Medicine Interviews – My Experience

Posted on December 2, 2013 by Matrix Education

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Read the personal experience of a Matrix graduate who was accepted into Medicine at UNSW. The author has asked not to be identified.

Semi-Structured Interviews – My experience

The main focus of this interview is to gain an understanding of who you are as a candidate. Focused upon your life so far, the interview covers what has transpired and how it has affected you – in essence, how you became the person you are today.

Much of the interview is derived from your ability to discuss personal experiences, and there lies the key to doing well in this portion of the selection process. By all means, brainstorm possible questions and organise your thoughts. However, this doesn’t mean that you can rote learn eloquent, sophisticated responses and ace the interview. The university wants candidates who are growing and developing as individuals and who have a vision of where they are going. This is the product of your life so far, and is definitely not something you can be coached in.

So, what can you do? Be honest. Be true. Feel free to expound upon your virtues and gathered accolades, but be prepared to discuss your failures as well. No medical student, or person for that matter, is perfect. Every candidate is a mixture of positives and negatives, but only the good candidates will boldly reflect upon their shortcomings. Honestly present your opinions, and don’t limit yourself to what you believe the interviewers want to hear. Show them what you’re passionate about in daily life – anything, whether it is your stamp collection or playing the oboe, to dreams you have about the future. Yes, it is an interview for medical school, but the nature of the field itself is so much more than “wanting to help people” (although of course, this is important). It is about having an understanding of the ethical implications of your actions, about engaging with the community. Medical students are normal people too, so open up and show them who you are.

That said, be mindful that the interview isn’t just a forty minute rant. The interviewers will ask specific questions, so try your best to give a relevant answer. At times, the interviewers may interject to move you along, but don’t take this badly. Perhaps you’ve answered the question already. Don’t worry, keep calm, and carry on.

Personally, I greatly enjoyed my UNSW interview. I found it to be a nice social chat with the interviewers, pleasantly devoid of stress. Time just flew on right by. If you can relax and maintain a cool head, the experience will be considerably more enjoyable.

Structured Interviews – My experience

Most structured interviews are presented in the form of the “multiple mini interview” (MMI). The MMI utilises 8-10 short stations to explore specific aspects of the candidate. The stations tend to focus on your abilities rather than your past achievements – whether you have the characteristics of a potential doctor. If you have a good understanding of the skills necessary, can communicate them clearly, and function well under stress you will be able to perform well in this style of interview.

The division of the interview into multiple stations with different interviewers has its pros and cons. Since each station is isolated, your performance in one station does not impact your performance in another. It doesn’t matter too much if you have a shockingly bad mini interview in one station, since the next station is a fresh new start. Your mark is an aggregate of all stations – don’t worry too much about one station! If you can leave the mistakes (and successes) of each station behind you, and approach the next with enthusiasm, you’ll find yourself performing much better. However, the short time spent in each station means it is more difficult to show the interviewer much of who you are as a candidate, relative to the unstructured interviews. It may feel that each section is impersonal and rushed, which is never a comforting feeling.

The important part of this interview is to clearly articulate the answer that the interviewer has presented to you. With a time limit on every station, the interviewers need to get through a determined set of questions. The marks come from there – nowhere else. If you attempt to present yourself in a better light by going off on tangents about your recent Nobel Prize it is entirely possible that you will run out of time without having covered the aspects that they were actually looking for. No matter how impressed they may be, they cannot give marks for what you have missed. Be relevant, be concise.

My personal experience with these interviews is overall positive. The very first station I participated in was rather embarrassing, as I was nervous and stumbled all over the place. However, as I relaxed and got into the swing of things, the MMI seemed more a mysterious game show and less a stressful interview. By not letting myself get disheartened by the initial stumble, the interviews turned into constructive learning experience.

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