The multiple mini-interview is very different from a traditional one-on-one or panel interview some medical schools give. With an MMI, you don’t meet with one or more interviewers for an extended length of time and discuss standard questions such as “Why medicine?” and “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” Instead, you rotate through a series of stations, encountering a different case, question, task, or role-playing scenario at each.
After being developed by McMaster University in Canada as a tool for medical school admissions in 2002, the MMI has gained popularity among U.S. medical schools in recent years as an alternative to traditional interviews. This type of interview is probably unlike anything you’ve encountered before. However, you may be reassured to know that many applicants actually prefer it to the standard interview format.
Recognize mini-medical school interview (MMI) station types
If you interview at a school that uses an MMI, expect to be part of a group of applicants rotating through six to ten stations, each lasting eight to ten minutes. During a station, you typically interact with an interviewer (usually referred to as a rater), though in some stations, the rater observes your interaction with another person.
Every station you rotate through during an MMI presents you with a new challenge; however, although the exact details of each will differ, certain types of stations are commonly used:
Role-playing: For a role-playing station, you get a scenario involving an individual who’s played by an actor or community member. You may need to give the person bad news, confront him about a problem, or resolve a conflict. Many applicants consider these stations to be among the most difficult, but the same problem-solving and communication skills used for the other stations apply here as well.
Ethical scenarios: For these stations, you receive a case or scenario and must discuss the ethical issues involved and/or how you’d handle the situation. The situations often involve medicine and bioethics (a branch of ethics that focuses on issues relevant to medicine and to research in biological sciences), although some revolve around everyday issues such as academic dishonesty.
Critical thinking: Some stations call on your critical thinking skills by asking you to analyze a proposal or discuss how you’d approach a problem.
Teamwork: Stations may require you to work with another individual who is part of the interview team or with another applicant to complete an assigned task, such as drawing a picture.
In addition to these more exotic stations, an MMI may include a station that involves standard interview questions. That means that just because you’re doing an MMI doesn’t mean you can necessarily escape answering “Why did you apply to this program?” and other old favorites.
Explore the structure of mini-medical school interviews (MMI)
The description of a station and instructions are usually posted outside the room. You typically get two minutes to read this information and think about how you’ll approach the station before a buzzer sounds, signaling applicants to enter their designated rooms.
When you enter the room, you discuss your thoughts about the prompt with the rater. After you’re inside, you have six to eight minutes to complete the station before the buzzer sounds again, indicating it’s time to move on to the next station.
During the discussion, the rater may ask probing questions to follow up on your response. Some stations also use visual aids, such as video clips or photographs, in lieu of or in addition to a written description. For example, a video may show two people arguing; your task is to discuss the interactions between the two individuals and how you’d respond if you witnessed this conflict.
Candidates usually aren’t permitted to take notes during an MMI, so you need to get used to generating and remembering the framework for your response without writing it down, a process that is perfected through practice.
Don’t worry, though; you don’t have to memorize the prompt or station instructions because you usually find one copy of the prompt on the door and another inside the room for you to refer to during the station.
Why some medical schools are making the switch to MMI
You may be wondering why some schools use an MMI instead of sticking with the way things have been done for decades. Here are a few reasons:
Evaluating personal characteristics: A major part of the answer has to do with what medical schools are seeking in applicants. Schools don’t want students who are merely book smart; they want individuals who also possesses social intelligence, integrity, and compassion and who demonstrate professionalism, all of which are essential to the practice of medicine.
MMI stations are designed to help schools assess the various skills and qualities they’re seeking in applicants.
Standardizing interviews: MMIs are an attempt to make the interview process fairer. With traditional interviews, some applicants may be interviewed by “easier” interviewers than others. With an MMI, the same rater remains at a particular station throughout the session, evaluating each applicant that comes through the station, which makes the process more standardized.
Lessening the impact of one bad round: In a traditional interview setting, an applicant’s evaluation lies in the hands of one or two individuals. If the applicant and interviewer don’t click, or if one interview simply doesn’t go well, the applicant’s chances of admission may be significantly adversely affected.
If an applicant performs poorly in one station out of ten in an MMI, his overall score is less likely to be tanked.