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How to Prepare for a Medical Interview – Solo Preparation

Published on
May 13, 2024

Medical school interviews are without a doubt an incredibly stressful time for many students. It is the final stretch in the medical admission marathon and the pressure to reach the finish line, especially after a successful GAMSAT, is immense. 

For others, it is understandably nerve-racking to undergo an unfamiliar and live assessment of communication. After all, it is not often that a university student is required to perform a high-stakes cognitive assessment well outside their zone of comfort and familiarity.

Having said this however, at Fraser’s Interview we firmly believe that the medical interview (be it MMI or panel) is one of the more straightforward aspects of medical school admission. This is not to say that it is easy, nor do we consider it to be a task that can be accomplished with last minute preparation. 

On the contrary, the medical interviews are likely to be the aspect of medical admission where time spent practising is best correlated with interview outcome. In other words, if you work hard and put in a significant amount of preparation time, your interview result will be predictably successful. This is largely due to the standardised nature of the interview formats, as well as the focused skill set required to ace the medicine interview.

Interview preparation must consist of two components in order to be successful. First and foremost, you must have at least one preparation partner. This does not necessarily have to be another medical school candidate. Your parents, siblings, or friends are all acceptable options when it comes to providing feedback. In this article however, we are going to discuss the other side of MMI  or panel interview practice – solo preparation. 

We will try and outline the most important aspect of medical interview success that you can spend time on, if you do not have immediate access to a medical interview study group.

Questions to Prepare for Medical School Interview

There can really be no interview preparation, without an appropriate medical interview question bank. Fortunately, given the breadth of the internet, medical interview questions are not difficult to encounter. A straightforward Google search will yield a large number of websites offering medical interview questions. Fraser’s Interview has, in fact, constructed an MMI question generator, where you can specify the medical school as well as the question topic that you specifically wish to practise.

The other good news when it comes to medical interview preparation, is that questions between institutions are largely transferrable. This means that the general content used by one university may well be encountered in an interview from another university (albeit with a different focus and altered phrasing). Therefore, questions dealing with broad topics such as ‘Australian Health Issues’ or ‘Motivation for Medical Training’ are valuable for practise regardless of which medical school the practise stem was originally targeting.

Have you thought about the kind of tone you must adopt during a medical interview? Check out our article on, ‘How To Perfect The Medical Interview Tone?’.

Another distinction to be made between GAMSAT and medical interview preparation is that the latter is significantly more ‘recyclable’. Given the multiple-choice nature of GAMSAT questions, it is much easier to memorise a specific question. It is therefore less valuable to repeat GAMSAT questions when preparing for the exam. 

GEMSAS medical interviews however are entirely open-ended. Just because you have an idea as to how you will approach a particular question, it is still critical that you attempt to review and workshop medical interview practice questions that you have previously encountered. In fact, every interview practice session should begin with a review of the common interview question – “why do you want to study medicine?”

Finally, it may be worthwhile to document a list of all the questions that you have attempted. This is useful for two reasons. 

  • Firstly – creating a master question list will allow you to have a centralised question document from which you can regularly pull questions for revision.
  • Secondly, it can be an interview question ‘idea-bank’, where you store key concepts that you wish to address in specific interview scenarios. 

Though the latter piece of advice should come with a warning – never memorise interview responses. The memorisation approach is extremely disingenuous, and easy to spot from an examiner’s perspective. Regurgitating a rehearsed response in an interview setting is a sure way of failing an interview question, because this method directly contradicts the purpose of an MMI or panel interview to test your live communication skills. 

How Long to Prepare for Medical School Interview

In an ideal scenario, you should aim to begin preparation for medical school interviews as soon as you feel that you are rested and recovered from your GAMSAT experience. In our previous articles on how to manage burnout during GAMSAT prep, we have emphasised the central role of taking a break, in order to maximise the efficiency of all future studies and preparations. The great advantage of medical school interview solo preparation is that sessions can be short, and timing is flexible. You may opt for 20 minutes of daily practise, or alternatively, spend 1 hour once a week. 

Regularity is important given that you need to get comfortable with the pacing of your responses, as well as develop a framework for your interview content. If you do not have an organised method of responding to each medical interview question, you will not be able to project your confidence effectively.

In terms of the interview practice sessions themselves, spend the first month of preparation simply familiarising yourself with the format of the stems, as well as the possible follow-up questions. Do not begin to time your responses prematurely. When you were preparing for the biology university exams you learned the content of the course prior to attempting to work through questions quickly. This principle applies to interview preparation – effectively and succinct responses are not a result of timed answers, but rather a consequence of a clear and organised mind.

In the final month of interview training, you should aim to be answering questions on time. The specific timing of each question depends heavily on the interview format of your preference medical school; however, the rule of thumb is to limit yourself to 2 minutes per response. This has a twofold purpose. 

Firstly, it requires you to prioritise and condense the information you wish to communicate. Second, the time pressure serves to eliminate ‘dead-space’ during your response. Filler words and phrases such as ‘um’ and ‘like’, as well as reiteration of points are a poor interviewee’s crutch. Remember – it is always far better to pause, or even end an answer, than to ramble!

How to Prepare for Medical School Interviews – Reddit and Other Forums

A very useful (though imperfect) substitute to a medical school interview preparation partner, are the multitude of forums that exist on the internet. Reddit and PagingDr are examples of online communities of pre-medical students that actively discuss all aspects of the admission process. There are very clear advantages, and disadvantages to searching through these online medical interview forums.

From an advantage point of view – these communities effectively put you in touch with a broad study group. It is useful to learn about others’ experiences throughout their interviews, as well as the questions they encountered and the responses they presented. Having said this however, the natural disadvantages of such an environment is that it is completely unmonitored. 

When a Fraser’s blog post is created, it is independently verified by the senior members of the company, as well as individuals with personal expertise and experience in that particular topic. In an online forum – there is no effort to verify the truth. Thus, any statement or advice regarding interview preparation that you may encounter on Reddit and PagingDr should be taken with a grain of salt. Furthermore, remember that because only a select group of all medical candidates is present online, there is an inherent bias in the information presented. For example, an online forum may be 99% convinced that wearing a tie is critical to interview success. That forum however may only contain 1% of all medical students who successfully navigated a GEMSAS admission.

The most effective way to utilise these websites is to bring the information you have read online to your Fraser’s Interview tutor, or your interview study group. Having an independent discussion, and evaluation of the information will thereby allow you to ‘sort the wheat from the chaff’.

How to Prepare for MMI Medical School Interview

So far in this article, we have given general advice as to how to approach interview preparation. Now it is time for us to give you a concrete action plan for your preparation:

Do your research:

Research the institutions on your preference list and understand their course structure. It would also be important to have insight into the values of these medical schools, as well as the practical significance of these principles. It is equally important to research the Australian healthcare system, as well as the major challenges facing medical practitioners today. These are all valid questions that can be posed in any format of the interview. Therefore, it is advisable to spend solo preparation time, especially earlier in your interview training cycle, to gain a better understanding of the system within which you hope to train and work.

Create a standardised response formula

It is counterproductive and difficult to ‘re-invent the wheel’ every time an interviewer presents you with a question or ethical scenario. After a few attempts at tacking ethical scenarios or de-tech stations, you will start to notice that there are certain phrases or answer structures which work for you. This may mean that they are effective at communicating your point of view, or that they save you time. Regardless, it is important to keep these effective phrases and structures in mind and recycle them (in the same way you would recycle solution methods for GAMSAT questions, rather than deriving formulas from scratch). This is not to say that you should memorise entire answers – quite the opposite. We are simply suggesting that you develop a logical protocol for responding to question types. For example – it is always valuable to begin answering ethics scenario questions by validating the concerns of all the parties described in the question stem.

Practise in front of a mirror

In the absence of a friend to give you feedback, the next best option for reviewing the performance aspect of your interview is your mirror! It is important to recognise that interviewing is all about communication skills, and communication is much more than simply words. Hand gestures, body language, and most importantly tone, are all as central to interview performance as is the content of your answers. As such, rehearsing in front of a mirror gives you a front row seat to your own admissions interview.

Record yourself on your phone

Given that a large number of interviews are currently held online, the most authentic practice interview experience can be achieved with the help of your phone. When approaching your interview date, begin to run timed, mock interviews for yourself, recording each response with your phone camera. This is a step beyond simple mirror practice because you can review the footage multiple times and place yourself in the examiner’s hot seat. This is also a great opportunity for you to consider your presentation. 

This means giving some thought to the clothes you wear during your interview, your positioning on the day, and critically, the background against which you will record your interview. Remember – in an online interview your room is an extension of your character. If you intend to dress respectfully, it is equally important to have a neutral, professional backdrop to your medical admission questions.

What To Do Next?

Now that you have a detailed guide on how to approach and prep for a medical interview by yourself, check out our article on How to Ace an MMI Interview?’

Or alternatively, enroll into our Best MMI Prep Courses and get access to a range of LIVE interactive workshops, Mock interviews, expert feedback and much more!