4 Tips for Common Medical School Interview Questions
Most applicant preparing for the traditional medical school interview know what common questions to expect: “Why medicine?” “Why our program?” “What is your biggest strength?” “Tell us about yourself.” It is tempting to approach these questions by memorizing answers. However, part of doing well on the interview is sounding natural and conversational, not scripted.
That being said, it is always a good idea to contemplate responses to such questions, come up with ideas for your answers and practice articulating answers without memorizing them verbatim. As you begin to review the common medical school interview questions, see these four tips that could help make your answers compelling.
1. Consider why you are being asked the question
One way to improve your responses is by understanding the rationale behind the question you are being asked. For every question, consider why the interviewer is asking it and what he or she is trying to glean. Developing a better understanding of the interviewer’s objectives can help you provide a stronger response.
For instance, consider the common question about your biggest weakness. Many applicants are tempted to sugarcoat their response and not present a real weakness.
But if you understand why the interviewer is asking this question, you would craft your answer differently. The interviewer is not trying to trick you with this question. What he or she wants to know is whether you have insight into your own shortcomings and humility to openly share those with others.
If you understand this, you may be more comfortable opening up and disclosing a real weakness. In so doing you are much more likely to impress the interviewer. For example, you may say that your biggest weakness is that you are shy in group settings. This is not a deal breaker and will not immediately exclude you from medical school.
2. Answer the question directly
One key to doing well on common interview questions is to be complete but concise. To achieve this, pay careful attention to the question, avoid going on tangents and give a direct response to the question posed.
For example, when you walk into the interview, one of the first questions you may be asked is to tell your interviewer a little bit about yourself. Many applicants respond to this question by starting with where they have gone to college, listing all the clinical activities they have been involved in, discussing their leadership experiences and also explaining why they want to be a physician. This can become a long-winded response.
The question does not ask you to provide a highlight of your application or to list your reasons for wanting to go into medicine. All the interviewer wants to know is a little bit about you as a person, not your entire application.
You will stand out by addressing the question as directly as possible and telling the interviewer the basic things that describe you, such as where you were born, your family background, a few important events in your life and a short statement about your desire to become a physician.
3. Use concrete examples
One big challenge with common medical school interview questions is providing an answer that is not generic. For example, most applicants’ responses to the question of why they are interested in that particular medical school will involve some commentary about the program’s strong educational curriculum, the top-tier faculty or the strength of the clinical program.
But not every person will provide concrete examples of what makes the curriculum strong, why the faculty is outstanding or what specific features make the clinical program at that school particularly appealing.
If you want your answer to stand out, provide concrete examples. You may describe that the educational curriculum is strong because it offers small group-based learning sessions or simulation labs that allow you to practice your clinical skills. Alternatively you can give examples of specific faculty members whose research or teaching activities are interesting to you.
4. Maintain a positive tone
In your response to some commonly asked interview questions, you may have to refer to negative experiences or events.For example, you may be asked to describe a situation where you dealt with adversity, a decision you regret or a time where you had a conflict with another person. It is important to maintain a positive tone even when describing such negative situations.
One way to achieve this is by stating the circumstances in a matter-of-fact way without trying to place blame on others or getting dramatic in your description. In addition, make sure you end your response with a positive reflection on what you learned from the circumstance, how you grew and how it has made you a better person.
Take, for example, the question about your biggest weakness and the potential answer related to being shy in group settings.
While you want to be honest, state that weakness directly and then describe what measures you are taking to improve. That could include making an active effort to participate in at least two group activities each month and setting a goal of talking to two new people at each activity you attend. You could then go on to describe how, through this exercise, you have been able to improve on this weakness.
As you begin to review common medical school interview questions, consider how and when each of these pointers can apply to your response. Not every point will apply to every scenario, but employing the tips as you craft responses can make you sound more mature, confident and professional.