Many students preparing for their interviews will naturally begin to contemplate how to ace the multiple mini-interview (MMI) collaboration/teamwork stations. Different types of MMI questions test different skills of the interviewees. Although there is some overlap, there is a big difference between collaboration MMI stations and acting stations. For the former, not only do you have to perform well personally, but your group must perform well for you to get a high score in the station. It is in your interest to make your entire team look good. In this article, you will learn how to ace this challenging station.
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What Are the Collaboration/Teamwork MMI Stations?
For those who are doing the MMI for medical school, at this point you’ve submitted your primary and secondary application with your medical school personal statement, AMCAS Work And Activities, and AMCAS most meaningful experiences, among others. Now it’s time for you to review medical school interview questions that pertain to the relevant MMI stations.
As a professional in the field you’re entering, you will work with many people. The purpose of the collaboration/teamwork MMI station is to simulate an environment in which you must communicate with fellow applicants. Sometimes you will perform a task, discuss a prompt, or debate a particular issue. The interviewer will be assessing you during this exercise, so you will need to do some research and sharpen your communication skills.
Most applicants will be familiar with common questions like “tell me about yourself,” but strategies for these types of questions don’t always make sense for collaboration stations. For example, one of the classic collaboration prompts you will encounter is the drawing exercise. One of the applicants will receive a picture that the other applicant can’t see; the applicant with the picture will have to describe it for the other applicant to draw without naming the object of the picture.
Sample Collaboration/Teamwork MMI Stations
Prompt: A pair of applicants, Ajay and Elise, are back to back at a desk. The interviewer hands Ajay a picture of a horse and Elise a blank sheet of paper with a pen. The interviewer asks Ajay to describe the photo to Elise without revealing what the photo represents; Elise has to try and replicate the photo as closely as possible.
For this exercise, pretend you’re the student receiving the instructions from the other applicant. Try your best to replicate the drawing according to the instructions given.
With your pen in the corner of the page, trace a circle from one side to the other; it will be cut off by the corner of the page. Then, draw five lines in a row of alternating lengths; one will be an inch long, the next will be about three-quarters of an inch. It should look like heat emanating from a source. Then, closer to the middle of the page, to the left slightly, you’re going to draw a series of connected half ovals; about a half-inch long each. These half ovals should be drawn in a circular fashion, so you’re creating another larger oval consisting of those connected half ovals. Now, you’re going to create the same image three more times. The first should be in the top left corner of the page; but for this one, draw it as if it’s out of frame, being cut off, like the first drawing. The next will be just below that one. And the final one will be about an inch below and to the left of the first image you drew. Lastly, in the foreground, trace a series of jagged triangles side by side. Some should be taller, others shorter.
In some stations, you will be asked to switch roles with another applicant. So, for example, if you were the one describing a drawing or puzzle for the other person to replicate or solve, then you will be the one drawing or solving the problem in another station. Unsurprisingly, some of the hardest medical school interview questions are often not as difficult as the collaboration station might be for some candidates. Fortunately, there are ways to circumvent the discomfort you might be experiencing in your practice using the strategies we outline below.
Want more collab/teamwork MMI station examples?
Consider the following discussion between three medical school applicants in a collaboration/teamwork station based on a debate format:
Prompt: Discuss the pros and cons of legalizing marijuana. How does this impact a physician’s present ability to write out a prescription for “medical marijuana”? Would legalization cost the health care system more or less after it was passed?
The three applicants, Daryl, Mary, and Rose, sit next to one another, facing the pair of interviewers across from them.
I think the question of legalizing marijuana for recreational and medical uses is really asking this: “Does medical marijuana produce a significant benefit for patients suffering from particular conditions that would not be helped by other possible alternatives?” If the answer is negative, I think legalizing could potentially be unnecessary.
I have to say that I agree with your new formulation of the question. The answer should be evidence-based, and fortunately, there are lots of studies that show some of the effects. Of particular interest are brain-related disorders, like Alzheimer’s disease, under the influence of relevant chemical compounds. There was a study showing that a synthetic version of THC can improve food intake and sleep duration and decrease agitation in late-stage patients. One should be cautious when interpreting this study and others, however; it was conducted over a short period of time.
That’s right. But I think if we’re trying to decide if it’s worth legalizing prescription marijuana, we can’t forget that it’s estimated that roughly 6 percent of people above the age of 18 will meet the DSM criteria for a cannabis-use disorder in their lifetime. Marijuana, according to the literature, rarely causes physiological dependence, but it can certainly lead to psychological dependence at a more substantial rate. Physicians need to be aware of the potential for their patients to develop dependence and evaluate the risks beforehand.
You’re certainly right about that, but let’s not forget that most of the risks associated with marijuana pertain to premature use. Underdeveloped brains in adolescents, mostly. For instance, certain brain abnormalities like an increased size of the cerebellum and amygdala were shown in users. This architectural change meant poorer executive function, as one important consequence. This could easily be circumvented if physicians calculated dosages correctly and communicated with their patients about side effects.
I don’t think it’s quite right to say that it could be easily circumvented. Yes, the physician needs to do their due diligence to minimize the risk of dependence and side effects, but there are inevitable negative effects that physicians can’t control.
Could you give an example?
I have one. An extensive body of animal research suggests that the compounds in marijuana impair memory and cognition, most likely because it inhibits the release of acetylcholine in the hippocampus. There are other such mechanisms, but the point is that this is an example of how the substance interacts with brain architecture and physiology. Acute effects may not be as pronounced, but they are still happening.
You’re right about some of these negative consequences being a possibility. But consider it from a Parkinson’s patient’s perspective: medical marijuana has been shown to decrease motor symptoms, which can seriously affect quality of life. So, if I had to choose between potential unwanted side effects and the debilitating symptoms associated with PD, I would have to choose the former. And to address the earlier point about dependence, I think it’s important to acknowledge that in the case of pain medication, marijuana is far less likely to cause dependence than, say, opioids.
I think your point, Daryl, if I am hearing it correctly, is that the matter comes down to choosing in a sense, the lesser of two evils. Is that right?
Yes, but I take it a step further and say that the lesser of two evils isn’t actually evil. Prescription policies concerning dosage, child-proof packaging, administration in capsules or oils, THC maximums, and proper labelling are all ways that physiological and non-physiological concerns can be addressed.
The provisions you mention cover most of the major concerns, I think. But what are we to do about the physiological concerns I mentioned earlier? In my view, the issue is hardly a policy one. Also, let’s not forget that people who use medical marijuana do show a higher use of non-medical use of prescription drugs, so I don’t think it’s just a matter of “choosing the lesser of two evils,” as you both suggest.
It seems there’s a lot of research suggesting both positive and negative health effects, some of which conflict with the findings of others. I think it’s clear right now that there needs to be more research before we endeavor to widen the prescription policies for medical use.
We can agree on that. I’d like to see, among other things, more long-term research. What about you, Mary?
Long-term research will definitely be necessary. Well, marijuana for research purposes used to only be available through one program, NIDA, which means only about a fifth of cannabis research was concerned with the therapeutic properties of the drug. But now that the Drug Enforcement Administration started registering more American companies to produce marijuana for research purposes, I think we will start to see better allocation, especially in light of the urgency of some of the conditions that could really benefit from better access to this substance, if it proves safe and effective.
How Should I Behave during a Group Multiple Mini-Interview Station?
When you’re working at a group station, you should behave like you’re on a team with the other candidates. You’re all in this together. To prepare, you could stage some sessions with one or two of your peers to focus on these types of MMI practice interview questions. You could also consider dental school interview preparation, medical school interview preparation, or nursing school interview preparation depending on your field and individual needs.
#1. Inquire, don’t accuse:
When someone is making a statement that you disagree with, or solving the group problem in a way that doesn’t work well, instead of launching into an accusation about their behavior – which will only make you look childish – start with an inquiry. Because this can be a difficult skill to master, even in our personal lives, it is helpful to practice with someone beforehand.
- “That’s an interesting position, can you share your reasoning with me so that I can better understand your perspective?”
- “I see where you’re coming from. I hadn’t thought of it like that before, but I’d like to offer a different point of view…”
#2. Be assertive:
If you’re on a problem-solving task, and you really believe that the group’s direction is going astray, take a second and voice your opinion: “I realize we’re moving in this direction, but I would like us to step back and just reconsider our assumptions.” Then, run down the assumptions made about the problem before the group leapt into action. Doctors have to do this with each other all the time, so it will come off well.
#3. Don’t hesitate to intervene if you see an opportunity to contribute:
Remember that your performance assessment depends on your participation in the scenario. Being shy to speak up, while understandable for some personalities, can be a strike against you. You must still show the evaluators that you are willing to engage, as an essential skill in medical practice. Often a gendered concern, women sometimes find themselves caught between appearing too passive or being seen as aggressive while saying something assertive for which a man would be called “a leader.” By contrast, men don’t want to be seen as talking over women. It’s complicated. But if you focus on creating a positive group process and take a position centered on the substance of the problem, these issues will tend to fade into the background.
#4. Substance and process are equally important:
The evaluators don’t care if your group solves the problem or answers the question at hand. They also don’t care whether everyone gets along. They are interested in whether you can engage with substantive material in a way that draws out important intellectual conflicts while also resolving them in a mature, productive manner wherein professional ethics are paramount and you demonstrate respect for your professional colleagues. They aren’t looking for the smartest or nicest person in the room, they’re looking for leaders who understand how people work.
#5. Avoid self-doubt:
Candidates who fear public speaking, or who have social anxiety or agoraphobia, are at a disadvantage. Extroverts have the advantage, particularly in group settings, as medicine is a profession that plays out publicly, in front of people. While you might find the idea of an MMI intimidating, preparing well for this type of interview, ideally with the help of a medical school admissions consultant, can actually help you overcome your difficulties in this area. Doing the work to understand why you don’t like to insert yourself into debates or groups is essential.
- Do you have a fear of being judged? Know that evaluators in an MMI aren’t judging your worth as a person. They’re judging a particular set of skills that are essential for the practice of medicine. In a way, you’re implicitly demonstrating your answer to the question “why should we choose you?”. If your social anxiety is rooted in a fear of judgment, that’s work you need to do with a professional so that you’re equipped for the group interview setting.
- Are you just naturally introverted and find you’re a listener, rather than a vocalizer? Then, you need to choose your moments. You cannot say nothing and contribute nothing in an eight-minute session. You will not get accepted to medical school. For this, you will need to practice interrupting, but keep in mind that active listening and attention are also valuable skills, particularly with patients. Therefore, you’ll want to focus on a balance between taking space and allowing others to contribute as well.
- Do you struggle with finding the appropriate moment to jump in? Some applicants will get caught up in what others are saying and forget they have a role to play in a collaborative MMI station. You can practice by working on two or three well-placed phrases that will help you show up in a group setting and highlight your status as a “quality over quantity” applicant. This is a good impression to leave. If you don’t have anything to add to the group because you feel like they’ve said it all, then home in on the group process. Help others get heard, articulate big picture assumptions, compliment people on their hard work. There is always something for you to say. “I just didn’t have anything to add” is not a valid response in this setting, as you will be letting yourself and your teammates down.
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How to Give Feedback in the MMI Collaboration/Teamwork Station
A significant portion of how you’re evaluated in this MMI interview station is how well you provide feedback to your fellow applicants. Usually, the station itself will be 8 minutes long, with the final 2 minutes allotted for feedback. Giving and receiving feedback can be challenging. For other interview questions, such as “why do you want to be a doctor,” you aren’t receiving any sort of verbal feedback, which is why having a good feedback strategy prepared is essential. The best method of feedback is known as the “sandwich” approach:
Should You Interrupt Someone During Your Interview?
Yes, in fact, interrupting is a necessary skill, but you need to choose your moment. If you are paired (or grouped) with someone who monopolizes the discussion, the interviewers will be waiting to see how you handle this difficult situation. They will be assessing whether you can intervene effectively without being rude to allow yourself and other group members an opportunity to contribute.
Here are some useful strategies for interrupting effectively during a collaboration/teamwork MMI station
Consider the following medical student’s personal experience, as an example for how to interrupt someone during your interview:
Do you need MMI interview coaching? Here's how it can help:
1. What is the purpose of the collaboration/teamwork MMI station?
The main purpose of this station is to allow the interviewers and admissions committee to see how you function in a group or collaborative setting. Because medicine, dentistry, nursing, and other disciplines require a great deal of interaction, you will need to demonstrate your capacity to satisfy your role.
2. What kind of skills will the admissions committee be looking for?
The admissions committee will be looking for the following: your ability to work well with a team, to communicate, articulate, manage your time efficiently, establish a goal, and know your role.
3. What kind of questions or situations will I face at this station?
There are various possibilities. You might be asked to discuss an ethical dilemma with a fellow applicant, or you might be asked to complete a task together. A common situation applicants will face is having to describe a picture, invisible to the other applicant, so that they can replicate it with a pen and paper based on how you describe it.
4. How should I interrupt someone during this station if I have to?
It’s crucial to find a good moment to participate in the conversation; otherwise, it can be difficult to get recognized and evaluated by the admissions committee. If you have to interrupt someone, try to find a natural pause. Validate the other person’s position if you agree and state your opinion assertively.
5. How do I give feedback to other applicants?
The best way to provide feedback is to use the “sandwich” method. This method consists of first stating something positive about the applicant’s performance, then something they could improve on, and finally summarizing or emphasizing some of the points you made in the previous components.
6. I’m worried about the time restriction. How can I work efficiently?
The best way to be mindful of how you’re using your time is to practice under realistic conditions. This means practicing with real prompts, with help from a strong MMI prep service if you think you might benefit from extra help.
7. What is something I should avoid for this station?
Try to avoid doubting yourself or hesitating. When you see an opportunity to speak, take it. Otherwise, your performance will suffer, and it could prevent you from getting into medical school.
8. Is there a big difference between acting stations and collaboration stations?
They share some similarities, but there are some key differences that you should be aware of. In acting stations, you will be playing a role. For example, you will be a retail worker dealing with a difficult customer. In collaboration stations, you’re playing yourself. You will be put in scenarios that might elicit the same responses, but your goal is always connected with how well you communicate and collaborate with your peers.
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