7 Key Steps For Effective Medicine Interview Preparation

Welcome to our series of Medicine interview guides. This specific guide is about how to prepare for your medical school interview. It hasMedicine Interview Preparation UK been written by our team of doctors, who have helped countless candidates successfully prepare for their medical school interviews.

While applying to study Medicine you want your Medicine interview preparation to be as effective, time efficient and as easy as possible. You do not want to put in many hours of interview preparation without any real direction or purpose. To achieve this, instead of jumping right in to your medical school interview preparation, you need to formulate a strategy on how to best prepare for your Medicine interview.

What are you trying to achieve at your interview?

To formulate a good preparation strategy, you must look at the bigger picture – what are you trying to accomplish at your Interview? You are aiming to demonstrate to the panel that you have the correct attributes to be a successful medical student at that medical school and that you would make a good doctor. You show this at your interview with:

  • The content and substance of what you say
  • How well you say these things – this is not the same thing as the content of your speech. This is instead how well you say that content – do you communicate convincingly with confidence and charisma and good body language?
  • The other attributes that you demonstrate – For example, charisma, likability, knowledge, good communication skills, empathy, ability to solve problems, ability to deal with pressure etc.

For you to be able to demonstrate the above qualities to the best of your ability on the interview day, your medical school interview preparation must include these three elements:

  1. Excellent interview preparation/ background knowledge before your interview – this includes knowing yourself; your strengths & weaknesses; your attributes and your achievements inside out. As well as learning about Medicine, healthcare; news topics; ethics; learning about studying Medicine and about different medical schools. Additionally, learning more about the Medicine interview process and specific interview strategies and techniques.
  2. Excellent Medicine interview practice before your medical school interview – This is taking all the theory you have learnt from your interview preparation and applying it by practising answering interview questions. You must then learn from your practice and keep improving.
  3. Mastering the science of peak performance – In other words, you need to execute an excellent interview performance on the day – This is just like a 100-metre sprinter before their race. They have done all the hard work and preparation and have also practised, just as you have done your Medicine interview preparation and interview practice. Now the athlete needs to get themselves into the ideal winning state/ “the zone” and then execute what they have prepared and practised.

Interview preparation and interview practice are essential, however even if your Medicine interview preparation was excellent, but you cannot execute on the day, e.g. because you fail to handle your nerves or get in “the zone”, then you cannot perform to your potential. Peak performance is not luck. It involves solid preparation, and there are tried, tested and repeatable strategies we can teach you to control your nerves and get you in the correct mental and physical state to perform at your best.

The above shows that successful interview preparation has three parts. Interview preparation/ background knowledge, interview practice and excellent execution on the interview day. The more interview preparation and practice you do, the more likely you are to execute the interview well. Now let us look at the steps that your Medicine interview preparation should include.

Medicine Interview preparation step 1: Understand yourself well – this includes your motivations for studying medicine, your personal attributes, your life experiences and your strengths and weaknesses

At your interview, you need to convince a group of people whom you have not met before that you have the required attributes to study Medicine and to be a doctor. To convince other people, you need to convince yourself first, and you can only truly do this if you understand yourself well. You also need to have solid answers to all the probing questions that interviewers may ask. Again, to have these answers, you need to know yourself well.

The medical school application process may be the first time you have looked at yourself in such detail and the first time you have opened yourself up to be examined by other people in such a personal way. They will examine your motivations, personal attributes, your accomplishments and more. For you to excel in this process, the first part of your Medicine interview process is to understand yourself thoroughly.

You must, of course, go beyond knowing yourself in your mind. You need to be able to express these thoughts and convince others. However, the first stage is organising these things in your head first. In the next paragraph are some things which you need to first know about yourself. Then at a later stage of your interview preparation, you can start to think about how interviewers will ask you about these kind of things, and then strategies on how to communicate this information. This comes later. It may be helpful to write some of the answers down in bullet point format.

What personal attributes do you have? What skills? What are you good and bad at? What have you accomplished? What experience do you have? What work experience have you done? What did you do and what did you learn from these experiences? What are your strengths and weaknesses? What are key events in your life which have shaped you? You need to think in detail about what motivates you to study Medicine and to be a doctor. Why should the interview panel pick you?

Medicine Interview preparation step 2: Learn more about the world of Medicine and health

Your next stage of interview preparation should focus on the world of Medicine and health. We use the word “world”, as it is a vast topic. You need to learn very briefly about the major events in medical history. In much more detail you need to learn about the topic of medical ethics; key concepts in Medicine e.g. consent; important organisations e.g. NICE, GMC; important people e.g. Jeremy Hunt, Harold Shipman; and current health news. You need to learn about the UK healthcare system, and about the day to day work of doctors and other healthcare professionals.

Do not be daunted by this. This may sound like a lot to learn but it is achievable with good strategy and the right learning tools. You only need to learn certain aspects of the topics. The difficulty can be gathering all of these bits and pieces of scattered information together in one place and then knowing how much detail to go in to. Our free guides and blog articles are a helpful resource. In our interview courses, doctors will cover all of these things in ways that are organised, easy to remember and are tailored exactly for your interview and not just a bombardment of unnecessary information. These things are all given to you in writing in our interview course manual, so you have this is a resource to look at.

Medicine Interview preparation step 3: Learn more about the specific medical school, learning style and city

You should already have some idea about the medical schools you have applied to and should have read their prospectuses. You may have attended their open days. As part of your interview preparation, learn more about the medical school that your interview is in and about the city it is in. Your interviewers may ask you why you want to attend the specific medical school in the interview. You definitely do not need an encyclopaedic knowledge. The main things to know are a brief outline of the course structure. Does the medical school offer dissection or not, how early are clinical placements, can you intercalate, does it offer an elective etc. Additionally, you should know if it is a city or Campus University and a little about what the city has to offer.

Medicine Interview preparation step 4: Learn about the Medicine interview process as well as interview strategies and techniques

Now that you have learned about yourself; the world of Medicine and the specific medical schools you have interviews for – you are ready for the next stage of interview preparation: learning all about the Medicine interview. You need to learn about the different types of interview and the different types of questions. You need to learn what different questions are trying to assess. You then need to learn interview techniques and strategies to answer these questions. This preparation should include learning about the correct body language and controlling the quality of your voice. These things are all covered in our Medicine interview course and course manual.

You do not need to learn the answer to every single medicine interview question you can think of. In fact, you should not even attempt to do this. You should also not try to memorise answers, as you will appear unnatural and will be stuck if you are asked variations to questions or unusual questions. Instead, by learning strategies and techniques, which can be applied to answer entire groups of questions, you can learn how to effectively and naturally answer any question that you are asked.

Medicine Interview preparation step 5: Prepare answers for specific questions

As we mentioned above, you should first learn about what different questions are trying to assess and then look at specific strategies and techniques to answer all types of questions. After this, the next stage of your interview preparation should be to prepare answers to some common interview questions. By learning the techniques and strategies for answering questions first, preparing specific answers should be straightforward. Without knowing the techniques first, each question will require large amounts of individual work to prepare for and will typically be less effective.

When you are preparing answers for common interview questions – don’t rush straight into thinking how you will answer them and writing down a model answer. Instead, you need to step back and first think what the question is trying to assess. Next, move onto thinking about what the overall message that you are trying to convey in your answer is. What skills and attributes can you demonstrate with your answer? Then think which technique you can employ to answer this question. Then write down the headings of the main points you will cover or create bullet points. Next, think of the order you will discuss these points. This will create a template or a skeleton for your answer. Finally, fill in this skeleton by expanding on each main point and start to think about what you will say for each point.

Remember that your aim in answering questions is not to tell the interviewers every single point you can think of about a subject to try and show them that you know your stuff. Instead, your aim 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 say everything. You need to control the length of time you speak and the number of points you include in your answer. This is why the tip in the above paragraph about choosing a few points and then the order is so effective.

Keep your answers to about 60-90 seconds, if uninterrupted. This may not sound like much time but since you are familiar with the subject matter, have an idea of what interviewers will ask, and will practice a lot – this is more than enough time for an effective answer. Answers which are too long will lose the interest of the interviewer and make it more probable that they will interrupt you or change the subject. For the same reason, limit the number of points you cover per answer. This will make what you say more memorable and powerful.

Medicine Interview preparation step 6: Practice your interview answers thoroughly

You would not practice for a driving test by just reading a book as that is not how you will be assessed. You need to practice in the same format your assessment will be in. For this reason, do not just prepare for your Medicine interview by only reading questions and practising them in your head. You must practice saying questions out loud and in pressure situations. If you have no one around, then you can even speak your answers out loud to an object. Speaking out loud uses different areas of your brain than just thinking them. Where you stutter, or pause are areas where you need to do more work.

You need to go beyond endless practice. Your practice should be smart – it must involve self-awareness and improvement. In other words, develop the skill of sensory acuity – notice what is going well, what isn’t going well and make the necessary changes. This means you can learn from your practice and get better. You may not be able to notice everything yourself so ask other people to comment on your mannerisms and body language. You can ask family friends, teachers for help in this.

Medicine Interview preparation step 7: Overcome your nerves and get in the zone

We used the example of the 100-metre sprinter at the beginning of this article. The sprinter has done a great amount of hard work and preparation as well as practice, just as you have done your Medicine interview preparation and interview practice. Now the athlete needs to get themselves into the “zone” and then execute what they have prepared and practised.

Interview preparation and interview practice are essential, but even if your Medicine interview preparation was excellent, but you cannot execute on the day, e.g. because you fail to handle your nerves or get in “the zone”, then you cannot perform to your potential. Peak performance is not luck. It involves solid preparation, and there are tried, tested and repeatable strategies we can teach you to control your nerves and get you in the correct mental and physical state to perform at your best.

Peak performance is a big topic, so it is beyond the scope of just this article. We cover it in more detail in our other free blogs and articles as well as in our interview course and course manual. However, here are a few quick tips to get you started.

Firstly, preparation and practice will mean you are more likely to do well on the actual day of the interview. The next tip is one of the most important and is something that you should apply throughout all stages of your Medicine interview preparation. It will help your preparation by making you less nervous and more motivated. From now on every time you think about your Medicine interview, think about it positively. If instead, when you think about your interview, you become a little anxious, nervous, or visualise these things happening in your interview, then the chances of these things happening in real life increase. Your mind and body associate negative feelings towards the interview. Especially as the interview approaches, or as you are arriving at the interview, these feelings can easily build up making you increasingly nervous and tense.

If you instead consistently visualise yourself doing well, that is picturing yourself being very confident, articulate and charming – then you will associate more positive feelings towards your interview each time you think about it. As the interview draws nearer these feelings will build up. This is the exact opposite of the other scenario where you become increasingly nervous. You may even look forward to your interview!

The first step in using this technique is to simply think of the interview more positively. The next step is active visualisation – vividly picture yourself succeeding in your interview. Make the images as bright as possible and actually feel the emotions as best as you can.

Athletes use visualisation frequently. They visualise themselves doing things well instead of “not doing things wrong”. As an example, a sprinter will tell themselves and also visualise, staying low and making a smooth acceleration as a pose to visualising or telling themselves “do not raise your body up too quickly”.

Another tip for your interview preparation is to put yourself in pressure situations – public speaking, mock interviews etc. This will gradually build your ability to handle pressure. Remember, that nerves are not a bad thing. Some nerves will help you to concentrate and give your best and not take the interview too passively. They are uncomfortable as they are unfamiliar. By dealing with more pressure situations, you will become much more comfortable in dealing with the feelings that go alongside these events.

Remember To Be Smart With Your Time

Remember, that you have your A-levels to study for as well as other things to do with your time. We cover how to be efficient with your time so you can balance studying and interview preparation in more detail in our time management tips blog.

Continue your Medicine interview preparation with Medicine Answered

You can continue your interview preparation by using our other completely free interview guides and reading our medical interview blog. If you prefer a more personalised and face to face approach, then you can attend one of our Medicine interview courses where these concepts are explained in further detail, and we cover new strategies also. We also offer one to one medical school interview tutoring. All our courses and one to one tutoring are delivered only by doctors who have passed all four medical school interviews themselves and have sat on both sides of the interview panel. This is the minimum standard for our interview instructors to ensure that you receive the best possible advice and strategies for your medical school interview preparation.