Medical School Panel Interview: The Definitive Guide

When applying for Medical Schools you will have to go through an Interview process, there are two types of Interviews panel and MMI. In this guide, we will go over panel.

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Medical School Interviews can seem daunting, but they can turn out to be a tolerable and almost enjoyable experience if you remember that you deserve to be there.

You have come through a long and highly competitive streak of Admissions Tests, Personal Statement drafts and revision so give yourself a pat on the back for getting through one of the hardest parts of your academic life.

As a student who’s entering the professional route, this will probably be the first of many times you are being Interviewed for something and, just like any other job Interview, you’re there because you’re being strongly considered!

So, when you begin your Interview preparation, aim to keep in the back of your mind that the Interview is where you can translate all your years of hard work to the panel.

In this guide, we’ll cover:

  • When will your Interview be?
  • What is a panel Interview?
  • Which universities use panel Interviews?
  • Who will the Interviewers be?
  • How to answer common questions.
  • Much, much more!

When will your panel interview be held?

Each university operates on a different timeline when it comes to holding Interviews for potential candidates and these can normally be found on the university websites.

In general, the Interview period extends from December to March and invitations are sent out a couple of weeks in advance either via email or letter. Oxbridge Interview before Christmas, so if you have applied here it is good to be a bit more prepared beforehand.

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What Is A Panel Interview Vs MMI?

Depending on your university, you will either have an MMI or panel Interview.

Panel

These follow a more traditional structure (like a job interview) where each student is Interviewed by normally two to four-panel members who can be faculty members, doctors or older students. A panel Interview normally lasts around 20 minutes, but this is dependent on the pace of the Interview and whether they are running late!

MMI

Multi-mini Interviews encompass a structured and timed circuit where groups of students rotate around five to 10 stations, with each station being one-to-one, focusing on a different theme e.g. work experience, medical ethics, communication, role play etc.

Each style of Interview has its advantages and disadvantages, but the key distinction is that MMI Interviews are topic-focused whereas panel Interviews are question-focused.

Panel Interviews don’t give you the option to have mini breaks in-between to think ‘OH NO I completely said the wrong thing, they probably think I’m stupid!…’ but that’s probably a good thing. A series of back-to-back questions makes the Interview feel more like a friendly conversation.

The panel consists of people who love their work and at the end of the day, are excited to Interview people that share a similar interest in their subject – so let your personality and your genuineness to study Medicine shine through.

Which universities use panel style interviews?

More universities are adopting the MMI style Interview but those that still use panel are:

Each of these universities ask similar questions drawing from your background, Personal Statement and the NHS, except for Oxford and Cambridge who have a higher focus on Critical Thinking and scientific concepts.

The teaching at Oxbridge is more academically focussed, so a large chunk of their Interviews consist of topics that they assume students your age aren’t familiar with. This is because they’re interested in seeing your thought process.

The key to doing well in these Interviews is to be verbal about what you’re thinking because the Interviewers can’t read your mind. They don’t expect (or want) students to have a correct answer, they just want to see (and hear) how you think.

Don’t believe all of the horror stories you might have heard from Oxbridge Interviews; they are just like any other regular Interview, which aim to stretch your knowledge a little bit more.

SUMMARY CHECK

  • The Medicine Interview period runs from early December to March. You’ll be invited a few weeks before your Interview.
  • Panel Interviews are usually 20-30 minutes long and will have two to four Interviewers.
  • Only seven universities use panel Interviews – find out your choice’s specific format.

What impact does the interview have on your application?

Before we get onto common questions that are sure to pop up somewhere in your interviews, let’s talk about how important the interview stage is in the bigger scheme of things.

As you are probably aware, different parts of the application process have different weightings in each universities ‘tick list’. For example:

  • Oxford tends to interview just 30% of candidates and place a 50/50 weight on GCSEs and BMAT.
  • Imperial requires candidates to meet a minimum score in every section of the BMAT to be called for an interview. From there, most of the candidates are interviewed AND receive an offer.
  • Cambridge are known to interview a high percentage of candidates (around 90%) and then many factors including your interview performance play a big role in them giving out an offer.

Every university has a different percentage of candidates they tend to interview so it’s worth looking into your chosen universities and finding out their specific process

How Do Interviewers Score Candidates?

Understandably, universities like to be secretive in what exactly they look for in candidates. They are thought to have their own mark schemes which have a list of different criteria and a scale on how well the candidate met that requirement.

Even though the list differs among universities, common themes which are thought to be assessed are – communication, motivation for medicine, coping with stress, understanding of a medical career, suitability to university life, reflectiveness etc.

Your marks and overall impression allow interviewers to place a quantitative score on your performance.

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Who will your interviewers be & What will they be looking for?

As there are a multitude of things which need to be quickly assessed in the Interview, different members of the panel have different roles.

You will normally have a scribe; this member tends to speak very little and might give you a stare down.

One or two panel members will take a lead role in asking questions and directing the conversation. They normally have a copy of your Personal Statement and sometimes a copy of your BMAT essay which they scan through prior to the Interview, to help them in asking a few questions.

This is why it is so important to basically be able to recite your Personal Statement and be prepared for follow-up questions.

For example, if you wrote about a particular book/research article that interested you, they might ask you what your favourite part was or what parts you agree/disagree with.

If you read it a long time ago, read it again and form opinions of what you read.

Another common point of conversation, drawing from your Personal Statement, is about your work experience.

Something which I recommend doing is making a list of all the volunteering, shadowing and extra-curricular tasks you have done and write down – what you saw, what you did, what you learned, reflection on those experiences and why they will make you a good Medical Student.

This can be helpful for many different questions such as “What did you learn from your work experience?”, “What skills did you gain from carrying out this GP placement?”, “Is there something you saw in your work experience that impacted you negatively?”

SUMMARY CHECK

  • You’ll be scored in the university’s specific mark scheme – these are difficult to find but most universities will consider things like communication skills, dedication, motivation, work experience, understanding the career etc.
  • List all of your work experience and fill out what you say, what you did, what you learnt, how you reflected and how this will make you a good Medical student.

Common Panel Interview Questions

In this section, we’ll run through a few common panel interview questions and how you should think about answering them.

Q1: Why do you want to study medicine?

I can guarantee this question will come up at some point, so it is crucial that you know why EXACTLY you want to study Medicine and not anything else.

You will have most likely mentioned what your motivation behind Medicine was in the Personal Statement so you can use that as a starting point.

This is the question that many students struggle with as they simply aren’t individualistic. Obviously, you want to help others and you like science but that alone doesn’t explain why you would want to devote your entire life to becoming a physician.

The panel want to hear about your experiences and interactions you’ve had with patients and how that has had an impact on you.

  • Is it something you saw on your work experience?
  • Was there a particular interaction with a doctor that stuck with you?
  • Perhaps a doctor-patient interaction that you wanted to embody?

Whatever your reason is (and remember there is no right or wrong), make sure you are personal to yourself – that is how you will stand out.

Q2: Why have you chosen this university?

It makes sense right that Medical Schools want to accept students who have a genuine desire to be there.

Expressing to the panel your interest in their institution will make them believe that you have a lot to offer. This question can be asked in the form of:

  • How will you contribute to university life?
  • Why do you think you’re suitable for this university?
  • What things would you like to get involved with here?”

Perhaps you like the location, course structure, the extra-curriculars the university offers, the research the university undertakes.

Even better, you can show your extra-keenness by going a few steps ahead e.g. there might be a particular BSC course available which you are interested in as you’ve already done an EPQ on that subject.

As much as you want to go to that university, ensure you highlight why that university would benefit from having you.

Q3: What skills/qualities do you have that will make you a good doctor?

A large part of your understanding of a Medical career will be based on your work experience. But it isn’t that easy for everyone to gain work experience and universities know that.

This is why they aren’t really interested in where you did your placement, but in fact what you learnt and what skills you developed which you can use in your Medical career, no matter how big or small you might think they are.

You may have gained many more skills by working at a retail store over the summer such as good communication, listening, teamwork, resilience than spending a week on a hospital placement, where you may have spent the majority of your time sitting around drinking coffee.

The kind of qualities that doctors should have are empathy, communication, teamwork, level-headedness, leadership, analytical ability, determination etc.

Like we mentioned earlier, if you make a list of all your experiences and link that to what you learnt and what skills you gained, it will help you in recalling and linking these experiences in the Interview.

To give you an example, during a ward round you may have seen that the doctor took his time to speak with each member of the multi-disciplinary team on a big ward and he valued their contributions. They then took this information and applied it to the care of their patients.

So, what you saw from this was: how every member of the team contributed while the doctor took a lead role and listened to everyone.

What you learned was: that every healthcare professional plays an integral role in the care and safety of their patients and even though the doctor was leading the team, he genuinely took the inputs of every healthcare professional in order to ensure that patient care was prioritised.

Finally, the last and most important part – why what you learned will help you in becoming a better doctor: by witnessing how admirably the doctor directed the ward rounds by maximising the contributions of his team; it nurtured an environment of openness and learning which ultimately improved the overall care of the patients and also the working environment among colleagues.

Thus, you now know the importance of teamwork and leadership in Medicine.

Q4: What are your weaknesses?

This is also a tricky question as you don’t want to put yourself in a heavily negative limelight to highlight anything that may question your suitability for medicine.

That is why, it’s best to answer this question by picking weaknesses which can be easily improved and showing the interviewers that you are taking action to improve.

Another thing you could do is pick a weakness that can also be seen as a strength in certain situations.

For example, you have noticed that you are able to speak freely and confidently in smaller groups but with a large group you are more reserved and take on a better listening role.

However, you want to get better at speaking to bigger groups so you have joined the debating society to strengthen your expression of opinions to larger audiences and this is important in Medicine as you will often be required to deliver presentations and lead a group.

Q5: Tell me about a time when you demonstrated (a quality of a good doctor e.g. conflict resolution).

These are again a common type of question and by making that all important table we mentioned, will come in handy.

You can directly link the skill/quality back to where you learned it. Don’t forget to say why that skill is important in becoming a good doctor.

Make sure you listen to the question carefully, as this question says ‘demonstrated’ not witnessed, so rather than picking something you saw during a work placement, it’s better to choose an example from your own life e.g. participating in a society or an extra-curricular activity.

A good technique to structure this answer is by using the STARR technique:

  • S – Situation
  • T – Task
  • A – Action
  • R – Results
  • R – Reflection

Q6: Medical ethics

These questions are asked for interviewers to assess whether the candidate has sufficient ethical knowledge and is able to balance their judgements.

A good book that I recommend reading is ‘Medical ethics: a very short introduction’. This highlights the main principles behind ethics using many real-life examples.

There are 4 main pillars which base medical practice: Autonomy, Justice, Beneficence and Non-Maleficence.

In layman’s terms they mean: respect for the patient’s choice and rights, maintaining equality, a doctor’s duty to do good and a doctor’s duty to do no harm.

So, when faced with an ethical scenario, you should be thinking about these 4 terms to give arguments for and against something.

It is very important to not pick a strict side straight away as you will be credited on your ability to see both sides of an argument, so it is best to leave out any personal strong feelings about a subject.

You may give your own opinion after you have explained both sides of a scenario but try to keep this fairly neutral.

A few examples of medical ethics questions are:

  • “An 11-year-old boy requires a blood transfusion to live but his parents are Jehovah’s witnesses (don’t believe in giving transfusions), so refuse the life-saving treatment, even though the boy wants to go ahead. What should the doctor do?”
  • “A 15-year-old girl goes to the GP and tells the doctor that she’s 2 months pregnant. She asks for an abortion and requests that he doesn’t inform her parents, is it okay for the GP to do this?”

These are tricky questions and the answers aren’t straightforward.

You are required to know a little about the laws surrounding such issues in the UK and things such as at what age doctors are allowed to override a parent’s conflicting opinion of a treatment if their child is of age to make his own decisions and in the case of the girl, in what cases does the GP have to inform someone of her pregnancy?

Top Tips & Key Advice For Panel Interviews

In this section, we’ll run through a few common panel interview questions and how you should think about answering them.

1

Don’t rehearse TOO much.

During your preparation, don’t write down long answers to questions and memorise them word for word as you fall into the trap of sounding rehearsed, overprepared and unable to think on the spot. Tutors prefer to see students who can give more precise, thought out answers to questions, so we suggest writing bullet point answers and referring to them if you get stuck.

2

Be mindful of your body language.

Body language is equally as important as verbal language. Look friendly, smile, make regular eye contact with everyone, don’t fidget with your hands and use hand gestures if it aids you in expressing something.

3

Take a breath!

If you forget something, take a moment to pause, recollect your thoughts and begin again. It is absolutely fine to take some time to think before answering a question and I recommend you do this to know what you want to say before you say it.

4

Practice, practice, practice.

Practice with your family and friends little and often and listen to their feedback. I recommend imitating a real interview (without any breaks or laughter) and getting someone to ask you a set of questions and score you on various aspects. Ask them to be honest in their feedback as this is the only way to improve for the real day. If you’d like to practice in mock interview conditions with Medicine Interview Experts, why not check out our Interview support and see if it’s something that interests you? 

5

Always remember that PATIENT SAFETY is key.

Whatever healthcare professionals do, it is always in their best interests to prioritise this. If you get stuck in the interview, you can always refer back to this.

We hope this article has helped you understand your upcoming panel interview. It’s a lot to take it, but honestly, you will enjoy the interview on the day. It’s the last step to your university place so once it’s out the way, breath a sigh of relief and wait for your offers to roll in.

Good luck for your upcoming interviews!

Need some extra guidance in your Panel interview preparations?

Signing up to the Interview Bundle means you’ll be guided by a Medicine interview expert who will help you face the toughest interview questions and come out on top.

Want to learn how to Interview like a pro, then this bundle is the one for you…

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