The traditional semi-structured interview

The semi-structured interview used to be the most commonly used interview type, but in recent years, the vast majority of medical schools have moved to MMI and show no signs of moving back to traditional interviews.

Having said that, there are still a handful of universities that do use traditional interview formats (Oxford and Cambridge being the most famous), so it’s definitely worth actively preparing for the format.

In fact, as we said earlier, the skills required to do well in MMIs and structured interviews overlap significantly, so don’t try and pigeonhole all your interview practice into MMI scenarios – it’s very worthwhile doing lots of structured interview practice too.

Most of these interviews last around 20 minutes and you’ll be usually greeted with a three-person panel consisting of a member of the faculty, a clinician and a more junior doctor or medical student.

Although there’ll usually be a few pre-planned topics of discussion in these interviews, don’t just expect all medical schools to ask straight questions – you may have to work on an ethical-scenario beforehand or have to fill out some paperwork on your work experience and skills. Ensure you’ve done your research on your medical school: check their websites and phone them up if anything’s unclear.

What sort of questions do they ask?

Here are the common things you should be expecting.

1. Questions on your motivation for studying medicine

If there is anything you can bet will come up, it’ll be the commonly asked questions that you’ll have prepared for and will be awesome at by the end of your interview preparation. Expect questions on your work experience, the things you learnt and also on your interest in science. We’ll be going through all the commonly asked questions in-depth and how to best answer them in a later chapter, but the most common questions are those which pertain to your reasons for wanting to become a doctor.

2. Questions on your personal statement

We’ve seen countless students lose out on an offer because they failed to properly prepare everything they mentioned in their personal statement. If you write something down, and it transpires that you don’t actually know what you’re talking about, this begs the question of whether anything you’ve said is actually true.

If, for example, you mentioned you’ve observed triple-bypass surgery or shadowed a radiologist, be prepared to give a detailed account of what actually happened and how it works. You’re expected not only to back things up, but also show you actually care and did some further reading after your work experience. Later on, we’ve got a chapter that deals with how to break down your personal statement and make it bulletproof.

3. Questions that determine if you understand the realities of being a doctor

Being a doctor isn’t glamorous and you’ve probably heard this being said by various people. Medical schools want to make sure the students that get through understand how being a doctor is tough, mentally and physically taxing, and that it can even be mundane at times. This doesn’t take away from how amazing and fulfilling it is to be a doctor, but you must be able to be show you are pragmatic and realistic about a career in medicine.

4. Questions on your personal characteristics, skills and hobbies

You should expect questions that probe the kind of person you are and it’s imperative you understand what exactly medical schools are looking for. You shouldn’t be putting on a fake persona in order to get a place and instead aim to be genuine about your experiences, demonstrating that you do have many of the skills and qualities that are transferable to medicine.

Focus on your strengths, but having the humility to acknowledge the things you don’t do so well is also very important in medicine. Expect questions on your strengths and weaknesses, your hobbies and why you do them and also examples of you demonstrating teamwork or empathy, just to name a few.

5. Ethical Scenarios, Professionalism and Current Affairs

Again, like the MMIs, you’ll probably get an ethical scenario or a question on what’s happening right now in the NHS.  These things you can prepare for by just reading ahead and grasping the most important areas of discussion. We’ll help you out on this stuff in later chapters.

Check out our Crash Courses:

BMAT Course
UCAT Course
Interview Course
2019-08-15T15:50:57+00:00Interviews|Comments Off on The traditional semi-structured interview

About the Author:

I'm a medical student at Cambridge University, and one of the co-founders of 6med. I created the BMAT Crash Course and Interview Crash Course, and helped code BMAT Ninja and UKCAT Ninja. If you need a hand with anything, feel free to give me a shout!