In this blog, I’ll draw on my own experiences on both sides of the multiple mini interview (MMI), helping you understand the MMI and providing key tips for your own MMI interview prep. As well, you’ll see sample and expert responses to help you think through your own approach to this challenging interview format. Among these, you will recognize some common , so let's get started.
I was incredibly nervous for my first multiple mini interview. It was in early 2000s. I was interviewing at a med school. They asked me a question about breast-feeding. I do not know what the question was. I do not recall my answer. I do, however, recall the intense corporeal anxiety overwhelm with me as I fumbled for an answer to the question. I was so focused on figuring out the correct answer that I did not spend any time telling that interviewer about my relationship to the topic, how I think, the way I problem-solve, or who I am. I did poorly on that interview, and as a result, I was not accepted that year.
Since then, I have participated in three interviews as a candidate and two more as an evaluator at McMaster med school. Of the dozens of MMI questions I have encountered since my first MMI experience, I only felt very well prepared – substance wise – for a handful. I only had pre-arranged answers for those questions that had to do with me and my life.
There is no use trying to pre-design your answers for the majority of MMI questions because it's not possible for anyone to predict them in advance. Instead, it's way better to learn strategies for identifying and answering . There is also a lot of value in MMI prep that allows you to reflect on the various experiences that you’ve had that lead you to the moment of the interview. In addition, there's value in reflecting on your own opinions, your moral convictions, your own biases, and your own view of the major issues facing our public today.
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What Makes the MMI Unique?
If we could, we would try out potential doctors in the clinic and in the hospital to test their suitability for the profession. We would try out potential lawyers in a courtroom. We would "test run" aspiring candidates in their chosen field, seeing how they actually conduct themselves in professional circumstances. But this is completely unrealistic. All we can do is leverage a system that is designed to have each candidate paint us a picture of who they may be as a physician, lawyer, nurse, pharmacist, veterinarian, and so on. We can then map our impression of each candidate onto the clinical or professional setting based on their responses to how they would behave or respond in a variety of stressful, ethically nebulous situations.
What is the system that has been designed to show evaluators who each candidate may be as a future practicing professional? It is the MMI. This unique, and now popular, interview format began in 2002 at McMaster University as part of a research project aimed at understanding how to select for the kinds of medical students that would eventually become compassionate and competent doctors (though, it must be noted, the MMI is not used only for medical school today – many programs in veterinary medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, nursing, and others now utilize the MMI). McMaster was hyper-aware that medical schools across Canada & the United States were graduating future doctors about whom patients frequently complained.
The Official Interviewer Manual is in the public domain and it explains how McMaster uses the MMI to screen for specific traits in their student body. Much like , preparing for the Multiple Mini Interview – or MMI – begins by understanding it as a (SJT) claimed to help interviewers identify soft skills, such as communication, professionalism, and adherence to ethics, and to more accurately predict medical school performance based on such an evaluation.
If you have made it to the MMI interview stage, it is because you have achieved solid academic accomplishments, put together a compelling application, scored well on the MCAT or other standardized tests, performed well on a CASPer test, or some combination of these. So, congratulations on getting this far! But, the MMI is a significant hurdle; to succeed you must understand it, ensure you’re practicing effectively, and get expert feedback on your MMI prep.
Here are the MMI questions you NEED to know!
How is the MMI Interview Structured?
At a Multiple Mini Interview, each candidate is asked to participate in a variety of short, problem-based stations. Traditionally, these stations last for 10 minutes each and there are 12 stations in each interview. However, there are many variations of these details. There are also many different types of multiple mini interview questions, and each station involves something new: a new patient or client to engage (i.e., an actor), a new issue to problem-solve around, a debate on which to opine, a team-building exercise to complete collaboratively.
Multiple Mini Interviews can vary in length, but the fundamental components are the same. Prior to meeting with the interviewer at each station, you will be given a prompt – this could be a direct question, a scenario, a role for you to play, a quote to ponder, etc. – and you will be given a short amount of time to consider the prompt, usually 2 minutes. The prompt is usually provided in text format, but video format is possible, as well (for the details of the MMI you will take, please review the website of the individual institution, or contact them directly). Note that the prompts at each station are often vague or have the potential to be interpreted in several different ways; this is completely intentional and is meant to test your ability to reason through ambiguity.
After the time allocated to reviewing the prompt has concluded, a buzzer will sound, and you will enter the interview space with the interviewer (and/or the actors or other interviewees with whom you will interact at the station, in acting and collaborative stations). At that point, you will have a limited amount of time to discuss your answer, generally anywhere from 6 to 10 minutes. Often, though not always, the prompt will be available inside the interview space, so you don’t have to memorize it, but you should contact the school to find out if this is the case (you can also ask about the duration of each station, whether you’re allowed a pen and paper to take notes, etc.). During the interview time, if you’ve concluded your answer before the time expires, the interviewer may ask you a follow-up question about your response, which you must also attempt to answer within the allotted time; if there is no follow-up question, you will simply remain in the room with the interview until it is time to move on. Review our blog to learn
After the answer time is up, another buzzer will sound, and you will move to the next station. You must stop your answer when this time is up – even if you haven’t finished your sentence. The interviewers are instructed not to let the answer go over the time limit, under any circumstances. This pattern continues until you have completed all stations.
Here's how to ace your MMI and avoid 3 common mistakes!
How is the MMI Scored?
The MMI is not intended to test your pre-existing knowledge within the field you’re pursuing. Rather, it is a test of your analytic and communications skills, your ability to problem-solve in a social context, and your overall suitability for the profession. Interviewers do not necessarily have a background in the program or profession; they could be practicing professionals, or they could be professors, students, or even people from the community.
Interviewers are instructed to evaluate each interviewee’s performance relative to all other interviewees that day. Your performance is evaluated via a Likert scale from 1-10, where 1 is “Unsuitable for the profession”, and 10 is “Outstanding”. You will not receive feedback from the interviewers at any point.
It’s important to note that all aspects of your presentation for the day are under scrutiny for professionalism and suitability for the profession. That includes things like your physical presentation, so be sure to review our blog (with tips that are pretty universal, in terms of profession). Check out this link for tips on .
How Do I Prepare for a Virtual MMI?
Some students might be wondering how the virtual MMI differs from the regular in-person format. Some schools will have different reasons for conducting virtual MMI, but what’s important to note is that your preparation should be no different. You still need to wear professional attire, for example, and you will also need to practice your answers to different types of questions; your performance will be judged not just on your answers, but on other qualities like professionalism and suitability for the profession. The main difference is that the rooms you will be moving to will be virtual. Invitations for virtual MMIs will be sent via email, which will contain instructions on how you can join the interview. Be sure to carefully read this information and be in a quiet environment on your scheduled date.
Have you ever seen an MMI mock interview? Check out one of our mock student sessions to help you prepare:
Does the MMI System Yield the Best Results?
- Is the MMI at least as good as a traditional panel interview in predicting future performance on medical licensing exams?
- Is the MMI at least as good as a traditional panel interview in predicting professionalism in practice?
- The systematic review found that the answer to the first question is: a resounding yes.
- The answer to the second question? Not sure, more research is required.
The findings persist for assessment of MMI performance as for (IMGs). In of MMI validity for licensing exam performance predictions, Eva et al write "although a complementary predictive relationship has consistently been observed between grade point average and MMI results, the extent to which cognitive and non-cognitive qualities are distinct appears to depend on the scope of practice within which the two classes of qualities are assessed".
That is, in some practice settings, there are professional skills that matter but have nothing to do with the cognitive assets employed on the licensing exam. Conversely, there are practice settings for which the professional skills required match the cognitive and non-cognitive skills assessed in the licensing exam perfectly. So, when it comes to figuring out if the MMI will predict things like possible future complaints from regulatory bodies, the verdict is still out.
Though it was originally designed as a vehicle for assessing personal traits and professional acumen in medical students, it is claimed that the MMI is actually a great predictor of cognitive performance as assessed by the licensing exams. Licensing exams do, however, have sections dedicated to the legal and ethical issues of medical practice but do not test their deployment in a simulated clinical setting.
First and foremost, as you may already know, and as shows, you must practice with realistic, timed simulations and get expert feedback for your responses to learn from your mistakes. I’ll talk more about that shortly, but here are some other important tips to review first:
Examiners and actors want you to be at ease so they can get to see the real you. It is common for students to anticipate an audience who wants to see them mess up, who wants to call them out on some failing. But let me let you in on a secret: Your audience wants to see you succeed. No one wants this to be stressful – including your interviewer! No one is out to watch you fail. Everyone present wants to have an interesting conversation with you. They want to see you at your best, so they can give you a fair evaluation. Remember, they’re not necessarily looking for reasons to exclude you, to strike you off the list of candidates; they’re also looking for reasons to keep you.
2. Be thoughtful in your responses
Take your time to imbue your responses with substance rather than rushing into a topic with a bunch of clichéd phrases while you buy yourself time to think up something good. Just take a second. Take a deep breath. Square your shoulders. Smile warmly. You already have something of substance to say because you’ve been practicing and reading widely. In your MMI preparations, review to see this thoughtfulness in action (more on this in Section III).
Here's a video with guidance in thinking through MMI ethical dilemma scenarios:
3. Show empathy
When situations call upon you to be in relationship with another person, situate all your actions and positions from an “If I was in their shoes, what would this be like?” perspective - this is especially important for . This shows intellectual adaptability and compassionate situational analysis skills. And it’s what is asked of professionals every day, all day, particularly in medicine, nursing, law, dentistry, veterinary medicine, teaching/scholarship, or any career that allows you to serve others or has others relying on you for advice, guidance, and instruction.
4. Show ethical acumen
The MMI often involves , so you must know ethical principles and the legal framework for controversial issues. If you’re an aspiring medical student, read Doing Right, by Philip Herbert, and be prepared to draw upon the terminology in framing your responses. Whatever your desired discipline, review the ethical standards of the profession prior to the MMI interview. You don’t need to know the ethical code inside and out, but you do need to show that you understand the kinds of ethical responsibilities you’ll be expected to take on, and that you’re willing to invest yourself – even at this early stage – to beginning the process of internalizing these ethical principles.
5. Tell a story
Often, you will see no direct parallel between the MMI question and your own life. That’s ok. Don’t try to worm in a story about your time on the volleyball team when they’re asking you about end-of-life care. But if the question is about handling conflict, for example, you can definitely share some insight into your life and particular situations where you have experienced something similar.
6. Be familiar with different question types
There are many different types of interview questions, including scenarios, , acting stations, tasks, personal questions, , and more. Most importantly, you will need to practice strong strategies and learn how to behave in , so make sure to dedicate some time for MMI prep.
Here's how to tackle MMI teamwork stations:
7. Review MMI sample questions and expert responses
Reviewing will help you understand what a polished, well-thought-out, and reflective answer looks like, and how such answers convey key qualities and core competencies sought by MMI interview evaluators. Remember, this isn’t necessarily about having a robust background knowledge of the intimate details of each situation, and your own unique answers may vary considerably from these, because your answer should be yours, and not something scripted out by someone else in advance. You can think about the content of the answers and your opinions of this content, but you should also pay attention to how you articulate these ideas. Your answers should show thoughtfulness, reflectiveness, compassion, critical thinking, and effective communication skills. You can see some at this link, and we'll have even more for you in Section III of this guide!
Do you have a writing station in your upcoming MMI? Check this out:
8. Learn strategies for how to prepare for MMIs in advance
While there are no “correct” answers to Multiple Mini Interview prompts, there are absolutely more and less effective strategies for approaching them. Your communication, professionalism, and suitability for the profession are determined in a number of ways. The interviewers are looking to determine how many of the key ideas in the prompt you have identified, and whether you have effectively prioritized those ideas (focusing on the most pressing issue, and dealing lower priority issues later), and whether you have isolated the key pressing issue(s) and addressed this maturely and professionally.
They also need to determine whether you are objective, non-judgmental, professional, mindful, compassionate, and diplomatic, and whether you’ve carried over any assumptions from the prompt (or, better, whether you have questioned such assumptions and applied critical thinking skills in exploring the scenario). Your ability to avoid a biased, one-sided response and to consider multiple perspectives will highlight your critical thinking skills and maturity.
It's important to demonstrate consistent ethics and the ability to maintain your ethics under pressure, and when presented with conflict, you want to pursue productive, positive resolutions, focusing on maximizing the well-being of all involved.
A response that manages to do all of these things will likely receive a strong evaluation.
You should also be prepared for . MMI stations test your ability to think on your feet and how well you perform under pressure. Having solid answer strategies even for the most unexpected questions is highly advisable.
Check out our top tips for acing your MMI:
9. Get expert feedback
While reviewing sample MMI questions and expert responses is very useful, such MMI Interview prep is only effective if you combine it with expert feedback. Even good responses can benefit from additional consideration to make them truly outstanding, and our , one-on-one programs give you the opportunity to work with experts, who will give you the most realistic mock MMI possible, and individual, customized feedback to determine exactly what is best about your responses, and what still needs additional work.
We’ll also ensure you have the information to continue improving, while helping to build your confidence, giving you pointers on every aspect of your presentation and professionalism, and additional resources to keep practicing. Without expert feedback, there is no way to know if you are unintentionally making unconscious mistakes, missing key concepts, or carrying over assumptions from the prompt. Are you wondering Check out our blog for the answer.
If you’ve followed our advice above, you’ve reviewed common types of MMI questions (and if you haven’t, there’s the link again!), which means you understand the difference between things like “scenario” questions, “policy” questions, “quirky” questions, and “quote-based” questions. Here is an example of each of these question types, with expert responses for each.
Wondering how MMI interview coaching an help?
Sample MMI Interview Scenario Question with Expert Response
Prompt: You are a family physician working at a walk-in clinic. You are almost at the end of a busy 10-hour shift and still have 3 patients to see. You must leave work as soon as you are done seeing these patients, as your spouse will be leaving for their work shift and you need to be at home with your children. Your friend, Tina, texts you and says that her partner is not feeling well; she suspects he has strep throat, and that he probably needs antibiotics. She would like you to see him and prescribe him the medication. You tell her that you are fully booked and she says, “It’s the end of the day and everywhere else is closed. Could you please just tell one of the walk-in patients to come back tomorrow and see my partner instead?” Tina is not just a friend, but a medical school classmate and a specialist to whom you often refer patients. What do you do?
Sample MMI Interview Policy Question with Expert Response
Prompt: In 2017, the Canadian government passed a law that allowed expanded parental leave for new parents. The new policy offers new parents the option to spread their original 12 months of employment insurance benefits across 18 months after the birth of their child. Discuss your thoughts on this policy with the interviewer.
Here's what you need to know about MMI policy questions:
Sample Quirky MMI Interview Question and Expert Response
Prompt: If you could be any kitchen utensil, which would you be and why? Enter the room and discuss your answer with the interviewer.
Sample MMI Interview Quote Prompt and Expert Response
Prompt: "My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together" (Desmond Tutu). Enter the room and explain what this quote means to you.
Here's another practice MMI question for you!
MMI Interview Prep: Conclusion
Facing the MMI interview can be intimidating, but understanding why the MMI was created, what evaluators are looking for, and what constitutes a strong answer helps make the task more manageable. Remember, they are looking to see if you are a mature, reflective, ethical person who is well-suited to the profession. They want to understand who you are at your core, whether you've looked into the key qualities of those in the field, and how you respond to ethically-challenging situations. Reflect on who you are, what you value, and the kind of person you want to be as a practicing professional. Review sample and look at the answers given by experts, and then consider your own position. When it's time to enter the MMI interview room, take a deep breath, open the door, and show them the thoughtful, empathetic, interesting aspiring professional you are!
1. What's the best way to start MMI prep?
If you are totally unfamiliar with the MMI format and looking to get more details on what to expect, what kind of questions to look at, and answer strategies, then you might want to get an . A book can help you fill in knowledge gaps about this unique interview format and outline how you can prepare. Check out for less than $1!
2. Can you really prepare for an MMI? I heard that it's impossible to prepare for.
3. What is the best way to prepare for an MMI?
The way you prepare is totally up to you - you know what works for you best. We would strongly encourage you, however, to seek professional feedback as you practice. How else will you know whether you are on the right track and improving? Personalized and could help you sharpen your skills and ace your interview.
4. Do I have to get professional help to prepare for the MMI?
No, not everyone needs professional help. Many students prepare for the interview on their own and do well. Some, however, could benefit from one-on-one help.
5. What are the hardest MMI questions?
Some students may find scenario and ethical questions difficult, since not everyone can articulate a solution to ethical or professional dilemmas. Some students may find that policy questions are difficult, since they often require outside knowledge. BUT! The key is to have a solid answer strategy for each question type. This way, no matter what question you face, you will be able to formulate an articulate answer.
6. How long does it take to prepare for the MMI?
We recommend dedicating 6 to 8 weeks for your MMI preparation.
7. Are there right and wrong answers for MMI questions?
Although it is common to hear that MMI questions have no right or wrong answers, it is not entirely true. There are appropriate and inappropriate answers that have a great influence on your chances of acceptance. If this were not the case, there would be no value to MMI testing and a lot more applicants would be admitted based on their high GPA, MCAT scores, and extracurriculars.
8. How long should my MMI response be?
We strongly recommend keeping your answer to 4 minutes long. While you may be allotted with more time, keeping your answer concise and clear is always better.