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One on one with a medical school interviewer

I was fortunate enough to have jumped through the hurdles that lie on the way to medical school, and there are quite a few benefits on the other side. One of these is being able to talk to doctors, health professionals or community members that have had previous experience as interviewers. The following is an excerpt from a conversation I had with a past interviewer to understand what they are looking for in medical interviews. 

 

1. As a community member are you concerned about the medical/dental focus of some of the scenarios?

“The scenarios in the MMI (multiple mini interview) have been carefully vetted to ensure that they focus on issues of professionalism. Some of them inevitably have a clinical flavour but we are not testing technical medical or dental understanding but rather, for example, an understanding of the ethical issues arising. The candidate may have trained as a lawyer, medical scientist or economist for example.”

 

2. Do you believe that some students can fake it in the interviews?

“We can never really know people’s underlying attitudes. I can only observe their behaviour. Candidates who have gone through the MMI process have told me it is difficult to maintain a false attitude as the scenarios are so varied. Likewise, the interviewers are varied. There are most often no easy answers to the scenarios; we are more interested in their line of reasoning. Some candidates will have been coached. We like the idea of candidates reading about, or being coached in, matters of professionalism before they come to us.”

 

3. What happens if your candidate finishes before the seven minutes are up?

“It may well happen that all of the necessary information has been collected within the seven minutes. I usually tell them that all the questions have been asked and the interview has concluded. However seeing that the candidate must remain within the room until the bell goes, I ask them if there is anything they would like to add. Likewise, if the bell has sounded, the interview must end immediately even if we’ve not completed.”

 

4. If candidates score an unsatisfactory in one of the checklist items, do you fail them?

“Scoring unsatisfactory in one checklist item does not mean the candidate has failed. Doing well in other sections can compensate for a poor score in one section. For those familiar with assessment, this is called context specificity and I think it’s a good way to allow candidates to make up ground.”

 

5. Are you told if the student in front of you is a dental or a medical candidate?

“Because we are testing generic skills, it doesn’t matter whether the candidate is dental or medical. Their MMI score will be considered in the context of the particular course and type of place they have applied for.”

 

6. Have you or fellow interviewers ever improvised questions?

“I tend to stick to the script initially and may follow up a natural conversation. But I have heard of candidates reporting to the admissions staff and the academic supervisor if they feel that they have not had a fair go.” 

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