INTERVIEW
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Using the STAR Framework in Medicine Interview Answers

Published on
May 13, 2024
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Medical school interviews play a decisive role in assessing and interpreting a student's calibre to perform during medical school and subsequent medical practice. However, medical interviews are often underestimated by applicants compared to a competitive psychometric test such as the GAMSAT

The reason for this is likely because medical interviews tend to overlook your academic transcripts and are keen to deconstruct the real 'YOU'. Hence most people unintentionally take medical interviews for granted and don't invest time understanding Interview material. On the contrary, a medical entrance exam, like the GAMSAT, is highly targeted and contains distinct sections that test your ability to think in a logical manner under pressure.

Therefore, medical interviews genuinely require a fresh outlook on preparation. Although some of us may believe medical school interviews to be candid, Fraser's Interview Training strongly advocates for adequate preparation to avoid mistakes during your medical interview that may lead to unnecessary failure. This is because even the most composed individual can find medical interviews challenging without a strategy in place. 

The STAR Interview Technique to logically structure your medical interview responses to questions about experiences that you have had in the past.

What Is The STAR Technique?

The STAR Interview Technique refers to the format in which you can structure your interview response. The acronym STAR stands for:

Situation

Task

Action

Result

The STAR principles have gained worldwide recognition to help you in any form of an interview, especially during a medical interview that demands an accurate, logically sound, and concise response to diverse clinical and health-related questions

The STAR interview prep guide is rather direct and plain to understand. Each time an interviewer puts forth a medical interview question, you can employ the STAR Technique to organize your ideas and present a more refined answer. Let's get right into the breakdown of each section in the STAR interview technique to help you create an excellent first impression in your medical interview.

How To Use The STAR Interview Response Method?

To explain the STAR interview method, we should first consider a difficult medical interview question that often stumps medical applicants. 'Why do you want to study medicine?' or 'Why medicine?' is a common medical interview question, which seems downright simple but inflicts pressure on you to convey an intact synopsis of your medical journey so far and what you envision within the medical field. 

Therefore, this med interview question mandates a creative response that highlights your motivation to become a doctor and how your qualities stand out from the crowd.

S For Situation

The first letter in the STAR technique refers to the 'Situation' or the exact scenario you encountered in real life and had to overcome. Therefore, when you are questioned about your motivation to become a doctor, your answer must set the context to provide a more detailed overview to the interviewer.

Take a very realistic approach to describe the circumstances that encouraged you towards the medical profession and further elaborate on 'who was involved' and 'what genuinely intrigued you?'. Finally, combine the above points to deliver a concrete answer to depict your sincerity towards medicine. 

It is best to keep your answers concise and snappy, as most students tend to beat around the bush while discussing their personal experiences. Refrain from declaring that you are passionate about helping others or wish to transform the medical field. Although these are important experiences to reflect on, they can most certainly work against you during a medical interview. Instead, start thinking about why your medical journey is unique compared to other applicants invited to the interview. 

Draw references from extracurricular activities from your undergraduate years to highlight instances that inspired you to choose medicine.

T For Task

As mentioned earlier, the STAR method of answering questions simplifies the medical interview process and provides a solid foundation to form your answer. Having established what the 'S' implies in the STAR technique, it is best not to generalize the 'T for Task' in the STAR method. The 'T' in the STAR interview prep can be perceived in two different ways:

  • T for Task can be described as the duties you were assigned to accomplish within a specified duration. This could perhaps translate to the challenges you encountered during your internship; OR
  • In a generic form, 'T' for Task can also imply the kinds of internship opportunities you undertook to ameliorate your qualities and have a smooth transition into medical school.

For a medical interview question such as, 'Why medicine?' you can consider both of these outlines to articulate your medical interview response. In addition, some of you may likely have had a rocky road to secure the right kind of experience that shows a unique element of your personality during a medical interview. Hence, you can also highlight this as a critical task while integrating the STAR technique in your response.

In your response, try to recall instances that can best fit the medical interview question. For example, highlight an extracurricular activity or a particular situation that you confronted and had to fulfil. Next, formulate your answer by describing your key responsibilities - it can include any group projects within a strict deadline, conflict resolution with a colleague or leading a project. 

This way, you provide context to the medical interviewer and help paint a mental picture of your role and other people involved in this particular situation.

For instance, you can frame your answer around:

"I received an internship opportunity to shadow a nurse in a rural health clinic. It was exciting getting to see the vast array of ailments, and to care for people from all walks of life in the community I was in. I now understand that caring for people is a privilege. It was extremely rewarding being able to help people in their time of need, allowing them to be treated in their own community, rather than having to travel hours to the city.”

A For Action

Under the STAR technique, the 'A' for Action marks a significant component in your answer. Once you reach this stage in the STAR principle, you will need to demonstrate the course of Action you implemented to overcome the aforementioned task. By doing so, you will provide clarity to the medical interviewer on your interpersonal attributes. 

In the 'T' for Task phase, you have provided a context to the answer; therefore, begin an explanation to describe your approach. You can employ the following themes to explain the process:

  1. Make it personal. Refrain from discussing others in your story; instead, focus on your perspectives.
  2. Highlight the various methods you implemented to arrive at the final course of action. The trial and error method plays a crucial factor to highlight your go-getter attitude.
  3. Address the 'what you did', 'how you did it', and 'why you did it' phases within the response.

R For Result

The STAR interview procedure has a significant advantage in the medical interview process, mainly because it helps deliver a straight answer. However, the method is simple enough to be applied efficiently. Hence, let us break down the final STAR interview technique - 'R' for Result. This phase focuses on the impact of the action on your task and how it helped finally deduce a resolution. 

This effect corresponds to what happened eventually, whether the action was beneficial or worked against your favour and your key learnings throughout the application of the STAR principle. Therefore, it is pivotal to understand that the result phase can have two possible outcomes: First, you implemented the course of action correctly and yielded success. Second, your action plan had minor defects and caused you to fail in the task.

No matter the scenario, you have ultimately gained additional skills to enable your chances in the medical interview. Remember to make the answer personal, and reflect on the outcome. For instance, if you accomplished the assigned task, you can discuss your growth and highlight current and newly developed attributes. In contrast, if your attempt was unsuccessful, don't be disheartened. Instead, utilise this as an opportunity to discuss coping mechanisms during setbacks and discuss it as a strength in the medical interview

Where To From Here?

We hope that our article on the STAR interview preparation provided a standard structure for you to formulate your medical interview answers. Kindly remember that the STAR technique is easy to apply and as you cultivate the habit, the receiver will become more receptive to your content. Furthermore, your communication style and tone will have an exceedingly positive impact.

We at Fraser’s strongly recommended students to look into our freely available articles and tools that can give you insights on medical interview tips, how to prepare solo for a med school interview, approaches to discuss strengths and weaknesses, and also gives inside tips on what to wear to a medical school interview.

Be sure to check out our latest undergraduate university application guides. These articles are highly targeted and provide precise information on entry requirements, application process and specific university fees structure to easen your undergraduate admissions game!