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Modified Personal Interview (MPI) at the University of Toronto

Introduction

Since the introduction of Modified Personal Interviews (MPIs) by the University of Toronto’s medical school, there has been a lot of confusion about what these interviews encompass. Therefore, this blog will strictly focus on the MPI and how it differs from the traditional Personal Interview (PI) and the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI). After reading this blog you will be familiarized with:

  1. The history and logic/rationale behind the MPI
  2. The set up and organization of the MPI
  3. The types of questions you will encounter on the MPI

History, Background, & Rationale

The Modified Personal Interview (MPI) was designed as a response to the constant criticism that the Personal Interview (PI) receives for its limitations (poor reliability and validity) in identifying the right medical school candidate. Furthermore, the MPI was introduced as a counter-measure by the University of Toronto’s medical program to offset the growing influence of McMaster’s Michael DeGroote School of Medicine’s multiple mini interviews (MMIs), which has its own limitation which we have highlighted in this blog post

Like all other types of medical school interviews, the MPI is designed to identify those interpersonal qualities and important characteristics that will make a candidate a successful medical doctor in the future. In order to solve the poor reliability and validity that is inherent in the traditional panel interview or PI, the modified personal interview has been designed so that the candidate interacts with four distinct interviewers and this allows for Multiple Independent Sampling (MIS) of the interviewee, which is one of the claimed characteristics of the MMI. 

The idea is essentially this: The PI does not provide adequate reliability and predictive power about the candidate’s personal characteristics, but it is very simple and cost effective to carry out. It also provides an opportunity for dialogue and conversation between the candidate and the interviewer (i.e. mentor/mentee relationship). The MMI, on the other hand, provides high reliability and moderate validity about the candidate’s personal characteristics, as there are 8-10 opportunities to independently sample the candidate, however it is very costly and requires a lot of resources to be carried out. The MPI is the happy medium. According to the study by the Leadership Education and Development Program (LEAD) at U of T, the MPI interview is simple to carry out, it is cost effective, it allows for the mentor/mentee interaction, as candidates can ask questions and have a conversation with the interviewers, and more importantly, it provides MIS of the candidate’s personal characteristics, which solves the poor reliability and validity problem associated with traditional panel interview. 

Structure & Organization of the MPI

On the day of the interview, the candidate will move from room 1 to room 4, encountering four different individuals who will have approximately 10-12 minutes to ask questions from the candidate. The interviewers are either, faculty members, members of the admissions committee, senior medical students or residents, or other medical doctors. “The four interviewers, all of whom had participated in the review of the written materials, [those submitted as part of the application package] frame all questions as behavioural descriptive questions (e.g., “When you entered a new workplace in the past, how did you go about meeting and developing relationships with new colleagues and supervisors?”), which have strong validity in assessing personal characteristics” (1).

The interviewers rate the candidate across three common attributes (i.e. maturity, communication skills, and interpersonal skills. The candidate is also rated on a fourth attribute that is unique only to them. According to the paper published by Hanson et al. (2012), the fourth attribute relates to such characteristics as, the candidate’s ability to work in teams, his/her vision and expectation, his/her bandwidth (being able to handle multiple and competing tasks, having wide-range of solutions to problems, etc.), adaptability, self-reflection and personal insight (1). Each interviewer gives the candidate a score out of 5 (five point Likert-type scale), and the total score is calculated out of 20. 

Types of Questions on the MPI 

As already mentioned, the MPI interview is designed around behavioural descriptive questions. These are similar to the ethical/moral dilemmas that one encounters during an MMI, for instance. However, since the MPI still has certain characteristics that are similar to the PI, there are other types of questions that can be asked. For a comprehensive list of questions and question types that you may encounter on the day of your MPI visit our previous blog, the ultimate guide to medical school interview questions, which clearly identifies the five categories of questions that you should be expecting. 

Sample MPI Interview Question

“I can see from your application, that you have spent a lot of time working as a counselor with children…

What was your strategy to building relationships with the children, your new colleagues and supervisors?

And what has been the most important lesson you have learned from working with kids?”

Want additional tips and sample questions?

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