The key to answering questions convincingly and confidently, whilst providing sufficient evidence from your personal experience, is to create a database of all the qualities the medical schools are looking for (which in turn are the qualities of a good doctor, as described in the previous chapter) and the ways you’ve tried to develop and better understand those qualities through your experiences.

As mentioned earlier, medical schools are all looking for qualities that show a student will one day have a good chance of becoming competent doctor. The General Medical Council (GMC) carefully regulates this selection procedure and will be expecting medical schools to do their utmost in handing out offers to the right people. So what exactly are medical schools and the GMC looking for?

As an example, let’s take a look at what UCL look for in a candidate at interview:

• Intellectual ability (intellectual curiosity and robustness).

• Motivation for and understanding of a career in medicine.

• Awareness of scientific and medical issues.

• Ability to express and defend opinions, including discussion of BMAT essay topic.

• Attitude, including flexibility and integrity.

• Individual strengths (e.g. social, musical, sporting interests or activities).

• Communication skills (verbal and listening).

Your aim at interview is to try to get the interviewers to tick these points. Put simply, this means you shouldn’t just talk about anything, and instead, focus on personal experiences that demonstrate the qualities in a good doctor and what the medical school wants when preparing for the interview and during the interview itself.

Here is an example of a list of attributes and matching experiences. Note that even though you’ve (hopefully) already put a load of experiences and qualities in your personal statement, it doesn’t give you sufficient space to elaborate or to bring in further experiences. Use the interview to say things you wish you said in your statement and to demonstrate you’re genuine in what you say you did. There’s a list below with an example of a qualities/attributes and the corresponding ‘proof’ of that characteristic next to it.

1. Effective Communication

• Took part is regular debating workshops and competitions at school – had to articulate complicated points and present arguments to an audience.

• Also had to be respectful towards other people and their opinions.

• In hospital – doctor was in an MDT that was treating a patient with muscle dystrophy. Various people were involved: physiotherapist, nurses, other doctors, etc.

2. Good Teamwork

• Lead a team for the school’s enterprise challenge: we had to design a business plan and pitch for a phone application. Good teamwork was the reason we won.

• In hospital – doctor was in an MDT that was treating a patient with muscle dystrophy. Various people were involved: physiotherapist, nurses, other doctors, etc.

3. The realities of being a doctor

• Shadowed junior doctor for a day – surprising, routine paperwork, filing, phoning up GP surgeries, inserting data into a computer, etc.

• He also stressed how fulfilling it is to see a patient get better and that medicine surprises you all the time.

• Also met a consultant radiologist who tried discouraging me doing medicine – spent his whole life studying and little time for other stuff.

4. Leadership and handling pressure

• Led charity week committee at school – raised £16,000.

• Had to delegate tasks to team members, as well as motivate the group when times were bad. Realised how important it was to listen to individuals.

• Saw a surgeon make the decision to call off surgery because the risk of intervention was just too high.

• Final decision he took alone but he always considered people’s opinions.

5. Dedication and commitment

• Met a consultant radiologist who tried discouraging me doing medicine – he had spent his whole life studying and had little time for other stuff. Shows that students need the commitment, determination and drive to carry on, no matter hard things get.

• Wasn’t always a top student – lacked commitment and dedication for many of my first few years. Realised I had to change, and decided the way I approached studying and attitudes towards work, becoming more committed to the things I do.

6. Humility and honesty

• Work experience cardiologist said humility and honesty very important qualities. Doctors easily turn away from admitting their wrongs and seeking help.

• Found A-level maths quite difficult initially – had to swallow my pride and seek help from friends and teachers to get my head around the concepts.

* * *

The idea behind this ‘database system’ is that you’ll be able to mix and match points when and if you need to. The amount of detail to include in your ‘experiences’ column is up to you, but the list/table should be used to help you review and memorise the most important points, so you don’t want too much waffle otherwise you’ll miss out the key things you want to get across.

It’s so easy to walk into the interview room, not prepare, and just rely on your memory to conjure up all the things you’ve done months ago and hope it gets you through. Don’t leave anything to chance and be sure you know what experiences you’ll talk about on interview day.

If you get a general question about work experience, you could mention perhaps three or four of your experiences in hospital and what you learnt, but then also relate it back to your personal experiences, slipping in an example of good teamwork in the school football team for example.

Remember, you need evidence for every point you make, and you must try to show and prove your qualities whenever you get an opportunity (without sounding arrogant – more on this later on).

The more reference experiences you can build up in your database, the more convincing and powerful you’ll be. 

We urge you to sit down, open up your laptop or get out a notebook, and start keeping track of all your experiences, both the ones you’ve already mentioned in your personal statement and ones you haven’t considered yet.  On top of that, keep track of the most important qualities of a good doctor, and start thinking how you have and will develop those qualities.

Check out our Crash Courses:

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2021-07-27T10:33:25+00:00Interviews|Comments Off on What do they look for in a med school 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!