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Medicine interview? Don't panic!

Top Tips to help you prepare for your medicine interviews

Universities interview students for vocational courses like medicine to ensure:

  • you know what you are getting yourself into! This is why work experience is a requirement

  • you have the right skills and qualities to enable you to succeed

  • you are motivated to help others and you understand how doctors do this

They can ask questions relating to your relevant A levels, they can ask about anything from your Personal Statement including work experience and they can also ask you questions you could be reasonably expected to have some knowledge about. For example, general NHS issues, ethical questions based on big health stories on the news, laws passed or government campaigns to help with public health issues etc. Some universities may also give you a medical dilemma which you need to use your common sense to resolve.

You may have traditional panel-based interviews usually with up to 4 interviewers including medical school academics, a current student and an observer to see how you develop in confidence through the interview. Alternatively, most universities now run the Multi Mini Interviews or MMIs. You can find videos on YouTube but St George’s provide particularly helpful guidance and examples.

The questions

The first question is usually 'Why do you want to be a doctor?' – there are no clichés but remember that helping people and how you plan to do it is an important part of the role.

You may then be asked about work experience - try to think about particular patients, how the doctor or other members of the team interacted with them, the outcome. If you mention a particular illness, it is usually a good idea to look it up and find out what you can about causes, symptoms and available treatments.

Showing an awareness of the reality of medicine is also important so you may be asked a question about stress. You need to talk about your way of dealing with stress eg exercise, sports and other hobbies like music. Remember: you are unlikely to be able to leave a busy shift in A&E to go and play your violin so what coping strategies do you think you will need?

You will need to talk about your excellent leadership and communication skills. Try to show how you resolved a problem with your team perhaps if they didn't do what they were supposed to, what did you do?

You may be asked a general question for which the interviewers expect a balanced response. You need to give a few well thought out points for both sides of the argument - practice answering ethical questions.

Read and watch the news every day, see what the main health stories are about and find out what is happening in the NHS.

Some universities like to give you a scenario so you can demonstrate your understanding of the importance of empathy, patient autonomy, effective communication. Remember you will not be the only healthcare professional whatever the scenario - a doctor is only a part of a healthcare team and healthcare itself is part of the wider community and charity sector.

Example Questions

  • Why do you think people in the north of England live, on average, 5 years less than those in the south? Do you think this should be a matter for government intervention?

  • Do you think patients' treatments should be limited by the NHS budget or do they have the right to new therapies no matter what the cost?

  • Around 60% of UK medical students are female. Do you think we should have equal quotas for medical school places for males and females? What might be the consequences of having more female doctors than male doctors?

  • You have one dialysis machine and three patients with equal medical need, who gets the machine?

  • A 16-year-old drug addict who has just overdosed

  • A 35-year-old man with terminal prostate cancer and 6 months of life expectancy

  • A 70-year-old marathon runner

  • What do you think is the greatest threat to the health of the UK population today?

  • What are the arguments for and against non-essential surgery being available on the NHS?

Key points to remember

  • The patient is the most important person in any doctor/ patient relationship

  • Doctors do not judge patients based on their lifestyle choices

  • Don’t treat work experience as a tick box on your application, observe the healthcare professionals and how they interact with each other and the patients

  • Keep up to date with current affairs particularly in areas related to health, the NHS, new treatments for major diseases, the ramifications of an increasingly aging population

  • If you don’t get an offer for medicine first time around, you can take a gap year and reapply but this is also what the back-up course is for. Studying a relevant first degree and doing plenty of additional work experience can be excellent preparation for graduate medicine – here is a list of the topics you would need in a first degree

  • The interview questions WILL NOT BE IMPOSSIBLE. So relax, smile and try to enjoy it!


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