Medical Interview Questions & Answers

Our guide to “Medical Interview Questions and Answers” will provide you with confidence to handle your Medical University Interview and this will give you an enhanced chance of receiving an offer.

Most students, when presented with a medical university interview invitation become nervous and get into a spooked state, but we will show you that this does not need to be the case. Nearly all students have an incorrect assumption of what is expected and what is not expected of them during their medical university interview and this is ultimately detrimental.

Here at university, we unravel the whole process so that you have a better understanding and go into the interview in a more level-headed and practical approach.

Questions Testing Your Background, Motivation And Personal Insights

The Royal College of Surgeons of England states that each UK Medical training university has a strict responsibility to make sure that they recruit the right calibre of candidates who will be going to become future doctors.

In this regard, not everyone is therefore suited to become a doctor so their job is to sift out the best candidates. It is therefore the university’s job to have a series of steps which students will need to go through in order to satisfy the university’s requirements.

As an example, this starts off with the academic qualifications. The degree to become a doctor is not an easy task and therefore one must have a certain minimum level of academic ability and qualifications. Although this is a broad turn, the universities will also be looking at certain specific subjects such as Biology, Chemistry and English.

It goes without saying that biology is required for the basic understanding of medicine; however chemistry is about biochemical processes which will need to be covered in more depth during the course.

In addition, English is obviously important as being a doctor is also about communications with patients and team members. Many students and their parents seem to think that just because they have the correct grades they are automatically in line to receive a place for medical school but nothing could be further from the truth.

This is only the very first starting hurdle with further rigorous testing down the line.  In this article we have split up the various categories of information that the universities will gather on you before they make their final decision in offering you a place on their medical training or otherwise.

After the university has established that you do have the correct academic qualifications to study medicine, they then need to look at your background, motivation and suitability to become a doctor. This is partially ascertained by the UCAT Test and your personal statement but more importantly at your interview.

In your interview preparation they will definitely want to have an answer to the question, why do you want to become a doctor? Even if you do not directly get asked this particular question, it will still come up in various formats at some point in your interview so it is important to have a clear and confident answer which is also well articulated.

The universities are quite used to seeing students where they have been “pushed” into doing medicine. This is quite common where both parents are doctors and they somehow feel that the child also should become a doctor as well.

Also when the university asks you this particular question, they will also be gauging in the background if you do have the attributes that would make you a good doctor. They will note these attributes down.

Medicine is obviously a caring profession where you are helping people however quite commonly the panel will ask why not another profession which helps people equally as well. There are scores of professions where you can also help people, so in this particular line of questioning, the university will have an idea if you know the other characteristics of being a medic.

We always advise students that the best way to influence and persuade the interviewer is to have an example or an experience that personally affected you. This is the most persuasive way and it is also an excellent method to engage with your interviewer.

The interviewers definitely do not want to see a dull robotic type of student but rather someone who has a certain personality, flare and warm character. Another question disguised as the above is, what do you think makes a good doctor? The skill here is to outline the specific qualities that you think make a good doctor and to actually pair for them with your own characteristics and skills.

Once again, in this you can give your own specific experiences or stories/examples. These might be stories around communication skills, a time where you have been compassionate, times where you have had to work under considerable stress or pressure and were able to think on your feet.

The panel members will no doubt also refer to your personal statement which should closely mirror your answers. Finally, during the whole process, the university will be taking in background cues.

These background cues are very important because they give the university considerable information as to your demeanour, communication skills, confidence and to see if you generally are a genuine and caring person.

Once the university has established that you do indeed have valid reasons why you want to be a doctor, then they move on to the qualities within yourself that make you suited to become a doctor. This is where you need to be precise and give examples to show that these qualities are within yourself.

All students, before they go into the university interview must know off by heart the full list of qualities to become a doctor. We will highlight these qualities again as they are so important to know. One of these is the ability to see into your own strengths and weaknesses. This also means that you must be able to reflect on your own work whether it is good or bad.

Do you have Personal organisation skills and are methodical?  Are you good at problem-solving and are you innovative at this aspect? Are you good at dealing with uncertainty and the unknown? Can you cope with these types of difficult situations well?

Related to this is the subject of being resilient and the ability to deal with difficulties because you will come across a lot of hurdles and dilemmas as a doctor. Although we are talking about reflecting on your own work, within this is the ability to take responsibility for your own actions. Qualities of being conscientious, a good time keeper and persistence are obviously imperitive.

Although as a doctor you are involved in improving other people’s health, you must also be able to demonstrate that you know how to look after your own health. Communication is obviously a central theme and they will be assessing your communication qualities but in terms of Reading, listening, speaking and writing skills.

A Doctor never works on his own but within a team and therefore this is a quality that they are looking for. Are you a person who can work in a team or are you a person who always aggravates other people?

Following on closely from this is the ability to treat people with respect and compassion even if their view is different for yours. It’s obviously very important and comes up a lot so you must know what this actually entails and means intimately. Finally a doctor is a pillar of society and therefore you must be an honest person and act with Integrity.

Medical Schools/Universities require conscious students to go on to complete the course. Therefore they do not want any dropouts during the course or after you have qualified and they need to know if you are aware of the bad points of being a doctor as well as the good points.

There are no right or wrong answers here but the good points of being a doctor could be that there is an array of choices when you qualify. It is also a caring profession, you are constantly being challenged and learning new skills. The negative aspects could include the constant exams, moving jobs frequently especially in the early stages of your career, limitations of the systems that you work under and the long hours.

Once again if you can produce evidence within your work experience this will impress the examiner. In addition, they may ask how you may be able to handle the negative aspects. This may then lead you onto talking about your interests outside your academic studies. This is one of the ways among all those in how you can deal with the bad points of medicine.

Having outside interests and hobbies is one way in which you can have a life outside of being a doctor which will make you more effective when you are at work. Also they want to know if you do have insight into your own shortcomings and they ask you about this.

Stress seems to come up often in interviews and they will want to be satisfied that you know how to cope with stressful situations such as using specific techniques and distractions. Finally, the ultimate disappointment of being rejected may come up as they may ask you what you would do if you did not receive a place this year.

Here they are testing your commitment and if you do also know the realities of the application process. As always you should be open and honest and really talk from the heart.

Do You Actually Have An Interest In Medicine?

As you are applying for medicine, it makes sense that you should have some kind of in-depth knowledge about the subject that you are going to study for at least the next 5 years.

Therefore the panel will ask questions to elicit this information such as asking you about any medical publications that you read or are reading. There are lots of medical publications but the most common ones are the student British Medical Journal, the Royal College of Surgeons bulletin and the New Scientist magazine.

In addition, it is an excellent idea to be able to quote any papers that you have read within your personal statement. Another question around this topic is when you are asked about any medical advances that you have read about recently.

The only way to answer this question is to be aware of it beforehand so you can produce an answer. Usually an excellent idea is to have it related to your work experience. For instance if your work experience involved a patient with thrombosis, you should have a journal that you read with new treatments for thrombosis just as an example.

Once again there are many resources for this including the Bright Journals and the student BMJ plus the relevant magazines such as Nature or New Scientist. Medical University interviews also test your knowledge of the structure of healthcare in the UK.

As a basic question, they will ask you to explain the difference between primary care and secondary care. Primary Care is provided locally and predominantly by general medical practitioners also called GPS. A GP is the first point of consultation whenever a patient needs to see a doctor in this country and make up more than 40% of all doctors in the UK.

One of the jobs of a GP is to refer patients and this is where secondary care comes in. There are different aspects to secondary care such as life-threatening emergencies, specialist diagnosis and surgery. There is also now a blurring between primary care and secondary care such as GPS specialising in minor surgical procedures which can be done within the general practice.

The Postcode Lottery: If you have not heard of the Postcode Lottery, please do look up this so that it does not catch you by total surprise. Let’s elaborate a little bit further on this. The National Health Service is not one unified organism but it is broken down into local services or areas which are called NHS trusts.

Each trust has a certain amount of freedom in how their allocated money is spent on a specific area or treatment. This is why one NHS Trust is able to offer a particular patient with a particular illness a  definite care plan; however, if the same patient had lived in a different area, this may not have been available. Much has been made of this because this could affect the availability of care with a particular patient.

This is what is called the Postcode Lottery. When you are studying this, be prepared to answer questions on the advantages and disadvantages of the Postcode Lottery and NHS trusts.

Team Working In Medicine

 You will certainly be tested on this aspect of your application as they will need to know your awareness of the team working concept in medicine. There are many questions that can be asked around this however you will need to demonstrate a certain level of facts and knowledge such as the different facets of team working both within primary and secondary care.

They may want to know examples of team working in your work experience in a general sense but also with a specific patient. You should therefore be able to talk about a particular patient that you may have seen within your work experience such as one who had different morbidities with social challenges and how these were managed by the team.

They will also focus on your own examples and this is where your team sports and extracurricular hobbies come from. Once again, have specific examples where you work as a team and what that achieved and what the challenges were from the outset.

This will give the diversity and impression that you are a good well-rounded person with a broad range of skills.

We university experts have been fortunate enough to speak to someone who sat just last year on an interview Panel. She has extensive experience as they were on a panel for more than 5 years and this is what information we gained!

Universities for medicine Admissions Team will already have taken into account the applicants academic potential using a pre interview scheme screening process. Once a student has passed the pre interview screening process, a student is now on an equal par with the rest of the applicants who can go into the stage.

This means that it really doesn’t matter at all if one student achieved level 7 in their GCSE biology and another student achieved a level 9 in their GCSE biology . The purpose of the next stage, which is the interview, is to gain a more complete understanding of the applicant in real life as opposed to on paper.

The interview itself is designed to be in a formal but relaxed environment which we find is the best way that the individual student can express themselves properly. 

With regards to the interview as themselves, from both clinical environments but also academic departments, needless to say, all undergo a specific training program for interviewing students and this includes being impartial at all times. They can only comment on evidence rather than impressions. Apart from academic staff, we also ask patients, actors, and current medical students to assist.

The Interview Environment is designed to be less formal and more inviting in order for the examiners to assess the true nature of each candidate.

Although the interview is not a test of your academic knowledge, a certain level of knowledge is expected with regards to medicines such as the role of the General Medical Council, primary and secondary NHS, recent medical advances and common Healthcare related topics on the news.

These also act as a talking point to assess to see if you are a well-rounded individual with an intolerant viewpoint. In addition, I recommended reading information on the values and behaviours required for medical students and doctors by using the good Medical Practice guide and the values within the NHS Constitution.

We are obviously given a certain level of leeway but the structure of the interview is based around certain key areas. One of these is communication skills. Communication skills are essential in all aspects of medicine and therefore candidates or students should be able to express their ideas coherently and in addition be able to follow a reasoned argument.

We will give more preference to students who have not been over-coached with polished rehearsed responses. In this regard, a question as to why a student wants to become a doctor is the most standard practiced answer; however, we will still look for spontaneity. It is also aware that some students over exaggerate their work experience and in this regard, we will ask for specific evidence of the experiences at work experience places.

Last year the university medical school placed particular emphasis on ethical issues. There were different exercises around this such as taking part in a debate and it is important to stress that we are not looking for a particular right or wrong answer as long as each viewpoint can be justified.

Ethical topics also require students to have a knowledge of the General Medical Council guidelines. In addition, candidates should know that all interviewers have no preference to a particular gender, marital status, parental background, race, religion or social background in the overall assessment at the end.

The interview process for last year was to find 8 multiple mini interview formats with each station being 7 minutes long. In between each MMI interview station there was a 2-minute card. The actual exact starting station was allocated at random however it was then passed around in a fixed order until all stations were completed.

I would always stress that the students should carefully study the procedure and format as given to them in the information prior to the interview. Also, please make sure that you bring each and every aspect of your paperwork that is required on the day of the interview. I often get asked how students can prepare for the interview. 

Certainly there are certain guidelines I can give such as listening to each question rather than trying to make a rehearsed answer fit in. This also gives an impression that the student has been excessively coached and rehearsed.

We at university-expert also asked a current panel member to give their advice on medicine interviews. They were obviously not allowed to give specific advice to the medical school that they were affiliated to, however nevertheless the conversation was extremely useful.

She stated that the aim of the interview process is simple in that they are seeking students who are caring personalities, have people skills, have the necessary resilience and commitment to medicine.

The panel members are interested that you have a good broad knowledge of salient matters relating to health and medicine. With regards to this, the interviews are definitely designed to take you out of your comfort zone as this is part of the assessment.

General Advice For Traditional Or Panel Medicine Interviews

As always, we always say that you must be yourself. This is because then you come across more relaxed which is more favourable to you. Many students who are over nervous are because they have not prepared themselves adequately.

A common question that we get asked time and time again is if my accent needs to be changed. We say definitely don’t worry about your accent and it is more to do with the actual words you use. Do pay attention to how you come across at interviews such as taking note of how you dress, how you use your body language and make eye-contact.

In the run-up for all interviews for medical school, you must practice every single day. The practice can be varied including by you in front of a mirror or camera, simply practicing answers out loud and in a more formal setting such as a teacher. In this way you can actually get general feedback and start improving immediately. Always use the three second rule before answering your question.

There’s nothing worse to an interviewer than just diving in and answering the question incorrectly. Interviews also are not particularly clean when you are rambling on and on when they’re looking for short and simple or so would be sufficient. When you are practicing for your interview, ask the friend or family member to give you an unexpected question to draw you outside of your comfort zone.

If you have lots of questions outside your comfort zone, you will then be more able on the actual day of your medical University interview. It is important to avoid rote learning a script because it just will not sound natural.

By the time your interview offer comes you will no doubt know whether you have been listed for a traditional panel interview or for the multiple mini interview also known as MMI style of interview. Due to the coronavirus, many Universities switched to an online format.

Although the general rules are still the same, there are some extra things you need to be aware of such as having a good internet connection, being in a quiet space and having a neutral background. You also need to position your laptop or computer screen so that the interviewer gets the best image of you.

 Whether you are having a traditional panel interview or an MMI type of interview, you should always talk about yourself in a personal way rather than giving generic answers.

Always use examples from your personal statement which also includes your work experience. In this regard, common questions asked are, why do you want to do medicine, why do you want to apply to this particular medical school and what qualities can you demonstrate that you are a suitable candidate to study medicine.

 There will be likely some questions around current news in Healthcare so you should be quite aware of these. Good sources of information are the New Scientist magazine, Scientific American, BBC health and the large page newspapers.

Sometimes in a traditional panel interview, you might be asked to apply your knowledge to something that you have never heard of. If you get particularly stuck around an answer, you should always ask the interviewer to repeat the question.

Many students get particularly worried about ethical questions and ethical scenarios with regards to their medical interviews. The first thing to say is that there are no right or wrong answers to many of these scenarios.

You obviously don’t want to go to one extreme rather than another but often they will be looking for you to make a decision somewhere. They really want to know if you have a balanced approach to the problems and you are able to answer any of their objections.

Make sure you know the four main ethical principles which are patient autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence and justice. Patient autonomy relates to patients having the choice to be able to make their own decisions relating to their health care. This is also where students need to know what informed consent is.

The principle of beneficence sizes the importance of doing good for the overall best of the patient. With regards to the principle of non-maleficence, this actually means that the patient should always be better off in your care than receiving something that is damaging to them.

This also means that doctors should also be always considering side effects and weighing up the risks and benefits and costs of a treatment. Finally the principle of Justice means that: being fair and considering everyone’s opinion in a wider sense. It means treating all patients with respect and without judgement of their actions.

It also includes aspects of fair distribution of funds and resources for different patients and needs. It is surprising how many students do not do adequate preparation for ethical scenarios and this is one of the reasons why they get stuck at their medical interview.

Let’s look at a simple example of an ethical scenario that came up recently. The article scenario at the medical University interview was a case of a teenage patient who has a condition that can possibly but not certainly be cured.

The treatment would cost a considerable £50,000 a year or otherwise the disease can reappear once treatment stops. Should this treatment be provided on the NHS? So in answering this question, you should use the word beneficence as the NHS was originally designed to provide treatment to the point of delivery at no cost.

However this then needs to be balanced against the principle of Justice because the large amount of money involved over an extensive length of time would remove resources for many other patients.

We also have not considered the principle of non-maleficence as we don’t know the or have not been told about the side effects of the treatment which could lead to further costs.

Finally, before any decision would have to be made, the patient would need to have the full details of the procedure which is related to patient autonomy. Universities for the medical interviews commonly nowadays use actors. Whilst the actor is interacting with the student, they may be a third person at the interview who is taking notes and observing the interaction. 

The Starr Technique At Medicine Interviews

How To Use The STARR Technique

The starr technique is a useful tool to have at your disposal in order to structure your answers at your medicine interview.

The starr technique is particularly effective because you come across as someone who has thought about the question being asked, it stops you from waffling on, and it will address on the important salient points of the question being asked. The starr technique is an acronym and can be used as an example below.

The question being asked would be something on the lines of, tell me about a time where you successfully demonstrated leadership skills?

The first letter of the acronym starts with S and stands for the situation. This situation you would choose here would be that you were elected for your house Gala 5 a side indoor football competition.

The next letter is the letter T which stands for task. The task in your situation was that your team needed to get through to the next round however you were faced with the best team of the competition so far. In addition, your normal goalie was not playing so you had a standing reserve player who was the weakest link in the team.

The letter A stands for action and in this situation, the action you took was that you made sure that you never came out of defence in order to protect the goalkeeper. Your other job was to make sure the other defender did not go forward too much and  expose the defence.

The letter R stands for result and as a consequence of your actions, the game ended in a draw so each team received one point each which meant that our team could go to the next round of the house competition.

R also stands for reflection and you could say here that it was a plan of action and leadership that allowed a successful result at the end. Planning is obviously important when working as a team in medicine.

But how many students do not want to boast about their skills because they just feel that it is showing off? And at the same time there are other students who are over the top in their own abilities.

In order to address this, a very good technique is using other people’s phrases of praise for your actions. In this what you would do is you would describe a situation for example using the game scenario above, you could say that after the match my form tutor told me that I handled the opposition really well by being organised and sticking to a plan.

As you are applying for 4 places, the maximum number of interviews you can receive is four only and most students will at best receive one or two. This means that you must do your utmost to prepare yourself for the interview as chances like this won’t come along every day.

To start off with, we would ask you to read the General Medical Council ethical guidance for doctors. Once you have read this several times, you will have a good understanding of the Ethical roles of a doctor and you can be more familiar with the phrase used within the document.

For example, in the interview, you could mention that the function of multidisciplinary teams in medicine is central to patient care which has been lifted off the guidance material. No doubt, the panel members will be extremely familiar with the document and therefore it will resonate with them when you use words and phrases from the document itself.

It may seem obvious, but you should always answer the question and not the question that you think is being asked. Therefore listen to  each question carefully and use the 3 second gap rule before attempting to answer.

One approach which seems to work really well with some students is when you incorporate the actual question or use the question into a response. This allows you extra time in your mind to formulate a structured answer and it shows the examiners that you are listening.

We get asked by students every year, what they should dress for. It is important to note that the examiners are not allowed to discriminate on how you look or how you dress, however, unconscious messages can stick so it is important to dress the best as you can.

We always say, dress in the way you would like to see your Admissions tutor being dressed! If you are having an interview by Zoom, don’t look like a zebra. It means that, do not wear any stripes because these just look bad on their computer screen at the other end.

As we are talking about Zoom interviews, make sure that you know the exact position of your laptop on the day, the camera angle, the sound and the background. If necessary, don’t rely on the laptop or computer as an internal microphone but buy a separate stand alone reputable quality microphone entirely.

This ensures that all the sounds get picked up clearly and the sound quality is also much better. You definitely don’t want the examiners at the other end to struggle with what you are saying. Students often do not pay any attention to the background so make sure that there is no clutter and there are no distractions.

Definitely there should not be any electrical lights or buzzes from background electronics waiting to go off and ask the family in your house not to come anywhere near your room where you will be doing your interview. Also, get ready well in advance with your login details and the platform given to you.

The interview panel will no doubt be making a note of your body language both consciously and unconsciously and in this regard we would advise that you make eye contact and introduce yourself as you will go to the room.

Previously we would recommend a shake of the hand so now due to the present era, that is best avoided. When you are facing a panel of interviewers, always look at all the panel members as well as the actual one who gives you the question.

Another tip for body language is that don’t sit completely still but you shouldn’t be moving around too much as well. If you sit completely still, it doesn’t give any emotion into the words.

State nature in the delivery of your answers just like the way you were doing when you were practicing at home. Do record your practice sessions at home, film yourself during these interviews so you can see how you come across are you as you will notice things that will make you uncomfortable about your process.

Once you have written down how you can improve, just start practicing focusing on one or two of the main things at the time. This is the best way to quickly improve your whole technique.

During the scenario based stations, every scenario has to be structured properly so you shouldn’t just say out the first word in your head. The best way during these scenarios is to discuss all the arguments both for and against and then you are able to come up with a balanced conclusion that appreciates both sides of the equation.

These answers should be done within the framework of the four pillars of medical ethics. We shall quickly go through these again. The first pillow is autonomy which shows respect for a patient to make their own decisions based on informed consent.

The second pillar of non-maleficence indicates that medical treatments should not have any adverse effects for patients and if they do, the patient knows about these. The third pillar is about Justice where you take into account the wider community of patients. Finally, the principle of beneficence indicates that procedures or treatments should overall be able to benefit the patient.

Once your UCAS application form has gone in, many students and parents asked if they should start to prepare for potential interviews. We say that it is important to practice as early as possible, especially in the general reading material that we have outlined above.

In addition, there will be many schools giving mock interviews to the students. If you know that you are likely to receive an interview during the first wave of interviews, then you should give yourself time every week to practice.

Little and often is much better than trying to cram everything in with only a week to go. In addition, you should re-read your personal statement and read about the actual patients you may have mentioned during your work experience or further study and reading into the publications that you have mentioned.

We at university-expert have a list which we give to students so that they have a full knowledge of what they need to learn. There will be certain topics that are central such as the role and structure of the NHS, what a multidisciplinary team is, current news affairs and obviously medical ethics.

The baseline understanding is important and there are websites available for this kind of information. An underused website is the King’s Fund website which is easily accessible and has clear concise up to date information in explaining topics in a summary form. In terms of current affairs, you should just have a general idea of the main topics of the day but always use neutral sources of information.

As mentioned previously, if you have mentioned a book or an article in your personal statement, make sure that you reread it again and reflect on the main points that you learn. In addition, if you have mentioned a particular ailment in your personal statement, you should be ready to talk a little bit about it.

For BMAT students who are interested in this examination, the BMAT essay is something that you will want to refer to and be may even be asked about it.

We always get asked by students, what happens if I make a mistake at the beginning of providing an answer. The best way is to ask the interviewer, “would you mind if I start this question again?”. It is much better to answer the question properly rather than fall to answer an incorrect question!.

Another question that students and parents ask is, will I/my child need to know about specific medical conditions?

We say that, definitely know about the medical conditions that you mentioned in your personal statement but in a general sense, you obviously need to know about common ailments such as diabetes, coronary artery disease and lung disease. This is so that you can talk about its context within the NHS such as obesity.

In a broad sense, the interview preparation for your panel or traditional interview should be exactly the same as that of a MMI type of interview.

What happens if you get asked a question and you really have no clue on how to answer it? In this regard, you can do one of two things. You can ask the examiner if they are referring to something that you think is related and you know something about.

The other way is where you ask the examiner to reword the question as you are not sure what it means. Only as a last Resort, you should say that you’re unable to answer the question.

One of the ways in which you can stand out from your other students is by remaining calm even when subjected to more intense pressure with questions. Also don’t forget the three second technique which we have already mentioned above.

At the end of the interview, you may be asked if you have any questions to ask.

It is absolutely fine to say that you do not have any questions and it does not place you under any disadvantage whatsoever.

If you have done your prep correctly, then if you use certain clinical terminology this will make your answers more relevant. Therefore use the word such as a multidisciplinary team to describe when different professionals work together for a patient’s individual needs.

Use the word empathy which is the ability to put you in someone else’s shoes in order to be able to help them. This is different from sympathy when you are trying to feel sad or sorry for somebody but it doesn’t have a need to actually help them based on their needs or priorities.

Common themes from last year included the duty of candour which you should be familiar with. This is tidying up with integrity which is an important quality for being a doctor. This mainly came about due to the failings of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust and which subsequently led to the Francis Report being published.

Duty of Candor is about being open and honest with patients even when mistakes are made. This is because patients put a significant amount of trust in medical professionals and when things go wrong, it is the responsibility of the physician to tell them accordingly. Patients also want to know if lessons are being learnt and reassurance is therefore vital.

Finally, if you are all worried about your interview, pick up the phone and talk to us 24/7. 

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