For many prospective medical students, the joy at having received an interview offer from a medical school is quickly eclipsed by the fear of the medical school interview itself. It can seem like a daunting prospect, but the most important thing is to keep calm, and the best way to keep calm? Be prepared!
Follow these 6 key steps to preparing for your medical school interview and you’ll take it in your stride.
1. Preparation is Key
It might be cheesy, but the favourite quote of many a parent or teacher really does ring true: Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
What kind of interview?
Will the interview be with an interview panel? How many people will be on the panel? Is it a MMI (Multi Mini Interview)? What kinds of stations will there be? Is there a focus on ethical scenarios? Knowing what set up to expect can allow you to focus your preparation and practice and to calm your nerves! You can find lots of this information out on the MSAG website under the ‘Medical School Interview’ section.
Questions to expect
There’s no way you will know for certain what they may ask you, but there are certain questions you can predict, and it’s worth having a think about how you might answer these. Many applicants dread the classic “why do you want to be a doctor?” but it’s a question you need to be prepared for. Likewise, questions such as “why not nursing?”.
Know about the course and university you are interviewing for (check out the MSAG website under the ‘Medical School Information’ section). Think about what is unique to that medical school and why you’re suited to it or why you think it will make you a good doctor.
2. Practice, practice, practice
Get as much practice as you can with whoever is willing: Parents, friends, teachers, etc. Get them to ask you questions that you’ve thought of or questions of their own and practice how you’re going to word your answers. The more realistic you can make it the better. Book onto one of the MSAG’s interview preparation days for realistic practice and personalised feedback.
3. Make a good first impression
First impressions count. Think about your body language, try and relax, and smile. This comes back to practicing and getting feedback – if you have a nervous tick or your body language is often closed off, it’s best to know about this before interview day.
What you wear on interview day may seem like the least of your worries, but dressing smartly will improve your confidence as well as giving a good first impression. Make sure you’re formal enough but also comfortable – it’s no good wearing something you can’t breathe in. Keep an eye out for our upcoming blog post on what to wear for your medical school interview!
Deep breathing is a great way to relieve stress and calm your nerves. If your nerves are getting too much in the wait before your interview try taking 10 slow and deep breathes. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Or why not try mindfulness? There are all sorts of exercises you can do to slow your breathing and control your nerves, find something that works for you.
5. Pause and think
In the interview itself the same stands, make sure you breathe! Interviews are designed to see how you perform under stress, interviewers will ask you difficult questions that may require you to think on your feet (no matter how well you prepare). If this happens take your time. Stop and take stock. Think how you’re going to formulate your response. If you find yourself getting lost mid-way through a response the same applies – pause and consider what you’re going to say next.
6. Structure your answer
How you structure your responses will of course vary dependent on the question and format of the interview. In general, the best way to go about answering any question about your personal qualities is to offer examples of experiences you’ve had – even if it’s an example of when something didn’t go so well! If you can then draw out from that experience, why it was good or not so good, and what you learnt from that experience that could help you in medicine, you’re onto a winner.
7. And finally….relax!
When your interview is over try not to overanalyse it. Make time to cool off and relax after a stressful day (because no matter how amazing an applicant you are it’s going to be stressful).
If you find that you are unsuccessful think about how you could improve and don’t be shy in asking for feedback from the medical school. If you have any other interviews or if you are planning on reapplying the following year, this feedback will be invaluable in guiding your preparations.