How to prepare for your medical school interview
Are you ready for your medical school interview?
You’ve applied to your dream Australian medical programs. Now it’s time to prepare for your interview!
Being prepared and having an idea of what you might be asked will certainly pay off and help you to feel more comfortable. During your medical school interview, you may encounter questions ranging from the basics like your work history and volunteer experience to more situational and behavioral questions.
Here are some ways to help you rock your Australian medical school interview!
Preparation before the interview
What is a multi-mini-interview (MMI)?
The MMI is an assessment of an applicant’s personal and professional attributes. It’s designed to test your reasoning and problem-solving skills in a range of areas that the school considers important in entry-level students, as well as your values and commitment. The assessment is conducted through a range of different authentic scenarios that test-specific characteristics.
Confirm the interview structure
Make sure you understand what the interview structure will be for the school to which you’re applying. There are different types of medicine interviews (e.g., MMI, panel, one-on-one, situational judgment test, etc.). Most medical schools use MMI for students to showcase their experiences, reasoning, and problem-solving skills. Some are done virtually, while others are in person in Canada. The structures don’t typically change year to year and are outlined on the university websites and in the interview invitation you’ll receive from the university and/or OzTREKK.
Set a calendar reminder
Your educational future is potentially riding on this interview! As soon as you receive the date and time for your interview, put it in your calendar and set a reminder.
Don’t ask them to reschedule unless it’s an emergency. Spots fill up extremely quickly and it can be difficult to juggle dozens of applicants. If you truly can’t attend your interview at the specified time, you must contact the university’s admissions office as soon as possible. They will make reasonable efforts to accommodate your needs but cannot guarantee that an alternative interview time will be available.
If it’s a virtual interview, ensure your setup is reliable
You should use the most reliable method of connection available for your interview. A wireless connection can be used, provided it’s sufficiently reliable. Make sure your computer, speakers, microphone, and camera are all in working order. Some universities will have sessions prior to your interview to test your tech.
How will questions be asked?
If the university is doing an MMI, you’ll likely receive a prompt then have 2 minutes to read it and then have 5–7 minutes to answer it. Length of time can vary by university. Other MMIs include the reading of the prompt in the total amount of time. Make sure you know the difference, so you can plan your answers accordingly.
Do your homework
Familiarize yourself with the university and the program. What is the school known for? Why is that a good fit for you? In most interviews, there are typically questions about the university’s values and pillars. For example, James Cook University has a rural, remote, tropical, and indigenous health focus. Research the schools beforehand to know what they would be looking for in an applicant. It’s a good idea to know the medical profession—its past, its present, its future. This shows you would like to invest your life in the field of medicine.
Do you have weaknesses? What are they? Are you working on them? Where do you see yourself 5, 10, 20 years from now? What makes you stand out from other applicants? Be prepared to talk about your undergrad degree, and if you’re invited to ask questions, have some! Be prepared to speak about yourself and your interests outside of medicine.
Catch up on the Aussie news
Read or watch the Australian news and immerse yourself in the society and culture, as much as you can from your couch in Canada. This will help you feel more confident about the whole process and provide you with some good, relevant speaking points.
Dress to impress
This is a no-brainer. Dress appropriately. No one wants to see you just out of bed, in a T-shirt, or wearing exercise gear. You are interviewing for a professional degree! Put your best self forward.
Be ready early
On the day of your interview, you must be ready at least 30 minutes prior to your scheduled interview time. Your interview will likely last at least 45 minutes; however, you should allow at least one hour in addition to this time in case there is a delay, or there is a need to clarify a matter. Also note that there won’t be any breaks. Use the washroom beforehand. You may have a glass of water handy should you need it.
For verification purposes, you must bring photo ID (passport or driver’s license) to the interview. Have it ready to show at the beginning of your interview. Now is not the time to go fishing through your purse or digging in your wallet.
Although it’s tempting, don’t cram in a practice session the hour before. Take a walk. Clear your head. Eat a healthy snack. Meditate to calm your nerves. You’re ready!
Practice in front of people and record yourself answering questions. Keep in mind that an interviewer’s facial expression is not a reflection on how well you’re doing. Sometimes their lack of reaction throws students off, so it’s good to practice in front of others and ask them to not to show any expression.
Practice giving reasoning to your answers. Sometimes you will have a situational scenario where you’ll need to pick one solution from two possible options. Explain both sides, but then pick your final answer and give the final reasoning. Usually there is no right answer, but they want to see how you make your decision and how you reason your choice.
The best way to learn from all this practicing? Watch the recordings. Sometimes it’s easier to focus on areas of improvement when you can watch yourself from the interviewers’ eyes. This will help if you’re saying “umm” too often and realize where you may be wasting time.
During the interview
Academic performance is not discussed at the interview. While we can’t tell you what kind of questions to expect, we can say that because you have been selected for an interview, the university has already established that you are academically capable of studying medicine! This is your chance to show the university who you are as a person and as a future doctor.
The last thing you want during an interview is to be distracted. Make sure all alarms and ringers are turned off.
If you’re doing a virtual interview, choose a distraction-free place where you will have excellent internet access. It’s also important to note that you’re not permitted to have a cell phone/watch or writing material nearby. Let your family or roommates know what you’re doing too, so you don’t have unexpected interruptions. Remember to clear your background as well. Ensure your affectionate pet, Backstreet Boys poster, and laundry-drying rack are out of the frame so you can be the star of the show!
Read and understand the question
Read the question and repeat it in your mind, ensuring you really understand what is being asked. Once you’re in the room or the video call starts, you might not be able to see the prompt again.
Ask yourself, “what is this question asking me?” Do the interviewers want an example of something? Is there more than one detail to address? Prepare yourself to provide all the info they want.
Sometimes it can be hard to concentrate when we’re stressed, and we often blurt out the first thing that pops into our heads. Do your best to actively listen to what’s being asked so you can answer appropriately. If an interviewer interrupts at any point, stop and listen carefully to what they have to say. They are doing this in your favour, as you are likely veering off course in your discussion.
The best way to stay on topic? Start your answer by laying out what topics you’ll address, “I’m going to talk about x, y, then z.” It will be helpful for both you and the interviewers.
Stay calm and speak slowly
Take a deep breath. The interviewers are people, just like you. They understand that you will be nervous and will factor that in when they interview you. Answer questions as honestly as possible. If you don’t know how to answer the question, a simple response is far better than a long-winded lie.
Be yourself. Putting on an act to impress people is rarely successful, is usually transparent, and is most often a turnoff. If an interviewer has a bad first impression about you, the other aspects of that station will likely be graded poorly. Remember, the interviewers are people too, and they are likely volunteering in the MMI process. This is especially important if you consider an interviewer may not even be listening to a word you are saying. At the end of the station, the interviewer may look back at the past 7 or so minutes and only remember how calm, collected, and eloquently spoken you were.
Bring personal examples so you can show off your amazing self! The universities want to know you. Include personal events. If there is a relevant anecdote about yourself, or if there is something going on in the world about which you’re passionate, discuss it.
The interviewers are interested in your passion for medicine, your thought processes, your communication skills, and your personality. Stations can be loosely categorized into ethical-dilemma situations, teamwork-based situations, professionalism situations, differing-opinion situations, etc.
Figure out what kind of general situation you are in and then present not only how you view the situation, but also from the viewpoint of bystanders and/or the opposing party. Think outside the box. Have empathy.
The medical schools will be looking for the following skills and attributes from applicants:
- Knowledge relevant to the question and your ability to formulate an approach to address the topic
- The capacity to draw implications from your knowledge
- Insight into you own attitudes and views (and that of others) relevant to the issue
After the interview
Come prepared with a small list of questions in mind so you have something to ask, should the opportunity arise. But, most important, remember to thank the interviewers for taking the time to meet with you and for the opportunity to participate. Appreciation goes a long way!
Need more tips? Check these out!
- Amogh gives his top 5 communication tips for MMIs
- Emma shares her advice on how to prepare for your med school interview
- Brittani blogs about how to ace your MMIs
- University of Queensland shares their MMI tips
This article updated April 18, 2023.