Medical School Admissions Interviews: What You Need to Know

Monday, September 11, 2023

A woman sits for her medical school admissions interview

If you’re going through the medical school admissions process, you are hoping to be invited to one or more medical school interviews — the final step before admissions decisions. Being invited to interviews is exciting, but it can also be nerve-wracking. Attending interviews takes a lot of time and preparation, and the format and structure may vary for each one. Keep reading to learn more about the different types of medical school admissions interviews, how to prepare for them, and what to do after the interview   

Types of Medical School Interviews 

You may be interviewed at any time after you submit your secondary application. The timeline for submitting your secondaries is June through September. However, if your interview is in-person, it’s more likely to take place during fall or winter term to give you an opportunity to meet with current medical students. Interviews may be virtual or in-person, and they can be structured several different ways.

Interview Formats 

In-person interviews: If you’re invited to an in-person interview, you will typically travel to the medical school to interview with faculty, staff, and/or students. In-person interviews generally last from 30-60 minutes and often coincide with a site visit day, giving you an opportunity to tour the facility, meet faculty and students, and get a glimpse of medical school life.

Virtual interviews: If you’re invited to a virtual interview, you will most likely interview face-to-face via video conferencing for about 30-60 minutes. On some occasions, the virtual interview may be asynchronous, meaning that you will receive questions in advance, record your responses on webcam, and share these responses afterward. However, live virtual interviews are much more common.

In some cases, medical schools will allow you to choose between a virtual or in-person interview. If you have this opportunity, choose the option that makes the most sense for you, considering cost, convenience, or comfort level. It’s also worth considering how the virtual option may affect your ability to assess fit and familiarize yourself with the medical school’s physical environment.

Interview Structures 

Students who are invited to more than one interview may discover that each interview will be structured differently. Medical school interviews are commonly structured as one-on-one, panel, group, multiple mini interviews (MMI), or a combination of two of more of these.

One-on-one: This traditional interview structure allows the interviewer to select key aspects of your AMCAS and secondary applications and ask you to expand on them. You may also have the opportunity to ask questions about the medical school and the medical profession.

Panel: You are interviewed by multiple interviewers (typically two to four people) who can ask individual follow-up questions.

Multiple Mini Interview (MMI): The MMI, developed by McMaster University, is an interview format that consists of six to 10 interview stations, each focused on a different question or scenario. You will spend approximately 10 minutes at each station. The MMI is designed to measure competencies like oral communication, social and non-verbal skills, and teamwork. Schools will typically, but not always, follow the rubric for McMaster scenarios. Sample scenarios could encompass:

  • Ethical dilemmas
  • Current news stories
  • A personal anecdote
  • An activity (e.g., build a model, write an essay, etc.)

Group Interview: Two or more interviewees will be interviewed simultaneously. Group interviews are generally used to assess teamwork skills. You may be asked to participate in a teamwork exercise to help interviewers assess your ability as both a team leader and a team member.

Preparing for Medical School Interviews 

Taking the time to prepare for your interview will help you make a great impression and get more out of the experience. Try to learn as much as you can ahead of time about the interview format and structure, so you know what to expect and how to prepare. Then look over your application materials and highlight the aspects that best reflect your skills and competencies — you can flesh these out ahead of time to use in your interview responses. It can also be helpful to ask your advisor and/or mentor to identify strengths you can expand on during the interview. Prepare thoughtful questions in advance to ask your interviewer(s).

While you may not know the specific questions you will be asked, you can prepare for the three common types of questions: general, behavioral, and situational.

  • General questions typically require broad responses. Expect questions like, “Why are you interested in this medical school?” and “Why do you want to be a physician?”
  • Behavioral questions draw on your experience to assess your knowledge and skills. You may be asked to describe a specific scenario you encountered, how you responded, and the outcome.
  • For situational questions, your interviewer may describe one or more hypothetical scenarios and ask what actions you would take.

Conducting mock interviews will help you practice your responses and identify areas that need improvement. Ask your advisor, a classmate, or a faculty member to fulfill the interviewer role, or check with the career services office at your school. The mock interview should be structured like the real interview. Ask the interviewer to provide feedback on your responses, tone, and body language.

On Interview Day  

Being well-prepared can help alleviate some of your nervousness on interview day and help boost your chances of acing the medical school interview. Plan your outfit in advance, ensuring it’s clean and pressed — keep it understated and professional. Wear minimal accessories and closed-toe shoes that are comfortable and polished. Overall, you should be clean and well-groomed.

If your interview is virtual, familiarize yourself with the video conferencing platform in advance. Give yourself plenty of time prior to the interview to ensure your equipment and internet connection are working properly. During the interview, look directly at the camera and project confidence, friendliness, and professionalism.

If the interview is on location, learn the route in advance and give yourself plenty of time to get there — you will want to arrive a few minutes early. Be confident, courteous, and professional with everyone you meet. Make eye contact, offer a firm handshake, and address people by name whenever possible. Your words and actions while you’re on location can impact your chances of admission, so be mindful of the impression you’re making at all times.

After the Interview  

It’s a good idea to take notes after the interview to summarize what was both good and bad about it. If you have multiple interviews, these notes will help you recall the specifics of each one and highlight areas for you to improve in subsequent interviews.

Take the time to write thank you notes to each of your interviewers within 24 hours of the interview — you don’t want to stand out for not sending them! The exception is for an MMI, since you don’t speak at length with the person at each station. Thank you notes can be emailed but limit your message to one or two paragraphs. It’s also a nice gesture to send thank you notes to anyone else from the medical school who spent a significant amount of time with you, including students, faculty, and admissions staff.

Need more medical school interview preparation and support? Our Medical School Interview Prep Consultation will prepare you for any type of interview. An IvyWise Medical School Counselor will work with you to review school-specific interview techniques and note-taking strategies, conduct a mock interview, and provide verbal and written feedback. Contact us today to get started.


Related Topics

Medical School Admissions
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