Interview series #1: How to handle medical school interview stress

Some of our top tips on how organise and prepare yourself for an upcoming interview, and as a result minimise stress!

December 2020
Allegra Wisking (Co-Lead Editor)
UCL - 2nd Year Medical Student

With interview season now upon us, we thought it would be a good idea to create a series of posts, to help guide you through the interview process and how to approach the different question themes that may arise.


They could ask anything in an interview. Where do I start with preparation? Will I have enough time?....are questions you may be asking yourself.

Whilst it's very exciting to receive an interview, you may also feel anxious and stressed. This is very natural, but one of the most important tips is to try and keep calm. You're probably rolling your eyes right now thinking ‘I’ve been told that thousands of times. Isn’t that obvious?’ or ‘But how am I supposed to keep calm? It’s easier said than done!’.

So, we decided it would be useful to outline some advice as to how to organise and prepare yourself for an upcoming interview, as we feel this is one of the best ways to minimise stress and help you stay calm!


In the weeks leading up to your medical school interview....

it’s important to stay organised and plan out your preparation as this will help avoid a last minute panic the night before!


But how can you achieve this?


Step 1: Research.


Find out what style of interview you have. Make sure to have a look at the university website and see what material they have provided for you. For many of the universities carrying out MMIs they will actually tell you what each station will be assessing and may even provide you with some example stations. Likewise, many of the universities carrying out panel interviews will give a list of the qualities they are looking for and scoring you on. Knowing this will help you tailor your interview preparation accordingly and hence enable you to use your time more effectively!


Is your interview online? Given the current circumstances, owing to Covid-19, the majority of medical schools are interviewing this year’s cohort of applicants online. If it is, it is important to ensure you have any necessary software installed on the device you will be using for the interview - this is likely to be Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Blackboard Collaborate. Make sure you have acquainted yourself with the software in advance so you avoid panic on the day of the interview because you are unable to join the call/turn your camera on etc.


For more information on interviews the MSC has a really useful document which can be found at https://www.medschools.ac.uk/media/2735/guidance-for-candidates-taking-online-interviews.pdf (this is also linked on our superhub page with a lot of other really great resources for interview preparation so I would really recommend you checking it out!).


Step 2: Familiarisation.

There are a number of things you should familiarise yourself with as they are likely to feature in the interview questions and/or your answers…

  1. Your personal statement and any work experience you have undertaken. Although you will not necessarily be explicitly asked about these, they usually provide good experiences that you can weave into your answers and use as evidence for qualities you have.
  2. Healthcare-related news - try to keep up to date. I would really recommend our newsfeed page as a good resource to do this - the articles we share help you to engage with the world of medicine and the thought-provoking questions improve critical-thinking skills (a quality many medical schools will be assessing!).
  3. Key knowledge - GMC duties of a doctor, 4 pillars of medical ethics etc. (Blog post covering this coming soon!)
  4. BMAT essay (if applicable). If the university required you to take BMAT they will often ask about your essay. They will usually give you your essay to read beforehand so don’t fret if you can’t remember anything at all! However, if you do remember any of the essay you wrote, think about what you did well, and what aspects you could have improved on. Quite a lot of people jot down a few notes on the essay straight after taking the BMAT so if you did, I suggest that you look back over these notes. 


When you start to practice questions it will be useful to have done these things as you will be able to think more quickly when forming answers in your head, and as a result you will be able to use your time more efficiently.


Step 3: Practice, practice, practice!


There are loads of free question banks out there that you can use to practice - and so you don’t have to spend time looking yourself we have some up on the superhub free for you to download (an example of one of the resources we have included is https://www.themedicportal.com/application-guide/medical-school-interview/medicine-interview-questions/).


Grab a friend, family member or even sit yourself in front of a mirror and go through the questions. 


Try to avoid writing out answers to every possible question as…

1) This will take forever! 

2) You don’t want to come across as scripted - the medical schools want you to be yourself!

3) If you can’t remember one of your rehearsed answers it may cause you to become flustered (and this may in turn have an effect on your ability to perform your best in the rest of the interview).


It would also be useful to create a plan of how much practice you are going to aim to do each day and what area you will be focusing on each time. Try to write a list of the different themes that commonly come up in the interview and initially evenly distribute time to each. As you go through the questions note down any particular questions or themes you find particularly hard and make sure to allocate some time to revisit these areas before interview day.


The night before your medical school interview….


Make sure you are well-rested - you want to be able to function and be on your A game on interview day! Avoid looking at notes or practising incessantly the night before as it is likely to make you even more nervous and prevent you from getting a good night's sleep. Instead, find a way to relax and take your mind off it a little bit - perhaps cook a nice meal with your family or have a bath!


The day of your medical school interview…

(please note some of this may differ slightly for online interviews)


First of all, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get to the venue of your interview. You don’t want to be causing yourself unnecessary stress because your bus is running late! If your interview is online, give yourself time to settle into a comfortable and presentable space to conduct the interview (make sure it's tidy and free from distraction), and be sure to check your network connection and software so there's no technical issues.

Try not to feel intimidated by other candidates in the room - they likely to be  feeling just as anxious as you are. How about start a conversation with them? Trust me, it will make you feel a lot more settled and prepared to talk to an interviewer.


Finally, during the interview, remember the following tips:


Lastly, and most importantly, be yourself. The interviewers want to get to know who you are, so please, let your personality shine!

Author and Editor: Allegra Wisking

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