How long to prepare for a medical school interview? How much time do you need to get ready for this important obstacle on your way to your dream career? We are here to reveal when you should start your interview prep and how long it will take you to ace any medical school interview question. We know the secret to successful medical school interview preparations, so read on to find out how long it takes to prepare for a medical school interview.
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Should I Prepare for My Medical School Interview?
Yes! You absolutely need to prepare for your medical school interview. Your interview is not something you can ace without long and careful preparations and practice. Some students are under the false impression that they can easily answer questions like "tell me about yourself" or "why do you want to be a doctor?” but having solid answers that will impress the admissions committee without proper preparations is impossible. These questions may seem straightforward – who can explain better why you want to be a physician? Or who can talk about you in more detail than yourself? In reality, forming and articulating concise, clear, and captivating answers takes a lot of planning!!!
We have written extensively about how to prepare for medical school interviews and how to prepare to answer some of the common medical school interview questions, but in truth, practice questions and answers are only one side of interview prep. Good interview prep will help you gain life-long skills. With the right prep tactics, you can improve your verbal communication skills, presentation skills, and interview behavior. In our experience, students often do not realize that they need to improve their communication skills or interview performance. For example, they may struggle to speak up or establish eye contact, play with their hair or fidget in the chair – all of these are signs of anxiety and stress. These small neuroses affect the kind of the first impression you make and can truly make the difference between medical school rejection and acceptance. And as you can expect, overcoming communication challenges and developing new skills cannot be done overnight. This is why giving yourself enough time to prepare is key.
We want to remind our readers that some students are perfectly comfortable preparing for their med school interview independently, while others need more guidance. But while not every student needs the help from medical school admissions consulting, objective, personalized feedback on your interview performance is always a good addition to your interview prep strategies.
But how long does it take to hone interview skills? And how in advance should you start interview prep?
Wondering why medical schools ask you to tell them about yourself?
How Much in Advance Should You Prepare?
The answer might disappoint you, but there is no one universal number of hours that will ensure that you are ready for your interview. Every student is different and the time you need to prepare for your interview greatly depends on your personality and skills. But if we must provide a number, we suggest giving yourself 8 to 10 weeks of prep before the interview period begins.
It’s important to note that waiting for interview invites to start your prep is not the best strategy. When do you hear back from medical schools for interviews? Depends on the school. Most medical schools try to give you enough time to get ready for the interview, but there is a chance that you will receive short notice. This is why starting your interview prep after you submit your applications is advisable. Having no medical school interview invites so far does not mean that you will not be invited later in the season. Most medical schools in the US use rolling admissions, so interview invites can be sent throughout a very extended period of time, usually anywhere from September to February.
Starting your interview prep after submitting medical school secondary essays does not mean that you have to jump into practice questions right away. Start by learning which interview format your schools of choice use and research these formats carefully. Find out what kind of questions are commonly asked in this format. Start brainstorming your answers to questions you will inevitably face, such as “tell me about yourself”, “why medicine?”, “what’s your greatest weakness?”, and so on. At this time, you may even want to participate in an initial mock medical school interview to see how you perform. However, you do not really need to start the heavy prep phase until you receive your interview invite – this is when you should aim to participate in mock interviews with a medical school advisor who can provide personalized feedback and track your improvement. They will be able to notify you when you are finally ready for the real thing.
So, aim to have around 10 weeks to gather all the necessary interview format information, practice with sample questions, and enroll in realistic mock interviews.
It takes time to develop good interview skills. These skills are not something that you will only use for this particular interview! They will be useful for years to come, so it’s worth the investment of your time and efforts to develop them. For example, developing verbal communication skills can take weeks, if not months. You might not be aware that you use too many filler words like "umm" or "ahh", you might not realize that your introduction and goodbye lack a personal touch and that you should work on your eye contact. Only realistic mock interviews with personalized feedback can eliminate these seemingly small, but significant elements of your interview performance.
As we already mentioned, it’s important to remember that interview prep is highly individualistic. Some students will be ready for their interview within a couple of weeks, while others may take a couple of months. How do you know when you are ready? This is a more difficult question, as it’s difficult to be objective about your level of readiness. Practicing with friends or family is also not optimal, as they might not be able to assess your skills impartially. This is why hiring an advisor is ideal. These experts are dedicated to making sure that your interview skills are top-notch.
But even the most experienced advisor cannot help you if you do not give yourself enough time to prepare. Reaching out to a consultant a day before an interview is not the right approach. While they may help you with last-minute tips, it will be impossible to develop any real skills in such a short period of time. This is why initial assessment and starting early, at least 8 weeks before your interview, is recommended.
Check out our guide on medical school interviews below:
Which Factors Affect Your Interview Prep Timeline?
Many factors affect the period of time you need to prepare for your interview. And one of the biggest is the interview format.
How long does it take to prepare for a traditional interview? How long does it take to prepare for the MMI? Will the format determine how long you should give yourself to get ready? The truth is that the medical school interview format can definitely affect how long it takes to prepare. Traditional medical school interviews might be less intimidating because the format is more familiar. Most of us have experienced this interview format. Don’t get us wrong – you will still need to prepare, but your practice will involve less format prep.
However, the MMI is a completely different beast. This interview format will require a lot more preparation. Why? The MMI, whether it's in-person or virtual, consists of different "stations" that test a variety of skills. Simply put, the format takes getting used to. Whether it's MMI acting stations or policy questions, you must prepare a strategy for how to tackle each station. MMI stations are typically categorized into the following groups: scenario, policy, writing, acting, collaboration, personal, and quirky. Make sure to read our blog on different types of MMI questions for more details on each of these categories.
It’s hard to imagine the MMI format without experiencing it first-hand. This is why we highly recommend practicing with mock MMI interviews. Facing a collaboration station or an acting station for the first time in your real interview will be a tremendous challenge. You must prepare in advance and have the right tools to tackle these stations.
As we already mentioned, MMI questions are designed to test different skills and aptitudes required for all physicians, including communication skills, sound judgment, diplomacy, compassion, and more. While these MMI questions can be incorporated into traditional interview formats, acting or writing questions are much more rare in a panel or traditional one-on-one interviews. And preparation for the MMI interview format will include strategies to tackle these stations. For example, the way you tackle a scenario question will be different from how you tackle a quirky question. No doubt that you must be articulate no matter which station you end up facing, but a successful answer to each question will depend on using a different skill. When answering a scenario question, you must maintain a non-judgmental attitude, learn how to properly gather information to make a decision, and form answers using the "if/then" formula. This is not easy! You must practice and train yourself to implement these skills and attitudes with ease on the day of the interview. A quirky question will certainly require you to showcase your communication skills, but it will also test your creativity and how well you think on your feet.
Whether you are invited to a traditional/panel interview or an MMI, you absolutely must practice with appropriate questions and using the right interview format. Getting used to the format is just as important as practicing your answers to sample questions. Remember what we mentioned earlier, entering an MMI acting station or MMI writing station without any previous practice might be a blow to your confidence!
Looking for a summary of these key factors? Check out this infographic:
When we say that you need around 10 weeks to get ready for your interview, keep in mind that you will not have 24 hours per day to prepare. The entire medical school application and interview processes are time-consuming, but they do not happen in a vacuum. Unless you take a gap year before medical school and do nothing else but dedicate your time to applications and interview prep, then you must balance your other commitments with interview prep.
It might be a good idea to create an interview prep schedule. You must have experience with creating other schedules, like exam prep schedule or MCAT study schedule, so devising a realistic timeline for your interview prep should not be a new experience. Most importantly, your schedule should include other responsibilities and commitments you have throughout the week. Whether it’s class, writing a paper for one of your courses, a workout, or a hang-out with friends, be as detailed as possible when you structure your week. This way, you can honestly gauge how long you can dedicate to interview prep each week and schedule your mock interviews accordingly.
Be honest with yourself when you create your plan. Interview prep does not need to take over your life. You can organize your time efficiently, without sacrificing your studies, work schedule, family, and social commitments. Keep in mind that if you decide to work with an advisor, they can help you plan this prep schedule and realistically advise on your progress and when you are ready for your interview.
How many interview invites you get
While the number of interviews should not significantly change your med school interview prep, it will still make a difference.
Firstly, it would be great if all your interviews were in the same format! But if you are invited to multiple interviews, there is a chance that each school will use a different interview format. For example, if you are applying to medical schools in Ontario and get invited to the University of Toronto and Queen’s, you will need to prepare for the MPI interview format (Modified Personal Interview) for the former, and a mix of MMI and panel interview for the latter. As we already mentioned in this article, getting familiarized with interview formats is a hugely important part of interview prep, so if you are facing 2 different formats you will need to prepare for each with mock interviews. In this case, your interview prep might take longer.
The number of interviews may also increase the number of mock practices you will want to participate in. It’s always great to have a mock a day or two before your official interview. These sessions help to remind you of important behaviors and refresh your main talking points for each question category. Many of our students find that having a last-minute session just a day or two before their interview puts them into the right mindset and relieves pre-interview stress. We strongly suggest practicing with realistic mocks before your real interviews so you feel confident and stress-free.
Is it a video interview?
It is especially difficult for some students to showcase their communication skills during a video interview. Tools like Snapshot by Altus can be intimidating because they are new, and students do not really know how they come across the screen and what kind of impression they make in one-way interviews. Video interviews also require additional interview prep because it’s super important to test out your equipment, software, and your setting/interview environment.
Do not forget to prepare some questions for your interviewers!
Conclusion: Interview Skills Are Absolutely Coachable
So how long to prepare for a medical school interview? While the time it takes to prepare is very individual for each student, we would advise you to start your prep at least 8 weeks before your interview. There is no denying that med school interviews are intimidating, but what we’d like you to take away from this article is that with the right help and enough time, you can absolutely ace any interview format and get into your desired medical schools. Interview skills are coachable and if you put your effort into practice and mock interviews, you will, without a doubt, increase your chances of getting accepted to medical school.
Be smart about how long you dedicate to interview prep. While longer does not always mean better, it is crucial not to leave your preparations to the last minute. Not everyone needs 10 weeks to prepare, but no student can prepare for their interview the night before.
Wondering what kind of interview formats you may be facing? Check out our video below:
1. How long to prepare for a medical school interview?
Every student is different, so interview prep should be highly personalized. But try to give yourself at least 8 weeks to get ready for your interview.
2. Does the interview format affect how long it will take me to get ready for my interview?
Yes, some interview formats are simply less familiar unless you go through them personally. For example, most of us have experienced traditional one-on-one interviews throughout our lives: job interviews, interviews for volunteer positions, and even college interviews. However, the MMI format is becoming increasingly popular in medical schools in Canada and the US, so you must prepare for the format. It's not enough to simply run through MMI questions, but you must get used to the format by going through MMI stations and time limitations.
3. What's the best strategy for preparing for a medical school interview?
Practicing with sample questions and answers is a great start, but nothing can replace participating in mock interviews that mimic the interview format and environment.
4. What other factors can determine how long I should plan to prepare for my interview?
Your other academic and extracurricular activities might determine how long you have to prepare. If you have a busy personal and professional life, you might want to carefully plan out your weeks to dedicate a few hours a week to interview prep.
5. Does it take longer to prepare for several interviews?
Not necessarily, especially if all your interviews are of the same format. If your interviews all have different formats, you will simply need to practice with different question categories and mock interviews that mimic the format of each interview. It might take longer to balance practice with several interview formats, but the skills you learn in both will be useful for whatever format you face.
6. Is it more difficult to prepare for in-person interviews or video interviews?
Your preparation for video interviews will not be much different than for in-person interviews. Both formats test the same skills, but the video interview will also require you to have a quiet environment and a good internet connection.
Your prep for in-person interviews will also include planning your travel plans and making sure you know the route you take to campus on the morning of the interview.
7. Why do I need interview prep? Can’t I just wing it on the day of the interview?
You should absolutely prepare for your medical school interview, or any other professional interview you may be asked to attend in your professional life. Interview prep helps develop your communication skills, interview behavior, and builds your confidence. While you may think that you have naturally good communication skills, formal interviews test more than your answers.
How well you perform will also depend on how you react to weird or intimidating medical school interview questions, scenario questions about ethical dilemmas, and more. To tackle these questions with a poker face and confidence, you must learn the tools and strategies that will help you ace your answers and uphold your demeanor. This is what interview prep is for!
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