Nervous about the Medicine interviews at university. Read a student's experience.
A personal experience of a Matrix graduate who attended a number of Medicine Interviews at UNSW, Adelaide University, Monash University, UWS, and JMP.
The author now studies Medicine at UNSW. The author has asked not to be identified.
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 – after all, prior planning and preparation prevents piss-poor performance. However, this doesn’t mean that you can rote learn eloquent, sophisticated responses and ace the interview. The university wants candidates who know who they are, who have grown and developed, 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 (other than yours truly) 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. Better to hold true to your convictions than be shackled to the whims of others. Show them what you’re passionate about in daily life, whether it is your stamp collection or playing the oboe. Yes, it is an interview for medical school, but not everything has to be about curing cancer and serving the socioeconomically disadvantaged! Med 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. It will be tempting to go on a tangent and show them how awesome a person you are, but that’s not quite what they’re looking for – brag, but brag on a related note! At some times, the interviewers may interject to move you along, but don’t take this badly. Perhaps you’ve answered the question already. Perhaps they are testing you to see how you react under pressure. 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. Perhaps it was due to a mutual feeling of comfort, but the interview went smoothly and time just flew on right by. If you can relax and maintain a cool head, the experience will be so much more enjoyable.
This interview is a “multiple mini interview” (MMI), which 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; the potential doctor within. If you have a good understanding of the skills necessary, and can communicate them clearly, 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 UNSW/Adelaide 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 answer what the interviewers are asking for. 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 an almost painless experience.