Traditionally, a medical school interview is conducted one-on-one or with a panel. Preparing for these kinds of interviews as part of your medical school application begins with basic information gathering about the prospective school and current healthcare/bioethics issues. With this raw material to work with, you have the foundation to respond to many of the interview questions that come your way.
Basic research you should conduct before a medical school interview
Here is some basic research you should conduct in order to prepare for the interview:
Do your homework about the school. Now’s the time to revisit your notes about a school’s curriculum, mission, educational philosophy, and location as well as to dig deeper into what the school offers by doing more reading and talking to anyone you know who’s affiliated with the program.
Schools want to select applicants who genuinely desire to attend their programs, so be ready to give a thorough, convincing response about the nature of your interest in the school.
Review your application. When you consider the amount of information on your application, some of which describes classes and activities that took place years ago, refreshing your memory about your credentials isn’t such a far-fetched idea.
An interviewer may choose to focus on any aspect of your application and ask about the sculpture course you took on a whim as a freshman rather than your more recent accomplishments. Revisiting your application can save you from being stumped if you’re faced with such a situation.
Research topics in healthcare. With the ongoing debate about the U.S. healthcare system, interview questions about an applicant’s knowledge of issues facing healthcare and potential solutions for them aren’t unusual. You don’t have to become an expert on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but you should know the basics about hot topics in healthcare.
In addition to keeping up with regular news sources, check out articles and publications from professional organizations such as the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) for the latest on issues affecting physicians.
Prepare for bioethics questions. To get ready to tackle questions involving issues such as patient autonomy, end-of-life issues, and informed consent, spend some time becoming familiar with the terminology and major topics in the area of bioethics.
Books and websites that include cases involving ethics issues are good sources to use during your preparation. The University of Washington School of Medicine’s page on bioethics topics is an excellent resource that includes cases with discussion.
Study all sides of bioethics issues, particularly those issues that evoke strong opinions, such as healthcare reform, physician-assisted suicide, and other potentially controversial topics. Acknowledging concerns or arguments that someone who disagrees with your view may have allows you to present your perspective while making it clear that you respect others’ opinions even when they’re different from your own.
Interviewers don’t expect you to necessarily share their views, but they do want to know that you think critically about difficult issues and keep an open mind. If you’re asked such a question, you can give your opinion, but make sure that you support it, and definitely don’t denigrate supporters of the other side.
Common medical school interview questions
Schools and individual interviewers have their own styles. Some lean toward a more relaxed, conversational approach, asking applicants about their classes, interests, and hobbies. Others are tougher, quizzing applicants about every aspect of their applications and closely probing their motivations to enter medicine.
Despite these differences, certain questions endure and are ones you’ll likely be asked again and again in some form on the interview trail. Here’s a sampling of some of these commonly used questions and topics:
Why do you want to be a physician?
Tell me about yourself.
How have you explored the medical profession?
Why did you apply to this school?
What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
Tell me about the [specific activity] listed on your application.
What would you do if you weren’t accepted to medical school this cycle?
What qualities do you have that you think would make you a good physician?
Is there anything that you want the committee to know that isn’t on your application?
What are your hobbies?
If you couldn’t be a physician, what career would you consider?
What was the last book that you read?
Where do you see yourself in 15 years?
What are some of the major challenges facing physicians in the United States today?
What are some of the drawbacks to being a physician?
Are you a leader or a follower?
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
What has been the most challenging experience you’ve faced?
Why did you get a C (or lower grade) in this class?
Why is your score on the MCAT (or a particular MCAT section) low?
Why should we accept you to our program?
What questions do you have for me?
Some schools also include behavioral interviewing questions. These questions ask you to discuss situations you have faced in the past and how you handled them. Behavioral questions often begin with “Tell me about at time when . . . ” or “Describe a situation when . . .” Here are a few specific examples:
Tell me about a time when you had to make a difficult ethical choice.
Describe a time when you made an unpopular decision and how you dealt with the result.
Tell me about a time when you had to deal with someone you didn’t like or who didn’t like you.