MMI writing station examples can help you understand what to expect if you encounter this station type during your interview. Different types of MMI questions test different skills. In addition to superb verbal communication skills, admissions committees want to assess the strength of your written skills, ability to think on your feet, and creativity. This is exactly why writing stations are incorporated into MMIs. But how do you prepare for these difficult stations and what kind of questions can you expect?
In this blog, we will go over top prep strategies for MMI writing stations and share a sample expert response to a writing prompt along with expert analysis. Finally, we will leave you with 15 MMI writing station examples to practice with on your own.
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What are MMI Writing Stations?
Why do students find MMI writing stations so intimidating? Traditionally, interviews tend to be conducted verbally and most of us who have experienced traditional interview formats applying for a job or a volunteering position cannot really imagine writing out our answers during the interview. But the MMI was designed with the specific goal of testing a multitude of skills, which also includes written communication skills.
So, what exactly do the writing stations entail? As with all MMI questions, you will begin in front of a door with a prompt if it’s an in-person MMI, and with a prompt on your computer screen if it’s a virtual interview. You will be given a couple of minutes to read and reflect on the prompt. When the buzzer sounds, you will begin the station. In an in-person version of the station, you will enter the room, sit down in front of a computer or a piece of paper with a pen, and begin writing your answer to the prompt. You will be given a set number of minutes to write out your answer but remember that you do not have to use the entire time limit to formulate a quality response. While writing is a more time-consuming task than speaking, try to answer the prompt succinctly within the time limit. You will need to stop writing and leave the room as soon as you hear a buzzer.
If your station is virtual, the same rules apply. You will begin typing up your answer as soon as you are given the signal to start writing. In a virtual station, you also do not have to use the entire time allotted, so once you articulate the answer that you want, you can stop typing. Keep in mind that in most cases, you will be cut off from typing when the time runs out. In both MMI formats, in-person and virtual, there is no word limit. You are only limited by the time you are provided within the station.
Each medical school will have its own time limits for writing stations. For example, at the University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine, there is no word limit for your written essay response, but you are given 30 minutes to write it. Another school might give you the typical 8 minute-window to respond to a prompt. Each school will have its own time limitations, so it’s really important to practice writing down your answers with a timer. We will speak to this in more detail later in the blog but practicing in realistic interview settings is highly advisable.
You might be thinking “The admissions committee already saw my written communication skills via medical school personal statement and my medical school secondary essays. Why do we need a writing station?”, but there is a big difference between planning your essays for weeks vs formulating a written answer to a question you just faced. MMI writing stations test your ability to think on your feet and articulate your thoughts clearly and concisely under pressure. This kind of skill takes a lot of practice. Not only should you be able to formulate a quality answer in your head, but you must be able to articulate it clearly and laconically in writing. Written communications skills are quite different from verbal communication skills. During a verbal answer, your body language and tone assist in delivering your response. In a written response, only what you wrote is counted towards your ranking. The content and style of your delivery are the only factors that influence how well your answer will be received. This is a big challenge, and you must prepare for it appropriately!
Let’s dive into how you can prepare for MMI writing stations and review MMI writing station examples that will help you anticipate what you might face in this station type.
If you're looking for tips on acing the rest of your MMI stations? Check out this infographic:
How to Prepare for MMI Writing Stations
Let’s begin with structuring your answers. Having a solid structure to follow for any question type will help you formulate a concise and clear answer.
Your written answers must be structured like academic essays. While you do have a limited amount of time, the form and content of your answer should not be sacrificed. The reader must be able to easily follow and understand your response. This is why using the structure of an academic essay, even if it’s a short response, is advisable.
Start your answer with a quick intro. Your intro should not restate the prompt, but it should give us an idea of what the question is asking and where your answer is going to take us. For example, if you are facing a question about a past challenging experience with a supervisor, you can say: “My biggest challenging experience with a supervisor in the past was at X position with X company.” This intro indicates what the question is asking about and sets up the setting of your experience. Continue your answer with a few sentences that describe the situation and what made the experience challenging.
The next section of your answer is the body of your answer. The body paragraph(s) should contain the bulk of your response. The body will depend on the question type you are facing, but keep in mind that this is the section that should contain strong examples, solid decision-making, and rationale behind your answer. If we continue with the example of a personal question that asks about a bad experience with a supervisor, the body paragraph(s) of your answer should outline what steps you took to overcome this challenging relationship. What did you do to solve this problem? Basically, you must outline concrete steps you took to resolve the conflict you had with your superior.
Your conclusion should wrap up the response and leave the reader satisfied. Again, depending on the question type you face, the conclusion of your response may include a lesson that you learned, your own opinion or reflection on the prompt you are faced with, or a description of your future aspirations. If we continue with our previous example, you can write “I learned that open communication with your colleagues is key to successful work relationships. If I never approached my supervisor, I would have never learned that she was experiencing stress and depression because her daughter was diagnosed with cancer. After our short discussion, our relationship improved significantly, and I still keep in touch with her and her family.”
Whatever question you are answering, keep your response well-structured like an essay. It might be difficult for you to imagine the structure without seeing examples, so let’s go over the structure of answer strategies for each potential writing station question type.
Answer Strategies for Different Question Types
Indeed, you cannot anticipate the exact questions you will face during your MMI. But you can prepare answer strategies for each question category, whether you answer verbally or in writing. As you might already know, there are different types of MMI questions that include scenario, policy, acting, personal, quirky, writing, and collaborative.
So, what kind of questions can you expect in a writing station in particular? Your writing questions can include scenario-type questions, policy-type questions, personal-type questions, and quirky-type questions. For example, it is not unheard of to get the personal-type question “why do you want to be a doctor?” in a writing station. Or you may be asked to discuss your reflections on a quote, which would be considered a quirky question type. You may also be asked about a current policy, or a policy being discussed in your professional field. And last but not least, you may be asked to elaborate on a scenario presented to you in a prompt.
So how do you prepare for each of these for a writing station? Let’s go over our failproof strategies.
Scenario questions are very challenging, and they are especially difficult for writing stations. To answer a scenario question in a writing station, follow the steps below:
Policy questions are also time-consuming and ethically challenging. When you write down your answer, follow these steps:
- In your opening sentence shortly summarize the policy you are asked about to demonstrate your awareness of the policy and its context.
- In the body of your answer, list a couple of advantages and disadvantages of the policy. Not only will this reiterate your awareness of the problem, but it will also demonstrate your ability to stay objective, informed, and open-minded.
- In closing sentences, you should include your personal opinion about the policy and the reasons behind your stance. If you disagree with the policy, write down a short sentence with an alternative solution to the problem.
If you would like advice on how to answer different types of MMI questions, check out this video:
Personal questions are very common in MMI writing stations. These questions tend to ask you about personal experiences, opinions, reflections, and goals. They are meant to assess your analytical skills, self-awareness, and ability to communicate via writing.
When you answer personal questions in writing, remember these steps:
Quirky questions are a subcategory of personal questions because they are meant to assess your inner world, creativity, and ability to think under pressure. They assess your critical thinking skills and your ability to think outside the box. The two most common quirky question types are hypothetical scenarios and quote interpretation. Hypothetical scenarios may include questions like “If you could be a kitchen utensil, what would you be?” or “If you could wake up anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would it be?” Try to think of the quirky question in the context of a medical school interview (after all, this is where you are!). Your answer must reveal your suitability for the medical profession. Demonstrate your personal qualities and your experiences in your answer. You can follow the personal question-answer strategy we outlined above when you answer quirky questions.
Quote interpretation is exactly as it sounds. You will be presented with a quote that you will discuss in your written answer. Try to give your own interpretation, apply it to your life, and think of the broader applicability of these words. You do not need to know the author or the context – the quote is meant to be an open-ended question. It is meant to examine your reflection and analysis, rather than somebody else’s thoughts. Although there is no right or wrong answer, you must demonstrate your depth of reflection and the ability to relate thought to real-life situations.
When writing down your answer for a quote interpretation, follow these steps:
- In your intro, restate in your own words what you think the quote represents. In other words, provide your own interpretation of what the quote means.
- In your body paragraph(s), outline the reasons for your interpretation of the quote. Use concrete examples to demonstrate your points. For example, you can use personal experiences or skills, or you can use case studies to support your points.
- In conclusion, provide a lesson this quote can teach us. What does the quote mean for the current situation in the world or your profession?
Remember that your writing station also has a time limit. As we already discussed, different schools will set different limits for MMI stations. And while you can certainly research the time limit your chosen schools use and adhere to these restrictions when you practice, we advise that you start practicing writing down your answers in 4-5 minutes maximum. Even if you know that your chosen schools give more, it's good to practice articulating your answer in 4 minutes. This will teach you how to articulate the most important points and deliver an answer that directly addresses the prompt without adding any fluff.
Of course, if you are facing a station that explicitly asks you to write a full-fledged essay and gives you 30 minutes to complete the station, then you will need to complete the assignment that's asked of you. However, it is always good practice to train yourself to answer questions in less time than what is given. With this kind of practice, even if you end up writing an essay in your real MMI, you will know how to manage your time properly and express your thoughts clearly. No matter how long you are given, your answers must not include anything unnecessary and must directly answer the question you are given. Therefore, practicing being laconic is important.
Tip: to speed up your typing, practice with typing software to gradually increase your typing speed.
Want to see some of our top MMI writing station tips in point form? This infographic is for you:
Grammar and Syntax
You may have heard that CASPer and MMI evaluators are instructed not to pay attention to the grammar and syntax of your written answers. And while this might be true when it comes to the instructions CASPer evaluators receive, the reality of the situation is quite different. Poor grammar and syntax inevitably affect the impression your answer makes, and therefore might affect your score. If your answer is difficult to read because the sentences are incomprehensible and there is a mistake in every other word, then even the most well-structured answer will not do well.
It is difficult to pay attention to grammar while you are trying to write down a quality answer in a limited number of minutes, but it’s important to habituate yourself to pay attention to grammar details. When you practice, aim to eliminate any errors in your response. Additionally, leave yourself 30-40 seconds at the end of each station to read through your answer and correct any errors.
The best way to prepare for MMI writing stations is to practice with MMI mock interviews. Practicing with sample medical school interview questions is a good addition to mocks, but you cannot hope to improve your performance in writing stations or any other station if you do not experience the station first-hand and get personalized feedback from a professional. The problem with practicing on your own is that you do not always know what needs more work and how to get better. Sometimes you are doing everything right, practicing with answer strategies, practicing your typing speed, immersing yourself in the interview environment, but are still unable to write out an impressive, comprehensive answer. This is why realistic mock interviews are irreplaceable when it comes to interview prep.
A mock medical school interview can help you identify areas of improvement. Furthermore, interview experts will provide tactics you can use to work on these areas. A professional will help you pinpoint what can help you articulate your answer within the time limit and help your answer come alive. As we already mentioned, in writing stations, only what you wrote affects your score, not your charm or physical appearance. This is why your answer must be impeccable. A good coach can help you develop writing and comprehension skills that will be useful long after you ace your MMI.
A professional can let you know what you might be wasting time on or what part of your answer deserves more attention. For example, maybe you are wasting too much time setting up your answer. On the other hand, maybe your intro and conclusion are too weak to leave a lasting impression on the reader. Or maybe you simply cannot apply the answer strategies effectively. All this can be resolved with the help of a medical school admissions consultant.
Check out this video to see a real MMI mock interview at BeMo with one of our admissions experts:
Sample MMI Writing Station Prompt, Expert Response, and Analysis
Now, let’s see the strategies we outlined above in action.
If you were to do anything differently in your preparation for medical school, what would that be? Please WRITE your answer in the 4 minutes that are provided. You can begin TYPING your answer when the buzzer has sounded.
If I had to do anything differently in preparation for medical school, I would dedicate more time to activities outside of academia, especially music. I have gone to great lengths to prepare myself for a career in medicine, achieving a high GPA and MCAT score, gaining quality clinical hours and shadowing hours, but I believe that dedicating more time to activities unrelated to medicine is vital to becoming a well-rounded professional. I have always known that I wanted to become a physician and worked hard throughout high school to prepare for medical school. And at times, perhaps I forgot to enjoy life outside of academia. When other kids joined afterschool sports clubs and bands, I reviewed biology textbooks.
In my freshman year of college, I felt that some part of my education was missing. I have always loved music, and therefore I decided to start private piano lessons. Over the last three years, my musical skills improved enough for me to join a local chamber orchestra. And even though we are amateurs, we have a lot of support from the local community who attend our free concerts at a local church.
Music has become my second passion after medicine. I discovered that just like medicine, music has healing powers. In just three years, I have personally witnessed the effect music can have on a person and a community. Our orchestra has received dozens of letters from local community members thanking us for bringing the neighborhood together. The concerts have now become an opportunity for community leaders to host charity events and help members of our community through difficult times. Through this experience, I learned that music unites us together, develops empathy and compassion, elevates us beyond our challenges, and accompanies us during the most significant events of our lives.
If I had to do anything differently in preparations for medical school, I would have started making music much earlier than when I did. And while medicine continues to be my main passion, I am truly glad that music became a part of my life and that now I can share it with others.
Let’s now unpack the expert response.
Firstly, let’s identify the type of question we are presented with. It’s a personal question type and it’s asking you to reflect on your personal experience. What could you have done differently to prepare for medical school? In other words, the question is asking you to reflect on weaknesses or gaps in your journey. The number one rule of these types of questions is to be genuine. Do not write down a weakness that is actually a strength. For example, do not write “I wish I could have gotten a 4.0 GPA. Mine is only 3.98.” You get the idea. The best choice of topic for these types of questions is something that you truly wish you did differently but already have had some time to improve. As you can see in our expert response, the writer is honest in admitting that they neglected extracurricular activities early on in their journey to medical school but have now mitigated this gap. This is a great example because the writer can genuinely answer the prompt and demonstrate what steps they took to address this regret.
Note that the writer does a great job of recapping the prompt in the first sentence without literally restating it. They incorporate the prompt naturally in their introductory sentence. It is advisable to incorporate a recap in your answer because you are ensuring that the reader knows exactly what you are responding to. What if the reader does not have the prompt in front of them when they read your answer? How will they know what you are trying to address? A light recap at the beginning will set the record straight.
Another reason why this introduction is strong is that the writer answers the prompt right away. They give a direct answer as to what they wish they did differently. Note that it's not a strength masquerading as a weakness. Having limited extracurriculars for medical school is truly a weakness, so we know that the writer is not being coy with us. The writer does a good job of creating the setting in their introduction. We learn that becoming a doctor was a priority from an early age, that academics were prioritized, and that extracurriculars were neglected. We get a general picture of what kind of premed student the writer was: hyper-focused on GPA, MCAT, and medically related activities that would boost your chances for getting into medical school.
However, this kind of academic life leaves the author feeling incomplete. The writer clearly demonstrates the steps they took to change this. They started piano lessons, developed enough skills to join an amateur orchestra, and enjoy the activity tremendously. The writer also shares what they accomplished and learned from the decision to participate in music. Not only do we learn that the concerts bring the community together for free music events, but they are also used as charity events that help people in the community that need support. Note that the writer uses concrete examples of how their experience affected them and others around them.
The conclusion brings up the prompt once again, reminding us of what question the writer is responding to. The author also reiterates that medicine is still the number one priority, but that music is also a part of this student’s life. The answer is well-structured, coherent, and uses the “show, don’t tell” rule flawlessly. It expertly uses the answer structure for personal questions we outlined above. We are given a precise example of a flaw in the student’s background, learn what the student did to fix this flaw, and what lessons they learned from the experience.
The answer directly responds to the prompt and leaves the reader with a more detailed picture of the candidate, which is, what after all, interview answers are supposed to accomplish.
Check out our video to learn why mock interviews are so important!
15 More Examples of MMI Writing Station Prompts
As we already mentioned, mock interviews are key to successful preparation. However, you must use MMI writing station examples for practice in between your mock interviews. The questions below will help you apply your answer strategies and practice on your own to improve the interview skills that you learn during mocks.
Medical schools have a preference for selecting medical candidates from certain geographical locations, such as specific rural areas. What are your views about such selection policies? Please WRITE your answer in the 4 minutes that are provided. You can begin TYPING your answer when the buzzer has sounded.
Write about your most memorable experience as an undergraduate student. Please WRITE your answer in the 4 minutes that are provided. You can begin TYPING your answer when the buzzer has sounded.
Write about your most impactful life experience. Please WRITE your answer in the 4 minutes that are provided. You can begin TYPING your answer when the buzzer has sounded.
Lord Byron stated, “Always laugh when you can, it is cheap medicine.” What does this quote mean to you in terms of how you will pursue your career in medicine? Please WRITE your answer in the 4 minutes that are provided. You can begin TYPING your answer when the buzzer has sounded.
What was the most stressful situation you ever faced? How did you handle it? Please WRITE your answer in the 4 minutes that are provided. You can begin TYPING your answer when the buzzer has sounded.
What does the word “success” mean to you? Please WRITE your answer in the 4 minutes that are provided. You can begin TYPING your answer when the buzzer has sounded.
If you had the opportunity to start any student group or organization, what would it be? Please WRITE your answer in the 4 minutes that are provided. You can begin TYPING your answer when the buzzer has sounded.
How has your family influenced you and your decision to become a physician/dentist/pharmacist? Please WRITE your answer in the 4 minutes that are provided. You can begin TYPING your answer when the buzzer has sounded.
If you were given 10 million dollars to put towards your country’s health care system, how would you delegate the money? Please WRITE your answer in the 4 minutes that are provided. You can begin TYPING your answer when the buzzer has sounded.
What is the greatest obstacle you have ever faced? Please WRITE your answer in the 4 minutes that are provided. You can begin TYPING your answer when the buzzer has sounded.
Discuss one of your favorite extracurricular activities outside of school. Also, discuss how this activity has prepared you for a life in medicine. What lessons did you learn through your involvement in these extracurricular activities? Please WRITE your answer in the 4 minutes that are provided. You can begin TYPING your answer when the buzzer has sounded.
What is the most unpopular stance you have taken? Please WRITE your answer in the 4 minutes that are provided. You can begin TYPING your answer when the buzzer has sounded.
If you could change any aspect of your personality with a snap of a finger, what would it be? Please WRITE your answer in the 4 minutes that are provided. You can begin TYPING your answer when the buzzer has sounded.
"Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel." – Socrates. What does this quote mean to you? Please WRITE your answer in the 4 minutes that are provided. You can begin TYPING your answer when the buzzer has sounded.
Suppose you are given the chance to write your past self a letter. What would you tell yourself? Please WRITE your answer in the 4 minutes that are provided. You can begin TYPING your answer when the buzzer has sounded.
1. What are MMI writing stations?
In an MMI writing station, you are presented with a prompt and asked to write down your answer on a piece of paper or type up your answer on a computer when you enter the station. Writing stations are also timed. Every school will have its own time limitations for MMI stations.
2. What kind of questions should I expect in MMI writing stations?
Typically, you will be asked personal questions, including questions about your past experiences, quote interpretations, quirky questions, and so on. You should also practice writing answers for scenario and policy questions. Though these are less likely to appear in a writing station, forewarned is forearmed so it’s better to prepare for these in case you do encounter them.
3. How long should my answers be?
Typically, writing stations do not indicate a word limit. You are only limited by the time you are given at the station.
4. How long do I have at a writing station?
Each school sets its own time limitations. Sometimes, schools allocate longer time periods for writing stations. For example, you may be given about half an hour to write an essay to answer a prompt. It is advisable to practice writing out your answer in 4 minutes or under. Why? Because if you can write down a comprehensive answer in 4 minutes or less, you will ace any writing station you might encounter. Practicing with a minimal time limit will prepare you to be concise and clear no matter what time limit you are given in a writing station during a real interview.
5. Are writing stations more difficult?
Your answer strategies for writing prompts will not be much different from verbal prompts. However, you should practice increasing your typing speed. You should also make sure you practice structuring your answers. Remember that in a writing station, only what you write is scored. Your charisma and performance in other stations cannot help your score in this station.
6. What is the best way to prepare for MMI writing stations?
You should participate in realistic mock interviews and practice with sample writing prompts. You can enroll in an MMI interview prep course to get the best realistic practice.
7. Do evaluators consider my grammar when scoring?
While grammar might not be the number one priority for evaluators, you should aim to eliminate grammar and punctuation mistakes in your answer. Your answer must be easy to follow and clean. If you have mistakes and errors in your answer, they may negatively affect your score simply because they affect the general impression your answer creates.
8. What structure should my answer follow?
You should use academic essay structure when you answer writing prompts. Make sure that your answer has an intro, body, and conclusion.
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