This blog covers some advice for answering questions in a panel/traditional Medicine interview. Medical schools are increasingly shifting away from panel/traditional interviews to MMI interviews. But remember, even MMI interviews will likely contain stations which are set up and/or ask similar questions to a panel/traditional Medicine interview. An MMI interview may even be comprised of multiple mini panel/traditional Medicine interview stations. We have a separate blog on tips which covers advice on preparing for an MMI Medicine interview.

Make an active decision on what topics to cover and which topics to leave out in your answer

When answering questions in traditional Medicine interviews, your goal is not to tell the panel every possible point that you can think of about a topic to try and demonstrate that you are knowledgeable. Instead, your goal is to articulate a well-structured, meaningful, impactful answer which you deliver coherently and confidently. To do this, you need to be selective about what you say. You cannot just say everything you know. You need to control the number of points/topics you include in your answer and how long you speak.

Control the length of your answers

Generally, your interview answers should be around sixty to ninety seconds if you are not interrupted and you should aim to cover three or four main points in detail, instead of many points briefly. This may sound like a short amount of time but consider that you will have done a lot of practice and preparation and are already familiar with the subject matter. You have some idea of what the interviewers might ask and what they are looking for in an answer. For these reasons, sixty to ninety seconds per answer is enough time to give a strong, thorough answer. It also provides you with some leeway to speak for longer if necessary. Focusing on 3 or 4 main points per answer allows you to build these points up better than if you covered many points in little detail. It will also give your answer more structure and make it easier to follow for the panel.

Go beyond mere descriptions of events – give your insight

When answering traditional panel interview questions, you will need to describe things such as a team project you undertook, a surgery, procedure or interaction you witnessed. In these instances, you must go beyond merely describing events. Describing events is only step one, and its purpose is to set the scene – the real value is in step two which is explaining how these events or achievements relate back to you and what attributes they demonstrate. What did you specifically contribute? What did you learn? Why does it make you want to study Medicine? Why does this event or achievement show that you are a good candidate? This is what interviewers are looking for in an interview answer, not a textbook description of a surgery you witnessed or your daily timetable at your work experience. It is not the quantity of work experience that you do which is important; instead, it is the insights that you gain which are important.

Back up your statements

Provide examples and evidence for your claims in your interview answers. If you say you have good communication skills, leadership skills, teamwork skills etc. give examples. This will make you appear more credible and less likely to sound arrogant, which can be the case if you make many claims with no evidence to support them.

Control the direction of the interview

When answering questions, you have a significant amount of power. You control what you say and how you say it. You can lead the direction of the interview by purposefully mentioning things in your answer that you want to be discussed and in a way the panel are likely to pick up on and ask you further questions about.

A tip for preparing answers to questions

This tip is for when you are doing your preparation for questions which may come up in the interview. Before trying to think how you will answer the question, you should first consider what is the question trying to assess? Then you should decide what the overall message you want to convey in your answer is and then think of the headings of several main points you want to cover. You can write these down. Then add the actual content to the headings. This way your answers will have a purpose and a good structure.

Do not memorise answers – instead, have an internal database of topics, stories, examples etc. that you are confident talking about

You do not need to memorise the “correct answer” to every single question an interview panel could ask you. You should not even attempt to do this. This will be laborious, appear unnatural (think about how obvious it is when someone is giving a presentation that he or she is just reading a script verbatim) and you can be caught out by slight variations to how questions are asked. Instead, if you follow the advice in the last tip above, then you will not need to memorise answers – instead, in your mind, you will have a database of topics, stories, examples and headings which you are familiar with and comfortable talking about. You can then mix and match these topics into any answer which requires it. For common questions, you will know which key points/headings you need to cover in your answer, but you do not need to memorise the exact content of the speech, just the headings of the points you will talk about.

How can Medicine Answered help you succeed in passing your Medicine interview?

Whether you have a traditional panel interview, an MMI interview or both, Medicine Answered can help. We offer completely free guides on the Medicine interview and a database of questions and answers. If you prefer a face to face and tailored approach we have one-day Medicine interview courses and one to one interview tutoring online or in person. Both services are delivered by doctors who themselves have passed all four of their own Medicine interviews.