In our previous blog post, Why Do you Want to be a Doctor? 3 Tips to Ace Medical School Interviews, we provided you tips on how to answer common medical school interview questions. Here, we reveal four medical school questions that you will get on the interview trails and tricks on how to answer these questions.
Practice makes perfect, so contact our Cracking Med School Admissions team at firstname.lastname@example.org to do mock interviews. Our team members have sat on Rhodes/Marshall Scholarship interview committees and have conducted hundreds of college interviews and medical school interviews. By working with us, we will help boost and refine your interview skills!
Medical School Interview Question #1: “Why [xx] school?”
Do your research about the school!
- To give you some guidance, research what’s unique about the school’s curriculum, culture, location, and opportunities. Is there anything unique about the medical school’s curriculum? For example, do they start clinical rotations during the second year of medical school? Or are you drawn to the location of the school? Are you interested in doing clinical rotations in urban or rural areas? Do you want more exposure to certain patient populations?
- Paint a picture about how you will take advantage of the opportunities and resources at the school. These may include extra-curricular activities, research projects, and other graduate degrees available. By actively describing your plans and interests, you will show the interviewer that you have thought hard about why you applied to that school, rather than checking off another school to apply to.
Medical School Interview Question #2: “What is your most important extra-curricular activity?” Or “Tell me more about [xx] activity?”
- Have a short answer and long answer prepared for this medical school interview question. The length of your answer will depend on how much you want to emphasize this particular activity, the position of this question in your interview, and what you’ve already talked about
- Be able to give a brief 30 second – 1 minute description about your major extra-curricular activities.
- Say what you did and the impact you made. A common mistake we see students make is that they talk too much about the organization and not enough about what they did in the organization.
- You may want to give a reflection about how your experiences have shaped your perspective or how it will impact the way you practice medicine in the future. Perhaps, through your activity, you were inspired to do certain clinical research. Or, you realized a new way to communicate with your patients.
Medical School Interview Question #3: “Where do you see yourself in 5/10/15/20 years?”
- Look back at your primary AMCAS and secondary applications. What were the themes of your application?
- Are there certain types of career paths that you are interested in?
- Based on your application’s themes, have some careers that you may be interested in. For example, if you’ve done extensive work with cancer patients, you may want to be an oncologist. Or, if you’ve done a lot of global health work, you can say you want to incorporate global health in your career.
- Another way to tackle this question is to discuss what type of practice-setting or specialty you are interested in. For example, you may be interested in primary care in urban settings who wants to do community work related to drug addiction.
- On that note, your response can also touch upon personal growth. Where will your strengths have taken you? What will you have worked on to shore up your weaknesses? For example, you can say “I also value connecting with and communicating with my patients. As such, in 5 years I want to be proficient in Spanish/Chinese/Arabic to better meet an underserved population, and in 10 years I want to be completely fluent.” A quick 30 second add-on to this question reveals more about your character. This is especially useful if they haven’t directly asked you “What are your strengths and weaknesses.”
- Remember, it’s okay to not have an exact career plan laid out!
Medical School Interview Question #4: “Is there anything else you want to add that I haven’t asked you about?”
- Know the components or main parts of your application that you really want to highlight.
- Throughout the interview, you should know what you’ve had the chance talk about and not. For example, say that two things you want to highlight are 1) your interests in community health and 2) how that relates to primary care. And, a few of your activities that support those interests include: shadowing a family medicine doctor, working with a mobile clinic in Mexico where you taught patients about diabetes, and your public health research. Throughout the medical school interview, you should insert these activities as talking points.
- On a related note, know how to connect your various activities with each other. Using the previous example, find good transitions between your Mexico mobile clinic, research, and your interests (both clinical and non-clinical) in medical school.
Do you want to see more common medical school interview questions? Our Cracking Med School Admissions book has dozens of common medical school interview questions that we’ve compiled over the years. You can seem them in our e-book.
Our Cracking Med School Admissions team hopes that this helps jumpstart your interview prep. We have helped several students over the years greatly improve their interview skills.
3 Interviewing Skills to Constantly Practice:
Interview Skill #1: Connect with your interview peers the morning of the interview
Why: It can be intimidating to start the morning off with complete strangers in a room, especially if these strangers are also vying for a spot in the med school that you are applying. Writing from our personal experiences, this can be especially difficult for introversive applicants. However, social skills can be. Think of it as a social warmup, an exercise to engage and connect with others, right before your actual interview. A little bit of enthusiasm goes a long way, and, while you may not be officially evaluated outside of your interview, the admissions directors and staff do take note of how you interact in a dynamic environment. A couple bits of advice:
- DON’T compare yourself to your peers. It’s easy to get caught up in the interview numbers game (e.g. “How many interviews have you gone to so far?”) Don’t fret! It’s not about the number of interviews you’ve gone to; it’s about the interview you’re in now.
- DO take the time to get to know your peers. The simplest way to human connection is asking questions. Use the FORD mnemonic: Family, Occupation, Recreation, Dreams.
So flash a smile, shake a hand, and open up to your peers! Besides, you’ll never know; they may end up becoming your future classmates.
How to prepare: Extend your daily interactions with your co-workers to connect with them a little bit more. The next time you order at your Starbucks, ask the barista how they’re doing. Connect with them on the why.
Interview Skill #2: Give a pause and breath before each answer
Why: We get it. Silence is never comfortable, especially during an interview. It might be tempting to just throw yourself into a response to avoid any semblance of an awkward silence. However, letting the question marinate is advantageous for three reasons:
- Even if you have the perfect answer for the question asked, taking a couple of seconds to think will allow you to slow down and navigate your response.
- If you DO have the perfect response the question, giving a pause will ensure that you’re not giving a canned response.
- If you do this for each question, you will have established a pattern. That way, if you get stumped over a question that you really don’t know, then you’ve built for yourself a safety net to regroup your thoughts. You may be nervous internally, but no one can tell externally!
How to prepare: Take time in your daily conversations to observe how long you take before responding. Lengthen those responses for a couple of seconds until it becomes natural. Then, try and lengthen the silence for 5 seconds, then 10. Do this until you’re comfortable.
Interview Skill #3: Practice your body language
Eye contact: How much is too much? Shift your gaze between four elements: the person’s eyes (one after the other), nose, forehead, and chin, occasionally shoulder if you want to break contact.
Try to make enough eye contact that you can remember their eye color.
How to prepare: Be cognizant of whether you are making good eye contact with everyone you talk to throughout the day – whether you’re chatting with somebody at a party or working with a groupmate for a class project.
Contact the Cracking Med School Admissions Team
Your Medical School Admissions Advisers
Medical School: Stanford School of Medicine
Residency: Harvard, Emergency Medicine
What I did After College:
• Improved vaccine distribution in developing countries
• Worked with the World Health Organization in the Philippines
• Launched a national HIV Awareness Campaign in the Philippines
• Produced an HIV awareness commercial for MTV
• Worked full-time at a healthcare consulting firm, advising pharmaceutical companies
• Created a public health program in Stanford’s Emergency Department
Undergraduate: Columbia University
What I did after I graduated:
• Worked at two education non-profits, improving public & charter schools across the U.S.
• Coached students to master interview, debate, and speech techniques in the U.S. and Asia
• Advised students in China, Korea, and Japan with college applications to American Universities
• Developed mobile education content for iPhone apps
• Worked in investment banking, conducting industry analysis and advising technology companies
Medical School: Stanford School of Medicine
Residency: Pediatrics, Stanford
Masters: Masters in Medical Anthropology at the School of Oriental and African Studies; Masters of Science in Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
What I did after I graduated:
• Interned with the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland
• Founded and launched an NGO to improve the health and education of Ethiopian
• World Bank consultant who helped implement Ethiopia’s national nutrition program
• Partnered with the Ethiopian Ministry of Health to study child health practices in communities