Today, I’m sharing with you 5 common medical school interview questions and how you can answer them to help you prepare for the entire interview process.
Here are the five medical school interview questions I’ll be covering in detail:
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why do you want to be a doctor?
- What is your greatest strength?
- Why should we accept you?
- Why this school?
For each question, I’ll cover common mistakes as well as the best type of answer and the best way to prepare your own answer for each of them.
Listen to this podcast episode with the player above, or keep reading for the highlights and takeaway points.
[03:58] Why It’s So Important to Practice Answering These Medical School Interview Questions
I will soon be interviewing a student who went through the medical school interview process last year and had 5-7 interviews. She is a great student obviously, as she got several interviews. She had a great story but she didn’t tell her story properly during the interviews. As a result, she didn’t get accepted anywhere.
Then she worked with me and we did four mock interviews together. She reapplied and didn’t really change anything else in her application—she got 5-6 acceptances to great MD schools. She really turned it around because she prepared for the interview.
Being prepared to answer these five common medical school interview questions will help you get started in the right direction with your interview prep.
5 Common Medical School Interview Questions and How to Answer Them
[05:25] Question 1: Tell Me About Yourself
99.9% of the time, I start my interviews with “tell me about yourself.” When I’m interviewing a student, I almost always start with that. It’s actually more of a statement than a question, but why is it such an important answer for you to give?The whole goal of this interview process is to not have it be an interview. You want it to be a conversation.Click To Tweet
This is basically your opportunity to take charge of the conversation. The whole goal of this interview process is to not have it be an interview. You want it to be a conversation between you and that interviewer. Pretend like you’re sitting down in a coffee shop with your future or current colleague, and just have a conversation.
The most common mistake students make is that they recite their resume and give information the interviewer doesn’t really care about or that can be read on your application. This is your time to take the reins and direct the conversation wherever you want to go. Not many medical school interview questions allow you to choose the direction of the conversation as much as this one.This is your time to take the reigns and direct the conversation wherever you want to go. Click To Tweet
This is essentially your opportunity to discuss some interesting things about you. If you think you’re not interesting, then you’re wrong. You are unique. Answer “tell me about yourself” by diving into fun things about you, such as where you grew up, your family, and the fun adventures you’ve been on with them.
Finding What’s Unique About You and Your Story
Then dive into things a bit deeper. The goal here is to give enough details that, as you’re having this conversation, you’re fleshing yourself out as an actual human being. And those are the kinds of people they’re going to want for the medical school class—people who are going to be able to communicate and be interesting.
Instead of talking about where you graduated, what you majored in, and how you want to help people as a doctor, which they’ve already heard a thousand times, talk about things like your spaghetti recipe or milking cows at four o’clock in the morning. Talk about some of the most interesting things you’ve done. That’s going to be fun and different.
One of the students I worked with got accepted into ten medical schools. She was a former actress, and we prepared her story all around being an actress. The feedback she gave me after 11 interviews (she got ten acceptances) was that all they wanted to do was talk about her acting. Of course, because it’s different!
Don’t underestimate your unique story, no matter what it is, even if you’re a traditional student and you’ve gone to high school and college, and you’ve always wanted to be premed. There’s something in there, a fun story, a hobby, something you can talk about.Don't underestimate what's different about your story, no matter what it is, even if you're a traditional student.Click To Tweet
[Related post: Tricky Medical School Interview Questions.]
[11:54] Question 2: Why Do You Want to Be a Doctor?
This is where a lot of students fall flat on the face. Liking science and wanting to help people are not adequate reasons to explain during the medical school interview why you want to be a doctor.
First, discuss your initial motivations such as family illnesses, personal illness, or the doctor who inspired you. Whatever it is, talk about experiences you’ve had that have motivated you to become a doctor. These experiences are typically best conveyed in stories of direct patient interactions.
For example, talk about working with Mrs. Smith or Mr. Jones and being there by their side as they’re going through a procedure. Those stories you can tell along with the connections, emotions, and the impact that you can discuss that you had or they had on you or you had on them, those are the stories that the interviewer wants to hear.Share what your initial motivations were for entering medicine, followed by experiences that have reaffirmed your choice along the way so far.Click To Tweet
“I Love Science and I Want to Help People” Is Not Enough
Wanting to help people is not limited to being a doctor. I once took an Uber and asked the driver how he was doing, and he said he’s having a great time helping people. This is the perfect example of somebody that is loving their job helping people. So don’t tell me that you want to be a physician because you want to help people. There are a billion and one jobs out there, including being an Uber driver, where you can help people.
Obviously, you need to have a combination of wanting to help people and loving science to want to be a doctor because you have to survive prereqs with your science courses and do clinical experiences and be around patients.
But the focus should come down to those interactions you’ve had with patients and the impacts you’ve seen physicians make on patients. This will illustrate that you want to be a physician for the right reasons. Usually, this is also the way to write your personal statement: Share what your initial motivations were for entering medicine, followed by experiences that have reaffirmed your choice along the way so far.
Need more help answering this medical school interview question? Here’s an entire episode about answering “Why do you want to be a doctor?”
[15:50] Question 3: What is Your Greatest Strength?
This is one question that a lot of students trip over. My top tip is to answer the question the interviewer gives you. When they ask for one thing, give them one thing, not three or five or ten things. Trying to squeeze stuff in because you think it’s going to make you look better may only do the opposite.
So how do you answer this? Well, you have to be able to honestly answer it. It can be as simple as being highly organized or having leadership skills, listening skills, or good time management. Whatever your greatest strength is, be able to tell a story that supports your claim.
Unfortunately, a lot of students say what they think the interviewer wants to hear, but they don’t actually believe in what they’re saying. So make sure you’re able to back it up with a story. Show them what that looks like and the impact your strength has.The more you can answer questions with stories from your life, the better your interview is going to go.Click To Tweet
The same goes for your greatest weakness. Talk about what your weakness looks like. The more you can answer questions with stories from your life, the better your interview is going to go. Stories are more memorable than abstractions. They’re conversational and they’re impactful. Anyone can say “I’m dedicated,” but not everyone can tell your stories about it.
[19:38] Question 4: Why Should We Accept You?
This is a hard question, isn’t it? You might want to tell them that you’re motivated and determined and you love medicine, so you’re going to make a great doctor. Of course, you love medicine. Hopefully, all of the applicants love medicine. Knowing that you want to be a doctor is not a reason to accept you. And being self-motivated or determined or passionate in itself is not going to be a good reason either.
So this is your opportunity to sell yourself and sell your skills. Again, use stories to sell yourself. Be able to say that you’re a leader because of xyz. You’re passionate, as illustrated by xyz. You have great time-management skills based on xyz. You are a great team player because of your experiences with this organization.Help the interviewer picture you as part of the incoming medical school class. Paint a picture of the contributions you will make to that class.Click To Tweet
Use stories to illustrate the skills and traits you have that will make you a great classmate. How are you going to take your skills and experiences, and bring them to the class? Help the interviewer picture you as part of the class. They’re building a community of students with who they accept. Paint a picture of the contributions you could make to that class.
[23:03] Question 5: Why This School?
When asked why they want to go to this medical school, a lot of students talk about how they have friends that go to that school and they love it. But this is not the way to answer this question.
Find out specific details of the school and specific programs you’re interested in, be it related to diversity, research, or community outreach. Whatever that may be, find out the specifics about the school. Look up their mission and vision statements, and find out if anything resonates with you. Look for the minute details in each of these areas to be able to explain why you’re applying to each of the schools. In fact, you should already know this considering you applied for this school to begin with.
Don’t just talk about the ability to help the underserved, as most urban academic medical centers are going to help an underserved population, and this is not unique. Try not to cite anything generic that you could say about any other school. So be very specific such as the curriculum, class size, location, and your support structure in that area.
[25:35] Practicing with Medical School Interview Questions
If you think about how you are going to answer each of these five questions, prepare some stories that illustrate what you want to convey, and then practice doing some mock interviews, this will be a solid start to your medical school interview preparation.
If you’d like more help from me in preparing for your medical school interviews, check out the following resources:
- My book all about the medical school interview, The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview.
- My 13-video course about the Medical School Interview.
- 1-on-1 mock interviews with me.
- Our Anytime Mock-Interview Platform.
- Free: Medical School Interview Question Generator.
Links and Other Resources
- Check out my book about the medical school interview: The Premed Playbook: Guide to the Medical School Interview.
- Related episode: The MMI: Everything You Need to Know About the Med School Interview.
- Related episode: Medical Ethics Questions You Can Expect in Your Interview.
- Need MCAT Prep? Save on tutoring, classes, and full-length practice tests by using promo code “MSHQ” at Blueprint MCAT (formerly Next Step Test Prep)!