A key quality in a good doctor is their ability to put a patient at ease. Doctors need to establish a good relationship with patients at a time when they are very vulnerable. This is one of the reasons why medical schools across the UK prioritise an interview as part of the application process before selecting a student. This interview will help them identify whether a candidate has the communication and judgement skills a doctor will need to succeed.
For more details about the medical school exam, including example questions and some of the pitfalls of medical school interviews, keep on reading.
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Is the medical school interview difficult?
Although approximately 60% of students receive interviews, only an average of 16.7% get in, a statistic which can be found on this website. There are many obstacles to getting into medicine, even before the interview stage. You can find out more about these obstacles in this article on Think Student.
Unfortunately, many students will perform poorly at the interview even though they have good grades and extracurricular activities. Medicine is an incredibly difficult subject, so it is only expected for the interview questions to be difficult as well.
What are typical medical school interview questions?
It is almost impossible to guess what questions will come up in your medical school interview. However, most medicine interviewers will choose questions that are designed to assess your reasoning ability and your individual strengths.
Therefore, you should expect questions related to your stance on healthcare ethics. You will probably be asked about previous work experience and your views on the future of medicine. Most importantly, you need to try and convey your passion for becoming a doctor through your answers.
Listed below are examples of the five types of questions you should be prepared to answer at your interview. Remember, these are just a few examples of possible questions. Check out the Medic Portal for over 100 more example interview questions.
1. Why do you want to become a doctor?
Whilst this may seem simple, it is one of the most difficult questions for students to answer well under pressure. Most importantly, don’t just say what you think the interviewer wants to hear.
Lots of people will say that they ‘want to help people’. Whilst this is a lovely reason, it is usually followed by a second question such as “Why do you want to be a doctor, not a nurse or other healthcare professional?”
Getting unexpected follow-up questions that you can’t answer can decrease your confidence. You don’t want to be struggling through the rest of the interview.
If you want to pursue a career as a doctor, you should have a sincere and unique reason prepared. Perhaps you have a personal story that made you realise becoming a doctor is the right path for you. Recalling a first-hand experience is much easier than recalling a memorised answer.
Even if you do not have a personal anecdote, you can describe the attributes that have led you to the path of becoming a doctor. An example of this could be a desire to advance medical research. A passion for the job is what interviewers really want to see.
2. Describe a medical advancement you have heard about recently.
The medical field is continuously evolving, and it is important to keep up to date. Interviewers will not expect you to have a thorough understanding of these medical advancements. However, they will hope that you follow the medical world on a basic level and have an awareness of recent developments.
This is a fact-based question rather than an opinion-based question so take your time before answering. It’s important to articulate the correct knowledge in this situation. Before your interview, you should do a little bit of research. Check websites like the Student BMJ and New Scientist , both of which are credible sources providing the latest medical advancements.
You will not have to make a comment on every single article recently released on a certain subject. Try to have 2 or 3 sources in mind which you can mention when talking about a certain advance in the field. Think about what you can say about them in your interview.
Think about which field of medicine the development relates to and whether this is something you would be interested in pursuing in the future. How did you come across the development and who are the main researchers? These are the types of questions you should be asking yourself when preparing for the interview.
Being knowledgeable about the topic is a good. Just make sure you don’t over-do it. Remember to always bring the focus back to the public. How will this development help society and public healthcare in the future?
3. What have you gained from any work experience placements?
Most medical schools recommend a minimum of 70 hours of work experience in either a clinical or non-clinical setting. Some students may not be able to secure this much work experience with GPs or hospitals. This is why interviewers will be sure to ask about the quality of your experience, rather than the quantity.
When arranging work experience, try to make it as diverse as possible. Avoid sticking to one speciality or aspect of medicine. For example, you could look for work experience in the general care setting rather than hospitals exclusively. Check out the MSC’s guide to applying for medical work experience.
Be as transparent as possible when describing your experience. It’s important that you address the disadvantages of being a doctor alongside the advantages. You could describe a case that was difficult for you to endure or made you uncomfortable at first.
Talking about could make you a better candidate as you are showcasing your awareness of the job’s challenges. However, avoid being too negative, as you don’t want to give the impression that the work experience has put you off.
Each work experience placement is different, and you’ll learn new things throughout. You should try to focus on specific examples where you played an active role and a key quality you have acquired as a result. This is a great way to demonstrate teamwork and leadership skills.
4. What are your views on abortion?
Ethics play a huge role in the medical field. As a doctor, you must avoid bias and personal opinion when dealing with patients. This is much easier said than done, and interviewers know this, which is why you will probably have a question based on ethics.
Euthanasia, abortion, and prevention of surgeries as a result of religion are three controversial topics when it comes to medicine. When answering questions on these themes, it is best to refer to the ethical guidelines which the GMC recommends you follow. The guidelines talk about the four pillars of ethics: autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice.
Autonomy refers to a patient’s right to self-determination. Beneficence means acting in the patient’s best interests. Non-maleficence refers to a doctor’s duty to avoid harmful treatments and general neglect when dealing with a patient. Justice makes sure that no one misses out on good quality healthcare.
It’s important to make sure that your answer does not include any bias. These are complex issues and there are multiple perspectives to take into consideration. It is best to start off with the legal aspect.
Stating a fact such as, “In the UK, an abortion can only take place within the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, in line with the Abortion Act of 1967. There are rare cases where an abortion can be carried out after 24 weeks, for example, if the mother’s health is at risk.”
This statement links directly with both non-maleficence and beneficence. You could go on to acknowledge the religious perspective and any special cases to expand your answer.
Medical ethics questions can be difficult to answer. You can mention if you’ve written an EPQ based on medical ethics. This article from Think Student contains a list of medical EPQ ideas.
5. How do you see the future of healthcare?
These types of questions address your own opinion on medicine’s place in society. This type of question is a great opportunity for you to be imaginative as there are no wrong answers. You can bring in information from other fields that you may be knowledgeable about.
You might either be optimistic or concerned about the future. Either way, you should talk about your opinions and justify them with some sources. There may be a certain topic of healthcare you want to talk about. This could be the lack of appropriate public healthcare funding, for example.
If you are interested in technology, you may find it easier to talk about the use of virtual reality in diagnosis and medical education. You can talk about the advantages and disadvantages of this, and how you think it will change society.
If you are interested in politics and law, you can talk about the barriers which prevent optimal healthcare and treatment of patients. You could start discussions about medical negligence and unregulated healthcare providers. Make sure you offer any ideas on how you think we could change this as well.
What are the main reasons people fail medical school interviews?
Even if you have memorised answers for every potential interview question, there is always the chance you won’t receive an offer. Although your answers may be perfect, the interviewer still may not think you’re suitable. One of the biggest reasons is your behaviour.
You will not just be assessed on what you say, but how you say it. They will also be aware of how you dress. Check out this article from Think Student for suggestions of what to wear for an interview.
It’s normal to be nervous on the day of your interview and your interviewer will be aware of this. However, don’t make it too noticeable. If you don’t make eye contact or seem confident, it could undermine your skills and answers.
As mentioned above, the purpose of the interview is to see whether you have the people skills and confidence to be an efficient doctor. Unfortunately, good interpersonal skills form the very essence of the job description.
The best way to overcome nerves is to practise. Don’t be afraid of criticism from your parents and friends. You can start small with short presentations to a group of friends. Then, work your way up to mock interviews with teachers or even strangers. Medic Mind offers 1-1 online tutoring for prospective medical students.
Hopefully, by the time your interview rolls around, you will feel more at ease when answering questions. Remember, if you make sure to put in the time and effort to practice, you will most likely succeed. Good luck!