What are the most common questions that come up in medical interviews?

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Interviews are a way for the medical school to get a better understanding of you.  Some medical schools such as Edinburgh don't interview at all, though the majority do.  The interview is not the be-all and end-all, it is often weighed up alongside other parts of your application like your UKCAT, school grades and personal statement.  As well as that, the style of interviewing varies massively between different medical schools: some take a very formal approach by sitting at the opposite end of table to you and asking you questions about why you want to do medicine; others have a much more hands-on approach, putting you through clinical scenarios and seeing how you react.  

I'll go through some of the common questions that come up now, but whatever the situation, don't panic.  There are rarely, if ever(!), right or wrong answers in medical school interviews.  The questions are just a platform for you to tell them about yourself and sometimes discuss scenarios through with them.

As you would expect, no matter what the interview style, you will probably get asked why you want to do medicine.  In this situation, often people proceed to orate a pre-prepared speech on why they want to do medicine (myself included here).  However, sounding too prepared is not necessarily a good thing: it can often sound insincere.  Therefore, it's often best to go in with an idea of what you want to say without planning it word for word! 

What also comes up in interviews are questions about morals and ethics.  These often involve a difficult scenario - the favourite is the following situation: 

'A man comes in to A&E following a serious traffic accident and whilst in hospital it is decided that he requires a blood transfusion to survive.  One of your junior staff mentions that in his wallet they found out that the gentleman is a Jehova's witness and as part of his religion cannot accept blood transfusions from others.  He is unconscious and a decision has to be made quickly.  How do you proceed?'

From the outset, this seems a very difficult situation...and it definitely is a difficult one! So what are the problems here? The gentleman does not want a blood transfusion though without one he will likely die.  With any sitautions which seem ethically difficult to approach, the 4 principles of biomedical ethics are great helpers.  These are:

- Beneficence - always acting to promote the patient's health

- Maleficence - never doing any harm to the patient

Autonomy - always respecting the patient's wishes for themself

Justice - always distributing benefits, risks and costs fairly.

So, let's apply these to the above scenario.  Beneficence: we, as the doctor, are wanting to do good for the patient and giving him a blood transfusion is the best thing for him.
Maleficence: less applicable here, but we are not wanting to do him harm, and withholding the blood transfusion will cause further harm.
Autonomy: very important here! The patient has a right to make his own decisions: if he decides that he never wants a blood transfusion, that is his decision and it is our duty to respect that.
Justice: not really applicable here.  

So, in this case, it's basically a clash between doing good for the patient (beneficence) and respecting his decisions (autonomy).  So, now what to do... There is not really a right answer as this situation is so difficult but breaking it down into the biomedical ethics does help us.  In these scenarios in real life, it is often best to consult a superior doctor for advice as well.  

A third favourite question is about discussing with the interviewer something medical that you've been reading up on yourself: it could be an advancement in biomedical research or new public health measures.  This is a chance for you to show off any reading that you've done and this really is a common question! What's best is to not bite off more than you can chew - pick a topic that you understand well, it is very likely that they will ask you what you understand about the topic you discuss and picking a topic that you understand well will give you a lot more confidence when you discuss it. 

So we've covered three common questions that come up.

1) Why do you want to study medicine?

2) Discussion of ethical dilemmas 

3) What medical topic have you been reading about recently?

For these,

1) Don't over-rehearse

2) Use biomedical ethical principles when necessary

3) Keep things simple!

For medical interviews, remember that there is a huge variation in the style.  The university sometimes publishes information on what their interviews are like - certainly have a look at these! 

Simon J. Mentoring -Medical School Preparation- tutor, GCSE Biology t...

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