All UK medical schools require applicants to attend an interview before an offer to study medicine is made. This means whichever medical school/s you’re applying for, you’re likely to attend at least one interview, and will need to perform well to secure your place at your chosen university. The following guide will provide you with topics which may arise at your interview and support you to develop techniques to answer different questions and scenarios effectively.
If you’re invited to an interview, the medical school selection panel have identified that you have the necessary academic qualifications or predicted grades, and an acceptable score on any admissions test that you may have undertaken, therefore generally the purpose of the interview is not to assess your academic abilities. Predominantly, the focus of any interview will be to identify if you possess characteristics and qualities which will make you a suitable candidate for studying medicine and a subsequent career within the NHS. Interviewers will also be assessing skills, such as your ability to work within a team and take a leadership role, your communication skills, and your problem solving skills, which we will cover in more detail in the All About You section, along with personal qualities that will be assessed.
Note: although the majority of medical schools do not assess academic abilities, some do highlight that there will be some element of academic assessment within their interview process. For any medical schools who identify this as an area of assessment, it will be highlighted in their ‘Individual Medical School’ section until the ‘Interview Information’ header.
You may also find it useful to familiarise yourself with the NHS Constitution for England which outlines the principles and values of the NHS in England, and therefore the values that medical schools will expect you to demonstrate. Similarly, the Medical Schools Council and General Medical Council’s Achieving Good Medical Practice: Guidance for Medical Students identifies the duties of registered doctors, and therefore is beneficial for understanding the expectations of you as a future medical student.
Although primarily the interview will not be testing your academic ability, selection panels will expect you to demonstrate an interest in medicine; for example through extra curricular reading and projects; and an understanding of medical topics and politics, such as issues relating to the NHS. Our NHS and Medical Knowledge section will provide guidance on preparing for questions relating to NHS topics.
Although there are a few exceptions and additional elements involved with some interviews, medical school interviews tend to fall into the following categories:
Whichever interview type is used, the format of the interview can vary considerably across the different medical schools, but this is particularly the case with the MMI. However, regardless of the interview format, the assessors are trying to identify that you have the required skills and qualities to make you suitable for a career within medicine, and therefore being able to demonstrate this to the selection panel is key for a successful interview.
Details of the type of interview each medical school uses, and any information relating to their assessment criteria for the interview, if available, is provided in the Individual Medical Schools section. When you receive your invitation to interview, this will also provide you with more details about the process; pay close attention to the information provided, as it may provide insight into the format of your interview, the assessment criteria and what to expect on the day.
As the name suggests, panel interviews involve being interviewed by a panel of two or more people, usually consisting of a medical and academic representative, and possibly with the addition of a senior medical student and/or a member of the public, known as a ‘lay’ interviewer.
Generally, the interview will last approximately thirty minutes, although some medical schools request that applicants attend two panel interviews as part of their selection process. This will usually be across one or two days, so you won’t be required to travel to the medical school on two separate occasions, if for instance it is a considerable distance from your home address.
The interview will be formatted as direct questioning and answering, and may include scenarios, in which the interviewers will be assessing how you would respond within certain situations and the skills and qualities this demonstrates.
There has been a decline in the number of medical schools who use panel interviews, however, it remains the chosen approach for some; find out which type of interview your chosen medical school uses here.
The majority of UK medical schools now adopt the Multiple Mini Interviews (MMI) method for interviewing potential students. Again, you can check which approach your chosen medical school uses here.
The MMI interview process usually takes up to one hour, during which time you are presented with various stations, each with a different scenario, question or topic which you’re required to respond to during a set time (generally between five and ten minutes). The time you are given to respond to each station, the number of stations and the content of each station, varies considerably depending on the medical school. If a medical school identifies the format of their MMI, you will find this information in our Individual Medical Schools section.
Your MMI may involve a combination of the following:
When you approach each station you will typically be presented with instructions relating to the task and given approximately a minute to prepare; although this may not be the case with traditional panel questioning. It’s essential that you use this planning time to identify what skills and qualities the task is assessing and how you will demonstrate these to the interviewer, consider how you will approach the task and what you may encounter during it.
At each station your performance will be graded by a trained assessor against set criteria; depending on the medical school, the assessors will be a combination of university staff, healthcare professionals, medical students, members of the public and patients.
Bear in mind that there is a time pressure associated with the MMI, as you need to complete the task or answer the questions within the given time. This presents you with the challenge of demonstrating the skills and qualities which they are assessing, in a relatively short period of time. However, on the positive side, if you don’t perform as well as you would like on one station, each station presents a new opportunity to showcase your skills, so remain focused and optimistic.
Due to the ongoing efforts to reduce contact during the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s the possibility that any interview you’re offered may be conducted differently during this time, particularly in relation to whether you’re invited to the medical school to interview in person and the scale of any MMI interviews. For any medical school which has confirmed that their interviews will be conducted online for entry for the academic year 2021/2022 this is highlighted in the Individual Medical Schools section. The Medical Schools Council has also produced ‘Guidance for candidates taking online interviews’, which you may find useful.
Our guide will provide you with the topics you’re likely to encounter during your interview, as well as advice on how to approach each one, to support you to prepare fully and feel confident going into your interview.
Find out how Lucy prepared for her successful medical school interview by accessing a recording of our free webinar. Plus more talks covering all areas of medical school applications and the UCAT.
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Before you get started, the following tips will help you to get the most out of your interview preparations: