Congratulations on receiving your Medical School Interview invitation! You have now reached the next step on your path as an aspiring doctor. This may be the first experience many of you have had with an actual interview and I’m sure you’ve been wondering how to tackle it. Worry not! We’ve put together a list of the most commonly asked questions at medical school interviews so you don’t go in without a clue!
Before we start jumping on specific questions, there are a few things to consider:
1- Always consider the question and its keywords before jumping in.
2- Structure your answer: Follow the STAR technique and don’t forget an introduction and a conclusion!
3- Back every statement made in your answer by examples based on your personal experience. Reflect on your own experience and link it to medicine.
4- There is no right or wrong answer. That said common sense must be your best friend during your interview so use it adequately.
5- Every answer is an opportunity for you to stand out and sell yourself so no shrinking violet allowed here!
1. ‘Why do you want to be a doctor?’
This is one, I’m sure you’ve thought of. The problem is a lot of candidates come into the interview knowing the question but not having developed a strong answer to it. The most common mistake applicants make with this question is making their answer too generic. If you think that someone else could read your answer and it would still fit them, then you’ve fallen for this trap. Another common mistake is being very descriptive with their experiences but not actually addressing why this makes them want to study medicine.
My tip to help you with this question is to think of a particular example or experience that initially sparked your interest in medicine before following it up with another example or experience you pursued to further develop this interest. For example, mentioning how much you enjoyed researching the human anatomy part of your biology A-level and then shadowing a doctor at a hospital to learn more about this.
Base your answer on personal stories as long as it is true and relevant in the context of the question. Witnessing your grandmother being diagnosed with dementia could have well made you realise how much doctors support family and carers and made you want to pursue this career.
2. ‘Why do you want to come to this medical school?’
This question is another that candidates have contemplated but fail to really nail in their interviews. Common mistakes candidates make is just reciting everything they’ve found on the university website. The interviewer already knows all of this. It’s extremely important to link these reasons back to yourself and show the examiner why these aspects are suited to you. Another common mistake is making your answer extremely generic. If your answer can be applied to every medical school, it’s not a good answer!
To tackle this question, I always use this structure: course, extra-curricular and city.
1. Firstly talk about the course. What do you know about it? Is it lecture based or PBL based? Why is this suited to you? Do you have any experience with this learning style?
2. Secondly, talk about the extra-curricular activities the university has to offer. Is there a particular society that you’ve heard about that you’re keen to join? Are you passionate about a sport and want to bring this interest to the university team? Show the interviewer what you can bring to the university.
3. Finally, talk about the city and why you want to go there. Talk about diversity, local attractions, etc. Remember medical school lasts 4 to 6 years and you’re going to live there for a while. But don’t spend too long on this point.
3. ‘What qualities do you think are necessary to be a good doctor?’
Although this question may seem simple and you could list a number of qualities, this is your opportunity to shine and impress the examiner. A lot of candidates just start listing numerous qualities but this carries very little weight. It’s important that you can demonstrate you’ve read the General Medical Council’s duties of a doctor which is a document the GMC created that actually outlines and provides the standards it expects doctors to maintain.
A good candidate will select 3 to 4 qualities and explain why. For example, I would encourage you to state a quality, mention why it’s important for doctors to show this by relating it to something you’ve seen during your work experience or volunteering. You then need to complement your answer by giving an example of when you have demonstrated these skills at school, in a work situation or at home.
4. ‘How do you deal with stress?’
To really do well here, it’s important to reflect on the words of the question. You need to define the different types of stress and structure your answer around it. Most candidates do very well when talking about how they are managing the long-term stress that they face. They, however, don’t actually discuss stress in an acute situation. Another thing applicants forget is to link this to medicine and acknowledge that stress plays a huge role in the lives of doctors. Or worse, others don’t think medicine will be stressful and actually deny that managing stress is important.
To score well, the candidate needs to initially discuss the role stress plays in medicine (many doctors leave the profession due to stress, medics have high suicide rates, etc.). Then discuss acute and long-term stress before describing their techniques to manage them. Followed by using personal examples to back up their answer. Read our recent blog post to learn how to deal with stress during your interview!
5. ‘Tell me about a time you made a mistake.’
Everyone makes mistakes and it’s inevitable that as a doctor in the future you will too. A common misstep here is choosing a weakness that isn’t a real weakness because you’re worried that the examiner might hold it against you. Other candidates spend too much time describing when they made a mistake instead of reflecting on the mistake. Or they aren’t specific about the impact that the mistake had and it sounds insincere.
To answer this question, describe a time where you made a mistake that had a real impact. Don’t spend too much time on setting the scene as most of the marks come from reflecting on what they learned from the mistake and how they would do things differently in the future. They should then talk about the negative impact this mistake had and how to avoid it in the future. A very important quality of a doctor is having the ability to reflect, learn from previous situations and find ways to improve.
So there we have it! The top 5 most commonly asked questions at medical school interviews and the tips I’d recommend to excel in them. Remember that it’s important to back up your answers with personal examples as this is what really makes your answer memorable and stand out to interviewers. If you already knew all of this, well done you be-lung in medical school.