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The Ultimate Medical
School Interview Guide
Copyright © 2017 UniAdmissions. All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information retrieval system without the prior written permission of the publisher. This publication may not be used in conjunction with or to support any commercial undertaking without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Published by RAR Medical Services Limited
Tel: 0208 068 0438
This book is neither created nor endorsed by any medical schools, nor by any other body. The authors and publisher claim no affiliation with any medical school or university. The information offered in this book is purely advisory and any advice given should be taken within this context. As such, the publishers and authors accept no liability whatsoever for the outcome of any applicant’s university applications or for any other loss. Although every precaution has been taken in the preparation of this book, the publisher and author assume no responsibility for errors or omissions of any kind. Neither is any liability assumed for damages resulting from the use of information contained herein. This does not affect your statutory rights.
The Ultimate Medical
School Interview Guide
￼Dr Ranjna Garg
Dr Rohan Agarwal
Ranjna is as a Consultant Physician at the Royal Free Trust London NHS Foundation Trust. Over the last decade, she has taught hundreds of junior doctors and prepared them through postgraduate examinations and job interviews. She enjoys helping students with their medical school preparation and has interviewed for London medical schools as well.
She has done significant research on the use of high strength insulin for patients with severe insulin resistance. In her spare time, she enjoys photography and running.
Rohan is the Director of Operations at UniAdmissions and is responsible for its technical and commercial arms. He graduated from Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge and is a fully qualified doctor. Over the last five years, he has tutored hundreds of successful Oxbridge and Medical applicants. He has also authored ten books on admissions tests and interviews.
Rohan has taught physiology to undergraduates and interviewed medical school applicants for Cambridge. He has published research on bone physiology and writes education articles for the Independent and Huffington Post. In his spare time, Rohan enjoys playing the piano and table tennis.
Congratulations on taking the first step to medical interview success. If you are invited for an interview then that means the admissions tutors were interested in what you had to say in your personal statement and your test scores. The interview is not a place to recount all of this information; it is a place to showcase your knowledge, your integrity, and your ability to stay up to date on relevant medical news.
Different medical schools approach interviews in wildly different ways. Some may concentrate more on dissecting your personal statement, exploring your motivations and medical work experience so far. Others may try to test you primarily on your scientific grounding or your understanding of medical ethics. Some medical schools may question you on your BMAT essay. In most interviews, however, you are likely to face a combination of these. Similarly, some medical schools like to do a single long interview, while others like to do two (often one interview concentrates on science and the other on medical ethics / your motivations and work experience). Indeed, many medical schools now use MMIs.
Interviews require dedicated preparation - don’t leave things to chance! Medical school interviews are extremely formulaic and you can predict the vast majority of questions that you’re likely to be asked. Unsurprisingly, so can everyone else. Thus, you do yourself a great disservice if you don’t have comprehensive answers prepared for these questions. Ensure you’ve done your research on the interview format, the pros/cons of that medical school and have answers lined up for the common interview questions, e.g. “Why medicine?” and “Why this university?” etc.
Ultimately, with fierce competition, there is no guarantee for success. With more than five applicants per place, it is now more important than ever to go the extra mile. Whilst there will undoubtedly be conflicting demands on your time – remember that a small amount of preparation has the potential to literally change your life. Don’t take it lightly – work hard, put in the hours and do yourself justice
Dr Rohan Agarwal
TABLE OF CONTENTS
About the Authors
How long do I need to prepare for?
Preparing for Interviews
How do I Prepare?
Types of Interviews
What Are the Interviewers Looking For?
Communicating your Answers
Multiple Mini Interviews
Station 1: Role Plays
Station 2: Situational Judgment
Station 3: Problem-Solving Questions
Station 4: Data Analysis
Station 5: Video Analysis
Station 7: Writing Tasks
Station 8: Group Tasks & Discussions
Station 9: Rest Stations
How to Communicate Answers
Voluntary & Work Experience
Your Free Book
UKCAT Intensive Course
BMAT Intensive Course
Medicine Interview Course
Congratulations on securing a medical school interview! Getting this far is in itself a great accomplishment. Interviews for medical school can be a daunting prospect, but with the right preparation, there is every reason to be confident that you can present yourself in the best possible way.
This guide is aimed at giving you a comprehensive walkthrough of the entire interview process- from the very basics of your initial preparation to the moment you walk out of the interview room.
A medical interview is a formal discussion between interviewer and interviewee. This is normally the final step in the medical school application process. Traditionally, interviews last around 20 – 30 minutes and take place from mid-October to April every year.
Medicine is competitive- the vast majority of applicants will already have outstanding grades at GCSE, fantastic predicted exam results, and a solid personal statement. As you can imagine, this makes many applicants look very similar on paper!
The interview process is designed to identify students that would be best suited for studying medicine at the university you’ve applied to. Thus, medical school interviews assess multiple qualities e.g. your motivation to study medicine, communication skills, team working and leadership skills etc.
Whilst the interview is not testing your knowledge and skills about a specific subject, it helps to have a good knowledge base. The interview process will assess candidates on their ability to learn. The universities are looking for candidates that have the ability and mindset to learn, i.e. can the candidate be taught. Universities recognise that the interviews can be stressful and may utilise this to assess candidates’ reactions to stress; to see if they can cope with the pressure. It is a process where the candidates are judged on their quick thinking, logical approach, and ability to formulate a comprehensive, coherent, structured response. You will be guided through the process by your interviewer. The interview is not about tricking you. It’s about testing your abilities to harp on your existing knowledge and use it to come up with a logical response. The interview is also about assessing your abilities to see if you can come up with plausible solutions, even if you don’t know the answer.
Interviews are usually the last step in the application process. Each university has its own unique selection process and will value some parts of the admissions process more than others. However, most will only interview around 30-60% of applicants – the rest are rejected without interview (although there are some notable exceptions).
Whether or not you get an interview invite will depend on how well you satisfy each university’s entrance criteria. This is normally a combination of predicted grades, your personal statement, school reference, UKCAT/BMAT scores, etc.
It is important to research your universities early on to get a better idea of their particular preferences. For example, Birmingham will generally only interview students who attain 8 or more A*s at GCSE; Kings will generally only students with very high UKCAT scores. Contrastingly, Cambridge tends to interview the great majority of applicants prior to making any decisions.
Depending on the university, medical school interviews can be conducted by a host of different people:
➢Dean of the Medical School
➢Senior Doctors and Lecturers
➢Other Allied Health Professionals
➢Current Medical Students
This will vary depending on the university you’ve applied to. Generally, most universities will start interviewing in late October/early November and continue to do so until January. Some universities will carry on interviewing until early May. Oxbridge interviews are almost always between late November to mid-December. Cambridge may invite you to a second round of interviews in January should you get pooled.
Most universities will give you at least 2 weeks’ notice prior to your interview. However, it’s highly advisable to begin preparing for your interview before you’re officially invited.
It’s generally not a good idea to change your interview date unless you absolutely have to and have a strong reason to do so, e.g. Family Bereavement. Rescheduling your interview for your friend’s birthday or a sports match is unlikely to go down well!
If you do need to reschedule, give the medical school as much notice as possible and offer some alternative dates. Be aware that you may be putting yourself at a disadvantage by doing of this as your interview will likely be delayed.
The interview will almost always take place at the medical school you’ve applied to. Logistically, it’s worth booking an overnight hotel if you’re travelling from far away.
Very rarely, interviews can be held via Skype at an exam centre- this normally only applies to international students or for UK students in extreme circumstances.
You will often hear the phrase “You can’t prepare for medical school interviews” – this couldn’t be further from the truth. You need to prepare both comprehensively and efficiently in order to cover all the material and acquire the skills you need to succeed. Thus, it’s a generally a very good idea to start interview preparations as soon as you’ve applied through UCAS (although even earlier is better!). Don’t leave your interview preparation until you’ve actually been invited to one as that won’t give you enough time to shine on the day.
Remember, medical school interviews test a wide variety of skills that – unlike your Year 12/13 exams – you can’t cram for, e.g. communication, analytical skills etc. Start preparing small amounts early on and increase this time the closer you get to your interview. Planning and practice will take you to perfection.
When it comes to interviews, it’s best to dress sharply and smartly.
Unless you’re told otherwise by the medical school, this normally means a full suit for men and either a full suit or smart shirt + skirt for women.
➢Excessively shiny or intricate jewellery
➢Bold and controversial dress colours, e.g. orange ties
➢Excessive amounts of makeup – it’s not a beauty pageant
➢Flashy nails or eyelashes
➢Unnecessarily large bags – leave your overnight bags at a hotel or at the medical school reception
➢Wearing your ‘school prefect’ or ‘head boy’ badges
➢Carry an extra pair of contact lenses or glasses if appropriate
➢Turn your phone off completely – you don’t want any distractions
➢Polish your shoes
First impressions last; body language contributes to a significant part of this. However, don’t make the mistake of obsessing over body language at the expense of the quality answers you give.
Most people will only need to make some minor adjustments to remove some “bad habits”, so don’t worry about body language till fairly late in your preparation.
Once you’re confident that you know the relevant material and have good answers prepared for common questions, allow your body language to show that you have what it takes to be a doctor by conveying maturity and confidence.
➢When walking into the room, walk in with your head held high and back straight.
➢When sitting down, look alert and sit up straight.
➢Avoid crossing your arms – this can appear to be defensive.
➢Don’t slouch- instead, lean forward slightly to show that you’re engaged with the interview.
➢If there is a table, then ensure you sit around four to six inches away.
❖Too close and you’ll appear like you’re invading the interviewers’ space
❖Too far and you’ll appear too casual
➢Good eye contact is a sign of confidence and good communication skills.
➢Look at the interviewer when they are speaking to you and when you are speaking.
➢If there are multiple interviewers, look at the interviewer who is speaking to you or asked you the question. However, make sure you do look around at the other interviewers to acknowledge them.
➢At the start, offer a handshake or accept if offered: make sure you don’t have sweaty or cold hands.
➢A firm handshake is generally preferable to a limp one.
➢During the interview, keep your hands still unless you are using them to illustrate your point.
➢Avoid excessive hand movements – your hands should go no higher than your neck.
➢If you fidget when you’re nervous, hold your hands firmly together in your lap to stop this from happening.
Many applicants will jump straight to the questions part of this book and attempt to learn the “good answers” by rote. Whilst this is psychologically comforting, it is of minimal value in actually preparing you for the interview. Use this book as guidance. Develop the skills to construct logical and structured answers so that you are familiar with the format. Cramming for your interview by rote learning the answers provided in this book will make your responses clichéd.
You are almost guaranteed to be asked certain questions at your interview, e.g. “Why Medicine?”. So it’s well worth preparing answers for these frequently asked questions. However, it’s critical that you don’t simply recite pre-prepared answers as this will appear unnatural and, therefore, rehearsed.
Start off by finding out exactly what is required of you for the interview, e.g. interview type, who your interviewers will be, commonly asked questions, etc.
Next, focus on learning the basics of interview technique and understanding the core healthcare topics that you’ll be expected to know about. Once you’re happy with this, go through the questions + answers in this book – don’t try to rote learn answers. Instead, try to understand what makes each answer good/bad and then use this to come up with your own unique answer. Don’t be afraid of using other resources, e.g. YouTube videos on medical ethics, etc.
When you’ve got this down, practice answering questions in front of a mirror and consider recording yourself to iron out any body language issues.
It’s absolutely paramount that you practice with a real person before your first interview. Whilst you might be able to provide fantastic answers to common questions with no one observing you, this may not be the case with the added pressure of a mock interviewer.
Practice interviews are best with someone you do not know very well - even easy questions may be harder to articulate out loud and on the spot to a stranger. MMIs, in particular, are worth practising beforehand, so you can work on using the time available as efficiently as possible. During your practice, try to eliminate hesitant words like “Errrr….” and “Ummm…” as these will make you appear less confident. Ask for feedback on the speed, volume, and tone of your voice.
Many schools will be able to arrange a mock interview for you. If you’re struggling, you can book private mock interviews at www.uniadmissions.co.uk/mock-medical-interviews.
The first thing to understand is that there are several different formats of an interview. They can broadly be categorised into:
oNormally twenty – forty minutes
oMay have two long panel interviews
➢Multiple Mini Interview (MMI):
oThere are normally five to twelve stations
oEach station is five to ten minutes long and will focus on different topic
oThere is normally an interviewer at each station
oYou physically move from one station to another
Different medical schools approach interviews in different ways. Some may concentrate more on dissecting your personal statement, exploring your motivations and medical work experience. Others may try to test you primarily on medical ethics whilst the BMAT medical schools may question you on your BMAT essay. Hence, it’s extremely important that you know what type of interview you will be going through as that determines how you prepare.
Medical schools will let you know the exact interview format in advance; some will also tell you who your interviewers will be. It can be useful to look at your interviewers’ teaching backgrounds and published work as this can potentially shed some light on the topics they might choose to discuss during the interview. However, there is absolutely no need to know the intricacies of their research work so don’t get bogged down in it. It can be useful to know their views on their areas of interest so that you are prepared and can offer both sides of the argument in a balanced manner.
Interviews tend to open with easier and more general questions and become more detailed and complicated as you are pushed to explore topics in greater depth. Remember, if the questions are getting harder, you are probably doing well!
The whole point of interviews is to identify individuals who will fit in at that institution, so your grades, interest, hobbies, and experiences are all important and you may be asked on any of these. Also, be prepared to discuss your personal statement, current affairs, and your BMAT essay if your university requires it.
Generally, MMIs tend to be highly scripted with each interviewer having a certain number of questions that they need to ask in the time limit. Contrastingly, traditional interviews are more free flowing – there are usually lots of follow-up questions based on your previous responses as there is more time to explore more complex issues. An example of that is a discussion that starts with a simple question like: What did you enjoy in your work experience in the cardiology department and can go into detailed discussions about heart transplant ethics or cardiac physiology?
Although the format of medical school interviews can vary considerably, the qualities which interviewers are looking for in applicants remain consistent. It’s well worth your time to understand these qualities and exhibit them as much as possible when answering questions.
Many applicants think that the most ‘obvious’ thing interviewers are looking for is excellent factual knowledge. This simply isn’t true.
Interviewers are looking for an applicant that is best suited to study medicine at their university. They are looking for your motivation to be a doctor. Standard medical school interviews generally don’t test your innate recall knowledge of facts. For example, you are unlikely to be asked, “What is the normal value of serum calcium?”. Whilst having an excellent depth of knowledge may help you perform better during an interview- you’re very unlikely to be chosen based solely on your knowledge.
The ‘Outcomes for Graduates’ section of the GMC’s document “Tomorrow’s Doctors” is useful for gaining an appreciation of what medical schools are looking for in prospective applicants. Remember that the ultimate aim of this long selection process is to choose students who will go on to make good doctors in the years to come. When preparing for the interview and answering interview questions, it’s very useful to think about how any of the qualities below could be shown in your answer.
Medicine is a very demanding profession and will require hard work throughout your whole career. Interviewers are looking not only for your ability to work hard (diligence) but also for an understanding that there will be times where you will have a responsibility to prioritise your medical work over other personal and social concerns (conscientiousness). This means that when you are a doctor and have just finished a twelve-hour shift and the night doctor is running late, you stay behind until they arrive so the ward isn’t left without a doctor.
Medicine is a profession where lives could be at risk if something goes wrong. Being honest and having strong moral principles is critical for doctors. The public trusts the medical profession and this can only be maintained if there is complete honesty between both parties. Interviewers need to see that you are an honest person, can accept your mistakes and are learn from them.
Empathy is the ability to recognise and relate to other peoples’ emotional needs. It is important that you understand and respond to how others may be feeling when you’re a doctor. The easiest way to demonstrate this is by recalling situations from your work experience (one of the many reasons why it’s so important). However, it’s important to not exaggerate how much an incident has affected you - experienced interviewers will quickly pick up on anything that doesn’t sound sincere.
There is no denying the fact that medical school can be stressful due to the extreme pressure you’ll be put under. Medical schools understand that you are likely to become stressed during your studies, however, it’s important that you have a way of dealing with it in a healthy manner. Interviewers are looking to see if you are able to make logical decisions when put under pressure (something doctors encounter on a daily basis). Pursuing interests outside of medicine, such as sport, music or drama is often a good way of de-stressing and gives you an opportunity to talk about your extra-curricular interests as well as team-working skills.
Medicine is undoubtedly a science; whilst your grades will demonstrate your scientific aptitude, you’ll need to offer something, in addition, to make yourself stand out. The easiest way to do this is by referencing examples of where you have gone beyond the confines of your school syllabus, e.g. Science Olympiads, Science Clubs, extra reading (hopefully you mentioned these in your personal statement).
You need to show that you have the maturity required to deal with complex issues that you will face as a doctor. The vast majority of students will undergo changes in personality throughout medical school and you need to have a good understanding of yourself to ensure these changes are positive ones.
Firstly, it’s important to be able to recognise your own strengths and weaknesses. In addition, you need to be able to recognise and reflect on your mistakes so that you can learn from them for the future. A person with good self-awareness can work on their weakness to avoid mistakes from happening again. Questions like, “What are your strengths?” or “What is your biggest weakness?” are common and fantastic opportunities to let your maturity and personal insight shine through.
Working as a doctor requires working in a multidisciplinary team (MDT) – a group of individuals with a wide variety of skills that work to help patients. The MDT is a cornerstone of how modern healthcare functions. Thus, you need to be able to show that you’re a team player. One of the best ways of doing this is by giving examples from your extracurricular activities, e.g. sports, music, duke of Edinburgh, other school projects.
Interviewers are looking for individuals that are committed to medicine and have a realistic idea of what life as a doctor will entail. This is why it’s extremely important to display your motivation to study medicine clearly during the interview. A common way to do this is to reflect on your work experience and have examples ready of common challenges that you will likely face. Examples include:
➢Long hours and stress
➢Repetitiveness. A career in medicine can sometimes demand great patience. Doing the same operation day-in-day-out, seeing the same diseases, sitting through endless clinics
➢The balance between being empathetic, yet remaining objective
➢Ethical dilemmas – these will be discussed in detail in the ‘Medical Ethics’ section
Although interviewers have wildly different styles, it is helpful to remember that none of them are trying to catch you out. They are there to help you. You may come across an interviewer that is very polite and ‘noddy’ while others may have a ‘poker face’. Do not be put off by their expressions or reactions. Sometimes what you thought was a negative facial response to your reply may just be a twitch. Contrastingly, a very helpful appearing interviewer may lull you into a false sense of security. Rarely, you may get an interviewer who likes playing ‘Devil’s advocate’ and will challenge your every statement. In these cases, it’s important not to take things personally and avoid getting worked up.
You don’t know what type of interviewer you will get so it’s important to practice mock interviews with as many people as possible so that you’re prepared for a wider variety of interviewer styles.
Many applicants don’t secure places as they don’t spend enough time preparing for their interviews. A common reason is that they feel that they “already know what to say”. Whilst this may be true, it is not always what you say but how you say it. Interviews are a great test of your communication skills and should be taken seriously. A good way to ensure you consistently deliver effective answers is to adhere to the principles below:
In general, most your responses should be approximately one to two minutes long. They should convey the important information but be focussed on the question and avoid rambling. Remember, you are providing a direct response to the question, not writing an English essay! With practice, you should be able to identify the main issues being asked, plan a structured response, and communicate them succinctly. It’s important to practice your answers to common questions, e.g. ‘Why Medicine?’ so that you can start to get a feel for what is the correct response duration.
Some questions may require more time, e.g. questions that ask you to compare and contrast. Similarly, questions in MMIs are generally targeted so don’t be shy to give slightly shorter (but still detailed) responses to them.
Generic statements don’t carry much weight without evidence to back them up. As a general rule, every statement that you make should be evidenced using examples. Consider the following statements:
Statement 1: “I am good at biology.”
Statement 2: “I am good at biology as evidenced by my A* in biology AS and a gold medal in the UK biology Olympiad. I am an avid reader of ‘Biology Review’ as this allows me to keep up to date with new developments in the field.”
It’s not uncommon for candidates to go off on a tangent and start describing, for example, the many hurdles their young enterprise team faced. Remember, interviews are all about you - your skills, ability, and motivation to be a doctor. Thus, it’s important that you spend as much time talking about yourself rather than others (unless absolutely necessary). Many students find it difficult to do this because they are afraid of being interpreted as ‘arrogant’ or ‘a show-off’. Whilst this is definitely something to be aware of, it’s important you do yourself justice and not undersell yourself.
This cannot be stressed enough – there are few things more frustrating than students that ignore the interviewer’s questions. Remember, you need to answer the question; don’t answer the topic. If a question consists of two parts – remember to answer both, e.g. ‘Should we legalise euthanasia? Why?’
At the end of the interview, the interviewers are likely to ask you if you have any questions for them. You should have gleaned enough information from the open days, school website, prospectus etc., that you do not have many questions. Unless the question is crucial, this may not be the right time to ask questions about the course, school or activities within the school as it will show your ignorance about the course/school. You can use this as an opportunity to show your interest in the course and medical school. Don’t be perturbed that you do not have a question to ask.
MMIs may well end abruptly and you may be asked to stop when the end of time is signalled (bell rings or knock on the door). Avoid the temptation to linger on to answer the question that is half-answered unless you are asked to - extra time taken at one station means less time for the next one.
Although you can normally predict at least 90% of questions that you’re likely to get asked, there will be some questions that you won’t have prepared for. These assess your ability to handle difficult situations to see how you react to pressure and how you deal with the unknown.
Completely abstract questions are rare in traditional medical school interviews. Unless you’re applying to Oxbridge, it’s unlucky to be asked a question that you don’t have a clue about. If you do find yourself in this situation, do not panic. Pause and think. Have you come across something at school? Have you read something about it? Can you see/apply the basic principles? Can you these to start a discussion?
Good applicants will endeavour to engage with the topic and try to link in their knowledge to the question, e.g. “I have not come across this before but it seems that…”. Weaker applicants would be perturbed by the question or not consider it seriously, e.g. “I don’t know.”
Consider the example: “Is there is life on Mars?”
You may not have read about this specific topic. However, you may know about different space missions.
“As far as I know, there is not life on mars. However, given that there is some water on Mars, it would not be altogether impossible for there to be life.”
Of course, this relies on you having a basal level of general knowledge. If you really have no clue at all and have not come across anything about this topic then it is better to acknowledge the gap in your knowledge.
“Unfortunately, I have limited information about this topic but it is an interesting question. I did read about NASA’s mission to Mars but I’m unable to say if they have found life. I will endeavour to look this up.”
Dealing with difficult questions like this gives you the opportunity to show that you are a motivated and enthusiastic student.
1. Your interviewer is only interested in catching you out.
The interviewer is there to help you and to encourage you. It is best to think of the interview as a conversation between you and the interviewer. It is nothing more than an opportunity for you and the interviewer to get to know one another and see if you would be a good fit at that university.
2. The interview is the only important part of the admissions process.
Although the interview can be the final hurdle in some medical schools, many will also take your personal statement, academic grades and UKCAT/BMAT scores when making offers. Most medical schools will shortlist for interviews based on these so you cannot just focus purely on interview preparation from the outset.
3. You need to have immaculate knowledge of recent medical developments.
Many students claim that they are vicarious readers of Student BMJ and New Scientist on their personal statements, and then panic ‘cram learn’ the latest editions of these journals before their interview. Relax. You are not expected to be able to recite the articles from them. However, you will be expected to be familiar with current affairs and have a basic understanding of recent healthcare news.
4. All of the other interview candidates will know far more than you.
Whilst some students may give the impression that they have swallowed several encyclopaedias - don’t let this put you off. Interviews are an opportunity to focus on yourself, expand your knowledge, and most importantly, show yourself as a potential doctor for tomorrow – not worry about whether you have read Grey’s Anatomy back-to-back.
You can approach questions in both MMIs and traditional interviews by using a simple framework:￼
A good trick in MMIs can be to try and tick off each of these in an answer where applicable. This is a good way to ensure that you are not spending too long talking about one thing and so leaving yourself no time to talk about other things. There is little point in reeling off a list of unrelated facts when that would leave no time to show how your experiences apply.
It is better to demonstrate good knowledge and then move on to describe how insights from your work experience have also influenced you to give a more well-rounded answer. It’s worth practising answering questions using this framework.
For example, consider: ‘What do you think is the greatest challenge of being an FY1 doctor?’What knowledge can I apply?
I know FY1 doctors have very long hours, including regular night shifts. I know they suddenly progress from a position of little responsibility as medical students to one of great responsibility. I know the structure of medical training after medical school, which I might be able to work into the answer.What experiences can I use?
I remember seeing a lot of FY1s looking exhausted on my work experience. I remember one FY1 complaining that he was not getting to apply much of his medical knowledge, but instead felt like a secretary. I remember another FY1 saying how scary it is to suddenly go from being a student to being responsible for people’s lives and expected to be able to practice relatively independently.What positive qualities can I display?
I can show a realistic understanding of the challenges of medicine. I can show a diligent and conscientious attitude towards the challenge of hard work and long hours. I can show an ability to handle stress.How can I give a balanced answer?
I should recognise that there are multiple factors that make FY1 a challenge in order to balance the answer.
You can go through a thought process like this in a few seconds and continue to think about it as you begin to answer the question. Thus, your answer may be along the lines of:
“There are clearly lots of different factors that are challenging for an FY1 doctor. For a start, the long hours and regular night shifts must be quite draining. Though FY1s will be used to hard work from medical school, this may still require a step up and even more sacrifices to be made in terms of a social life. However, whilst I was on my work experience I remember an FY1 doctor telling me that the thing she found most challenging was the sudden jump in responsibility and expectations between being a medical student and being an FY1 doctor. It was this that she and her peers found most stressful.”
You can see how you have to be very picky about what you include in your answer to make sure you give a well-rounded answer in the tight time limit of the MMI. For the same question, another response could focus on striking a work-life balance as being most challenging:
“Whilst doing my work experience, I saw FY1 doctors working long hours and busy shifts. In addition, they had to study for additional exams to ensure their career progression. This meant that the weekends were spent either on calls or attending courses. All this limited their social life. Thus, I think striking a good work-life balance could be challenging albeit possible with forward planning.”
You may be asked questions where you need to give examples, e.g. “Tell me about a time when you showed leadership?”
It’s very useful to prepare examples in advance for these types of questions as it’s very difficult to generate them on the spot. Try to prepare at least three examples that you can use to answer a variety of questions. Generally, more complex examples can be used to demonstrate multiple skills, e.g. communication, leadership, team-working, etc.
In the initial stages, it’s helpful to use a framework to structure your answers, e.g. the STARR Framework shown below:
A Multiple Mini Interview (MMIs) is a series of short interviews. There are normally five to twelve stations and each station is five to ten minutes long. There is a new challenge and a new interviewer at each station. Most MMIs are one to two hours in total duration. All candidates must go through every station and will be asked the same questions. The major implications of this arrangement are:
1)You have a lot less time to make your points & build a rapport with the interviewer
2)There is a greater diversity of topics you can be tested on
3)You have a ‘fresh start’ at each station so can recover from poor previous stations
4)MMIs are fairer as everyone will get asked the same questions
The time pressure in MMIs makes communication challenging because there is less time to make a good impression on your interviewer and less time for them to judge you. This means that unlike traditional interviews, there is little time for ice-breakers; you’ll need to give focussed yet comprehensive answers to ensure success.
Each MMI station will test different skills and topics like:
➢One-To-One interviews on commonly asked topics, e.g. medical ethics, motivation to study medicine, work experience, situational questions
➢Writing Task where you’re required to write answers to common questions. Normally, there are no interviewers
➢Role Play where you need to interact with an actor, e.g. convince a patient to stop smoking
➢Video Analysis where you need to comment on a video, e.g. of a doctor-patient consultation
➢Calculations, e.g. calculate drug doses
➢Rarely, there may be a rest station where there are sometimes drinks and snacks
A typical MMI circuit could involve: ￼
Start off by finding out exactly how many stations there are and what duration. Then try to establish what topics are frequently asked and which topics have come up in the past. Are there any non-standard stations like maths or practical skills stations? Don’t rely on your seniors – universities frequently change their MMI structures, so ensure you get the information from the university website or email the admissions office if you’re unsure.
Once you have an idea about timings, you can start to tailor your preparation. For example, there is little point in practicing extensive thirty-minute ethical arguments when the stations are only five minutes. Nevertheless, it’s important to ensure you’re familiar with the commonly asked questions. Again, don’t spend extensive time trying to rote learn answers to common questions - this is not particularly helpful and is likely to be counter-productive.
It’s essential that you practice with a real person in advance. You need to practice giving succinct yet comprehensive answers as well as creating a strong first impression.
If there’s more than one of you at your school who are applying for medicine (or dentistry), it would be worth considering that you could help each other and work together. Share resources, have practice sessions together and give each other constructive criticism. Even if you have only a couple of times a week when you’re both free, it can really help to just sit down with someone and discuss an issue such as organ donation – each take a different stance, set a timer and see how you get on. Try not to be intimidated and keep calm. Five minutes might sound like a relatively short period of time, but it should be enough to get the most important points across.
Although many schools will arrange a practice panel or one-to-one interviews for you, very few will offer full MMI practice. If you feel you’d benefit from a full MMI circuit, consider attending a medical interview course which contains a mock MMI circuit (www.uniadmissions.co.uk/medical-school-interview-course).
You may be asked to role play as a medical student or a junior doctor. This is testing your ability to communicate information in a clear manner and your ability to handle stressful situations. You could be interacting with an actor or the examiner. You may need to talk to either a patient, family member or another doctor.
Don’t be scared by some of the horror stories you might hear where candidates were asked to break a diagnosis of cancer or tell a patient they were going to die. These are extremely unlikely scenarios that you won’t be expected to handle (indeed many junior doctors struggle with these). Even if you do get a particularly difficult scenario, try you remain calm- these stations are never a test of your knowledge. You are not expected to take a comprehensive history or diagnose a patient. Role-plays are purely a test of communication.
➢Before starting the roleplay, ensure that you have read the scenario and understand exactly what is expected of you. Important things to double check are your role (doctor, student, etc.) and your location.
➢Take a quick look around when you walk into the room. There are sometimes props positioned that you should utilise if appropriate. For example, you should offer a crying patient tissues or a cup of water.
➢Always introduce yourself and your role unless the brief makes it abundantly clear that you don’t need to (e.g. “Speak to your best friend Jane who is…”). A good opening line is: “Good morning, my name is Tom and I’m a first-year medical student. I’d like to speak to you about…”
➢The actors are sometimes difficult and quiet on purpose in order to put you out of your comfort zone. Don’t be thrown off if they appear to be reluctant to engage – that’s their job!
➢Don’t be afraid of asking very vague questions to get the conversation started. Whilst questions like “How can I help?” or “How are you doing?” may appear redundant, they are important in opening a dialogue. Remember that going straight to the task can appear very forced, artificial and rude.
➢Tailor your language depending on who you’re speaking with. Be formal with patients and your senior colleagues; more informal with your friends.
➢If you’re uncertain about the direction the conversation is going, feel free to ask the actor: “Is there anything, in particular, you were expecting? Or anything I can do for you?”
➢The principles of non-verbal communication still apply here. Maintain good eye contact, have an inviting posture and appear engaged in the conversation.
The Situational Judgement station tests your ability to prioritise competing demands and resolve disputes in a harmonious manner.
If you have taken the UKCAT then you will have already come across SJT style questions. However, unlike the UKCAT, you may not get given multiple options to choose from. This means that you might have to generate the answer yourself rather than using the options as a guide.
In addition, this station may not have an interviewer. Instead, it may be a written station where you are expected to write your answer out in full rather than vocalise it. The scripts will then be marked collectively at the end.
When faced with a situational question, it is helpful to use a basic framework:Identify the basic dilemma Identify your potential courses of action Consider the advantages & disadvantages of each option you’re givenConsider any alternative solutions, i.e. options outside the ones you are givenThink about how the perspectives of colleagues and patients may differ from your own Balance these to pick an action that you can justify with a logical argument
The options may seem similar, but don’t let the different options confuse you. Read each option as if it is a question of its own. It is important to know that responses should NOT be judged as though they are the ONLY thing you are to do. An answer should not be judged as inappropriate because it’s incomplete, but only if there is some actual inappropriate action taking place.
For example, if a scenario says, “Apatient on the ward complains she is in pain”, the response “ask the patient what is causing the problem” would be very appropriate. Any good response would also include informing the nurses and other doctors about what you had been told.
There might be multiple correct responses for each scenario, so don’t feel you have to answer each of them differently. If you are unsure of the answer, mark the question and move on. Avoid spending more than 90 seconds on any question, otherwise, you will fall behind and risk not finishing.
These are publications produced by the General Medical Council (GMC) which can be found on their website. The GMC regulate the medical profession to ensure that standards remain high. These publications can be found on their website and it outlines the expectations of the next generation of doctors – the generation of doctors you are aspiring to join. Reading through this will get you into a professional way of thinking that will help you judge these questions accurately.
When doing this section, imagine you are in the scenarios being presented to you. Imagine yourself as a caring and conscientious junior doctor that you soon will be. What would you do? What do you think would be the right thing to do?
The patient is of primary importance. All decisions that affect patient care should be made to benefit the patient. Of secondary importance are your work colleagues. So if there is no risk to patients, you should help out your colleagues and avoid doing anything that would undermine them or harm their reputation – but if doing so would bring detriment to any patient, then the patient’s priorities come to the top. Finally, of lowest importance is yourself. You should avoid working outside hours and strive to further your education, but not at the expense of patients or your colleagues.
There are several core principles that you should attempt to apply to SJT questions that will help your decision making:
This involves being able to treat patients as an individual and respecting their decisions. You should also respect a patient’s right to confidentiality unless there is a significant risk to the general public. The most important principle is to never compromise patient safety.
Teamwork is an essential part of any job. You must be a trustworthy and reliable team member and also communicate effectively within the team. You should support your senior and junior colleagues should they require it. It is important to avoid conflict and be able to de-escalate situations without jeopardising professional relationships where possible.
You should always act with honesty and integrity as this is expected of anyone entering the profession. This includes apologising for your mistakes and trying to ensure other people apologise for theirs.
Medicine is a career where you are continuously learning. You are the sole person responsible for it and you will need to prioritise your jobs to ensure you attend scheduled teaching and courses. You should be able to critically reflect upon your experiences.
“The ward nurse informs you that one of your FY1 colleagues is taking lots of morphine from the drug cabinet. What do you do?”
This question is not about your knowledge of morphine but about what to do if someone you know is reported to be doing something that is not correct. The obvious trap here is to say, “I would go speak to the doctor and inform their boss.”
This would be a very serious accusation; remember that the nurse may be wrongly informed, biased or have a grudge against that doctor. Before you do anything, you must show that you will find out the facts and establish whether this is a recurring problem or not and if there are any obvious explainable reasons for it.
Thus, although the question appears very simple- it actually tests multiple skills. It’s important to consider the implications of your actions rather than launch into an answer straight away.
“Taking medication from a patient’s drug cabinet is something that worries me. Before I do anything, I would try to establish the facts by talking to others who may be in a position to observe such behaviour. This will ensure that it removes any reporter’s personal bias or perceptions. If this is true, I would offer to speak to the colleague in private and ask their views. I would offer my support by covering some of their work to ensure that patient safety is not compromised. I would encourage them to get external help and consider involving my seniors if I felt that the situation wasn’t resolving.”
You are just finishing a busy shift on the Acute Assessment Unit (AAU). Your FY1 colleague who is due to replace you for the evening shift leaves a message with the nurse in charge that she will be 15 to 30 minutes late. There is only a 30-minute overlap between your timetables to handover to your colleague. You need to leave on time as you have a social engagement to attend with your partner.
Rank the following actions in response to this situation in ascending order of appropriateness:
A.Make a list of the patients under your care on the AAU, detailing their outstanding issues, leaving this on the doctor's office notice board when your shift ends and then leave at the end of your shift.
B.Quickly go around each of the patients on the AAU, leaving an entry in the notes highlighting the major outstanding issues relating to each patient and then leave at the end of your shift.
C.Make a list of patients and outstanding investigations to give to your colleague as soon as she arrives.
D.Ask your registrar if you can leave a list of your patients and their outstanding issues with him to give to your colleague when she arrives and then leave at the end of your shift.
E.Leave a message for your partner explaining that you will be 30 minutes late.
This question gives you the opportunity to demonstrate a conscientious attitude by prioritising patient care over personal concerns and team working. It would be unfair on your colleague to not give them the opportunity to ask any questions about the handover. The safest option is (E) as it ensures a comprehensive handover and doesn’t sacrifice patient safety. The other options all involve a non-verbal handover which risks patient safety.
If you weren’t given these options, you could instead talk the interviewer through your reasoning:
“So to summarise, I am faced with the situation where I am finishing my shift and the doctor taking over is running late. If I overstay, I will be late for my social commitment. If I leave, the handover will be inefficient and important information relevant to patient care may not get passed on.
In this situation, I have the option to write all the remaining tasks on paper and either give them to another person that is coming in to pass on to the next person or leave it in an office for the attention of the incoming doctor. Whilst this may be reasonable, it’s not the best as there is a risk that the information may not get passed on at all or not in a timely manner which could compromise patient care.
I feel the best option would be for me to call my partner to let them know that I will be running late and wait for the incoming doctor to do a face-to-face handover”
Many students find the Mnemonic INSIST helpful when structuring their answers:
In the video analysis station, you will need to watch a short video and then give feedback on it. Normally, the video will be an interaction between a doctor and patient and/or relative.
➢A GP Consultation
➢Breaking bad news e.g. cancer diagnosis
➢Consenting patients for an operation
You may have to give feedback verbally to the interviewer whilst the video runs or at the end of the video. In some cases, there may not be an interviewer in which case you would need to write down your comments. The most important thing is to establish how many times you can watch the video – each viewing should allow you to pick up on more things to comment on. In general, it is better to say too much than too little – it’s surprising what marks are awarded for. There are three key areas that you should focus on:
oAre the chairs arranged appropriately?