Course