Interviews may seem like the most nerve-wracking component of any degree application. It’s important to compose yourself well, speak clearly and show that you’re prepared. Interviews are seen by admissions staff as a great way of getting undergraduates to expand on their qualifications and personal statement while looking into their communicative skills and aptitude.
There are hordes of sample questions and interview preparation sites out there, which is great in many ways, but can be a hindrance in others. Interviewers are wise to this and often look to change things up to avoid the risk of talking to somebody who may as well be reading an auto-cue.
Be sure to study your invitation for an interview carefully, as it can reveal a lot about the format that it will take. While traditional interviews will take the form of an informative conversation between one or two members of staff and yourself, the notion of the Multiple Mini Interview is beginning to gain popularity in education today. One sure thing you can prepare for is the structure and style of each type of interview.
Med-school interviews take one of 3 forms:
These resemble job interviews and you’ll likely first be asked questions about your background and goals – why you want to study medicine, where your passions began and what your ambitions are. The interviewer will want to discuss medicine itself including medical ethics, advancements and key hot topics or current affairs about the NHS. You’ll also be asked about your own life, your motivation, your hobbies and passions and ways in which you’ve worked through problems and challenges. Expect questions like “give me an example of when you worked with a team to achieve a critical goal” or “explain a time where you coped under considerable pressure”.
It’s best to prepare by writing down some notes about key moments that occurred during your work experience or school/college life and also key moments in your personal life. For example, you could explain how you functioned under pressure during a work placement and then go on to explain how you’ve coped with a challenge on a more personal level. Anything which displays empathy, warmth and care is a massive bonus as this is considered very important for those wishing to work in healthcare.
Oxbridge medical courses are more heavily focussed on research. This means that their interviews are far more focussed on assessing your cognitive abilities and thinking skills. That said, they’ll want to create a detailed picture of how you approach sensitive ethical subjects and more general areas of medicine.
They might kick off the interview with something so simple that it throws you off like “what makes a good doctor?” and then go on to ask you more detailed questions which might involve mathematics or knowledge of areas of medicine that you should have covered at A-Level. Oxbridge interviews have gained some notoriety for their offbeat questions but even if the question is difficult to grasp in the moment, they at least want to see that you’re approaching it openly from an angle of discussion rather than simply shutting it down with an “I don’t know.”
The MMI approach is a modern method of interviewing in which you face a number of interviewers in relatively quick succession. Each one will either give you a task or ask you questions. The purpose of this is to assess your interdisciplinary approach to tackling problems. It also keeps you on your toes and assesses your ability to adapt. You’ll conduct a series of ‘mini’ interviews with members of staff that will present you with a scenario that requires a demonstration of problem-solving or role play to resolve. Each part of the interview is designed to last for less than ten minutes, but the overall interview process may take up to two hours to complete. While the prospect of interacting with multiple members of staff may seem daunting, the method of interview is bound to work wonders for the more interpretive, visual and physical learners among us.
Some of these questions might be a little offbeat and unexpected. For example, you could be asked to tell the interviewer how to unwrap a box or pour a bottle of water into a cup and you’ll be expected to give precise instructions which can’t be misinterpreted. E.g. if you tell them to lift up a flap on a box to open up, they might lift up the wrong flap. Other interview stations will quiz your ethical views, medical knowledge and personal life and background.
The most popular type of med school interview is the MMI or Multiple mini interviews. Three quarters of UK med schools use these types of interviews. They can unfortunately also feel like the most difficult to get to grips with at first but the key
Multiple mini interviews get their name from their structure; they are broken down into multiple stations which each last approximately 10 minutes from start to finish.
Usually an MMI will consist of around 10 stations, although this varies from one medical school to the next. Interviews will often last for around 2 hours.
Each station is completely independent from the next and is designed to assess the qualities which each medical school identifies as important in medical students and doctors. Candidates have a short period of time at the start of each station, during which they will receive a scenario or question and have the opportunity to prepare an answer. This time also serves as a short break to relax between the stations and clear your head.
Students rotate around a circuit of multiple ‘stations’ with an interviewer, normally a professor, healthcare professional or teaching fellow, who will have a task or some questions prepared for you.
Many universities will give you a ‘prompt’ with the task before you begin the station which means that you might have up to a minute to think about what you are going to say and how you will structure your answer. It is really important to use this time wisely and perhaps consider some of the themes you might want to cover. For example, you could mention the four pillars of ethics in an ethical scenario or qualities that you wish to demonstrate so that you stand out to the interviewer. Do not panic, however, if you come across a question that really stumps you – the interviewer will guide you and may give you some more questions to ease you into a conversation.
Each ‘station’ normally lasts 10 minutes or less (some may be as short as 5 minutes) and tests different skills including communication, problem-solving and decision-making. Something which students often find difficult is keeping to the timeframe and structuring their answers correctly. A great idea is to practice giving small presentations (of around 5 to 10 minutes) in response to questions. This does not mean learning your answers – your interviewer will know if you sound too rehearsed!
MMIs most commonly consist of around 5 to 10 stations, with each station lasting a couple of minutes, the entire circuit can last as long as 2 hours in length.
MMIs often include more practical elements such as group discussions and prioritisation tasks. You may be asked to role-play a scenario with an actor or you could be given some data, such as a graph, that you need to describe and analyse.
There often tend to be stations where you will be asked traditional panel interview-style questions,
perhaps centred around your work experience or why you are motivated to study Medicine and ultimately become a doctor. Knowledge of current affairs is very important, and it is really important that you keep up to date with medical headlines in the months leading up to your interview – especially any news related to the NHS.
the universities that use MMIs in their admissions process include:
The number and type of stations at each university will differ, so it is important to do your research!
Most universities change their interview questions each year although their station types remain fairly similar. However, it is very important that you refer to the medical school website to find the most up-to-date information about the format and type of stations the MMI will include.
The following sections will provide you with an in-depth insight into the most common MMI stations which tend to crop up in medical school interviews. We will share some example questions, as well as some strategies to help you structure your responses.
Reflection is so important during these interviews. Although they are short, you need to show that you have really considered a career as a doctor and you have thought carefully about whether it is the right job for you. Before your interview, think about the skills you have developed and the knowledge you have obtained as a result of volunteering or work experience and try to link all of these together concisely in your answers, so the interviewer has a full picture of who you are and why you would make an excellent doctor.
Motivation is not just a prerequisite for a long and demanding career in Medicine but also an essential trait to give you the durability for a challenging degree course. It’s no wonder that this gets tested regularly at the MMI stage. And remember, an interviewer may well test your enthusiasm for the University you have applied for as well! This section will help you answer some of the most common questions which can be asked in a ‘Motivation and Insight’ MMI station. Most commonly you may be asked one or more of the following questions:
How to answer ‘Why Medicine?’
Prospective students will often prepare answers for that old chestnut ‘Why do you want to study Medicine?’. For this reason, interviewers tend to avoid such a transparent line of questioning! However, this may still come up or be asked in a more subtle way. Therefore, you must truly reflect on why you want to study medicine. If you cannot articulate this well enough in an interview setting, it might seem as if you haven’t truly considered your motivations.
It is imperative that you do not rehearse your answer as interviewers are experienced enough to be able to distinguish natural answers from rehearsed ones. Many people struggle with putting their motivation into words as it feels ‘obvious’ to them, this is why you do need some reflection time to really pinpoint your reasoning.
How to answer ‘Why Medicine at this University?’
Preparing for your interview is not just about your motivations to study Medicine, but also about the university and the department too. Interviewers want to see that you’ve put effort into researching their specific university and thought carefully about why you would actually like to study there. When you leave the interview, the interviewers should feel like they are your first choice.
You may also be asked a variety of follow-up questions on this topic, we have listed a few examples below:
Roleplay scenarios can be daunting at first glance, but a little preparation goes a long way. This section will detail exactly what a roleplay scenario entails, what skills you are being assessed on, how to prepare as well as some mock scenarios for you to practise.
What is a roleplay scenario?
Roleplay scenarios are common stations within MMIs. You’ll receive a short prompt with some background information, and are then expected to act out a scenario with an actor. Although this can feel awkward, it can be a welcome break to talking about yourself!
Preparing for these scenarios is absolutely possible. What’s more, time spent preparing will not be wasted as roleplay scenarios are a common assessment method throughout medical school. Master the basics
before your interview, and you’ll be ahead of the game when you make it to medical school.
What does a roleplay scenario assess?
To explain what a roleplay scenario assesses, let’s use a mock scenario. Imagine the prompt outside the station reads:
‘You are the only one working on the (extremely busy) checkout at a supermarket. Your colleague is busy restocking the shelves. An angry customer cuts to the front of your line, and says they want to make a complaint.’
Take some time now to think about how you’d approach this situation. What skills can you demonstrate here that a medical school would be looking for?
The main skill being tested is communication. Can you communicate clearly and effectively? These scenarios often also test your response to stress, as in the example above. Are you able to communicate politely whilst under pressure? Are you able to empathise, and defuse stressful situations?
Communication isn’t just about words, you’re also being tested on non- verbal communication. Your body language is important- it can show that you’re engaged and listening, or on the other hand disinterested and bored. Sitting forwards in your chair, making eye-contact, smiling, and nodding at appropriate times, are all examples of good non-verbal communication.
It’s also important to pick up on non-verbal cues. Pay attention to the actor’s body language. You may be able to use it to work out whether you’re saying the right or wrong thing.
For example, in the above situation, you may start by saying ‘I’m sorry that you have a complaint.’ The actor may nod- you’ve said the right thing! However, if you started with ‘I’m busy right now’ the actor might frown, or cross their arms, or exhale heavily. These are clues you’ve said the wrong thing! If this happens, try to backtrack: ‘-however, I’m sorry you have a complaint. Give me a moment to call my colleague over to take over at the checkout, and then I’ll be able to address your complaint without distractions.’
In this situation, you’re also being tested on teamwork, delegation, and prioritisation. Your colleague is ‘busy restocking shelves’, but can it wait? As a doctor, the care of the patient is your first concern. Here, the queuing customers and the complaining customer are the priorities. Calling your colleague over to take over the checkout would be a sensible response.
Another part of communication being tested are your listening skills. These are probably the most important attributes of a doctor. To quote William Osler: ‘listen to your patient, he is telling you the diagnosis!’ Around 80% of diagnoses can be made from having good listening skills and asking the right questions.
One specific tool is active listening. This means listening, and showing that you’re listening. It involves non-verbal cues, such as nodding and leaning forwards, and verbal cues, such as saying ‘yes’, ‘okay’, or ‘right’. This also involves summarising- ‘so let me just recap…’, picking up on emotions – ‘it looks like you’re quite angry’, and empathising- ‘I agree, that sounds really irritating!’
You may be tested on your explaining skills if there’s something you need to explain to the actor. Useful techniques include ‘chunking and checking’ which means breaking the information down into small chunks, and after each chunk, asking the actor if that makes sense if they have any questions.
A good conclusion is helpful- you may want to briefly summarise what you’ve talked about and what further steps you’ll be taking.
To summarise, you may be assessed on your:
Tips for tackling the MMI roleplay station
You may want to look up the following techniques for more information:
Example MMI Roleplay Scenarios
Ideally, practice with a friend or family member who doesn’t mind going all out with the acting! Good luck!
As the MMIs, or ‘Multiple Mini Interviews’ become an increasingly popular method of interview for medical schools, one type of questions you should expect to encounter are the ethical scenarios. These feature in both panels and MMIs. The ethical scenario questions can vary greatly, but there is a general structure you should follow to make sure you answer the question fully, and without bias.
When presented with an ethical scenario, such as ‘Should Doctors Ever Allow Patients to Use Alternative Medicine?’, you shouldn’t jump straight in with your answer. In some ethical scenarios, it may be obvious what your standpoint will be, but doing this will not show your ability to weigh up and consider both sides.
When presenting the arguments to the interviewer, it is expected that you back- up your claims using the four pillars of medical ethics. These form the backbone of many tough medical decisions doctors have to make on a daily basis, so it’s a good idea to refer to them in your answer to show your understanding.
Example MMI Ethical Scenarios
NHS Hot Topics
Healthcare information and misinformation commonly hit the headlines. These ‘hot topics’ can cause controversy and subsequently catch media attention. It is common for hot topics to come up in interviews, with a whole MMI station exploring one or more hot topics in depth. It is therefore important to keep up to date with hot topics and be prepared to debate and discuss them in interviews.
What do interviewers want to see from the candidate?
How should you debate or discuss in an interview setting?
Don’t panic! There is no right or wrong answer when debating or discussing hot topics. Make sure to take your time when reading over the question or scenario, if provided with a prompt beforehand or at the start of the station. Gather your thoughts before you start speaking.
Consider all sides of the argument. You might want to start by saying something as simple as, ‘You can look at this from many sides…’ to signpost to your interviewer that you’ll be presenting a balanced argument – it also gives you more time to think!
Give clear reasoning. Provide evidence to support your argument and draw on themes such as the qualities of a good doctor, the pillars
of medical ethics, confidentiality and capacity.
Structure your answers. Consider structuring your answer in a ‘for and against’ style, where you explain one side of the argument and then the other. Avoid constantly switching back and forth between sides as this can make you seem unsure. It is important you show your understanding of different viewpoints such as the individual/patient, NHS, or population perspective.
Come to a conclusion. Once you’ve presented your arguments make sure you tell the interviewer what you’ve concluded. Try not to sit on the fence and choose the side you have presented the strongest arguments for. You might want to briefly reiterate your main reasons for supporting this side.
Questions. Your interviewer might ask you questions and press you on certain arguments you have made. Be careful not to let them bully you into changing your mind unless you can actually see a flaw in your reasoning. This doesn’t mean ignoring the points they are making – show you understand the points they make, before then reasoning why you still support your own argument.
Practise! Practise at home to familiarise yourself with common topics that arise in interviews. This will prepare you to discuss them at length and present a balanced argument with confidence. You will get better at seeing multiple sides to an issue, which will help you in an interview even if you haven’t seen the topic before! You should view this as learning a new skill, rather than just memorising the content of a hot topic. That being said, the next section will provide you with you with examples of NHS hot topics, and questions you could be asked in an MMI station.
Example of NHS Hot Topics
n Medicine, obesity is defined as having a BMI greater than 30. BMI, or Body Mass Index, is a measure of body weight compared to height (calculated BMI = mass/height2) and is commonly used as quick easy way to check if a patient is a healthy weight. There are many risk factors that contribute to obesity, including genetic risk factors and environmental factors such as a lack of exercise or unhealthy eating. Obesity is linked to many other health problems, including Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, coronary heart
disease and stroke.
The ‘Obesity Crisis’ is a phrase used to describe the rising rates of obesity in the UK population.
Around 63% of adults in England are overweight (BMI between 25 and 29.9) or obese and 1 in
3 children leaving primary school are overweight or obese. Obesity-related illnesses cost the NHS around £6 billion a year.
What are the main issues?
Sugar Tax (April 2018): The Sugar Tax (or ‘Soft Drinks Industry Levy’) was introduced by the government to reduce sugar in soft drinks, with the aim to tackle childhood obesity. Any soft drink manufacturers who do not reformulate their products have to pay a fine. The money generated goes towards schools to upgrade sports facilities and breakfast clubs. The Sugar Tax has been successful in reducing the sugar content of soft drinks, but it is difficult to comment on long term impact as it takes a long time for public health policies to show effects in the population. Also, it is important to remember there are many other factors which contribute to obesity – not just the sugar content of soft drinks!
COVID-19: Obesity-related chronic conditions have been reported to worsen the effect of COVID-19, with conditions such as heart disease and diabetes putting patients at higher risk of COVID-19 complications.
PHE Obesity Strategy & ‘Better Health’ Campaign (July 2020): The ‘Better Health’ campaign was launched by Public Health England (PHE) in July 2020 following emerging evidence that obesity leads to greater COVID-19 risk, as well as lockdown leading to reduction in the population’s physical
exercise. This campaign aims to support individuals on their weight loss journey.
Should we treat lifestyle-related illnesses?
This is a for/against question. The argument against treating lifestyle-inflicted illnesses such as obesity (as a result of lifestyle behaviours like
sedentary behaviour or smoking) is that the illness is ‘self-inflicted’. Therefore, it can be argued that treatment of these illnesses should not be prioritised over other illnesses. However, the reasons behind patients’ lifestyle behaviours are complex and not driven by a simple ‘choice’. Socio-economic
inequalities and poor health education can lead to unhealthy lifestyle behaviours, whereby the patient has not ‘chosen’ to inflict the illness on themself. Furthermore, obesity is not solely caused by lifestyle factors, but also genetic factors. Overall, the overwhelming majority of healthcare professionals agree it is very necessary to treat all lifestyle-related diseases fully and without judgement.
How should we approach conversations with patients about obesity (e.g. lifestyle changes)?
It is important to consider the difficulties a doctor will encounter when trying to discuss lifestyle behaviour with obese patients. These difficulties can
include: the patient feeling uncomfortable discussing sensitive issues, the stigma surrounding obesity and patients feeling blamed by the
doctor. Consider what ways the doctor could build a good rapport with the patient and sensitively approach lifestyle discussions without making judgements.
Traditional interviews as they sound are much more like the usual thing that comes to mind when you think about an interview.
There are usually two or three interviewers on the panel and may include admissions officers, doctors, nurses, lecturers, medical students, or anyone else that the interviewers deem appropriate. The interviews typically last between 20-40 minutes and are one long interview rather than multiple mini stations. The interview may be structured with specific questions or may be semi-structured, which means the interviewers will use your answers to develop further questions, making the interview more conversational in style.
The way in which these interviews are conducted will depend on the university, but you will have all of the interviewers ask you at least one question, and there will also be one member of the panel that will focus on writing notes and capturing your answers for later discussion and review. This should not be alarming. They will almost always adhere to a fixed mark scheme and will not be seeking to judge you for your answers.
Unlike an MMI, the traditional med school interview interview allows for you to have in-depth questioning and for your interviews to really understand you by having a full conversation. In order to best facilitate this, interviewers will often have your personal statement and some basic information about you available on hand, and the interviews are scheduled to be around 20-30 minutes, depending on university.
Given this, it also often means that the questions asked during your interview will be unique to your experiences and the questions will also be guided by the answers that you give. However, there will also be standard questions about your motivations to do medicine and key themes such as teamwork, NHS hot topics, and work experience. Information on questions is not released beforehand, however looking at university websites for what they are looking for in candidates will help guide you on these themes, so it is advisable to prepare well for these key areas.
Since the interview will require you to demonstrate your skills and experiences via the answers you provide, it is paramount that you are able to explain these using your experiences – including but not restricted to those mentioned on your personal statement – as opposed to showing them at an MMI station.
The following universities use traditional interviews:
Medical Schools like to see how committed you are to being a medical school student and then a doctor. They will typically ask you this with a classical question along the line of ‘Why Medicine?’ or ‘Why do you wish to be a doctor?’.
These questions have probably been answered a good few hundred times already so it will be hard to say something that is original. Answer honestly and talk about experience you have had that led you to apply for Medicine. An answer that clearly indicates reflection and insight is what you would be expected to provide.
A key point to explain is why it is Medicine specifically that you are interested in. mentioning the key aspects that make doctors unique to other fields.
Knowledge of Medical School and Teaching Methods
Medical Schools like to know why you applied to their specific course. Your personal statement, though broad, had shown them that you would be a good fit within the cohort so you already have their attention. Though you may not have targeted a specific medical school, explain what you like about the form of teaching they have. Recognise whether it is Case based learning, Problem based learning or Traditional, and why that suits you best. Also consider the length of study at the medical school, the chance for intercalation and key hospitals students that students have the chance of working at.
It might be worth identifying key institutes of research or recognised doctors or researchers at the institute that you may hope to work alongside. Knowing a university’s areas of focus will show that you have thought about why you are choosing to apply to the institute.
Depth & Breadth of Interest in Medicine
In medical school, interviewers like to ask about what you are aware of is happening in the NHS and Public Health England. You could be asked about public health campaigns, like the couch to 5K or the Track and Trace app. On the other hand, they could ask you about speciality medicine and what you were able to learn whilst at work experience. Either way, make certain to keep to the facts and elaborate on what you found interesting.
The trait of understanding and having the ability to share feelings of another individual is hard at the best of times. You will struggle to always understand why someone feels a certain way or try to comprehend what stops an individual from doing something. Empathy is something you will encounter on a daily basis when you are in medical school, whether it is with your peers, the patients you see or with the individuals of other allied healthcare pathways you work with. This ability to share in someone’s struggles and support them throughout their tough time is one of the most important skills for an applicant.
In the interview, you may discuss when you have shown empathy towards another individual or when someone has demonstrated it to you. The capacity in which the event happened does not matter, as long as you can show you responded appropriately to the situation. Your experience of observing empathy from clinicians at your work experience might be worth mentioning.
The important aspect to consider for teamwork is what your role is in a team, as a team member and a team leader. During your medical career, there will be many instances when you will be part of a team, such as part of a research team or in a ward round. You will be expected to react appropriately in different team situations – sometimes it is appropriate to take leadership, while other times it might be more appropriate to adhere to guidance and be a team player.
Teamwork is a crucial part of being a doctor, as patients are cared for by a team of healthcare professionals. Medical school interviews will try to assess your ability to work in a team. You would be expected to draw from your own experiences to explain how you have either stepped up to the plate to lead a team or how you incorporated yourself into a group to ensure the best possible outcome. It might be worth reflecting on what you learnt about yourself from your experience and how you have been working to improve a specific skill, such as communication skills.
Now, it is important to consider that as a future doctor, you need to be aware of the challenges you will face and the struggles that you will have trying to adjust to life as a medical student. Everyone has weaknesses and it only strengthens your interview when you mention them. So, before you interview, consider what others’ see as areas for improvement and development.
The topic of personal insight is typically well sign posted in an interview. The question will come in the form of ‘what would a loved one say is your best quality?’ or ‘what will be the biggest challenge for you as a doctor?’. The interviewers are inviting you to talk about the trial you have gone through and what it has allowed you to do to become a better individual. Reflect upon this and demonstrate how you learned from it and are acting on it.
NHS Hot Topics and Medical Ethics
At traditional interviews, interviewers may combine a hot topic with medical ethics, though the latter can be hidden within the question. You would be asked something along the lines of what is your view on this topic or how would you tackle this situation. Questions might involve case scenarios, where an underlying issue such as Postcode Lottery might be present.
These questions would require you to apply your knowledge of the key area to a scenario and to discuss it. Explaining both sides of the key topic, while explaining any developments or long lasting impacts of the situation itself would be advisable.
Doctors are expected to interpret lab reports and other forms of data. For research projects and for intercalation years, you will need to infer what is meant by the outcome of stats tests and what graphs are referring to in research publications. Working with data and being able to imply what is meant in the numbers is crucial.
The good news for the interview is that the level of maths you need for this is squarely in the GCSE range, no integration of differentiation here. You would primarily convert between decimals and percentages as well as working with scaling quantities for drugs doses or even doing the odd BMI calculation. Sometimes, a calculator will be allowed and other times they will not. However, do not worry, showing working out and thought process with an answer in a given range is sufficient.
This area is one of the harder areas to prepare for when it comes to the medical school interview. Consider it like the Section 1 of the BMAT or Decision Making in the UCAT. This area is here to let you think about how you would consider a problem and tackle it, broadly evaluating your critical thinking skills. There is no right answer to these questions, only the correct way of thinking, especially as most sorts of questions will typically not have a clear set answer.
An example of a question could be: “how many people are playing tennis at this current moment in time?”, where you would be expected to show a method to get an answer. Think logically and write out some steps if you are provided a pen- or have one at hand if the interview is online. Logical thinking and explaining your steps will be key to getting a good outcome from this type of question.
Oxbridge interviews are very similar to traditional interviews, in that you will typically have a couple of people interviewing you continuously. However, for Oxbridge you will often have more than one interview, each with a slightly different emphasis on the content of the questions. There is usually one interview for predominantly scientific questions and another interview with more general questions. There can, however, be a reasonable amount of crossover. The questions are designed to assess your logical thinking and your method of approaching and solving problems.
Oxford and Cambridge are known for having a distinctive interview style, which differs in some aspects to other medical school interviews. The interviews are designed to assess academic potential, and interviewers are looking to see the way in which candidates think and learn rather than simply assessing someone’s knowledge or skills.
The interviews are often very similar to the small group teaching offered on the course, so it is an opportunity to see if a candidate will thrive on the course. The courses at Oxford and Cambridge follow a more traditional course structure, with the first three preclinical years focused on the scientific background of human health and disease. As a result, in comparison to other medical school interviews the Oxbridge interview questions are often focused on scientific application.
Oxford and Cambridge are made up of many individual colleges, which provide small group teaching, accommodation, social events and pastoral support. Often when a candidate is invited to interview, they will be interviewed at more than one college, and each college may conduct multiple interviews ranging from 20 minutes to an hour long. As a result, it can be very intense with a number of challenging interviews over a short period of time. It is important to prepare and to be familiar with the types of questions that could be asked, as this will make the process slightly less stressful and hopefully result in a more successful interview.
Your enthusiasm for the course comes across in your interview. The interview process is long and intense, but these experiences are very similar to the tutorials or supervisions that medical students have each week so it is important that you show you are engaging with the interviewer’s questions. If you engage and are enthusiastic, rather than being too nervous to say anything, the interviewers are more likely to think that the teaching style will suit you.
Although the interview process differs between Oxford and Cambridge, and from college to college, there is a general structure to the interviews with common topics which are often brought up in the interviews. Usually the first few questions are there to allow you to settle into the interview, and are questions that you can more easily answer.
Common starter questions may include:
Personal statement questions
Starter questions may ask about your personal statement, such as your motivation for studying medicine, work experience, or extra reading outside of your subject. As a result, it is very important to know your personal statement well and to be willing to expand on anything that you have mentioned there. This is likely to be the answer that makes a first impression on the interviewers so you want to try to start off well!
Another common starter question approach is to ask about a topic from your studies up to now. It is worth being up to date on the basics of biology, chemistry and maths to a similar level as that for the BMAT. Often the questions are testing biomedical knowledge which are relevant to the first three years of the preclinical course, so the starter questions can be quite focused on biology and it would be a good idea to have a look over A-level or equivalent notes that you have made so far in the course, or a read over a revision guide, before the interview.
Applying your knowledge questions
The starter questions can also be about something you have been given either before the interview or during the interview. This may be a medical or scientific image, or a scientific paper to read. It is important to start off answering confidently, so if you have been given time to pre-read a paper make sure you have thought about what the whole paper is about. If you are given an image, let the interviewers know your initial thoughts, remember that saying something is better than saying nothing or ‘I don’t know’!
Why Oxbridge questions
As well as knowing why you want to study medicine, be prepared to have an answer to why you are applying to Oxford/Cambridge. This question can also demonstrate whether you know what the course structure is, how medicine at Oxbridge can be different to at other universities, and that you have a passion for biomedical science as well as clinical medicine. To prepare for these questions, make sure you know about the course structure and the features of the collegiate system.
As a brief overview, the medical course structure is traditional, with three years of preclinical study followed by 3 years of clinical study. The preclinical years consist of lectures and practical classes with very few opportunities for patient contact. In year 3, medical students work towards a BA degree which will usually
include a research project and optional modules where students can specialise in an area of choice. In the clinical years, students will be on clinical placements and receiving clinical teaching. As well as lecture-based teaching by the central university, tutorials (Oxford) and supervisions (Cambridge) are offered by the individual colleges. Students usually work towards 1-3 tutorials/supervisions a week, with set work such as essays and problem sheets which are then discussed in the tutorial/supervision. The collegiate system offers both teaching and academic support, as well as social and pastoral support. More information about the course structure can be found on the university websites.
Further into the Interview
From the starter questions, the questioning may lead to more challenging questions where the answer will not be as clear or requires some further thinking. They often test skills in data analysis, ethical reasoning and problem solving.
The data analysis questions may involve additional tables and graphs which are presented at the interview, or a paper that candidates are required to read before the interview. With these questions, it is important to note the independent and dependent variables, any patterns or trends in the data and whether the results show correlation or causation. If reading a paper, it can help to think about what the main aims of the research were, and what the main results showed.
Ethical questions often follow similar themes to those at other universities, for example questions about the allocation of resources. Like the rest of the interview, it is important to explain your thought process, and particularly in ethical questions to not judge too quickly what option would be best. These questions are looking at the considerations you make when asked difficult ethical questions, with the overall outcome being less important than the reasoning behind your choice.
Preparing for Oxbridge med school interviews
Often candidates make the mistake of thinking that Oxbridge interviews are impossible to prepare for, or that the questions are so inaccessible that no one could answer them. On the contrary, by practising talking about scientific concepts and how you would come up with solutions to difficult problems, you can ensure that you are as best prepared as possible for the more challenging questions in the interviews. Alongside preparation for the more straightforward ‘starter’ questions such as those about the personal statement, biological concepts from GCSE and A level studies to date and motivation for studying medicine at Oxford, this will help in getting through the interview process and hopefully in getting an offer.
Med School Interview Preparation
Interview Techniques – Confidence
Interviews can seem like daunting experiences, but being confident in your abilities will help you stay calm during your interviews. It is easy to be very nervous for a medical school interview, however you should try to ensure that you manage to maintain a natural and confident conversation.
If you do have any difficulties in figuring out how to approach sections, we recommend the STARR framework for you:
We would strongly recommend that you practice for your interviews beforehand. Look up common interview questions you are likely to be asked and think about answers for them beforehand. Another very helpful tip would be to arrange timed mock interviews with friends and family where they run through the common questions with you. This way, you can receive unbiased and objective feedback from other people and use this as a guide to improve. Additionally, try recording yourself to see how you performed. This way you’ll be able to judge for yourself where you fall short and make the necessary changes.
Since most universities use the MMI format, they’ll usually publish a document online summarising what each station will be about.
Research common questions/activities they are likely to ask within each one. This will make you more confident to approach the sections in your actual interview. Our MMI section will also provide you with strategies to approach the different stations.
Practising thoroughly with friends and family cannot be stressed enough, even encouraging them to ask you non-medical interview questions will allow you to practice thinking on the spot and putting together structured answers as well as increasing your confidence in speaking confidently. Avoid waffling wherever possible – sometimes the most clear and succinct answers can be the most powerful.
Most importantly of all; practice, practice, practice! This will not only allow you to receive feedback and think through some ideas for answers, but will also massively increase your confidence and interview skills which is invaluable.
Make it a conversation
Our last piece of advice would be to try to make the conversation as conversational as possible. Please don’t go in with rehearsed, scripted answers because the interviewers can see through that. Instead, have the bullet points in your head to remind you of what you need to say for that station.
Interview Techniques – Communication and Clarity
When it comes to medical interviews, communication and clarity are key skills for applicants to have the best chances of success in their interviews.
Whether interviews are in person or over a video call, the basic principles of clear communication are invaluable for applicants. Doctors and medical students alike should maintain a high level of professionalism whilst being approachable and kind; you should aim to reflect this within your interviews.
In terms of professionalism, a basic level of appropriate dress is key – most universities should give a dress code for this. As a rough guide, if you can imagine your GP wearing it, it’s likely to be suitable! In addition to your attire, if your interview is conducted online ensure that the background is plain or suitable and you are as free from interruptions or distractions as possible.
In terms of body language, we would advise you to present yourself with a good posture and a smile. Also, try to maintain eye-contact with the interviewer when you speak as it makes a person sound more confident!
It is often said that body language conveys more information than your words alone. For this reason, you should be aware – but not overly aware – of your body language. Sitting naturally, without too much fidgeting and with an appropriate level of eye contact should be sufficient. Medical schools are looking for friendly and empathetic individuals, not just robots reciting perfect interview answers, so make sure to smile and relax as much as possible. To practice this, it can help to record and watch back yourself answering interview questions – you should soon pick up on any ways to improve your body language, and feel free to ask friends and family for feedback too!
Interview Techniques – Reflection
It is important to incorporate elements of reflection into your medicine interviews. Although the interviews themselves are short, you need to show that you have really considered a career as a doctor and you have thought carefully about whether it is the right job for you. Before your interview, think
about the skills you have developed and the knowledge you have obtained as a result of volunteering or work experience and try to link all of these together concisely in your answers, so the interviewer has a full picture of who you are and why you would make an excellent doctor.
This section will provide you with a model to approach reflection and incorporate evidence of reflective practise into nearly all of your medicine interview stations or questions.
How to reflect in your Medicine interviews?
We will be using our What, Why, How, When framework to help you structure an answer for the following question:
‘Tell me about some work experience that you’ve had and why you felt like you benefited from it?’
Let us imagine that the work experience you intend to talk about is a day spent on a respiratory ward where you were able to follow the ward rounds and observe different members of the multidisciplinary team interacting with patients.
When talking about what you observed during your experiences, the key is to focus on what you learnt, rather than just what you saw.
DON’T – Say ‘I followed a consultant around on his ward rounds and it was a really good experience because being on the wards was a great opportunity’
DO – Say ‘I was able to shadow an MDT going about their daily interactions with patients, something which gave me an insight into how important good communication skills are, both between colleagues and healthcare professionals and their patients’
Why: Speaking about what you’ve learnt from your experience shows the interviewer that you are engaging with the experiences rather than just regurgitating memories. If you can, maybe even reference a negative point you saw such as poor doctor-patient communication – as this can prove further that you’ve really been invested in the experience and not just blind-sighted by the fact you had the privilege of being on wards.
This step is about thinking about why the experience influenced you enough that you wanted to talk about it. Again, looking back at our scenario:
DON’T: Only talk about the experience because you think that it’s what the interviewer wants to hear if you haven’t actually gained anything from that particular situation.
DO: Focus on the parts of the experience that actually taught you something, no matter how ‘cool’ they are. For example, on the respiratory ward, you may have seen an emergency chest tube being placed, and you may want to talk about it as it sounds impressive… However, at your pre-med stage, observing the clinical skill was probably not as beneficial as observing nurses talking to and building rapports with patients.
Why: It’s easy to get caught up in how exciting Medicine can be sometimes, and on your work experience you have probably seen a few cool procedures you really want to talk about! However, an interviewer will be more impressed by the fact that you were able to identify and explore why the way a nurse interacted with a patient was so positive rather than simply tell them about an exciting procedure.
Here, we will consider how the experience you’ve had has impacted and influenced you! In our question, we would apply this in the following way:
DON’T: Just mention superficial statements such as the experience ‘making you want to be a doctor even more’ or ‘making you consider respiratory medicine’.
DO: Talk about the experience, perhaps highlighting to you that certain skills are much more important than you previously thought they might be, or did a particularly bad interaction between a doctor and patient stick in your memory and make you vow to never treat a patient in the same way?
Why: Medical schools are aware that most applicants have no idea what specialty they want to do even once they arrive at medical school. Hence, it is a much better idea to use these experiences to highlight that you have really gained something that is going to stick with you in your future career. Medical schools want students who are self-aware and easily learn lessons from their clinical experiences, because this is what you’re going to be doing every day of your medical education.
It is all well and good having learnt something, engaged with it and reflected on how you think it’ll influence your practice, but now it’s time to think about how you could actually put it into practice!
DON’T: Make sweeping statements about situations in the far-off future – for example ‘when I’m a doctor’.
DO: Think about realistic opportunities you might have, in the near future, to begin implementing the lessons you’ve learnt. If you’ve already had the chance to implement these lessons, for example in voluntary work you did after this experience, then definitely mention this and discuss how you thought implementing your skills impacted the situation.
Why: Quite simply, if you’re actively discussing the fact you want to implement the positive skills you’ve picked up, you’re really showing the interviewer that the work experience you’ve gained has really influenced you. Obviously, the whole reason you’re applying to medical school is to be a doctor at the end of it, but that is still quite a long time away… Therefore, focussing on the near future – for example when you start seeing patients in medical school – can give the interviewer an insight into the fact that you know the medical school is going to offer you many opportunities to practice your patient interactions which is something you are looking forward to.
So now you’ve learnt how to use the model, let’s have a look at an ‘exemplar’ response to our question:
‘Tell me about some work experience that you’ve had and why you felt like you benefited from it?’
‘A few months ago, I was able to get some work experience on a respiratory ward, where I did things such as shadow many different members of the multidisciplinary team and see a lot of doctor-patient interactions during ward rounds. The main thing I learnt from this week was the importance of building a good rapport with patients and also how important it is for members of the MDT to communicate well with each other and respect each other’s roles.
The situation that stood out to me in highlighting this was a conversation I observed as part of a ward round, where the consultant I was shadowing took the time to sit and talk to the patient, asking him about his life and family rather than just the pneumonia he had been admitted for. The patient quickly warmed to the consultant as it seemed that he felt that his doctor was interested in him as a person, not just a medical condition.
Later, in a conversation between the same consultant, a junior doctor, a nurse and a physiotherapist about the patient’s care, I saw how the staff members took time to actively listen to each other and formulate the best care plan for the patient.
Observing this made me realise how essential patient-centred care is and showed me how vital it is that I remember this going forward. I took this lesson on board, and the next time I spoke to a resident at the care home I volunteer at, I made a conscious effort to ask about his family, his hobbies and other personal factors. I was unsurprised to find that he engaged with me really well during this conversation and now every time I visit enjoys chatting to me.’
Have a relaxed night before the interview – be proud of your preparation for the interview, and be well rested for the interview!
Try to not spend the night before your interview cramming until late in the night, as this will most likely make you more stressed and tired for the day of the interview. Instead, eat a good, nutritious and tasty meal, then spend the evening doing something you enjoy and find relaxing, whether that be watching a film, spending time with family or anything else!
What to wear?
An online interview is still a formal event as it would be in person. Plan what you are going to wear for the interview in advance. Try this on before the day to ensure that you feel comfortable and that you look smart and professional.
It’s a good idea to read over all the information you have been sent by the university, so that you know as much as possible about what will be happening, and to check that you haven’t missed anything important. There may be specific things that you need to bring with you for an in-person interview or have on hand for an online one.
You should prepare everything you will need for the day, including:
If you have an interview in person, double check how you are travelling to the interview:
Setting up your online interview space
Ensure the area you complete the interview in is quiet – you should inform your family and people in your household of the timings of your interview, so that you can have a quiet space for your interview. Make sure you are able to have the room to yourself for the duration of the interview – the interviewer may ask you to move your webcam around the room to demonstrate that you are by yourself. If you have caring responsibilities, it may be necessary to arrange respite care.
Think about what the interviewer on the other end of the webcam can see – it is worth tidying your room and making sure none of your laundry is hanging on your radiator in the background!
Think about lighting – the best lighting for webcams is having a light source in front of your face and body, as opposed to a light source behind your body. Natural daylight is often best, so try and sit in front of a window if possible. If not, position a lamp in front of you. Lastly, experiment with different lighting setups and see what works best.
Try and get an early night, so that you wake up refreshed and ready for the interview. That can be easier said than done though, especially when you’re nervous. To make it easier, give yourself time to wind down before you go to bed – make sure you have stopped any preparation for the interview at least an hour before bed, turn off any screens, and avoid caffeine in the hours leading up to it.
Before going to sleep, make sure to set an alarm – maybe multiple if you know you can sleep through them. Maybe ask someone you live with to check that you are awake on time in the morning too.
Morning of the interview
Eat a breakfast that will keep you full for the whole interview as you don’t want the distraction of getting hungry halfway through. Good examples of breakfast would include porridge with fruit, or boiled egg on toast. It’s also essential to stay hydrated, so make sure you drink plenty of water.
Do everything possible to try and reduce stress on the day – if you find you worry less when you are distracted then try and keep yourself occupied. Try not to worry too much; be reassured by the preparation you have done in advance, and be confident in your abilities.
Before the online interview
Silence all notifications – you may be required to turn your phone off during the interview (provided you aren’t using it for the interview!), but even if this isn’t formally required, we really encourage you to do so. Turning your phone off will help limit any possible distractions and notification sounds. Make sure you also consider notifications from the device you are completing the interview on (e.g. laptop, computer or tablet) – close any apps that send notifications and use a ‘do not disturb’ feature to silence all notifications if your device allows this
Keep a glass of water on the table nearby – this will come in handy in your voice gets croaky, or if you just need a well-timed excuse to take a pause and have a think about what you want to say next
Follow the guidance in the emails from university to set up your online interview software. Set up well in advance of the interview, and have a quick check of how you come across through the camera option of your device!
Remember, do not record or make notes about the questions asked in the interi– medical schools take this very seriously and can raise questions related to professionalism.
For further guidance, refer to the Medical Schools Council’s info sheet about how to prepare for online interviews, available here – we recommend you read it.