• Rajani Katta MD

How to Prepare for the MMI (Multiple Mini Interview): 9 Expert Strategies for Premedical Students

Updated: Jan 10

If you’re applying to medical school in the United States and Canada, you've no doubt heard of the MMI, the multiple mini interview.

This is a newer interview format, and judging from discussion forums and our conversations with premedical students, it inspires a great deal of anxiety.

Which is entirely understandable. The typical format of the MMI is that you rotate through a series of different “stations.“ At each station, you meet with a different interviewer who evaluates your performance. Each station is centered around a different prompt, and your goal is to respond to that prompt.

Although formats differ from school to school, one typical format is that you have 2 minutes to read the prompt and prepare, and then about 5 to 8 minutes with the interviewer. During your time with the interviewer, you'll either be responding to a question, completing a task, or role playing in a scenario.

Infographic describing 10 expert strategies that will help applicants ace their MMI multiple mini interview.
These 10 expert strategies will help you ace your MMI.

How can a premedical student prepare for the MMI?

If you read the websites of multiple medical schools, some will tell you that there is no way to prepare for an MMI. In other words, “just relax, be yourself, and do your best.“ We disagree. Can you predict which prompts will be used in your MMI? No, of course not. There are dozens and dozens of different potential prompts that you might be faced with. Can you prepare for the MMI? Of course. Although you won’t know the prompts in advance, and therefore won’t be able to memorize your response, you can definitely prepare. In this post, we review 9 of our expert strategies to help you prepare for the MMI.

Strategy #1: Learn the different types of prompts that you might encounter in an MMI, so that you won’t be surprised, shocked, or paralyzed

It’s really important to become familiar with the types of prompts that you might encounter on the MMI. Some of these prompts are actually designed to test your poise under pressure, and recognizing that ahead of time can make a big difference. For example, you might be asked to role play a scenario with an angry customer. Mentally preparing for these kinds of uncomfortable, challenging, and sometimes even confrontational scenarios is very important. You don’t want to be paralyzed on the actual day.

Learn the three major types of prompts: the task, the scenario, and the question

We describe the major categories of potential prompts in more detail in our book, "The Multiple Mini Interview: Winning Strategies from Admissions Faculty". In general, you will encounter three main types of prompts.

  • The task station

  • The scenario station

  • The question station

Task stations test your communication, problem-solving, and teamwork skills

At the task station, you're basically asked to complete a task. Many times this task involves a collaborative task, in which you're asked to work with either a colleague or with the interviewer to complete a challenge.

One example of a task prompt is the origami challenge. In this challenge, two applicants are seated back to back, and one applicant is given directions while the other applicant is given paper. The two applicants work together to try to create a paper crane.

Remember that each station on the MMI is designed to test and evaluate a particular non-cognitive skill or trait. Task stations are used to help evaluate your communication skills and your teamwork abilities. The station also tests your problem-solving skills.

The MMI scenario station asks you to role play

in order to evaluate

your interpersonal skills, your problem-solving skills, and your sense of empathy

At this type of station, you'll read about a particular scenario. Then, as you walk into the room, you'll begin interacting with either the interviewer directly or with an actor (while the interviewer observes your interactions). There are lots of different potential scenarios that you might be asked to work through. Common scenarios include situations involving an angry customer or a distraught patient. You might be asked to play the role of the store manager or the head nurse on duty. You'll then act through the scenario, highlighting your response to the situation and the other actor.

The question station might ask you to respond to ethical issues or current events.

This station may also focus on behavioral interview questions or traditional interview questions

I want to emphasize one point before you start thinking about the question stations. The MMI is not a test of your scientific or clinical knowledge, so you don’t need to start cramming and memorizing information related to specific questions.

Having said that, you should become familiar with ethical issues in medicine and current events. (Although you don't need to be an expert.) Instead, this station is used to help provide insight into your values and professionalism, as well as your communication skills. Interviewers are really interested in hearing your thought processes, more so than your particular stand on an issue. Typically, you'll have 2 minutes to read the prompt. Some schools allow you to take notes to help you prepare your response, while others do not.

As you walk into the room, you will typically have 5 to 8 minutes to discuss this question as well as answer follow-up questions from the interviewer.

Question stations might also focus on traditional interview questions

It’s really important to realize that some schools devote one or two MMI stations to interviewers who will ask traditional interview questions. In other words, the prompt may be “why did you apply to our medical school“ or “why do you want to be a physician?" We have multiple resources available to help applicants who are preparing for the traditional interview questions. Here is our list of 350 common medical school interview questions.

**One important point: although we list out 350 different questions, most of these are variations of approximately 30 main questions. This list also includes links to some of our published expert guidelines on how to respond to some of these major interview questions.

Question Stations Might Also Focus on Behavioral Interview Questions

Behavioral interview questions are often found in traditional interviews, and they may be used in the MMI as well. Basically, proponents believe that past performance may predict future performance. We have more on behavioral interview questions in our post on common medical school interview questions.

Examples include:

  • Tell me about a time when you had a conflict with a classmate, and how you dealt with it

  • Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a stressful situation

  • Tell me about a time when you showed initiative

  • Tell me about a time when you had to motivate others

Learning the MMI format and being prepared for the different categories of prompts can help you stand out during your interview

Strategy #2: The MMI Mock Interview and Practice

If you’ve never had to practice speaking in a formal setting, you'll need to start practicing now. Why is practice so important? It's so that you can obtain feedback on both the content of your answers as well as the delivery of those answers.

When giving a talk, your message is conveyed in two different ways: verbal and nonverbal communication.

  • Verbal communication represents the content of your answers.

  • Nonverbal communication encompasses your eye contact, your voice, your body language, and more.

This post on how to give a medical talk goes into far more detail on delivery and other aspects of nonverbal communication. The key strategy we recommend here is to practice your delivery during a mock interview with a colleague or a friend or a family member.

Practice giving a short talk. Ask for feedback. Did you maintain appropriate eye contact? Did you have appropriate pitch and pacing? Did you rely too heavily on the use of fillers such as "uh" and "umm"? Once you have specific feedback, you can work to improve on these areas.

Strategy #3: Practice with a timer and learn how to give a time-bound answer

Timing is a huge consideration in the MMI. At each station, you may only have 5 to 8 minutes to respond to a prompt.

Think about facing a prompt such as "Tell me how you would combat vaccine hesitancy in your community if you were a public health official." Giving a structured, well-thought-out response in under 5 minutes can be quite challenging. That's why it's so important to learn exactly what 5 minutes feels like. The best way to get a good strong feel for time limits is to practice responding to multiple prompts and timing yourself. Some schools will release information on how many stations they use. They may even tell you how much time you have at each station.

If you're provided with this information, that can help you as you’re practicing. However, remember that a 5-minute time limit is not just you talking. When responding to a discussion prompt, you typically want to end early so that your interviewer can ask follow up questions.

If, therefore, you have 5 minutes to speak, practice speaking for about 3-4 minutes so that your interviewer can ask follow up questions.

Strategy #4: Your preparation for each type of MMI prompt is different. Remember that some types of prompts allow for more preparation than others

As we go through these strategies, it’s important to recognize that your preparation for the major categories is of course going to be different. In general, it’s harder to “prepare“ for role-playing scenarios or task collaboration scenarios. That doesn’t mean it’s not possible to practice. We'll outline some additional strategies below.

Strategy #5: Learn the four key strategies to respond to MMI scenarios or acting stations

The angry customer or the distraught patient are common MMI scenarios. We provide examples of our recommended approach to these particular MMI scenarios in our book, but you can get started now with an overview of our 4 key strategies. One important reminder for this type of scenario. If you're role playing, there will usually be some emotion involved. Remember that this type of MMI scenario is used to evaluate your compassion, your interpersonal skills, and your problem-solving abilities. Therefore, 1. Always start by acknowledging the emotions of the "patient." "I'm sorry to hear that you've had to deal with that. That sounds very frustrating." 2. Listen first. Ask the patient to share his or her story, so that you can listen, gather more information, and understand their emotions. "Can you tell me more about what happened?" 3. Your interactions with the patient, both verbally and nonverbally, should reflect your compassion and empathy for the patient. 4. Ask follow-up quest