Shadowing a Doctor

January 4, 2016

Copy of Medic Portal - Tristan blog

Today’s blog comes from Tristan, a second year medic at King’s who loves to travel and is a self-confessed adrenaline junkie!

You’ve done it! Somehow you’ve conned (just kidding, you’re brilliant) the people at one or two of the medical schools you applied to that you’re a smart and a fairly decent human being that they wouldn’t mind training up to save people’s lives. Bravo. Oh but just one little thing… they want to meet you first. Good news guys, your friends at The Medic Portal are here to give you a helping hand. From having been on both sides we know oh too well what goes on in the interview room (and those scary medical school interview questions), so keep calm and read on.

What they look for

I know what you’re probably thinking, you’ll step into that interview room and the interviewers are going to go bad cop, badder cop on you. It’s true that some interviewers can be tough with their medical school interview questions, but most of them just want the best candidates they can get in their uni. They’ll have a list of qualities, either on paper or just in their head, that they want you to show. In a short space of time you have to demonstrate you have both the passion and the skill-set to be a successful medical student and doctor. Sounds like Mission Impossible I know, but probably every doctor you’ve met so far has had to do the same, and most of us survived without any PTSD!

What kind of questions will you get?

First up to bat – type of interview. Make sure you know what kind of interview you’re heading into by checking the university website. Then you’ll know what kind of medical school interview questions to expect. Basically there’s two main types of interview: traditional (panel) and MMI. Traditional consists of between 2-5 people sat across from you taking turns to ask you questions, which tends to last around 15 minutes. In MMI you will go to several different ‘stations’ each aimed at testing different skill-sets. Each station lasts around 7 minutes (which varies between med schools, as does the number of stations).


The best way to prep for any type of medical school interview question is to practise, so get someone to interview you. You can bet that in any type of interview you’ll get hit with an ethics question, so have a friend or family member ask you a few. Getting your head around how to answer them is seriously just a question of practice makes perfect. If you’re ever stuck, just take a deep breath and walk yourself through the four principles of medical ethics: beneficence, non-maleficence, justice and autonomy. Works a treat, I promise you.

Answer the questions

Ok, let’s go through a bit of basic interview tekkers. First of all, answer the question! Some candidates are so keen to say something, that they’re determined to say it, whether or not it’s anything to do with the question they were asked. As with most exams (I’m sure you’ve sat one or two) not answering your medical school interview questions won’t score particularly highly.
Don’t dive straight into tricky medical school interview questions – think!

Second of all, never dive straight into a question you’re not sure about. It’s far better to take a moment and come out with a well thought out answer than to waffle for a while to buy yourself some time, and then come out with a half-decent answer. I’ve got a little tip for ya. To show you’re actually thinking reeeeally hard and not just panicking madly, look up above the interviewer’s head and pause for a while. When you have your brilliant answer re-establish eye contact and shoot. Sounds silly I know, but trust me it works. Don’t guess at random – if you don’t know then say ‘I’m sorry but I’m not sure, but from what I know about something similar I would think that…’

‘So, why do you want to do medicine?’

During the interview, flaunting your talents without coming across as arrogant can be a tricky tightrope to walk. The general rule is show your passion. However, unless the medical school interview questions they pose ask you about how you’ve shown a certain quality, avoid outrightly mentioning it. You can strut your stuff in a myriad of other ways. For example, they may ask you about your work experience. When talking about your work experience, how you convey what you’ve done is as crucial as the actual substance of what you’ve done. What’s the point of doing all those hours of working in a care home, or navigating the maze of acquiring GP and consultant work experience if you can’t show it off? Here’s a little magic formula. Say what you did, then (and here’s the kicker) what you learned from the experience. Funnily enough, interviewers want to know you’re eager to learn, and that you actually paid attention in your work experience!

Body Language

Alongside how to answer your medical school interview questions, you need to think about body language. Seems trivial I know but it really is a crucial part of how you come across to the interviewer. Legs and arms need to be uncrossed – you can’t seem to be too comfy or slack and to some people you may seem slightly closed off or disinterested. Sit up and don’t slouch, if anything lean slightly forward to show interest. Eye contact is important. If there’s just one person interviewing you (MMI style) then keep regular eye contact. When there’s more than one person it can be slightly trickier, just make sure you share the love around.

Read up on what’s going on in the NHS

To summarise, my little padawans, information is power. A good example is how the interviewers will expect you to be up to date on medical issues (see all #juniordoctors and #nursesroar). You should have at least one medical article up your sleeve. So keep an eye on Student BMJ to help you prepare for your medical school interview questions. I know it’s easy to say and hard to do, but relax! You’ve done all the work. This is the part where you get to really show people why you’re passionate about the subject you love, rather than just drearily plugging a bunch of facts and figures into UCAS. Plus, when it’s over, you’ll hopefully have a place at one of the many fine medical schools this country has to offer.

Good luck!!