5 min read

Medical School Interviews: Why are they hard?

Published on
May 13, 2024

Every year, most students in Australia crack the medical school interviews and successfully begin their medical journey. As of 2018, the Student’s Statistics Report observed that over 3,822 students commenced studying medicine at an Australian medical school between 2017-2018.

Australian medical universities consider GPA, GAMSAT or MCAT scores, personal statements, portfolios, and/or CASPer tests to determine an applicant’s rank for a medical interview offer. It is believed that receiving an interview offer means you are halfway there to enter the Doctor of Medicine program (a massive achievement), however only just over a third of students make it past the interview stage, depending on the university.

Hence, the burning question persists, ‘Are the medical school interviews hard?’

Without further ado, let’s dive into the relevance of medical interviews, the interview prep, and commonly asked medical interview questions to make a great impression at the interview.

Why Are Medical School Interviews Hard?

Medical interviews are essential to study medicine in most Australian universities as they assess an applicant’s non-academic attributes. The interviews are often a critical step to the medicine admission process and are conducted by highly trained interviewers. The medicine interview is built to assess an applicant’s quality to be associated with success in both medical schools and as a future medical professional.

While each university has its own customized process of evaluating applicants, many med schools adopt a holistic approach; a flexible, distinctive way for interviewees to consider applicants, often with equal preference given to experiences, attributes, and personal motivation.

Note that no domestic applicant will receive more than one interview offer from a GEMSAS consortium med school for 2022 intake. The exceptions are USyd and Flinders, which have their own independent application and interview processes.

To be a successful applicant at the medical interview, you need to consider the following academic and personal attributes:

  • Critical Thinking
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Research Skills and Scientific foundation
  • Social Skills
  • Cultural competence
  • Teamwork and communication skills
  • Reliability and Dependability
  • Empathy towards others
  • Scope for improvement
  • Knowledge of Human anatomy
  • Ethical responsibility towards self and others

Here is a detailed ‘Practical Medical Interview Guide’ to get you started on prepping for the interview!

Medical School Interview Techniques & Preparation

1. Motivation To Pursue Medicine

Successful applicants who receive an invite to the interview process are ranked based on their academic performance, however, interviewers closely analyze the applicant’s interest in the medical profession. Universities tend to seek students who are genuinely motivated and have proven this through their clinical experience, or research activities in the field prior to the interview. It is vital to be cognizant of the reason behind opting for medicine and explore various medical fields and healthcare careers. 

2. Good Weaknesses For Medical School Interview

Most medical interviews frequently pose the question - ‘What is your biggest weakness?’ to gauge whether applicants are self-aware and boldly engage in discussing their potential areas of improvement. The best approach here is to consider some weaknesses in advance, as it’s a useful thing for everyone to do as a starting point for self-improvement. If you’re still stuck, you could focus on framing the answer around the following areas:

  • Accuracy
  • Prior personal experiences
  • Ability to self-critique
  • Willingness to improve and implement
  • Various methods deployed for self-improvement

3. Unique Qualities To Succeed in Medicine

Extra-curricular activities have a strong impact on your personal performance in a diverse set of fields. In the medical context, if you did a relevant internship in a government organization or a medical industry, and have gained experience that goes beyond the medical curriculum, that really counts.

For instance, if you are a candidate with excellent volunteer service in a medical campaign for the betterment of society with a recognized success rate, your application will demonstrate a long-standing commitment to a career in the medical field.

4. Knowledge Around Medical Issues

Reading and research skills are a given for an applicant who aspires to be a doctor. From bioethics, technologies, policies, life as a doctor, to upgrading scientific thinking and quantitative reasoning, as a strong applicant, you should already be reading around such areas so that you can engage with interview questions from a position of strength.

A great place to start to understand important medical issues is to follow the news. Newspapers often have a medical/health section online with loads of information for you to read around.

5. Keep Up With Current Events

Be up-to-date on the latest events and national policies that have an impact on the healthcare career in Australia. Additionally, keep a track of the GEMSAS portal to know about current changes to entry requirements, GPA and GAMSAT requirements, course structure, rural health programs, and application process.

A question that took many UniMelb applicants by surprise a few years ago was when an MMI station queried applicants' thoughts around the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme), which had just been rolled out. A case in point for the following important health issues in Australia.

6. Do Mock Interviews And Practice 

Upon receiving a medical interview offer, applicants often tend to overlook the importance of the interview process and assume interviews should be attempted without preparation. It should come as no surprise that we think this is a mistake.

One of the key methods of preparation is doing multiple mock interviews, practising commonly asked questions during a medicine interview to practice the way that you frame your answers during the interview. Interviews are designed to be challenging and engaging, especially medical interviews that expect highly specific and reliable qualities from an applicant to pursue medicine. 

See Fraser’s Free Medical Interview Atlas, which takes you to the best set of interview questions and relevant information necessary to ace your medical interview.

7: Understanding The Interview Techniques In Each University

The selection process for each applicant differs as per the med school's standards. Before we understand each university’s method of interviewing, we must know the three broadly used interview techniques in Australian medical schools.

Firstly, the very renowned Multiple Mini Interviews (MMI) usually involves each applicant going through a circuit of 5 or more themed stations, with each interviewer/s present per station, addressing key topics to present questions as ‘clinical scenarios’, to the applicant.

The MMI stations are time-specific and highly pressured to mimic the scenarios an applicant would encounter during the medical profession. The Multiple Mini Interviews are challenging as each applicant must move from one interview station to the next, and is greeted by a fresh interviewer. This can prove to be exhausting for the applicant as they must build a rapport with each of the interviewers and simultaneously answer new scenarios put forth to them.

The MMI format is highly rewarding as each station focuses on a diverse range of skills and experiences of applicants’, hence if an applicant performs poorly at one station, they can start fresh at the next one.

The MMI assess students on a range of attributes and aptitudes, to name a few:

  • Communication
  • Critical thinking and conflict resolution
  • Creativity
  • Cultural safety
  • Social responsibility
  • Awareness of health issues
  • Empathy
  • Leadership skills
  • Teamwork and coordination

Universities that employ The MMI format

Most Australian medical schools are strong advocates of the MMI process. It is observed that the Multiple Mini Interview process is fair and a highly reliable method of assessing student’s capabilities, deemed fit to study medicine and begin practising it in the long run.

Some of the medical schools that use the MMI process are listed for your reference:

Universities That Follow Other Interview Processes

The second type of interview process is the traditional panel interview. This is a standard means of evaluating an applicants’ skill, that involves a group of interviewers posing different scenarios similar to the MMI format and may include a get-to-know-you session. 

Some of the Australian med schools use the semi-structured panel interview instead of the multiple rotating MMI stations. These types of interviews consist of typically presented questions around the applicant’s academic achievements, background, experience, leadership, self-awareness, motivation, and self-management. The panel may also discuss in detail the healthcare system to evaluate an applicant’s analytical and decision-making skills. 

Some of the universities that actively use the semi-structured panel interview process are Flinders University and James Cook University.

The University of Adelaide happens to be an exception as it follows a mix of semi-structured interviews and MMI, and consists of two 15-20 minute sessions.

Common Med School Interview Questions And Answers

Though medical interview questions are highly specific, there are certain predictable questions that you can prepare yourself for:

  • Tell us about yourself?
  • Can you talk us through as to why you chose this med school?
  • What did your undergraduate degree entail?
  • Why do you want to be a doctor?
  • What are some of the skills you possess that qualify you for medicine?
  • How has your undergraduate curriculum better prepared you for a medical career?
  • Describe your past internships and experiences, and how have they prepared you for the responsibilities of being a doctor?
  • What would be your greatest challenge during medical school? How can you combat this?
  • What do you know about current policies regarding the nation’s healthcare system?
  • State any recent publication or book you came across that really inspired you.
  • Tell us about a time when you had to meet multiple deadlines, how did you manage to work under pressure?
  • What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?
  • Describe a significant achievement in your life.
  • How will you cope with the heavy workload at medical school?
  • What types of courses are you planning to enrol in?
  • How will these courses benefit you in your medical career?

Medical school interviews can be extremely stressful but interviewers understand that students are under immense pressure to prove themselves, hence the former always keeps an open mind. However, it is important to prepare for medical interviews as they form a crucial part of the admission process for medicine, and that is why they are designed to be tough.

What To Read Next?

Check out our 5 Essential Tips for Your Medical Interview or alternatively, read through our Postgraduate Medical Portfolio Guide that will help you write the best portfolios and personal statements!