One of the most important factors that determine your chances of getting into med school is how well you do in your interview. In this blog post, I have compiled 25 common medical school interview questions, ways on how you can answer them, and the mistakes to avoid at all costs.
When acing your med school interview, confidence alone is not enough! You need to have an idea of the questions they may possibly throw at you and prepare answers that help you secure a spot.
Let’s get on with it!
Background And Education
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
This is one of the most common medical school interview questions, and I know that you expected this will be here. The purpose of this question is to break the ice and help the admissions committee to remember your application.
It would be helpful for you to talk about your hobbies, interests, or anything that sets you apart from the other applicants.
For example, you can talk about your skills and liking for pottery. This way, the admissions committee will have a quick association between you and pottery, making you unique.
It is in this section where you mention where you grew up and where you attended undergraduate and/or graduate studies if applicable.
Be sure to include life-changing events and how it has shaped you into the person you are today. Just avoid mentioning events that may possibly make you tear up and eventually choke.
Also, avoid reiterating and summarizing the information that is already written on your CV. This makes the information redundant and costs you time.
Have you submitted applications to any other schools? Why did you choose to apply to this school?
Any admissions committee member would know that you definitely have applied to other schools.
What they’re trying to get out of you is whether or not you have an idea of what you want to achieve from med school or if you have a vision of what your career in medicine will look like. This helps them assess whether you are a perfect fit for their school or not.
If you mention that you have applied for med schools with a strong emphasis on research, primary care, or global health, and the particular school in which you are currently being interviewed is in line with this, the admissions committee is given the impression that you are a fit for their school.
What takes the cake here is the reason why you chose to apply to the school. Be clear about what aspect of the school’s curriculum, program, or goals you are particularly attracted to and how this can help in your medical career.
Do you have any non-scientific hobbies? What do you think is the role of your non-scientific hobbies in becoming a good doctor?
Being a doctor is not just about being able to diagnose your patients correctly. More than being a scientific career, it is also people-based.
It requires you to be well-rounded in order for you to relate to your patients and even to your colleagues. And this is where your non-scientific hobbies come into place.
What makes a strong answer is how you think this demonstrates skills that are relevant to medicine and how it makes you a strong candidate for admission.
For example, you could mention that you like playing team sports as this is a socially inclined hobby. This shows that you love meeting new people and that you are capable of easily relating with people, something that a doctor does in the entirety of his career.
Be careful not to be dismissive of your academic or non-academic pursuits. Express that you maintain a good balance between these two.
Have you undertaken any extracurricular activities that demonstrate your interest in medicine?
As mentioned in the previous section, being a doctor requires you to be a well-rounded person. You need to do great in both your academic and non-academic pursuits.
Your credentials in terms of your academics are already written on your CV, and the numbers speak for themselves.
Admissions committees want to know more about the initiatives you have taken outside the regular science curriculum to further immerse yourself in the medical and healthcare field.
Examples of extracurricular activities that demonstrate your interest in medicine include EPQs (extended project qualification), first aid training, doing further research or undertaking research placements, blogs, essays, volunteer programs, shadowing, attending lectures and seminars, etc.
The highlight of your answer should be how it shows your dedication to the field of medicine rather than just a summary of your extracurricular activities. Try to add more of a personal element to it.
What is it about medicine that you find interesting?
Rather than having you go into detail about a particular scientific topic you find interesting, the purpose of this question aims to know your breadth of engagement in the field of medicine.
You may start off by talking about something related to medicine that interests you the most and then relating it to the clinical work experiences you may have had in the past.
You want to show that you just don’t find the topic interesting in itself but that you’re also interested in practicing it inside the clinical setting.
Moreover, you want to show that you appreciate medicine not just as a science but as a practice. You can do this by saying that you find interacting with patients and colleagues interesting.
Be careful not to focus too much on medicine just being a science or as just practice. There should still be a balance between these two. You want to demonstrate your recognition of medicine as a multi-disciplinary field.
This is also one of the most commonly asked medical school interview questions.
Character And Personality
What are your strengths and weaknesses? How do you plan on improving your weaknesses?
This part is all about stating strengths that you think would be useful in med school and becoming a good doctor, and how you can turn your weaknesses into strengths.
For example, one of your strengths could be leadership. Being a leader, you know what it’s like interacting and dealing with a lot of people, and you also have great communication skills – traits that a doctor must absolutely possess as it is a people-based career. You could mention this.
In terms of your weakness, it doesn’t matter what it is as long as you mention the steps you have taken or will take to fix it or turn it into a strength. That’s the only important thing there.
Don’t mention all of your strengths and weaknesses. You can make a list of all your strengths and weaknesses, and later on choose which of these can be used for a comprehensive answer. This is also one of the most commonly asked medical school interview questions.
Tell me about an instance when you were not acting professionally.
Questions like this may catch you off guard, and it is therefore important for you to choose which instance you want to share with the interviewer.
There’s no use for you to say that there wasn’t a single instance that you were acting unprofessionally, because what they want to get out from you is whether or not you have reflected on the situation, what you have learned, and how are you going to apply it as a medical practitioner.
Reflecting on your past mistakes shows a great degree of maturity, and this shows that you are willing to learn and grow throughout med school and the entirety of your medical career.
This also shows that you know and understand the negative inflictions of unprofessionalism, especially towards your patients since their health and lives are on the line. Knowing the value of professionalism enables you to uphold it at all costs in the clinical setting.
If you could be any culinary utensil, which one would you choose and why?
There are a lot of items to which the interviewers would like to ask you to compare yourself to, so anticipate that you’re going to get caught off guard with questions like this.
However, I’m going to run through how you’re supposed to answer these out-of-the-box questions in this particular example just to give you an idea.
The purpose of this question is just as it is – to catch you off guard and to have a glimpse of the real you.
For example, you could say that you want to be a spoon since it can be used for different purposes and you want to show that you are adaptable and versatile.
Whatever it is that you say, make sure that it enables the interviewer to see you as a potential medical student or doctor. In the case of a spoon, being adaptable and versatile showcases that you can handle the challenges of med school and this career path.
Please tell us about an instance when you demonstrated empathy.
When answering this question, it is first important for you to know the difference between empathy and sympathy as these two words often tend to get interchanged.
Sympathy is feeling compassion, sorrow, or pity for someone else’s suffering, whereas empathy means putting yourself in the shoes of another.
As a doctor, it is important for you to be empathetic so that you can sincerely relate to your patients and even to your colleagues.
When answering the question, pick out a unique instance in which you have demonstrated empathy. It doesn’t have to be something that occurred in your volunteering experiences. Just make sure that it is specific to you and demonstrates that you are capable of showing empathy as a doctor.
Don’t get too lost in the storytelling. Remember to give emphasis on the empathetic behavior displayed in the situation and don’t forget to link it back to medicine. This is also one of the most commonly asked medical school interview questions.
Give an example of a period when you were a member of a team and you failed.
The questions in the previous sections aim to assess how you deal with patients, but this question is specific to how you will interact with your colleagues.
As a doctor, you won’t be working alone. You’ll be a part of a team of doctors. Thus, you need to have a sense of teamwork and camaraderie.
When working with others, it is only natural to have discrepancies with one another that ultimately to leads to shortcomings in the goal that has been set by the team.
Describe the situation – specifically what the goal was, what was your role and contribution in achieving the objective, and what went wrong. Mention what you have learned and what you could have done differently that could have enabled the team to reach the objectives.
This shows that you are willing to learn from such experiences and capable to work alongside a team of doctors. Avoid being over-critical or blaming your teammates for the situation. Also, avoid blaming yourself too much. This question is not asked to bring pity onto yourself.
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When would it be appropriate to breach patient confidentiality?
This is one of the most commonly asked medical school interview questions.
You first must have an initial idea of what patient confidentiality entails. This way, you can explain why this is important to build trust between doctors and patients, and that there are instances that this can be violated.
You can mention that patient confidentiality can be breached if it could pose a risk to the patient or others, or if the patient has provided consent to share their information with other medical specialists in order to provide the patient better healthcare service.
Avoid mentioning specific situations where patient confidentiality could be breached if you are not confident with your answer as it can be brought for further questioning.
The same can be said for all ethical related questions the interviewers might throw at you. If you’re not sure, don’t claim that you know.
Is it possible for you to intervene if a patient refuses treatment for a life-threatening illness?
It is easy to trip on this question as there are many factors that come into play in situations like this. It is the duty of a doctor to treat the patient. At the same time, it is also the patient’s right to refuse treatment.
You may want to mention that it is best to explain the health risks of their condition and persuade them to receive treatment by mentioning its benefits.
However, if the patient is definitely against receiving treatment, it is best for you to only provide healthcare services in accordance with the patient’s interests.
What should you do if a patient comes to you after being diagnosed with HIV and admits that they have not told their partner about the diagnosis?
Some HIV patients are not well informed about the implications of their condition on the health condition of their partners.
In this case, mention that the initial step you must take is to explain that HIV is communicable through intercourse and mention the significant health risks they are imposing on their partner.
Follow it through by mentioning the importance of transparency in their relationship as this is something that must be dealt with by them together. You are in no position to tell the partner about your patient’s condition unless you have received consent from your patient.
What would you do if you witnessed a colleague making a mistake with a patient’s medication?
When answering this question, you want to demonstrate that you are knowledgeable of the GMC guidelines. It is mentioned accordingly that you have a duty to raise concerns if the safety and health of patients are compromised. You can’t just turn a blind eye to such a mistake because it comprises the safety of patients.
Say that you would first report the suspected mistake to your colleague. Discuss it professionally, reach an agreement, and persuade them to report the situation themselves.
If your colleague does not agree, you can report it to a senior colleague. Don’t forget to make it clear that patient safety and health come first at all costs.
Should vaccination of children become mandatory?
Share your own opinion. Whatever opinion it is that you have of this ethical issue, make sure to demonstrate that you have first carefully weighed each of the possible arguments before reaching a conclusion.
If you agree that vaccination of children should become mandatory, one of the strong points you could mention is that there is an abundance of literature and scientific data that proves vaccines can reduce the rates of infectious diseases.
There is also not much data to back up that vaccines are harmful. However, if you do not agree, you could make it a point that the decision of being vaccinated should be in the hands of the people and the government. Use specific examples in constructing your points as this makes a strong and balanced argument.
This is also one of the most commonly asked medical school interview questions.
Medicine And Society
Is there anything that can be done to address the scarcity of medical specialists and sufficient resources in rural areas?
Interviewers are not asking you this question so that you can solve it for everyone else. Its purpose is to know where you stand regarding common issues involving both medicine and society.
In answering the question, you want to mention what could be the possible causes, health-related or non-health-related, that have contributed to the scarcity of medical specialists in rural areas. Follow this through by mentioning some of the existing solutions to address the root causes and resolve the problematic scarcity in rural areas.
State your opinions on these solutions. Talk about the solution briefly then address what you think its advantages are and how you think it could be improved upon.
What, in your opinion, is the most critical issue that healthcare professionals are dealing with right now? What steps can we take to make it better?
You first have to familiarize yourself with the currently existing issues faced by healthcare professionals and choose one which you think is the most critical and urgent to address. Once you have chosen, it is not enough for you to just be familiar with it, but you have to know all of the aspects involved in the issue.
The important thing is that you are able to provide thorough and insightful steps that can be taken both by the public, government, and the healthcare sector to address the issue.
What is your opinion on the function of public health campaigns in the practice of medicine?
You could say that public health campaigns play an important role in educating and raising public awareness on the necessary steps to improve people’s health and avoid illnesses.
You can answer this question more comprehensively and thoroughly by mentioning recent public health campaigns you have heard about. Make sure that you research the public health campaign exhaustively so that you could also discuss its purpose, its strengths and weaknesses, and how it could be improved.
If haven’t done your research ahead of time or if you just don’t have any idea what to say, it would be best for you to just give your opinion on the importance of public health campaigns in general.
What, in your opinion, has been the most interesting advancement in medicine in recent years?
The purpose of this question, as with the other questions in this section, is to assess if you are up-to-date with the latest medical advancements.
Medicine has always been keeping up with technology to provide patients with faster, easier, and less painful modes of treatment. As a doctor, it would be a crime for you to not keep up with the latest developments.
The key in giving an insightful answer is to research, of course. There are a ton of advancements out there but specifically, choose something that really stands out to you and is aligned with your scientific interests.
Dive into detail about its purpose, benefits to the public, who is working on it, how did you know about it, and what about it that makes it interesting and exciting.
In medicine, how essential is evidence-based practice to the profession?
In these types of medical school interview questions, you want to show the interviewers that clinical practice would be impossible without the publication of high-quality research and that you as an aspiring medical health practitioner, take evidence into high consideration when conducting clinical practice.
Mention specific examples where research has been and can be translated into practice. You can also mention what could be the possible risks to arise if we were not basing clinical practice off of evidence.
Motivation And Personal Insights
Why do you want to be a doctor?
By far, this is one of the most commonly asked medical school interview questions, and the one that bears the most weight. How you answer this can either make or break your chances for admission.
When answering this question, talk about your passion for science and for helping out other people. You want to demonstrate that you know what a career as a doctor really entails.
Maintain a good balance between your passion for science and in providing treatment for patients, and try to make your answer as personal as possible.
Many other applicants would be saying the same thing, so talk about unique life experiences that have influenced your decision in wanting to become a doctor.
This is a no-brainer but it must be said, don’t give out superficial reasons like wanting to be rich or reaching a high social status. Having the wrong intentions for pursuing a career in medicine means that this path is not for you. If you come from a family of doctors and mention it as your sole reason, it could work against you.
What do you think is the most exciting aspect of being a doctor?
You can talk about your previous engagements in the field of medicine. Such examples could be volunteering programs, shadowing experiences, lectures, or seminars.
You can say that experiencing this firsthand made you feel all excited and made you decide that this is something you want to pursue for the rest of your life. State that it would be exciting if you could redo these experiences throughout the course of your medical career.
The question is kind of similar to “Why do you want to be a doctor?” except that it focuses more on the tasks involved in a medical career, rather than the reasons as to why you want to be a doctor.
It also assesses whether you have an idea of what you will be doing in the actual clinical setting. Don’t give out a superficial response, always involve a personal sense of reflection in your answers.
Conversely, what do you think is the least appealing or least exciting aspect of being a doctor?
You know very well that pursuing a career in medicine involves a lot of challenges and requires you to make sacrifices in your life. Therefore, you have to be honest.
You could say that the least exciting aspect of this career path is witnessing the death of patients or missing out on family gatherings. By answering this question, you are demonstrating that you’re very well aware of what’s up ahead and that you’re up for the challenge.
Be careful to not give out a blindly positive answer like saying that you don’t think you would find anything difficult. This lets you exude arrogance and may give the admissions committee the impression that you are belittling the challenges that existing doctors have experienced or are experiencing.
Med schools are looking for realists, rather than optimists. After all, it is when you overcome these challenges that make being a doctor a fulfilling career.
What would you do if you weren’t given a place to study medicine?
It is natural for you to say that if you weren’t given a place to study medicine, you would just apply for the next academic year. However, these questions aim to demonstrate your desire to study medicine and your commitment to the field of medicine.
Moreover, it asks what are the other steps you are willing to take to help you gain more experience in healthcare and grow as an aspiring medical practitioner even in the face of adversity or setbacks.
If you’re committed, you would say that you can try out volunteering for your local health unit or pursue a degree in a related healthcare field as this shows you really want to be involved in taking care of patients.
It would be best for you to avoid mentioning completely unrelated paths as this shows a lack of commitment, or saying that you will get in no matter what as this demonstrates arrogance.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
This may come across as one of the overwhelming medical school interview questions. I mean, I get it, the majority of the undergraduate students applying for med schools do not have their entire medical career planned.
You may have an initial idea of what you want to specialize in or what you want to achieve from your medical career, but this tends to change as you progress through medical school. However, I think that’s the beauty of this question. It makes you realize that uncertainties in life can lead you to great heights.
The admissions committee is also not expecting you to have everything planned out. They just want to know if you have an idea of what’s waiting for you down the line.
Just say anything that comes to mind and mention that you’re excited about where this road will lead you. This also gives them the impression that you can adapt anywhere and that you appreciate the vastness of the medical field.
Alright! So that’s it for this blog post on the 25 common medical school interview questions to help you prepare for your interview. I wish you all the best of luck!
If you have enjoyed this post, how about checking out these other blog posts that can prepare you for your med school application!
- Interviewing For Medical School (Tips, Samples And More)
- 25 Questions For Medical School Interviewers You Should Ask
- 6 Amazing Residency Interview Tips You Can’t Miss
- How To Prepare for Medical School Interviews
- How To Be Happy In Medical School (15 Stress Management Tips)
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Again, thanks for stopping by!
Until next time my friend…