Pre-interview research and preparation:
Before commencing this article, an obvious but important point to make would be that all medical schools have different ways in which they conduct their interviews, and the combination of medical schools that you have applied to will determine the type of preparation you will have to do. This article will give you five ways that me and my friends went about researching and preparing for our interviews!
1. Research the medical school itself:
This means making sure you really understand the type of interview the medical school will conduct. Is it MMI? Is it a panel interview? Is there a group task element? Is it multiple small interviews like the Oxford and Cambridge interviews? This will give you a guideline for the basis of your interview. Most, if not all medical schools, have extensive information on their websites for applicants regarding the application process, and they will also send you extra information when you receive an invitation to interview.
However, don’t stop there. A question that is almost inevitable is ‘why x medical school’. I was personally not prepared for this at my Birmingham Medical school interview, so had to improvise on the spot and I ended up waffling about the multiculturalism of the city and how there were great restaurants…DON’T do this! Prepare for it, and genuinely ask yourself why you can imagine yourself studying and living there. Ask yourself why you like the course and why you like the city, and why you’d flourish and be successful there.
Also, a good point here is mentioning things medical students from that medical school may have told you. You might have met them on open days or have friends already studying there. This shows that you are interested and have taken the initiative to go and find out what it’s really like.
2. Keep a notebook/diary:
This was probably the best thing I did. I had a notebook that I split into three rough sections. One section was for keeping up with medicine related news that I either read online or watched on TV, one was for ‘common questions’ and the last section was for ethics. A good website for medical innovations is the ‘medical news today’ website (link in references) because the articles are written in a simple enough way to understand without having lots of specialist knowledge in that area. Another essential document to read is the General Medical Council’s ‘good medical practice’ and they also have a few other publications that are available for free on their website. You don’t have to read these cover to cover, but skim over parts and look at some key points that are highlighted. It will give you a really good understanding of the professionalism and attitudes they expect you to adopt right from first year of medical school. I kept this notebook with me most of the time. From September, I slowly started adding things to my notebook and noting down any other things that I found useful or tips I’d gotten off people. It’s good to have everything in one place, and it stops things from becoming overwhelming. It doesn’t need to be jam packed with content, but having a range of different ideas at your disposal will be advantageous for interviews, because you are more likely to have a relevant and unique point to make about a question that they’ve already asked 200 other people!
An example of this would be when I was asked ‘why do doctors make mistakes’. I could’ve taken the usual ‘because doctors are human and we all make mistakes’ route, but instead used it as an opportunity to talk about some of the things I’d read recently. I brought up the fact that NHS staff have had increase working hours, with many junior doctors having long day shifts followed by long night shifts without any breaks. However, whenever saying anything slightly controversial, always show that you know how to think critically. You should follow these sorts of statements with a comment that shows you’ve considered all sides of the question. For the scenario I described, it would probably be appropriate to say that doctor should also take steps to minimise their mistakes by remaining diligent, attentive and up to date with their medical knowledge.
This one is good to use for looking at what other students from previous years have said about their interviews, but do not get hooked onto this website! There are usually threads for the current medical school application cycles that you have applied to, and it’s easy to get sucked into these and check them too often and compare yourself to applicants who have 19A*’s and have volunteered at a hospital since they were 3! Remind yourself of your own achievements, and that you got an invite to interview so you are good enough!
4. Read the classical interview preparation book (link is at the bottom of the article). Some might say this book is out of date, but for me it was good to give me a basis from which I could expand and research further. The core basis of interviews do not change, though the way you might be asked questions might differ. It really splits up the different elements of your skills and suitability for medicine into more ‘digestible’ chunks. Some people are extremely lucky to have friends or family already doing medicine so can ask them for advice. Others might have a really amazing department at sixth form that helps them with interview prep. Sadly for me, I had none of this, which is why I found the book so extremely helpful!
5. Practice interviews:
This final tip is crucial and is most important for you to get comfortable talking about yourself and all the amazing things you have achieved, more so than simulating the practice interview so that it is exactly like your real interview will be like. If you have access to something that is very similar to actual medical school interviews, then that is brilliant, but If you don’t, don’t worry. I wrote down broad topic areas and used some of the questions from the ‘medical school interviews book’ and then asked my friends and family to randomly ask me them without me knowing which one they’d ask. That way, you can speak naturally, without sounding scripted or cringe-worthy. Reflect on the things you’ve done so that you can talk about how and why they will make you someone who can be successful doing medicine and essentially becoming a doctor.
One thing I found quite difficult at first was talking about myself highly. If you’re a humble person like most people are, it is weird to talk about yourself for 20 minutes or more, or answer questions in a way that make you sound as intelligent and ‘doctor-like’ as possible. But just remind yourself that they need to know what you’re like and how brilliant of a doctor you’re going to make!
I hope this was helpful for some of you, and please feel free to email me about anything in this post or for general advice regarding the application!
References and other links that may be of interest:
The medicine interview book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Medical-Interviews-Questions-Analysed-Multiple-Mini-Interviews/dp/1905812051