• Rajani Katta MD and Samir Desai MD

The Medical School Interview Questions and Answers: Expert Strategies to Help You Succeed

Updated: May 17


Preparing for the medical school interview can certainly be challenging. As the authors of two books to help students prepare for the medical school interview (The Medical School Interview and The MMI), we’ve written very extensively about this topic. In this blog post, we want to highlight some helpful resources and strategies for answering (and excelling) with specific types of interview questions.

Below, you’ll learn more about these areas (feel free to click links to jump ahead).

How important is the medical school interview... and why you need to stand out

The medical school interview is an incredibly important aspect of medical school admissions. It can even be more important than grades and scores. In fact, about 1 out of 5 high achievers (with high GPAs and outstanding MCAT scores) fail to gain admission to medical school.


Why would that be?


  • One reason is that sometimes students aren't able to fully convey their non-cognitive qualities and strengths in the setting of an interview.

  • I've also noted that some students are comfortable and confident with their interpersonal skills -- but don’t realize that the medical school interview calls for additional skills.

  • Listen to this podcast episode where we explain why the interview can be more important than solely your GPA or MCAT scores.

For example, I worked with one fantastic student, with a great resume and wonderful eye contact, handshake, and nonverbal communication skills.

Despite that, his interview ended up being pretty generic. He just hadn’t said anything that stood out. For example, to the question "Why should we choose you?" he responded with "I’m an extremely hard worker, and I’m a team player."


There’s nothing wrong with that answer, on the surface of it. But... it just doesn’t stand out.


In a sea of equally qualified applicants, one of the most important things you can do is to emphasize your unique skills and qualities, and especially emphasize how those align with the school's interests, strengths, and goals.


Learning how to do that well takes time and preparation, as well as the knowledge of how to do so. In this post, we'll highlight our resources that can teach you how.



Learning how to stand out in your medical school interview takes time and prep work

I’ve worked with students who have:


  • spent months preparing for the MCAT

  • spent years and years achieving an outstanding GPA

  • spent countless hours on one course in one semester to achieve an A

And then, when it comes down to one of the most important interviews of their career, they just spend a few days reading through a bunch of different blog posts and then maybe doing a few practice interviews.


That's not enough. In order to excel during your interview, you'll need to be prepared for the common traditional medical school interview questions, the not-so-common traditional interview questions, and the behavioral interview questions.


You may also need to be prepared for the MMI and the virtual interview, and we have resources below for those as well.



The Medical School Interview Questions and Answers:

Common Medical School Interview Questions

For the traditional medical school interview, you can see some of our resources below. Even questions (especially questions!) such as “Why did you apply to our medical school?“ represent a very important opportunity.

The links below include an overview of the common medical school interview questions, as well as some of our resources on how to answer some select questions.



Image of a medical school applicant responding to interview questions during a medical school interview
Preparing for the medical school interview takes time and important prep work, and involves being prepared for multiple different types of questions

The Medical School Interview Questions and Answers:

The Less Common Medical School Interview Questions




MMI Interview Tips and

MMI Questions and Answers


The multiple mini interview (MMI) is an interview format that was developed at McMasters University in Ontario, Canada. It has since been embraced by many Canadian and US medical schools.

One of its key features is that it uses standardized questions and scenarios. The goal of this format is to reduce interviewer bias and reduce the impact of a less than optimal single interview performance. With most universities using anywhere from 5 to 10 stations, your poor performance at a single station won't sink your chances overall. That’s a wonderful attribute.

On the flip side, the MMI can cause a lot of anxiety, because the questions and scenarios can be quite challenging. The MMI also requires a different kind of preparation, including a solid awareness of current policy and ethical issues in medicine.

We recently published the second edition of our MMI book, and in the book we included 50 sample questions and responses. Below, you'll find some of our key strategies for MMI prep and a sample response.


The Medical School Interview Questions and Answers:

Behavioral Interview Questions

It’s very important to be comfortable responding to behavioral interview questions. You may be asked these questions in a traditional interview, during the MMI, and on the CASPer exam.


These questions are often asked using the phrase "tell me about a time when..." Proponents believe that past behavior predicts future behavior, so they would like to hear how you've dealt with challenging situations in the past.

Our first link below outlines our approach to behavioral interview questions. It’s really important to be prepared with a structured format and a story bank of examples that you can use for different scenarios.

The second link provides an example of how you can respond to a challenging question: "tell me about a time when you were disappointed in your performance".


Why is this question challenging? It’s because speaking about a time when you were disappointed in your performance is already setting you up for a negative type of question.


How do you turn a negative question into a response that reflects positively on you, your qualities, skills, and strengths? This video has an example of a before and after response, along with our step-by-step approach to crafting positive responses to negative questions.




Image of a medical school applicant responding to a behavioral interview question in the medical school interview
Behavioral interview questions may be used in traditional medical school interviews or in the MMI, because some proponents believe that past behavior predicts future behavior. These questions ask you to "tell me about a time when..."

Virtual interviews


As we write this in 2022, the pandemic is still ongoing. The world has had to quickly adapt to the widespread adoption of virtual interviews.


There’s still a lot that we don’t know about first impressions in the context of a virtual interview, and how biases may play out in this setting. But we do know that there are certain standard practices that can help you be prepared and reduce the risk of negative factors interfering in your virtual interview.


If you'll be participating in a virtual interview, we strongly recommend that you read these two articles.



Medical school interviews are high stakes and high stress, and preparation is key to both standing out and reducing your anxiety. As you prepare, we wish you all the best during your medical school interview.

 


Dr. Rajani Katta is the creator of Medical School Interviewing 101, the course that teaches students how to ace their interviews. She is also the author of the Multiple Mini Interview: Winning Strategies from Admissions Faculty, the Casper Test Prep Guide, and The Medical School Interview. Dr. Katta is a practicing dermatologist and served as a Professor of Dermatology at the Baylor College of Medicine for over 17 years.

Dr. Samir Desai is the author of The Clinician's Guide to Laboratory Medicine, The Medical School Interview, and Multiple Mini Interview: Winning Strategies from Admissions Faculty. He is an Internist, on faculty at the Baylor College of Medicine, and has served on the medical school admissions and residency selection committees at the Baylor College of Medicine and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.




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