MEDICAL SCHOOL INTERVIEW GUIDE — All About You

Depth and Breadth of Interest

WRITTEN BY
MEDISTUDENTS TEAM
SEPTEMBER 6, 2021

The following are areas which you may be asked about during your interview, relating to the depth and breadth of your interest in medicine, and suggestions for what to include in your answers:

Understanding different aspects of healthcare

During your interview, you may receive questions related to your understanding of different specialties within medicine and whether you have an interest in a particular area. Additionally, you may be asked what you know about non-clinical roles which you could undertake as a doctor, for example research or teaching. You may also be questioned about the roles of other healthcare professionals and how you as a doctor will fit into a multidisciplinary team; alternatively, this could be presented to you in the form of a scenario.

What to include in your answers

Specialties

Questions relating to different speciality areas are designed to not only discover your interests but also your understanding of the different routes available to doctors. To enable you to answer questions regarding different aspects of healthcare, it's essential that you have a general understanding of these; for example, ensure that you’re aware of what sub-specialities you’ll encounter during your hospital-based placements, and are able to confidently discuss these.

When enquiring about your interests or if you have a preference for a particular area of medicine, interviewers are not necessarily looking for a final decision on your speciality of choice. Demonstrating your awareness of the different specialties you’ll have the opportunity to explore at medical school, and sharing your initial interests and areas you are particularly excited to experience, is an effective way to answer these types of questions. Where possible, use examples from your work experience of aspects of medicine that you’ve experienced and reflect on these.

If you do have an interest in a particular area of medicine, ensure that you share with interviewers where this interest stems from, linking to experience that you’ve gained or research that you’ve carried out that has influenced this. Remember that you’ll gain a wider range of experience at medical school, so while it's perfectly acceptable to share your current interests, ensure that you acknowledge that this may change as currently your experience is limited, and demonstrate your enthusiasm for exploring alternative areas of medicine during your studies.

Non-clinical roles

Having a brief understanding of the non-clinical roles available to doctors will support you to answer questions relating to these. If you have a particular interest in a non-clinical aspect of medicine, for example teaching or management, interviewers will want to establish why these appeal to you, so be prepared to discuss these in further detail and draw upon your experience to give examples to support your answer. For questions relating specifically to research, or if this is an area of interest that you choose to discuss, make sure you’re aware of the research opportunities, if any, that your chosen medical school offers; for example, do they offer research in an area that you’re particularly interested in, or do they offer a research project as part of their curriculum? Again, linking to your previous experience, for example research or projects that you’ve done previously which have sparked your interest, will support your answers further.

Multidisciplinary team

It’s vital that you have an understanding of the roles of other healthcare professionals and how your future role as a doctor will assist the multidisciplinary team; this will support you within an array of questions and scenarios within your interview. Where possible, use examples from your work experience to enhance your answers; for example, did you observe multidisciplinary teamwork in practice, what did this look like and what impact did it have on patients? By reflecting on these experiences and what you learnt from them, you’ll demonstrate your understanding of different roles and the importance of a team approach within healthcare to effectively support patients.

Medical research

Medical schools are looking to establish that you have a genuine interest in medicine and that you engage with medical news, research and developments. You may be asked about any medical or medical related publications which you read or have read, or what you find interesting within medicine. More specifically, interviewers may enquire about any individual articles or research that you’ve read, and ask you to discuss them.

What to include in your answers

It’s imperative that you engage with medical articles and research in order to prepare for these types of questions. You may find it useful to take notes or even just list articles or research that you find interesting as you discover them; this’ll make it easier to return to pieces during your interview preparations, to refresh your memory and ensure that you’re confident to discuss them.

Engaging with medical publications more generally, will provide you with a good overview of recent topics, but ensure that you have at least one example of an article and research that you can give a brief overview of and share why you think it’s an interesting piece. Make sure that the articles and research that you’re referring to are from reputable sources and that your interest and enthusiasm for medicine is apparent in your discussions.

Medicine related extracurricular activities

During your interview, you may be asked about the extracurricular activities you’ve undertaken, which are specifically related to your interest in science or medicine. As with the previous questions regarding your medical research, the aim of these types of questions is to gauge your interest in medicine and your involvement in activities outside of your taught curriculum. You may be asked about these more generally or experience questions related to topics you’ve researched or projects you’ve completed. 

What to include in your answers

Questions such as these will give you the opportunity to share examples of research and activities that you’ve been involved in, outside of your work experience or academic learning, and reflect on how they have supported you to prepare for medical school. More than likely you’ll already have extracurricular activities that you can draw upon; this may be a wide variety of things, from projects you’ve undertaken, to research and reading, or societies you’re involved in. Some activities, for example charity and volunteering work, may be more difficult to experience due to the current COVID-19 restrictions; however, you may have more opportunities to explore others, with talks and conferences more likely to be available virtually, so take advantage of these where you can.

The important point to make with questions such as these, and with all those in which you’re including examples of your experiences, is to not simply share what you did, but also reflect on the experience. Interviewers are interested in what you have learnt from your extracurricular activities, so if you’re sharing a project that you carried out, share what inspired you to research your chosen area, what you learnt from it and what skills and knowledge you gained as a result. Through your discussions of your extracurricular activities, your interest in topics relating to medicine should be demonstrated, showing your enthusiasm and commitment to study.

Developments in medicine

There’s a wide variety of questions that you may be asked regarding developments within medicine; these may focus on what you consider to be the most significant development or discovery recently, within the last x amount of years or overall. You may be asked more explicitly why you think the development was significant or why you find it interesting. 

What to include in your answers

These types of questions require you to have knowledge of the history of medicine and an awareness of how developments have impacted practice. Ensure that you’re able to discuss current and past significant developments and discoveries and their impact on medicine; consider why different developments are significant, what their impact has been on medical practice and how they have benefited patients. 

For questions which ask for the ‘most significant’ development or discovery, remember that there is no correct answer that you need to choose; rather, the interviewers are examining your awareness and understanding of different developments, which you can demonstrate through your discussion of possible choices. Most importantly, ensure that you answer the question and provide a final decision on the most significant one, in your opinion, and justify your answer, again relating to its impact on practice and patients.

Medicine in the media

As we’ve mentioned previously, interviewers are looking for applicants who are engaged in medical news and developments, and display an interest in their chosen field of study. You may receive open questions, asking you to share medical news which you’ve been following, or interviewers may choose to refer to specific news topics and ask you to discuss them. 

What to include in your answers

As with the questions relating to medical articles or research, it's essential that you engage with medical materials and follow stories within the media, to ensure that you can effectively discuss topics during your interview. Clearly, health is a prominent feature in the news at present, and if you’re asked about current significant medical stories it would be difficult to avoid COVID-19; however, this doesn’t mean you should neglect medical stories which feature less prominently within the news. Ensure that you continue to engage with a wide variety of medical news stories; as with the medical articles and research, you may find it useful to take a note of interesting stories prior to your interview, and revisit these during your preparations.

Interviewers are assessing your engagement with medical news, so ensure that you’re able to confidently discuss topics, reflect on them, and offer your opinion, where relevant. If you’ve carried out further research as a result of a news article that you’ve read then mention this in your discussion, explaining why you found it interesting and what it led you to find out; this demonstrates your enthusiasm to dig deeper and learn more about a topic, and would be an effective example to use. 

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