This is part 4 of our 5-part series on medical school interviews. For information on the other posts in this series, see our overview post here.
In our previous post on medical school interviews, we described the traditional interview, which is offered to a select number of highly promising applicants to a given medical school. The purpose of these interviews is to present admissions committees with a sense of who candidates are beyond the application materials they’ve already reviewed and vetted. These interviews usually take place on a rolling basis, during the fall or winter after you submit your application, either on campus, or oftentimes virtually, as a result of COVID.
Multiple mini-interviews (MMI) have a similar purpose and timeframe, but unlike traditional interviews—which are usually longer one-on-one or panel conversations—MMIs have applicants rotate through a series of six to 10 stations manned by different interviewers, each of which takes about 10 minutes to complete. Collectively, these stations are intended to assess characteristics including communication, problem-solving skills, teamwork, ethical values, and judgment.
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The MMI was developed to counter traditional interviews’ potential for inconsistency across interviewers. In 2002, researchers at McMaster University in Canada—who also developed the Altus Suite of assessments—pioneered the use of the MMI to increase “the overall reliability of the interview in judging an applicant’s merits.” The traditional interview process exposes applicants to only one or a few interviewers, which creates a high potential for variability and error (some interviewers are stricter than others, not to mention that different people have different priorities). In contrast, the MMI allows for a more standardized process.
During an MMI, the same interviewer is assigned to evaluate all prospective students at a particular station via a rubric; there are more interviewers per applicant; and all interviewees are asked to respond to the same set of prompts. Collectively, these factors ameliorate the variability inherent in traditional interviews, decreasing interviews’ potential for bias. As the AAMC describes, “The MMI allows applicants multiple opportunities to showcase their skills throughout the interview, unlike the traditional one-on-one interview.”
An MMI typically consists of six to 10 stations through which applicants rotate, each with a different scenario, question, or topic. Scenarios may involve a patient actor, a writing task, an ethical dilemma, a healthcare policy question, or a standard interview question. At each station, you’ll have a few minutes to think through the prompt, then spend six to eight minutes discussing the issue with the interviewer and answering questions and/or role-playing your response. In total, an MMI takes up to two hours to complete.
The AAMC lists several examples of possible MMI stations, which include:
- Scenarios involving interactions with an actor or a medical school’s standardized patient
- A standard interview station
- A teamwork station where candidates must work together to complete a task
- An ethical scenario involving questions about social and policy implications
You’ll most likely receive interview invitations between September and January after you’ve submitted your application. However, since invitations are sent out on a rolling basis, it’s possible you’ll receive some in July or August; and invites continue to be sent out through March.
Respond to your interview invite as quickly as possible and aim for an early slot. This will show you’re interested, responsive, and dependable; ensure that you get a slot that works for you; and enable you to get in on the rolling action early. The interview process usually concludes by late spring. Some schools will let you know shortly after your interview whether you’ve been accepted, while others will let all interviewees know on a specific date.
Practice. As with traditional interviews, we advise practicing before your MMI. “The best way to prepare is to practice expressing yourself articulately and logically in a timed environment,” the AAMC says. Working with Collegiate Gateway or another service that conducts mock interviews will give you an ideal forum in which to refine your interview skills, but you can also time and practice by yourself or with a trusted friend. As we’ve described in a previous post, you would also do well to familiarize yourself with relevant topics, such as bioethics, current events, and healthcare policy issues. Look at the websites of the schools you’ll be interviewing at for any details about the kinds of stations they will employ.
Relax and try to be yourself! As with traditional interviews, try to think of MMIs as a chance to reveal your personality characteristics beyond what you’ve already conveyed in your application. If a particular school has invited you to interview—whether via a traditional format or an MMI—it means they’re already impressed with your experience and qualifications, and now want to know what you’re like in person. Also, take heart knowing that if you don’t do your best at one or two stations, you have plenty of other chances to impress your evaluators!
On interview day. But ultimately, much of your performance on interview day will rely on thinking calmly and clearly in the moment and relying on your natural judgment skills. As described by the Duke University School of Medicine, which uses an MMI format, MMI stations “are designed to address the following areas: empathy, initiative and resilience, communication and problem-solving skills, teamwork, insight and integrity, compassion. The MMI will not test ‘specific knowledge’ in the field of medicine. It will instead evaluate your thought process and ability to think on your feet. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer to the scenarios.” So get a good night’s sleep the evening before and use any strategies to relax that you have at your disposal. Dress professionally on interview day, arrive on time, and act with courtesy throughout the process.
Applying to medical school is a complicated process, and interviews are no exception. We encourage you to read through the rest of our blog posts on med school interviews, as well as to contact Collegiate Gateway if you would like guidance on any aspect of the application and admissions process. As always, we’re happy to help!