5 min read

Why Medical Interviews Are Super Important?

Published on
May 13, 2024

With medical interviews just around the corner, you should certainly be thinking about preparing for your final hurdle to medical admission. Most Australian universities will release medical interview offers for 2022 admission at the beginning of September 2021. 

It is important to remember that medical interviews, while challenging, are more formulaic than the GAMSAT in terms of preparation. What this means is that as you are submitting your med school applications, it is also essential to start thinking about what medical schools value in their candidates. This includes compatibility with specific university values, as well as the more general features of a good future medical practitioner.

Most institutions view the medical school interview as a critical selection criteria. Interviews are graded, and therefore a strong performance can supplement and even compensate for shortcomings in GAMSAT and GPA. The reason why interviews are so critical to medical schools is data drive - studies have shown that performance in the interview is a better indicator of student performance in the hospital environment than GAMSAT or GPA. Medical school interviews are an effective method of evaluating an applicant's capacity to empathise with patients, while integrating into the team environment of the medical world. Preparing for interviews carefully is certainly an asset in your future medical training. 

Unlike the GAMSAT and the UCAT exams or your GPA score, medical interviews provide a suitable description of your personality traits and passion for assessing your potential to tackle scenarios in a medical career. The medical interviews, either an MMI or a panel interview, strongly advocate challenging students with questions about medical ethics, medical scenario-based questions and the commonly asked medical questions revolving around 'why do you want to pursue medicine?' or 'why do you wish to be a doctor?'

Therefore, if a med school interview offer signifies that you are academically suitable for medicine, however this is only half the story. You now need to demonstrate your live decision making skills and emotional intelligence in order to be considered appropriate for medical school.

Though this is not always the case, some medical schools require a medical portfolio or a personal statement. This category of medical schools may ask interview questions beyond hypothetical scenarios or ethical dilemmas. While a situational interview station does not require you to demonstrate your extracurricular achievements, a panel interview may further probe your responses. The latter interview format often focuses on your personal journey towards medicine as much as it analyzes your core emotional intelligence skills. This is another important reason to know the values of the university to which you are applying, to know whether your resume is a good fit for their interview rubric.

Let's focus on some of the critical aspects the medical interview evaluates in every applicant.

1: Tests your communication skills

"Communication works for those who work at it"

Many students who sit a medical interview often find themselves unable to strike a balance between formality, and rapport with their interviewer. A good interview is respectful, but equally, it should not be dry. It is important to smile, and speak to the interviewer in a tone that is similar to that which you would use with a lecturer or tutor that you have a good relationship with. 

Wish to be well-prepared for a medical interview? Check out the Fraser’s Simulation course. It offers a range of interview workshops, mock interviews to prep you in commonly asked interview questions, and much more! 

An essential element during an interview is communicating your ideas in a clear and precise manner. Do not fill time with empty words. This is also a critical skill for patient-doctor communication. Medical interviewers expect students to demonstrate a clear understanding of their medical knowledge, research skills and ethical considerations. A good response is a combination of the criteria mentioned above supported by relevant experiences from your personal and professional expressions.

An applicant is assessed based on their interview tone, level of confidence, ability to frame knowledgeable sentences, spontaneity, and those who can control the direction of the conversation. This is, however, formalised in a standardised interview rubric. Therefore while some degree of the assessment is subjective, you are also protected from interviewer biases provided that you answer the questions in a reasonable and respectful manner. 

How should I develop these qualities?

When it comes to interviews, nothing can beat practice. Begin your preparation by attempting multiple mock interviews. Never underestimate the power of timed, repeated mock interview questions. These are a great way to streamline your responses, as well as develop a mental approach to dissecting common medical interview scenarios. You can try to answer a range of medicine related questions and rehearse your answers on commonly asked medical interview questions. Make sure to receive feedback from working professionals that have had to sit interviews in their lives. Interview skills across the professional world are transferable, however the best feedback would come from medical professionals, and medical students that have passed the interviews. It is important to gather as much information as possible about what values are important in the hospital work environment, because it is likely that your understanding may be incomplete. 

Improving your communication skills for the medical interview ultimately enables you to understand that having compelling interactive attributes is highly recommended for a medical practitioner. Therefore the medical interviews are a close replica of the real-world scenario where doctors attend to an individual/s symptoms, provide proper diagnosis and communicate effectively to the patient and their family. 

2: Assess Your Knowledge of the Medical Field

Beyond your commitment to appropriate communication and empathy, the medical schools are also interested in how prepared you are for the medical workforce. While no candidate is expected to know the details of hospital life, the interviews often require you to know the challenges facing this workforce. 

Students often make the mistake of attributing their commitment to medicine to a childhood passion or an incidental encounter with hospital staff. This is a superficial reason for a career choice and should be avoided at all costs. After all, you would not become a structural engineer simply because you have regularly driven your car over a local bridge? 

To this end, interviews often ask their candidates to demonstrate their knowledge of the medical field. These issues include the challenges of rural healthcare, indigenous health, the obesity epidemic, and the aging population. Many universities tailor their course to focus on preparing their cohort for these challenges. 

Here’s a detailed guide on Rural Entry Pathways for the University of Sydney and University of Melbourne!

3: Evaluates Your Professionalism 

As mentioned earlier, the medical interviews require you to communicate in a similar fashion to that which you will use on the hospital wards. Consider which schools are important on the medical wards - time management, being detail-focused, and safety-oriented. Therefore medical interviews are time-pressured, and may replicate aspects of a clinical skills encounter (i.e. empathy/acting station). This format of interview is known as the Multiple Mini Interview.

The MMI-station-based interview is a scientifically validated interview system, which creates multiple mini stations to test isolated facets of your medical potential. MMIs consist of 7-8 stations, each evaluating an applicant's critical thinking skills, ability to work under pressure, time management and level of flexibility in a work environment. 

You can read more about how to approach an MMI station on our website. Additionally, you can also read in detail about 'How To Ace An MMI?’'

A significant aspect of the MMI circuit is moving from one station, being challenged by a different interviewer, and different scenarios at each station. This mimics the hospital environment, where you review different types of patients, each requiring specific attention and care. It is incredibly challenging to build rapport with each interviewer within a restricted period, however the great advantage is that even if you underperform in any given single station, you will the opportunity to redeem yourself in future stations. 

The number of MMI stations allocated per medical university may vary; however, the skills required to ace this type of medical interview is universal.

In contrast to an unconventional MMI station, the traditional panel interviews involve a single interview “panel”. This is a group of people who ask a candidate all of the questions. They are usually from diverse professional backgrounds. You are required to build and maintain rapport with them consistently  throughout the interview - there are no other stations, and therefore no chances to start fresh.  Similar to an MMI station, in a panel interview, the applicant is assessed based on their ability to deliver articulated answers, provide informed solutions to health-based problems and finally, evaluate critical thinking skills. 

Want to know more about how panel interviews work in a medical setup? Visit our website to access our Free Resources and check out our detailed article on 'What is a panel interview?'

What To Do Next?

Now that you have explored the important skills tested in the medical interview, we encourage you to check out all of our Free Resources

What do they include?

  1. Postgraduate Medical School Preferencing Guide
  2. 5 Essential Tips For Your Medical Interview
  3. Medical School Interviews: Why Are They Hard?

Having established that medical interviews mark as a crucial step in the selection process for medicine in Australia, we at Fraser's offer a range of courses that can guide you step-by-step from what to wear to a medical interview, how to perfect your medical interview tone, and tips on how to approach an MMI station.

Besides our diverse set of Free Resources, we have created different types of tools such as the medical interview offer calculator that can predict your odds of receiving a medical interview offer from any Australian medical school of your choice or try our USyd Entry Calculator.