The majority of medical schools interview applicants before offering them a place. To give yourself the best possible chance of getting an offer, it is very important to prepare in advance.
The structure of the interview may vary considerably from one medical school to another. You may be interviewed by a single interviewer or a panel and the interview may last anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour.
You may have more than one interview. Interviews are becoming increasingly structured and objective and students will often be assessed according to specific criteria, which makes preparation all the more important.
Despite the variation, most medical schools will probably want to find out the following:
- Who you are and what you are doing now (don’t assume they have your UCAS form in front of them, sometimes they don’t – assume they know nothing but your name);
- Why you want to be a doctor/how you came to your decision to be a doctor;
- What you have done to find out if medicine is the right career for you;
- What you learned during your work experience (YOU MUST HAVE WORK EXPERIENCE);
- What aspects of their course particularly appeal to you;
- Do you have a realistic understanding of what a career in medicine involves;
- What are your other interests/are you an active participant in school/university life?
- Do you have good communications/interpersonal skills and enjoy working with people?
- Can you demonstrate an active interest in health and medical news stories and talk about what you have read/heard/seen recently?
Think through your answers to possible interview questions (see our list below).
This doesn’t mean you should prepare answers and learn them off by heart. However, you should have a clear idea of what you want to say in answer to the classic interview questions so that you are confident, ready and prepared when they are inevitably asked.
There will probably be some questions that you did not anticipate or prepare for (see question 17 below). There is no point in worrying about these. When they come, think carefully about your answer and take your time. Be honest and genuine and ask them to clarify the question if you’re not sure what they are getting at.
Here are some examples of real interview questions used at UK medical schools:
1) Why do you want to be a doctor?
2) What qualities do you think patients appreciate in a doctor?
3) What qualities do you think colleagues appreciate in a doctor?
4) Do you think/why is research is important?
5) What are the benefits of research?
6) What limitations are there of medical research?
7) Can you give an example of how medical research has been beneficial?
8) Tell us about something medically related that you have read in the press?
9) Describe a situation you have been in which was stressful.
10) How do you deal with stress?
11) What do you think the benefits of PBL (problem-based learning) are?
12) What are the disadvantages of PBL?
13) What do you think you will find most difficult about a career in medicine?
14) Tell us about your work experience
15) What did you learn about yourself from your work experience?
16) What did you learn from the doctors and nurses from your work experience?
17) Research has shown that “Integrity” is an important quality in a doctor. What do you think is meant by this and can you give an example of a situation in which acting with integrity might be important?
18) Give an example of when you have worked in a team.
19) Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
You can help us to improve this section by sending us the questions you were asked (and which course you were interviewed for).
Read up on current health-related news stories a few weeks before your interview.
They will probably want you to outline a health news story of your choice, discuss some of the issues relating to it and explain why it interests you/why you picked that particular story. Examples of useful sources include: British Medical Journal (BMJ), Student BMJ, New Scientist, The Guardian.
You may also want to take a look at our Health & Medical News which will help you to keep up to date with the latest health and medical news.
Think about your personal appearance.
You must be smartly dressed and well-presented. Doctors are in constant contact with members of the public and appearance is important.
Be aware of your body language.
Walk confidently into the interview room, say hello, smile and make eye contact with each interviewer. They should invite you to sit down and introduce themselves. If they offer, shake hands with them. Make sure you sit upright in the chair and avoid adopting a defensive posture (don’t fold your arms or push your feet back right under your chair). At the same time, don’t look too casual (don’t put one foot up on the other knee). It’s a good idea to cross your hands and hold them in your lap when you’re not using hand gestures. This helps to avoid nervous fidgiting, picking at nails etc.
Prepare a few questions to ask them at the end, as they may ask you if you would like to ask them anything.
Good questions include those that are specifically related to their course. This shows that you have a genuine interest in their particular medical school.
Thank them, smile and say goodbye before leaving the room.
This is important as it is polite and leaves a positive lasting impression – usually they will have a discussion about your interview performance after you have left the room. Also, there will almost certainly be points for good communication/interpersonal skills.
There is an extensive review of a lot of medical school interviews available on The Student Room website. Click here to view the article.