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Interview series #2: Why medicine?

In this article we explore one of the most frequently asked interview questions: ‘Why Medicine?’.

December 2020
Sakina Lakda
UCL - 2nd Year Medical Student

Welcome to the 2nd blog post on our Interview Series!

The question ‘Why Medicine?’ is one that a lot of students find challenging. Many feel the need to come up with an elaborate story from their childhood so that they stand out as a candidate. However, the truth is that interviewers have a list of checkboxes that simply require you to show that you have made an informed decision to pursue Medicine, not necessarily one that dates back to your early childhood! To answer this question thoroughly and achieve full marks from interviewers, follow the seven steps in this guide to answering this question!

What is really being assessed in this question?

The Importance of Structuring Your Answer

Why is it best to answer this question using a structured approach?

Adopting a clear structure makes it easier for interviewers to see your thought process unravel and gain the most marks. Unstructured answers may be confusing, conflicting, and risk missing important points! We suggest that you adapt this guide to your own experiences and use it as a template for answering this often-daunting question!

Step 1: Outline

Which two phrases could summarise medicine in a nutshell?

The love for science and a passion for helping others! The first line of your answer should mention that you possess these qualities. Don't go into too much detail just yet - we will delve more deeply into this later…

Why it’s best to avoid going into detail at this point - in MMI interviews, the stations are timed. Therefore, spending too much time on this initial point can prevent you from getting through the sequential steps and achieving full marks! This station is one where you want to try to pick up as many marks as possible.

Step 2: Evidence

Next, it is a good idea to highlight the fact that you have proof of the previous statement in Step 1. Therefore, you say that in order to make sure Medicine was the right decision for you, you went and undertook several work experiences/opportunities. Then, outline that from these experiences you found an appreciation for the variety of work as a doctor.

For example, from shadowing doctors in hospitals for some time it is evident that no two days are the same, and similarly, no two patients are the same. With a variety of cases and complications occurring, a career in Medicine provides a breadth of opportunities in different fields.

Stating these points will immediately illustrate your insight, passion, and conviction to the interviewer.

Step 3: Personal Qualities

Now is the perfect chance to state a little bit about yourself. Use two adjectives that align with the traits required by doctors. Then, link that to the roles and responsibilities of doctors that you identified in your work experience.

For example, you could mention that you are a logical and inquisitive person and you admire how doctors use problem-solving skills to diagnose patients.

Drawing links from your personality directly to the role of medical professionals will emphasise your suitability to medicine and therefore make an impressive chain of reasoning as part of this answer.

Step 4: Teamwork & Leadership

At this point, it is useful to outline your awareness of the role of doctors in practise. Medicine requires doctors to work in multidisciplinary teams in order to provide holistic patient care. There are many examples where doctors demonstrate teamwork and leadership - something you will have seen during your work experience. Therefore, your acknowledgment of this is greatly tested upon by interviewers and is important to mention in this part of your answer.

Again, use linking to accomplish this point in a subtle yet effective way. Perhaps mention thatyou love the fact that Medicine is all about teamwork and leadership and that you enjoy working in teams. This statement is quite comprehensive, therefore you don't need to go into any more detail (remember you may run out of time and risk being interrupted before completing your full structure answer!).

Step 5: Work Experience Detail – Personal Skills

This step is all about showing off your people-orientated skills through cleverly tying-in and reminding interviewers of your work experience. Why not tick off two marking points in one step?!

Following on from your brief outline of work experience in Step 2, you can now re-emphasise this point by providing slight detail. Remember to explain this in a reflective manner (see previous steps for examples of this). If you have done: voluntary work, shadowing or other people-orientated experiences mention that the patients/customers/people looked forward to seeing you each time.

For example, if you worked in a care home you could phrase it like: ‘My care home work experience was incredibly rewarding and the patients looked forward to seeing me coming each week.’

One example is all you need to score the marks for this part of the question and show you have an insight into the role of a doctor. Remember, giving multiple examples of each step will only hinder you from potentially running out of time and completing your full answer!

Step 6: Overview & Affirmation

When approaching the end of your answer, it is important to tie all of the points together with a concluding statement, giving your overview of what Medicine means to you. This may be personal and moving and can often leave the interviewers with a memorable impression. I remember stating that: Medicine involves constant learning and is forever challenging and I love that aspect of it.’ Portraying your awareness of the lifelong learning required by medical students and doctors provides further insight into the realities of this career. Stating this in a positive tone can help to convey your passion and commitment by acknowledging your understanding of this.

Lastly, to ensure your answer is completely foolproof, it is useful to end by clearly confirming your motivation to study Medicine through your insight from medical students and doctors themselves. This also signifies your initiative into exploring a realistic perspective of this career from a range of people. Therefore, end your answer by stating that you have spoken to several doctors and medical students and realised that Medicine is exactly what you what to do. Be confident with your ending remarks and then give yourself a pat on the back for getting through this answer!

Our MedMentor Tips

We hope you have found this post useful and we wish you the best of luck with your interview!

Author: Sakina Lakda

Editor: Allegra Wisking

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