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Types of Medical School Interviews

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If you are the recipient of a coveted email inviting you to interview for medical school admission, start preparing now. There’s a great deal of general advice on the process of interviewing for med school, including tips on what to wear, what to ask, what you may be asked, and what to ask. Recognize, however, that there is no one standard interview format.

Who Will Interview You?
You can expect to be interviewed by any combination of faculty, admissions officers, and, sometimes, advanced medical students. The exact composition of the med school admissions committee will vary by program. Prepare to be interviewed by a range of faculty with differing inters and perspectives. Try to predict the interest of each potential committee member as well as something that you might ask of him or her. For example, you might ask the med student about opportunities for clinical experience.

Recognize that there is no standard interview format. Some medical schools conduct one-on-one interviews, others rely on a committee. Sometimes you might be interviewed alone. Other programs interview a group of applicants at once. The interview format also varies. Below are the major interview types that you can expect.

Panel Interview
This is an meeting with several interviewers (referred to as a panel) at once. The panel usually includes a variety of faculty in different medical areas and in clinical medicine as well as basic research. A medical student is often a member of the interview committee. Try to anticipate the questions each member of the committee might have and be prepared to speak to the concerns of each.

Blind Interview
In a blind interview the interviewer is “blinded” from your application, He or she knows nothing about you. Your job is to introduce yourself to the interviewer, from scratch. The question you are most likely to face in this interview is: “Tell me about yourself.” Be ready. Be selective, yet detailed in what you present. Remember that the interviewer has not seen your grades, MCAT scores, or admissions essays. You will likely discuss much of the material in your admissions essays as well as explain why you want to be a doctor.

Partial Blind Interview
Unlike the blind interview in which the interviewer knows nothing about you, in a partial blind interview the interview has seen only part of your application. For example, the interviewer may read your essays but know nothing about your grades and MCAT score. Or the reverse may be true.

Open Interview
In an open interview the interviewer reviews applicant material at his or her discretion. The interviewer may choose to be blind to all or part of the application. Therefore an open interview may include basic question such as “Describe yourself” or detailed questions designed to follow up on your admissions essays.

Stress Interview
A stress interview places the med school applicant under a magnifying glass. The intent is to see how you function under pressure. The interviewer or interviewers ask questions to make you uncomfortable to observe how you speak and behave when stressed. The stress interview is intended to find out what a candidate is really like, apart from the interview preparation and etiquette. A stress interview might include questions about sensitive topics or personal questions that are not permitted. Applicants might gently call the interviewer on the question, asking why it is relevant. He or she might diffuse it or choose to answer it. The interviewer is more interested in how the applicant responds than what he or she says. Other questions might be factual, with trivia-like details. The interviewer might respond negatively to everything that you say by making negative remarks or though body language such as crossing the arms or turning away. If you find yourself in a stress interview remember that the interviewer is interested in how you function under stress. Take your time in responding. Keep your cool.

As you plan for your medical school interview, remember that the purpose is to let the interviewers get to know you. Until your interview you are nothing but a transcript, MCAT score, and essay. Be yourself. Plan ahead by considering topics of discussion and the points you would make, but be natural. During your interview say what you think, ask questions about topics that are important to you, and be authentic.

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