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Interview Series #5: How to Get Over a Bad Medical School Interview Station

Our top tips for how to get over a bad interview or station.

January 2021
Sakina Lakda
UCL - 2nd Year Medical Student

If you’re reading this, perhaps your interview didn’t go as you had hoped. Or, your interview is coming up and you’d like to learn how to bounce back from a bad station or question without letting it affect the rest of your performance and potential application. A situation like this is completely normal and has happened to almost every candidate that interviews! In this article, we will outline our top tips for when this may occur.

Reflection by questioning

If you’ve just had an interview station (MMI) or question (Panel) that caught you off guard, give yourself some time to process what happened. This might be immediately after the station or after the entire interview itself depending on the circumstances.

What exactly was it that didn’t go to plan? Which question specifically threw you off? Was there a specific topic that you didn’t expect?

Then try to honestly assess your performance: Exactly how prepared were you for this station or question? Did you fully understand the question being asked? Were you able to perform as your best self or was there something that was holding you back?

Learning from your experience

In order to recover from your setback and learn to avoid this mistake in the future, it’s important to answer the above questions as honestly as possible. However, when doing this, it can be quite easy to spiral into a series of negative thoughts as we are often our biggest critics! But we want to try and avoid that! So, here are some things to think about to help guide you when reflecting:

What exactly threw you off? Was it the ethics station, or perhaps the qualities of a good doctor? Or maybe you need to review your work experience more thoroughly and draw from your experiences.

Being able to pinpoint the exact topic or station that you felt less confident about will encourage you to review that area of weakness, and prevent you from being thrown off in the future.

If you didn’t fully understand the question, ensure you ask for clarification from the interviewer next time. Students often feel they will lose marks by asking for the question to be rephrased, however, this is not the case! Sometimes the interviewer may also guide with prompts and cues if you’re going off track. If you can sense that this may be happening, take their prompts and don’t be put off by them as the interviewer is trying to help you gain more marks.

While a potential slip-up or mistake may offset your confidence, try to keep going and finish your interview as best as you can! In an MMI, there are often several stations so if one doesn’t go as well as expected, you can still make up for it by performing well in the other stations. It is reassuring to keep in mind that in an MMI interview, the interviewer is usually different in each station, so no one will know if you’ve previously had a slip-up. Each station is a new opportunity and a blank canvas to highlight your skills. Although this is not the case in a panel interview, try to perform with confidence when answering the subsequent questions to make up for one that you feel less positive about.

Therefore, despite any setbacks you may face, make sure you remain calm and give your best effort to the rest of the interview! Continue to show open body language and express empathetic communication throughout.

Other Tips

In some questions, you might think you've underperformed as you didn’t say the same answer as someone else. However, in actual fact there may not be a single right or wrong answer- in interviews it is usually the student’s explanation and reasoning that is considered more important. Also, the way arguments are communicated and expressed is taken into consideration.

Remember you have come a long way already! YOU have come this far as YOU already impressed them. Your application was strong enough to achieve an interview and don’t forget that! If you know your interview didn’t go as well as you had hoped, there may be other elements of your application that can help to boost your chances of making an offer. Try to ensure your mock grades, UKAT, BMAT and other scores are your best in order to ensure your application is still competitive.

Don’t bottle your thoughts up! After the interview, talk to friends and family about your performance for reassurance and support. After all, an interview is all about communication skills. By talking to others and getting feedback, you will be able to develop your communication skills further. It is important to put things into perspective and remember that the medical school application process in the UK is incredibly competitive. Given this, bear in mind that the interviews are designed to strengthen you by assessing your communication skills in challenging situations. As a result, try to view each interview as an opportunity to develop your skills and constantly improve!

Author: Sakina Lakda

Editor: Allegra Wisking

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