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How To Prepare For A Medicine Interview (And Get Offers)

How To Prepare For A Medicine Interview (And Get Offers)

Updated on: December 3, 2023
Photo of author
Written By Dr Ollie

Every article is fact-checked by a medical professional. However, inaccuracies may still persist.

If you want to learn how to prepare for a medicine interview you’re in exactly the right place.

There’s one thing that almost always sets successful candidates apart from those who don’t get an offer.

Preparation.

Yes, your friend may have got a place at medical school having only done one mock with their mum…

But if you really want to secure that offer you’re going to have to revise some crucial subjects.

In this article, I’m going to tell you what and how.

The Three Domains Of Medicine Interview Preparation

There’s always going to be something you could be doing to prepare for your interview. You’ve heard of Parkinson’s law right?

Parkinson’s Law: work expands to fill the time allotted to it

So to stay focused and efficient, you should concentrate your efforts on three high-yield domains that will have you sailing through the interview.

These medicine interview question domains are:

  1. Common medicine interview topics
  2. Your application and you as a candidate
  3. The medical school and the course it offers

Let’s work through them in order.

Common Medicine Interview Topics

There are undoubtedly some common topics that come up time and time again in medicine interviews.

You should aim to have a solid understanding of each- so you won’t be thrown off course when they come up.

Sitting down with a friend or family member to brainstorm some interview questions for each topic could also be a great exercise.

The common topics I’ve picked out for you are:

  • Medical ethics
  • Structure of the NHS
  • NHS hot topics
  • Duties of a junior doctor

Now this is in no way an exhaustive list, just four topics that frequently crop up in medicine interviews.

Feel free to add to and customise the list as you prepare, highlighting to yourself areas that need work.

Medical Ethics

If you’re attending an interview for medical school, you need to come prepared to talk about medical ethics in some capacity.

Medical ethics is at the centre of a huge number of decisions you make as a doctor every day. 

That’s why for your interview you’ll be expected to be familiar with the basic framework of modern medical ethics.

Don’t worry, you won’t need any great in-depth knowledge, just know your four pillars of medical ethics and the Three Cs.

If you’re not sure what they are, head over to my article entirely dedicated to medical ethics here.

Structure of the NHS

This is a topic that can take a bit more work to get your head round.

The structure of the NHS is an incredibly complex and confusing landscape so just remember you only need to get the basics down.

A corridor inside an NHS hospital

Try not to get bogged down in specifics. Just aim to have an overview of things at both a local and national level.

After your preparation you should have an understanding of:

  • Where hospitals get their money from
  • How a GP practice can be a private business but work in the NHS
  • Who decides which services need funding
  • Who’s in charge of the NHS

… Amongst a host of other things!

NHS Hot Topics

Hot topics are a question type that will likely never be left out of a medical school interview.

So that means you have to know your stuff!

The best way to stay up-to-date is:

  1. Read or watch the news regularly
  2. Subscribe to a magazine such as The BMJ
  3. Research case studies you hear about

I’ve brainstormed some relevant recent hot topics here to get you started:

The Junior Doctor ContractWhy was there a dispute?
What’s the impact of doctors striking?
Who does the contract effect?
BrexitWhat does this mean for NHS funding?
What impact will Brexit have on staffing?
What about Brits getting healthcare abroad?
Specific High-Profile CasesThe Francis Report
Charlie Gard
Bawa-Garba
7-Day NHSHow and when will this happen?
What will be the impact on NHS staff?
How about the impact on patients?
COVID-19What’s been the impact on the NHS?
How did the government respond?
How did the vaccine roll-out work?

Duties of a Doctor

This was unquestionably a weak point of mine at interview.

I’m honestly not sure I fully understood the work of a junior doctor until my first day on the job!

It really is key that you have a good understanding of what you’re getting into and what your day-to-day might be like for the next ten years!

You don’t want to be caught completely caught off guard by the classic question “why not nursing then?”

If you have any friends or family who are junior doctors then that’s ideal- get on the phone and start grilling them on everything you don’t understand.

If you don’t, not to worry. This is where your work experience can fill the gaps in addition to some careful research online. 

You & Your Application

When you walk into the interview room you need to be a champion of your application and you as a candidate.

You’ll have all the answers as to why they should give you an offer and what makes your application different.

To get to this point, you need to revise two key areas:

Personal Statement

It could have been over three months since you submitted your personal statement till you’re sat down at interview.

I don’t know about you, but half the time I can’t remember what I had for dinner the night before!

Your interviewers are going to have your personal statement in front of them and are likely going to want you to expand on some of the points you talked about in it. 

A medicine applicant writing the first draft of their personal statement

This is a great opportunity to flesh out your ideas and themes in person… But only if you know them!

Make sure you give your personal statement a good read over in the days just preceding the interview and revisit some of your subject matter from it.

That way you’ll be primed to discuss your personal statement without having to try and lean over the interviewer’s shoulder to read it.

Your Past Experiences

I know this sounds a bit strange. . . Revising your own experiences?

Well what I mean by this is it can actually be incredibly helpful to make some brief notes on past work experience, jobs, difficult situations…

Anything that might be helpful to bring up at interview. 

That way you’ll have an anecdote locked and loaded for when an interviewer asks you for an example of when you showed courage or anything else.

You’ll be able to launch straight into a killer answer instead of having to think back to whether it was this Christmas or the last that you demonstrated inspirational bravery to polish off the roasties despite being full to burst. 

Which Medical School You’re Interviewing With

This domain is all about knowing what the selling points of this specific medical school are and why you chose to apply.

And indeed more importantly, why they should choose you.

When a medical school is interviewing you they’re not just deciding whether you’re a suitable candidate to study medicine.

They’re deciding whether you’re a suitable candidate to study medicine at their university.

You don’t want to be in the situation where they think you’re a great candidate, but just not right for their particular medical school.

Here’s a three-step process for tailoring your interview prep to each individual medical school.

Step 1: What Makes This Medical School Different?

Step one to tailoring your interview preparation is to find out what sets this medial school apart from the rest.

Is it the teaching method? Are they lecture or PBL based?

Is it the anatomy opportunities? Do they do full body dissection?

Is it because they consistently rank in the  top ten for student satisfaction?

Whatever the reasons are, you need to find all the differences that matter to you and make a list of them.

Aside from this site, here are three resources you can use to find what sets your medical school apart from the rest:

The Medical School’s Own Website

They’re not always the most user friendly, but if want the latest and most accurate information then you need to go to the source.

They normally prominently display their unique selling points over other medical schools to try and get you to apply.

The Medical School’s Admissions Team

Although the website is a great starting point, if you can’t find the answer that you’re looking for you can always email the admissions team.

They’re always incredibly helpful and can find you information that the medical school may not have thought to put on their website. 

Current Students At The Medical School

If you can get in contact with people currently studying at the medical school, you’ll have a wealth of information available to you. 

You can ask them what they particularly like about the medical school, why they chose to study there, what the city has to offer…

They’ll also more than likely have friends at other medical schools so can compare and contrast their experiences with other options.

Step 2: What Makes These Differences Valuable To You?

Step two is all about why you personally value these differences.

You’re going to need to go through your list of differences and think about what each one could bring to your medical school experience. 

The key here is you need to be genuine about your reasoning.

You can’t just spin every difference you could think of as an advantage and ergo why they should let you study there.

Here’s an example:

Difference- Leicester’s population base and thus patient group is extremely diverse, much more so than many other cities.

Advantage- As a result of this diversity, during your medical training you may see diseases far rarer than in other parts of the country.

A medicine graduate at the University of Leicester

This would therefore be an excellent opportunity if you were interested in infectious disease.

For example, the rate of TB is over four times higher in Leicester than the national average.

Now if you weren’t interested in infectious disease at all, this might not be such a great advantage. 

By going through your list and brainstorming positives genuine to yourself, you’re going to end up with with a personally curated repertoire to draw from in step 3…

Step 3: Applying This To Your Interview

Step three is all about using your list of personally relevant positives to help you answer interview questions!

That means either committing them to memory or giving your list a good read over before you go in for the interview.

The mistake I made in my medical school interviews was I didn’t do step two.

That meant in a lot of my answers I was just reeling off the same features of the medical school that both myself and a thousand other candidates had got straight out of the prospectus.

I doubt there’s a much faster way to send an interviewer to sleep!

If you’re armed with this mental list of unique, personal reasons as to why you want to study at this medical school, you’ll be sure to captivate the interviewer, proving to them why you’d be a great candidate for the place.

Final Thoughts

Congratulations, you made it! You now know the three domains you need to focus on for a stand out performance.

Instead of just sitting in your room learning the theory, you’ve now got to put it into practice.

Plead, bully or bargain your friends and family into doing some mock interviews with you.

The key here is to make them as realistic as possible.

It’s easy to give good answers lounging about with a good friend but much harder when the pressure is on.

By practicing in situations more akin to the actual day, you’ll undoubtedly perform better in the real thing.

Keep your preparation focused on the three domains discussed and I’m confident you’ll hit it out the park on interview day.

About the author
After studying medicine at the University of Leicester, Dr Ollie now works as a junior doctor in London. His interests include medical education and expedition medicine, as well as having a strong belief in the importance of widening access to medicine.