Types of Medical School Interviews
September 4, 2019
Types of Medical School Interviews
The medical school application process is long, challenging, and competitive. After you submit your AMCAS application and complete your secondaries, it’s time to think about the medical school interview. Schools make a big cut in candidates between secondaries and interviews, so if you’ve made it to the coveted third stage, congratulations! It’s now time to familiarize yourself with the types of medical school interviews you might encounter.
Throughout the United States, medical schools use different kinds of interviews to evaluate their candidates. These are: traditional interviews, group interviews, and multiple mini interviews. While these interviews differ in structure, they all aim to learn more about you as a prospective medical student. To guide you through the types of medical school interviews out there, I’ve outlined the timeline for the interview process, how to navigate the various interviews, and some common questions to help you get one step closer to that MD dream.
Medical School Interview Timeline
Once you’ve written your medical school secondaries and turned them in (ideally within two weeks of receiving the prompts), interview emails can start rolling in as early as August. Since you can’t be accepted without an interview, the stakes are higher than ever. Very few applicants are called in for an interview - Harvard interviewed only 12.9% of applicants in 2018, while Baylor interviewed 12.6% and Rutgers interviewed 13.6% of applicants. But if you get an interview, your chances are significantly higher. Harvard accepted 18.5% of interviewed students, Baylor accepted 22%, and Rutgers accepted 54%! Compare that to the national MD acceptance rate of 41% - chances definitely look up once you’ve got the interview.
Interviews continue through the rest of the year until as late as April. You might encounter one or all of the different types of medical school interviews during your application process. It’s essential to practice different scenarios beforehand so that you can find the best ways to stand out among your peers. Preparing for this critical phase of your journey toward medicine starts with getting to know the different types of medical school interviews you might face.
The traditional interview is typically one-on-one, and lasts for about 30 to 45 minutes. You may be interviewed by a faculty member, community member, a current student, or a practicing clinician. Depending on the school, you may be scheduled for one or two rounds of traditional interviews. In this type of interview, the interactions between you and the interviewer are usually conversational and as the name suggests, traditional.
Some schools may have specific goals for each interview; for example, each interviewer may be given a certain set of character traits to evaluate and comment on, or may have a structured format with standardized questions. The setting may also be extremely informal with each individual interviewer determining the mood and structure of the interview. Each interviewer will have variable experience interviewing and their own personal interview style. You may or may not be specifically assigned certain interviewers depending on interests you expressed in your application.
Traditional interviews might be open or closed. In an open interview, the interviewer has already seen your application documents and has a good sense about you and your academic background. In a closed interview, your interviewer has not seen your application and knows nothing about you, except your name and the college you attended. Because of this, all your responses and the things you are going to say are new to the interviewer. It’s important to show them who you are in a clear, concise, and interesting manner.
A group interview is similar to a traditional interview in the sense that you’ll still be asked questions by your interviewer. However, two or more other candidates will be present in the room for their interviews at the same time. This can be a little daunting - after all, you’ll have to hear about other applicants’ journeys and they’ll be learning about yours. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing - you might find it comforting to have others present during the interview.
Group interviews help admissions committees assess your teamwork skills more than other types of medical school interviews. Alongside expected questions about your personality and goals, group interviews might present you with a teamwork exercise. Schools want to see how you communicate, analyze scenarios and work with others as these are highly necessary skills for a medical career. It might be tempting to solve the entire exercise by yourself, but that won’t impress anyone. Instead, listen to team members, help delegate responsibilities, and think about what will benefit all of you rather than just trying to solve everything alone. Of course there’s nothing wrong with stepping up as a leader - but make sure you’re aware of your teammates’ needs as well.
Rush Medical College and the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine are two schools which consistently interview their applicants in groups. Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University and Drexel University College of Medicine also occasionally conduct group interviews.
Multiple Mini Interview (MMI)
The most unique among the types of medical school interviews is the multiple mini interview, or MMI. MMIs involve 6-10 interview stations, each focused on a different question or scenario. You will be given a description to review, prepare for 2 minutes, and then have a 5 to 8 minute time slot where you discuss a topic, interact with a patient/family member, or react to an issue. The interviewer will observe your responses and evaluate the way you interact with him or her. The MMI is a closed-file interview - you are typically being evaluated by a standardized patient who does not know anything about you. You are assessed with an established evaluation form after the encounter.
The MMI evaluates your verbal and nonverbal communication skills, critical thinking, ethical decision-making skills, and knowledge of the healthcare system. The rationale behind the MMI is that the more interviewers and the more samples of behavior, the more reliable the interview information. It is meant to dilute the chance of interviewer or situational biases. A candidate is not expected to have any specialized knowledge to participate effectively in the MMI.
Some medical schools combine traditional interviews and MMI, so you might encounter a hybrid interview. Examples of institutions that have incorporated the MMI interview include NYU School of Medicine, Duke University School of Medicine, Stanford Medical School, UCLA Prime, University of California Davis School of Medicine, and University of Massachusetts Medical School among others.
Types of Medical School Interviews Conducted at Top Institutions
Now that you’ve seen the types of medical school interviews that are out there, you might be wondering which interviews are used by the schools on your list. It’s crucial to go in knowing what to expect. Remember, schools with traditional interview formats might spring a group interview on you as well. Check out whether you can expect traditional, MMI or hybrid interviews for the top 30 schools in the table below.
|US News Ranking||School Name||Type of Interview|
|2||Johns Hopkins University||Traditional|
|3||University of Pennsylvania (Perelman)||Traditional|
|5||University of California - San Francisco||Traditional|
|6||University of California - Los Angeles (Geffen)||MMI|
|8||Washington University in St. Louis||Traditional|
|9||Cornell University (Weill)||Traditional|
|9||Mayo Clinic School of Medicine (Alix)||Traditional|
|9||New York University (Langone)||MMI|
|13||University of Washington||Traditional|
|13||University of Pittsburgh||Traditional|
|16||University of Chicago (Pritzker)||Traditional|
|16||University of Michigan - Ann Arbor||Hybrid|
|19||Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai||Traditional|
|19||Northwestern University (Feinberg)||Traditional|
|21||University of California - San Diego||MMI|
|22||Baylor College of Medicine||Traditional|
|23||University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill||Hybrid|
|24||Case Western Reserve University||Traditional|
|26||University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center||Traditional|
|27||University of Virginia||Traditional|
|27||University of Wisconsin - Madison||Hybrid|
|29||Oregon Health and Science University||MMI|
As you can see, most medical schools conduct traditional interviews. But, you could end up in a group setting as well. Even if you’re only applying to schools which have traditional interviews, keep in mind that it might not always be one-on-one.
Common Medical School Interview Questions
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the different types of medical school interviews offered by your top choice institutions, it’s time to think about what kind of questions you will have to tackle. Since the interview is the final component of your application, admissions committees will already have learned a lot about you through your personal statement, activities list, and secondary essays. Consider the ways in which you can elaborate on your background, passion for medicine, and goals without repeating information the interviewers may already know about you.
You don’t want to get thrown off by unexpected questions - especially when you’re in a group. You can be asked questions on a variety of topics - your reasons behind pursuing medicine, your interest in the specific school, your take on current events, your teamwork skills, your career plans, your response to ethical situations, and more. Below are some common questions to help you practice for the various types of medical school interviews.
Common Questions for Traditional Interviews:
- Why do you want to be a doctor?
- Why do you want to attend our school?
- Are there any specific features of our school that interest you?
- What are your specific goals in medicine?
- What motivated you to pursue medicine?
- Where do you see yourself in 10-15 years?
- How do you react to stress?
- How do you handle making important decisions?
- How would your teammates describe you?
- How do you spend your spare time?
- Tell us about a time you failed.
- What do you think is the most pressing issue in medicine today?
Download Our Guide to Interview Questions Here!
Example MMI Questions:
- A close friend in one of your university classes tells you that his mother was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. He feels overwhelmed by his studies and is considering dropping his courses to spend more time with his mother. How do you counsel your friend?
- Liberation Therapy (LT), a vascular operation developed to potentially cure multiple sclerosis (MS) in certain patients, has recently come under very serious criticism - delaying its widespread use. Among other experimental flaws, critics cite a small sample size in the original evidence used to support LT. As a healthcare policy maker, your job is to weigh the pros and cons in approving novel drugs and therapies. Please discuss the issues you would consider during an approval process for LT.
- You are told that this weekend you’re going on a camping trip. Before you is a table of random objects. You have 20 seconds to pick 5 objects you deem to be of the most importance and value, and explain.
- You are told that you are entering a hospital staff room 10 minutes prior to performing surgery with Dr ‘X’. As you enter, you see Dr ‘X’ take a swig of a clear drink from a bottle which you suspect is alcohol. Over the course of the conversation, the Dr beings to forget things and slur their words. How do you handle the situation?
- The interviewer tells you that you have 4 minutes to explain the process/purpose of vaccination to them, speaking as you would to any competent adult. When you have finished, they give you another 4 minutes to explain the same thing as if you were speaking to a young child who is about to be vaccinated. This time, you may use a whiteboard and marker to support your explanation if you choose.
As you can see, the questions for traditional interviews and MMI differ in structure. However, both types aim to learn more about your personality and aspirations, as well as gauge your communication style, empathy, and knowledge of ethical principles.
Even though the types of medical school interviews vary depending on where you’ve applied, if you practice your answers ahead of time, you’ll set yourself up for a smooth-sailing interview process! Good luck!