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Medical School Interview: Prepare for the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI)

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The medical school interview will make or break your chances of getting admitted to med school. While advice about what to expect during medical school interviews abounds, the nature of the medical school interview is changing. The top medical schools have transitioned away from traditional interviews in favor of an interview format referred to as the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI).

What is the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI)?
Traditional medical school interviews are about an hour long and consist of a meeting between the applicant and a faculty member. The discussion usually centers on the applicant’s background, qualifications, and career goals, and the candidate’s questions about the institution. The MMI interview is a very different kind of interview. As the title suggests, the MMI consists of many mini interviews. Candidates complete about 10 mini interviews that last 8 to 10 minutes each. Each interview is conducted by a different member of the admissions team.

The MMI format is radically different than traditional interviews. Each mini interview is held in a different room, referred to as a station. At each station candidates are given a written vignette discussing a problem or an ethical dilemma. The candidate has about 2 minutes to read and think before entering the room. Eight to 10 minutes are spent discussing the situation portrayed in the vignette.

The MMI was created in response to concerns that medical students may not have the social and communication competence needed for success in medicine. The best medical students and physicians are able to combine excellence in science and critical thinking with compassion, sensitivity and humanism.

What Kinds of Issues and Topics are Covered in the MMI?
Every institution keeps their questions and vignettes secret. Sample questions might include issues like whether it is ethical to give a patient an alternative treatment that is untested and unproven, or whether pediatricians should support parents who wish to circumcise their infant boys. Candidates are asked to present and defend a position as well as discuss issues that are raised in the scenarios. All scenarios tend to be deliberately ambiguous. There is no right or wrong answer for many of the scenarios. The interviewer probes the candidate’s answers and encourages the candidate to express his or her ideas clearly and defend them rigorously.

Some stations may require the candidate to interact with an actor. Candidate is presented with a scenario involving an individual, whose role is played by an actor. The candidate must confront the person about a problem, give bad news, or gather information. Communication and empathic skills are evaluated.

What Does the MMI Assess?
The MMI examines candidate’s reasoning, listening, communication, and teamwork skills.

Fast Thinking: The MMI assesses your ability to think on your feet. How well do you problem solve on the fly? Can you analyze situations, reason, and identify solutions quickly? Do you jump to conclusions?

Listening skills: New information is often presented by the interviewer. How well are you able to listen and apply that information? Can you integrate new information into your existing understanding and change your view, if needed?

Collegiality and teamwork: How well do you understand the social dynamics of the interview? How do you respond to disagreements? How do you respond when you are challenged? Do you show the capacity to work as part of a team? The most important part of the interview is to determine how well candidates respond to disagreement as that is something that often happens when working in teams. Medical schools are interested in candidates who are able to work in teams as that is the future of medicine.

Overall the MMI examines whether your communication, social, and reasoning skills match your academic skills. Some students look great on paper but do not have the interpersonal qualities needed to make it through med school and to be a good doctor.

How is the MMI Scored?
MMI interviewers assign each candidate a rating on a 10-point scale, based only on their discussion.

Benefits of the MMI
This new interview format may seem intimidating but it is advantageous to medical school applicants. Traditional interviews are lengthy meetings with one person. Research looking at traditional interviews has found that there is often a great deal of variability in scores given by multiple interviewers to one applicant. Interviewers’ scores may be influenced by the interviewer-candidate compatibility rather than the candidate’s competence.

In contrast to traditional medical school interviews, the multiple interviews entailed by the MMI mean that the candidate is interviewed by many members of the committee. Poor interpersonal compatibility with one interviewer has less of a negative impact on a candidate as there are 9 other interviewers. In addition, unlike traditional interviews, the MMI is conducted blindly. The interviewers receive no information about candidates before meeting them. Interviewers do not review candidate files, eliminating an important source of bias.

Without a doubt, the Multiple Mini Interview format of medical school interviews is challenging. But the MMI gives candidates a chance to demonstrate thinking and communication skills that may not be evident in a medical school application.

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