Multiple Mini Interview
Advice from an Medical School Dean
Advice for MD/PhDs
THE PROFESSIONAL SCHOOL INTERVIEW OVERVIEW
You should look forward to your interviews at professional schools as an opportunity for the admissions committee to come to know you and to understand your commitments and goals. Before the day of your interview, review both your standardized and the secondary application for that school. You should review the material the school has sent you, looked closely at their website, and be prepared to discuss why you are specifically interested in their program.
Each professional school will approach the interview process in different ways, but they will all generally be working to understand your strengths and weaknesses in the following areas:
- Problem-solving skills. Throughout your interview you will be asked questions which can help the committee understand the way in which you approach decision-making. They will be working to insure that you are careful in problem-solving, that you are attentive to detail, that you are able to be flexible, that you are tolerant of cultural differences, and that you can accept the right of someone to have an opinion that differs from your own. The questions asked in order to give you an opportunity to demonstrate your abilities will generally be quite innocent, such as "Tell me about your family." Or, "Why did you choose to attend the Johns Hopkins University?" When asked a question around a complex issue, do not simply answer "yes" or "no" but give the interviewer insight into how you have arrived at that decision.
- Commitment to medicine /veterinary medicine/dentistry/etc. You must convince the interviewer that you have made a mature, well-informed decision to pursue your chosen career. You must demonstrate an understanding of the demands and realities of a life in that profession and of your emotional, intellectual and physical ability to meet these challenges.
- Interpersonal skills. You must demonstrate throughout the interview day the interpersonal skills needed to be successful in the practice. Strong communication skills, awareness of the needs of others, and the compassion to respond to those needs must be evidenced.
- Academic readiness. The admissions committee will need to be assured that you will be successful in the schools curriculum. If there are questions which rise from your academic record, be prepared to answer them openly and honestly.
- The decision to grant you an interview commits the resources of the professional school admissions process to you for the interview day and, of necessity, eliminates another candidate from the interview process. If you are offered an interview, take the first available appointment and make plans to keep this appointment. Canceling an interview or not showing up causes great problems for a professional school, for our future applicants to that school, and often for the HP adviser who then gets a phone call from that school's dean asking for help in assuring that our other applicants will appear for interviews. If an emergency arises, see the HP adviser immediately to discuss the issues and the appropriate response.
THE PROFESSIONAL SCHOOL INTERVIEW MYTHS
Medical school applicants share misconceptions about the functions and nature of the medical school interview. Many applicants are convinced that their information was based on true stories which fully explained the success, or lack of success, of previous applicants. It is hoped that debunking some of these myths, in a spirit of fun, will reduce some of the anticipatory tension which surrounds preparation for the medical school interview.
MYTH #1: Only applicants dressed in black or navy blue suits and ties will be successful in gaining admission.
REALITY: It is important to dress appropriately, but it is certainly not necessary for everyone to arrive for the interview dressed in the same conservative uniform. I have wondered at times if there is a mail-order catalogue which is selling the medical school interview uniform to our nation's applicants. How is it possible for so many of them, men and women alike, to be dressed so similarly? Be yourself. Dress professionally but do not feel that you have to wear a black suit with a white shirt.I am NOT suggesting jeans, but there is nothing wrong with a gray suit with a pink tie.
MYTH #2: Never bother others by taking a school up on its offer to stay with medical school students overnight.
REALITY: Students volunteer to host applicants because they are genuinely interested in sharing information about their school and community. These student hosts are not coerced into offering a space on their couch. This is a great way to gain insight into a medical school. Be pleasant and polite and full of thanks, but do not stay in a hotel when you have a chance to get an inside guide!
MYTH #3: During the interview day speak only when spoken to and never ask unsolicited questions.
REALITY: The interview day should be full of a series of conversations and opportunities to get to know some interesting people and for the school's representatives to get to know you. Enjoy the day and approach your interviews with an open and engaging attitude.
MYTH #4: Since the applicants are competing against each other, it is important not in any way to make the other applicants in the group feel more relaxed or comfortable.
REALITY: The successful applicants will be the individuals who are able to look beyond their own anxiety and reach out to make everyone in the group feel more relaxed and comfortable. The schools are looking for people who are confident enough to care about others.
MYTH #5: No one will ever really ask "why medicine as your career choice?"
REALITY: The answer to this question must be revealed in some way during the interview. If the response during the interview is "well, I don't really know," OR "I can't really put it into words," the committee response will be very clear: "NO!"
MYTH #6: One must be nice to the doctors and deans during the interview day but can "let you hair down" with the students and support staff.
REALITY: Committees can only assume that someone who is rude to secretaries and other students may respond to patients in the same manner. If you have to work so hard to be pleasant perhaps you could consider another career choice.
MYTH #7: During an interview never admit to having faced difficult experiences in life.
REALITY: Admission committees would much rather accept students who have learned from an experience of failure or frustration rather than someone who has yet to have this learning opportunity. Be straightforward about any difficulties and stress what you have learned from the experience which will ultimately make you a better physician.
MYTH #8: Never say "I don't know anything about that subject." Instead fake your way through a vague response and the interviewer will not notice.
REALITY: Just as a physician needs to say "I don't know" at times, so does a medical school applicant. Be honest about the limits of your knowledge, perhaps express an interest in researching the answer after the interview, but never simply pretend to know something about an issue. This approach will be discovered.
MYTH #9: If an interviewer asks inappropriate questions during an interview, it is important not to tell anyone at the school since this might hurt one's application.
REALITY: Committees are aware that even the most aggressive training programs for interviewers sometimes fail. If the school provides an 'end of the day' evaluation form, be honest and specific in discussing concerns. If no evaluation format is provided, appropriately share concerns with the Dean or Director of Admissions. Do not just pretend the inappropriate questions were not asked. The committee genuinely wants to get to know you and can best do this with a fair interview process.
MYTH #10: In preparation for the interview carefully practice "canned" answers for any possible questions.
REALITY: Remember the ideal interview is a conversation. There is nothing more frustrating for an interviewer than talking with a candidate who is simply responding to specific questions with general, rehearsed answers. Engage in the conversation and enjoy the opportunity to discuss your vision and goals.
The University of Chicago Health Professions Handbook, The Office of the Dean of Students in the College. and Newsletter of the Central Association of Advisors for the Health Professions by Sylvia Robertson, Assistant Dean for Admissions and Financial Aid, Pritzker School of Medicine.
THE MULTIPLE MINI-INTERVIEW
Here are some general instructions:
Know logistics and procedures for the day
- 8-10 stations to rotate through.
- Instruction announced over an intercom.
- Scenarios posted outside door on clipboard. You may or may not be given paper to write your own notes when reading scenarios.
- 2 min to view scenario, then voice instructs you to enter room, 8 minutes discussion. Voice announces end of discussion.
- May be under video/audio surveillance for monitoring purposes.
2. Best/worst scores thrown out to get a more accurate sense of your performance.
3. Topics to study, or possess a little knowledge of:
- Bioethics cases.
- How to reason with people/patients.
- Dealing with under-aged (<18 y/o) patients.
- Near end-of-life scenarios.
- Breaking bad or sensitive news.
- Basic laws governing medical practice.
- Persuasive and compassionate verbal skills.
4. Try not to forget everything you’ve encountered, in case you visit another school with MMI. Similar cases may be presented to you.
5. Be able to offer a reason for every “course of action” you may suggest, or be able to state some drawbacks of it.
6. Be familiar with your own application and life, in case of more “typical interview type” questions surface. (Why medicine? What have you done to prepare yourself? Challenges faced in life)
7. Can acknowledge limitation of one’s own skills/knowledge in scenarios. You can admit that you would seek advice from colleagues, mentors, medical ethics boards, legal counselors, etc. to help you make a decision.
8. May include a writing station to respond to a prompt on a computer. Remember, you have just 8 minutes to write a small response.
9. Possible Interviewer types
- Passive- you keep talking, they observe and take notes.
- Conversational- they stimulate discussion to help you talk about your thoughts.
- Stress-inducing- they keep asking you for more details and may never appear satisfied with your answer. Perhaps a test to see how you react to pressure.
Schools Using MMI:
- Stanford University School of Medicine
- Duke University School of Medicine
- UMDNJ Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
- David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
- University of California Davis School of Medicine
- University of Arizona College of Medicine
- University of Cincinnati of Medicine
- Michigan State University College of Human Medicine
- Oregon Health and Science University
- Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine
- University of Oklahoma College of Medicine
- Dalhousie University Faculty of Medicine
- Laval University Faculty of Medicine
- McGill University Faculty of Medicine
- McMaster University, Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine
- Northern Ontario School of Medicine
- Queen's University Faculty of Health Sciences
- Universite de Montreal Faculty of Medicine
- University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry
- University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine
- University of Manitoba Faculty of Medicine
- University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine
- University of Sherbrooke Faculty of Medicine
- State University of New York at Upstate
There may be more! Here are some useful websites and articles about the MMI:
ADVICE FROM AN MEDICAL SCHOOL DEAN
According to Quinn Capers IV, MD, "In my position as Associate Dean for Admissions in the College of Medicine at The Ohio
State University, I have screened thousands of applications, presided over admissions committee meetings in which the disposition of, collectively, hundreds of student applicants have been decided, and personally interviewed many applicants to our College. One of the most frustrating experiences in this job is to watch a student with excellent credentials, who I strongly suspect will make an excellent physician, go down in flames in the interview. It is clear that some students have been coached on the interview process and others have not. It is definitely an advantage to put some serious thought and preparation into the interview, since medical schools generally only extend interviews to students who appear to have the right stuff to succeed. Translation: if you get offered an interview, there is a chair in that school’s first-year medical school class with your name on it. Based on your performance in the interview, you will either claim it or give it away. With that in mind, here are some tips that I think will be helpful to you on your upcoming medical school interview. To read his "tips" for a medical school interview, go to:
Medical School Interview Tips
ADVICE FOR THE MD/PHD INTERVIEW
This advice is offered byBrian P. Sullivan, Executive Director, Medical Scientist Training Program, Washington University in St. Louis.
MD-PhD interviews attempt to assess the candidates potential to become an independent researcher. To do this, interviewers will first typically ask the candidate to describe their research projects. This is not a presentation, so the 12-minute talk with a 3-minute Q&A they gave at the student research symposium will not be enough to prepare them. Presenting at lab meetings is also insufficient; unlike the candidate’s PI, the interviewer will often have little, if any, specific knowledge of the research. The best practice is for the candidate o meet with other scientists & engage in a give and take on the candidate’s research. This forces the candidate to learn how to explain their work to someone who not an expert in the candidate’s project, but who, nonetheless, is very smart. The interviewer will evaluate them on basic scientific knowledge, but they are not expected to know everything. More important is how the candidate handles a question: do they think clearly? Are they able to assimilate new information and engage in a lively discussion?
Another aspect of the interview is the interviewer describing their own work to the candidate. The candidate is evaluated on the basis of their ability to follow the research description and ask insightful questions. Intellectual curiosity is very important, and successful candidates are able to follow research descriptions outside their immediate field and ask relevant, relatively sophisticated questions. This is challenging, but individuals who spend a good deal of time talking about science with folks outside their lab usually do well.
Bottom line: candidates should immerse themselves in research & take every opportunity to talk about their work with others.
Here are a few tips I have gleaned over many years of observing MD-PhD admissions:
- Do not be afraid to say “I do not know.” It is far better to admit a knowledge shortage (which can be filled by exposure to source materials than to pretend you know more than you really do. For obvious reasons, the ability to know & accept your limitations is important in science, and critically important in medicine.
- Do not attempt to cover all aspects of your work; there simply is not enough time. Pick the project that is most interesting, and best shows your ability to carry out independent work. Ideally, these should be the same project. Interviewers want to determine your ability to make intellectual contributions to the project, so you need to demonstrate your ability to think creatively, cogently, and deeply. A 10,000-foot survey of all your research experiences is not good enough. Leave the elevator talk in the elevator.
- If your name is on a paper, even as 10th author, you better be familiar with the entire paper. If you are fuzzy on the details the interviewer will wonder about your intellectual curiosity.
- Do not aggrandize your accomplishments.
- State the hypothesis. You would be amazed how many candidates fail to do this.
- Focus more on ideas than details. We want to know how you think, not that you are good at regurgitating facts.
- Ask your interviewer about her/his work.
- Ask thoughtful questions about your interviewer’s work.
- Remain engaged when your interviewer describes her work, even if it is deadly boring. She thinks it is the most interesting stuff in the world, and if you seem disinterested, she will attribute that to your thick headedness. (Tip: avoid foods that spike your blood glucose; post-prandial interviews are typically the candidate’s worst.)
- Be nice and appreciative towards the staff people you interact with. Many a brilliant jerk has been brought low by a mistreated secretary. Brains are plentiful in this business, but truly nice people are precious.
Finally, remember that this is an MD/PhD interview, not just a PhD interview. The student must be an outstanding candidate for med school, and must have a compelling rationale for pursuing combined degree training.