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The Multiple Mini Interview: acing the medical school interview

Elliott DE

Entering medical school can be a highly arduous process. Fortunately, we’ve got inside information on what to expect and how to succeed.
Acing the medical school interview

Confused by the Multiple Mini Interview? Also known as the MMI, this key hurdle of the medical school application process can often be bewildering for the uninitiated due to its unique format. This blog will help you navigate this key part of the medical school application process, explaining the process and providing you with tips on how to prepare.

As a medical graduate myself, I have been through the horrors of the Medical School Application Process as a postgraduate student, did well in the interview stage (the interview definitely got me in, not my GAMSAT!), assisted at multiple interview days at my medical school, and have been instructing GradReady InterviewReady Courses for the last few years. For those of you currently applying for medical school, the medical interviews are the final and largest hurdle.

We are currently within the agonising waiting period for the release of interview offers, which should occur in early September. Once this date comes, students should have a good idea of which school they’ll be interviewed by. Medical schools will generally conduct interviews in September and October, and students will only be interviewed by one school belonging to the ‘GAMSAT Consortium’. The GAMSAT Consortium is a group of medical schools that participate in GEMSAS (Graduate Entry Medical School Admissions System) and use the GAMSAT as a tool to assess candidates. These Universities include:

  • University of QLD
  • Griffith University
  • University of Melbourne
  • Deakin University
  • University of Notre Dame (Fremantle/Sydney)
  • University of WA
  • Australian National University
  • University of Wollongong

Your interview score will be standardised for use by other schools if you are not successful in gaining an offer of a place at the school at which you had your interview. When you apply for GEMSAS you must list up to 6 of the above medical schools in your order of preference. If you get an interview at a medical school that was your third preference, then you will only be considered by that medical school and those of lower preference (i.e. not any of those medical schools higher up in your preference ranking).

The interview is a very challenging process and can take the form of a structured interview (think a panel), or more generally, multiple mini interviews (think the TV show Thank God You’re Here). It is vitally important that you adequately prepare for the interview, with as much ferocity and rigour as you did for the GAMSAT – However, this does not mean that you should go into the interview as a robot and regurgitate prepared lines. This blog will focus more on the multiple mini interview style, as it is probably the most common type of interview.

With these pressures in the back of your mind, you must look at your interview performance through a similar lens as to what an actor would do for a performance on-stage. Just like an act on stage, your interview performance is but a snap-shot of yourself as a person (with interviewers sometimes only seeing you for 2-5 minutes!), can require some dramatisation (interacting with actors in comforting/stressful scenarios), and is extremely affected by how you feel on the day. As such, it is also vitally important to have an idea of what the structured interviews and multiple mini interviews look like.

The MMI typically consists of six to 10 short interviews (or situations) that revolve around a specific scenario. Typically, a series of six to 10 “mini” interviews is conducted over a period of nearly two hours. Each mini interview includes a two-minute prep period before engaging in a conversation that lasts between five to eight minutes. The MMI scenarios are meant to assess a candidate’s skill and proficiency in areas such as problem solving, logical thinking, empathy, interpersonal skills, and ethical judgment.

For example, one scenario may ask a candidate to describe what they would do if they learned that a physician was giving patients placebos instead of actual medications. There are also scenarios that involve teamwork and assess the ability to work with a partner to solve a problem (I remember seeing candidates required to instruct a team of actors in arranging a puzzle!). You may also just find yourself alone in a room with the examiner, who will ask for your thoughts on government policy (health, indigenous, asylum seeker policies have all been asked before). Communication skills can also be assessed through scenarios where actors pose as patients – you may have to enter a room and comfort a crying/angry actor! If you want any inspiration, watch the show Thank God You’re Here – that is pretty much exactly what happens.

These examples above are very much the kind of scenarios you may expect in an MMI – they can be highly variable, and extremely surprising. However, there is almost a guarantee that you will have at least two short interviews where it is literally just an interview with one or more assessors in the room. The questions here may vary, but could involve ethics (will you donate the liver to the drug user or the youngster?), social policies (what is your opinion on Australia’s current asylum seeker policy?), and your personal choices (why medicine? Why would you want to be a doctor? What led you to this? What will make you a good doctor? Why this medical school?).

When you are preparing for your interview, you need to ensure you have the following broad items in mind:

  • The amount of preparation time you put in – like anything, you need to prepare for the interview very thoroughly.
  • How you will feel on the day – will you employ relaxation techniques, ensure you get to the venue with plenty of time to spare, wear appropriate attire etc?
  • Will you tailor your interview performance to the medical school? Like an actor, a candidate must know their audience very well, and mould their performance to suit the reactions and intricacies of this audience. For example, Wollongong University is typically focused on rural rotations – and so it would be intelligent to try to demonstrate your interest or experience in/with rural medicine.

Even though there are less candidates getting to the interview stage, there are still approximately 50% of all candidates at the interview who will not get a medical school place. However, if it doesn’t work out for you this time, the interview is not a personal assessment, and there are many, many things you can do to improve your performance for subsequent years. Research has demonstrated that the interview process is definitely something that you can practice and prepare for, and you need to tell yourself that it is just as vital to prepare for this step of the application process as it is for the GAMSAT. Good Luck!

Elliot DE is a current PhD Candidate, Medical Doctor & Law Graduate. He is also a GAMSAT Humanities Tutor at GradReady GAMSAT Preparation Courses.