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Traditional Medical Interviews in the UK

Traditional Medical Interviews in the UK

As a prospective medical or dentistry student in the UK, you will be asked to participate in an interview as part of the application process. But what does it consist of and how are you to prepare for it? Do you need to know complex terminology already? Is there a book that you need to memorise? Here is everything you need to know about traditional medical interviews. 

What are traditional medicine interviews? What is the format?

In a traditional medical interview, a  panel of seven to eight interviewers will ask you questions related to your experiences, internships, personal statement, your industry knowledge and your opinions on medicine as a career. The traditional interview allows you to demonstrate what you are capable of as well as determining your competencies and fit with the programme. The strength of the traditional interview lies in its conversational approach where you have the opportunity to talk freely about topics and why you are applying to do this degree.  

How does this differ from Multiple-Mini Interviews? 

The Multiple-Mini Interview is a newer style of interviewing prospective students and is more practical in nature. During the interview, you will work your way through six to 12 stations, performing different activities or participating in discussions on behavioural or situational questions to test your knowledge and communication skills. The main advantage of this interview style is that each station is marked independently, so if you feel that you have not answered a question properly, you are able to redeem yourself in the other stations. 

Colleges that still follow the traditional interview format: 

Many colleges are switching to Multiple-Mini Interviews, however, there are a few that still conduct traditional interviews. They are: 

  • Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry
  • Swansea University
  • University College London  
  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Glasgow
  • University of Oxford
  • University of Southampton

How long is the interview?

A traditional interview can last anywhere between 20 to 40 minutes. There are multiple factors that will determine the duration these include your answers, the specific college at which you are interviewing, the number of interviewers and other factors. As there isn’t a fixed time limit, traditional medical interviews give you the opportunity to think about and formulate an answer. 

Who will interview me?

Usually, interviewers are from the medical field or associated with the university. Generally, you may find a mix of the following people on the panel: 

  • A nurse
  • A general practitioner
  • A junior doctor
  • A current lecturer at the university
  • An admissions officer
  • An alumnus 
  • A current medical student working closely with the admissions team 

What are some common questions that are asked?

Traditional medicine interview questions are generally broken up into three categories: 

  • Your desire to be a doctor 
  • Your ethics and skills 
  • Your application documents and experience.

These situation-based questions usually do not have a firm right or wrong answer, as they are exploratory in nature and are framed to help the interviewers ascertain: 

  1. Your academic ability and intellect to keep up with the programme
  2. Your empathy towards others
  3. Whether you can take initiative and are resilient 
  4. Your communication skills
  5. Organisation and problem-solving capabilities
  6. Whether you are a team player
  7. Your insight and integrity
  8. Your learning style

Some examples of questions are:

  1. You are the leader of your sports team and your best friend on the team isn’t playing well. What are you going to do? How are you going to go about this conversation? 
  2. How would you contribute to student life? 
  3. Give us a situation where you were the leader of a team and faced a problem. How did you solve it?
  4. Why this college and why medicine?
  5. What did you write about in your BMAT essay?
  6. What are the problems in the current healthcare system?
  7. Speak about your past work experience. How did you go about getting the internship/volunteer position?  What did you learn?

How can I prepare for a traditional medicine interview?

By the interview stage, colleges have already eliminated a number of applicants, so there are only a few people who actually have the opportunity to participate in the interview. The interviewers are already impressed by your application so they aren’t trying to trick you or throw you off. They are just trying to ascertain whether you are a good fit for the programme and college.
The first thing that you need to do is to know your personal statement and resume extremely well so that you are comfortable answering any questions related to your experience. If you are unable to answer these questions thoroughly, the interviewers may presume that you have exaggerated your experiences, skills or even why you want to be in this field. Next, you should have in-depth knowledge about topics and subjects that you covered in your high school curriculum, along with having read additional materials on topics that interest you. These will help you answer education-related questions. It is also important that you write down some points after you complete your BMAT exam as you might forget what you wrote about when the interview comes. Over and above this, you need to be in touch with what is going on in the medical field. There are times when interviewers have asked questions related to ongoing events in the medical industry and also about the NHS specifically. For situation-based questions, it is unlikely that you will be asked about something for which you know the perfect answer, so keep in mind some common life situations. Some could include stand-out instances from your extracurricular activities, highlights from your internship and situations when you felt you demonstrated empathy, communication and problem-solving skills, among others, can be integrated into answer an array of questions. When it comes to questions about your personal choices and experiences, answer them honestly.
While preparing for any interview, practice is crucial! Go over some mock questions and have someone interview you so that you are fully prepared. This will help you structure and answer the questions with ease and confidence. Here is a guide on how to use the STAR framework to structure your answers.
You also need to pay attention to how you present yourself. You need to be dressed in formal attire, however, this doesn’t mean that you can’t add a personal touch or show your personality through your dressing. Candidates who aren’t afraid to show a touch of their individuality tend to stand out, but ensure that you aren’t too flamboyant or distracting.
You should also be confident with your responses. Answer each question clearly and ensure that it is to the point. If you stumble upon an instance where you require some clarification or do not understand a particular aspect, be sure to ask the interviewer.

Remember, there is no easy or perfect answer when it comes to traditional medical interviews. Once you understand this and start thinking of these interviews as conversations, you will be more at ease and be able to shine! 

Here are some more general interview tips to keep in mind. For more details on the Oxbridge interview process, read this article. For any questions relating to your medical school application or for any guidance and mock interview preparation, get in touch with us.

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