Reviewing neurology residency interview questions and answers is an essential part of the ERAS or CaRMS interview prep. It allows you to get a better idea of the types of questions you can expect during your interview, and it can also help you figure out how to structure or phrase some of your own answers as well. This blog shares a list of common neurology residency interview questions that you can use for practice. We've also provided sample answers to several of these questions to help inspire your own.
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How Competitive is Neurology Residency?
Neurology isn't often ranked among the most competitive residencies. Based on the latest National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) data, the overall competitiveness level for neurology is relatively low in the United States. Applicants have an almost 90% chance of matching to a program if they meet the requirements. Furthermore, while primary care specialties such as family medicine remain the friendliest programs for International Medical Graduates, neurology was one of the top five specialties that Non-U.S. IMGs matched again last year. These numbers indicate that it could be becoming one of the more IMG-friendly residency programs.
That said, it's important to remember that even the specialties that do not have as much competition have a limited number of spots available in residency programs. If you want to secure one of them, your CaRMS or ERAS application needs to be strong, and you need to ace your residency interview.
10 Common Neurology Residency Interview Questions and Sample Answers
Question #1: Why did you choose neurology as a specialty?
I have always been fascinated by the human brain and the nervous system. I remember being in biology class in high school, learning about the human body, and everything seemed to link back to the nervous system in one way or another. I'd repeatedly asked my biology teacher, Mr. Sitah, why we know so little about such a critical system. His response was always that the brain is a complicated thing but that every day, we are making discoveries about the nervous system and how it impacts our lives.
I decided to become a doctor because I wanted to be one of the people making those discoveries and using them to create new technologies and enhance people's lives and wellbeing. I knew that neuroscience is used in several different medical specialties, but I was in no hurry to figure out which one would be best for me. I wanted to learn more and go further in my training as a doctor and have as much experience as possible in the medical field before making up my mind.
While completing my undergraduate degree, I worked part-time at a local retirement home. This is where I first started learning about how to interact with patients. Of course, I would learn from the doctors and other auxiliary staff members, but my favorite teachers was actually a resident in the home - Dr. Malbech. He was a retired neurologist who spent most of his days doing crossword puzzles and yelling at the TV, but once in a while, he would sit with me and help me with my planning for medical school and teach me about the things that he thought could help me become a better doctor. He told me how important it is to actively listen to a patient and why the pecking order at teaching hospitals saves lives, among many other things.
I learned from Dr. Malbech for two years and continued to visit him even after I stopped working at the retirement home. He had already convinced me that neurology was an amazing specialty, but I had not committed to it until I learned that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. I was once again amazed that someone who had spent most of his life studying the nervous system and the brain could be affected by such a horrible disease because we still don't know enough about how to prevent it.
That was what helped me solidify my commitment to neurology. I want to help patients like Dr. Malbech who have to deal with these terrible illnesses. Eventually, I'd like to join the efforts of other neurologists who are researching diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Question #2: What qualities do you believe will make you a good neurologist?
One of my favorite things about neurology is that it often requires a lot of patient interaction and some digging. During my clerkship, one of the attendings explained to my colleagues and me that in neurology, it is very rare for a problem to unfold in front of you; you have to do some detective work, listen to the patient intently, and pay attention to the details in their story if you want to make a diagnosis and help them. I especially like this because I enjoy spending time with patients, and I can usually form a connection with them quite quickly. I am also a good problem solver. I like to solve jigsaw puzzles in my spare time, and I recently completed the biggest one I have tried to date, which had 3000 pieces. Over the years, I have learned that the key to solving a jigsaw puzzle is paying attention to the details, focusing on each piece, and figuring out where it fits in. When you do that, the bigger picture starts to form in front of you. I believe that these abilities will allow me to be a good neurologist.
Question #3: What do you like to do in your spare time?
I enjoy playing sports, specifically soccer, and trying new things in my spare time. I grew up playing soccer with my siblings, and we still get into very heated games when we get together. My older sister is also the person who always encouraged me to try new things and discover different hobbies. We are actually taking a cooking class together next week. I believe in being as active as possible and keeping my mind and body sharp. Trying different activities allows me to do that. It is also a great way to pick up different skillsets while enjoying yourself.
Question #4: How do you plan on staying up-to-date with recent developments in neurology?
To become a doctor is to commit to being a lifelong learner, and that's precisely who I plan on being. I am currently subscribed to the American Journal of Medicine and the Journal of Neurology. I am also a member of the National Neurologist Association, which often shares new research papers and articles about medical advancements in the field with its members. Currently, I set aside a couple of hours every month to read those publications and stay up to date on current affairs in the field. As I progress in my training, I am confident that I will learn about other journals and associations and come up with more efficient methods for staying up to date on developments in neurology.
Question#5: What other specialties did you consider for your residency?
When I first started medical school, I was still deciding between surgery, neurosurgery to be exact, and neurology. Ever since I decided to become a doctor, I knew that I would choose a specialty that revolved around the brain and the nervous system, and I thought that surgery was pretty cool. However, during my clerkship, I realized that I really enjoy interacting with patients and several of my attendings even complimented my bedside manner. While surgeons do get to speak with their patients, they do not get to do it as often, and when they do, it is usually for a shorter amount of time. Neurology was the better choice for me because it allows me to form stronger connections with patients as I get to treat them for a prolonged period of time, observe their progress as they get treatment, and often follow up with them afterwards.
Question #6: Why did you apply to our residency program?
I first got interested in the XYZ residency program because of Dr. Jane Doe. I read her paper on the cardiac effect of drug-resistant epilepsy in the American Journal of Medicine, and I was very impressed. The paper mentioned that she was completing her fellowship at your hospital, and in the article that followed, she talked about how much support she had while conducting her research. I was intrigued, so I took some time to research your program and liked what I saw. The program seems to clearly focus on giving interns the tools they need to become independent residents. I especially like your “learning how to learn” program, which I believe teaches interns and residents how to get the most out of their training. That is precisely what I am looking for in a residency program, a place where I will not only get medical training but also support and instruction every step of the way.
Question #7: What role do a patient’s religious beliefs play in the way you approach their care?
I believe that it is our responsibility to care for patients' general well-being. That means their physical health, of course, but also their emotional, financial, and sometimes spiritual well-being too. What this means for me is that I always try to listen. If a patient's religious belief requires something that will not be harmful to them or others, I do not stand in their way. I may even encourage it. However, if the patient's spiritual well-being would come at the cost of their health or the well-being of another individual, then I may need to get creative and look for other solutions. I may need to do some research or consult a spiritual leader before making any decisions.
Would you like to hear more sample residency interview questions and answers? Check out our blog!
Question #8: What do you consider to be your proudest achievement?
I am lucky enough and hard-working enough that I actually find this question difficult to answer. I am very proud of the grades and MSPE that I graduated with from medical school. I am also very proud of the fact that I got to be the editor of my school newspaper for two consecutive years, and I am proud of how much the paper grew while I was leading it. Still, my proudest accomplishment is that I was able to run a half marathon earlier this year. Two years ago, I was in very poor health, but I committed to it, and I trained six days a week to be able to do it. Not only did I manage to run the 5 kilometers, but I helped raise $40 000 for the society for Alzheimer's research.
Question #9: Unfortunately, as neurologists, we have to deliver discouraging news to patients and their loved ones. How would you handle such difficult situations?
While on my emergency medicine rotation, we had one particularly rough day. Four patients came in within 30 minutes of each other, and they were all in critical conditions. Two of them had been in a car accident, one of them had been stabbed, and a little girl's appendix had ruptured about two days before she came to the hospital, so by the time she got to us, there wasn't much we could do help her. She was the first to die. Then we lost all of the other patients one by one.
That day stayed with me because it was the first time that I ever lost a patient, and also because I witnessed a conversation between a resident and an attending during which the attending was reprimanding a resident for the way in which they delivered the bad news to a patient's loved one. The attending told the resident and all of us that we need to remember that even on days when we have lost 20 patients, the person we are going to talk to is going through one of the scariest experiences of their lives. We are about to tell them that one of their biggest fears has come true. So, while there is no good way to say it, there is a compassionate way of doing it.
He explained that we should always look them in the eye, be honest with them, direct but kind and answer all of their questions. That is the approach that I want to take when delivering difficult news.
Question #10: Is there anything you’d like to ask us?
Yes, I do have a few questions. You mentioned earlier that you yourself trained in this program. What was your favorite part of the residency program?
20 Additional Questions to Practice With
- What strengths would you bring to our program as a resident?
- What is the most interesting neurological case you have been exposed to, so far?
- Tell me about yourself
- Do you consider yourself a team player?
- Are you planning on doing a fellowship in neurology?
- Tell me more about [experience from your [residency CV]
- How do you deal with stress?
- In your opinion, what is the greatest challenge neurology will face in the next few years?
- What are the areas that you feel you can improve yourself on?
- How will you contribute to our program?
- Are you willing to relocate for residency?
- What is your favorite aspect of neurology as a specialty?
- What was your favorite clerkship rotation and why?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years?
- Your residency CV shows research in [topic you researched], do you intend to pursue that research?
- Tell me about a time when you had to work under pressure.
- What was the last book you read?
- How do you handle constructive criticism?
- Tell me about a difficulty that you had to overcome in medical school.
- What is your least favorite aspect of neurology as a specialty?
3 Ways to Make Your Residency Interview Answers Stand Out
As you start your CaRMS or ERAS interview prep, you need to remember two main things. The first is that when you get invited for a residency interview, it means that the residency directors liked what they saw in your application. Your residency personal statement and other application components did their job. The first part of the process is done! Now, they want to know if you are who you claimed to be on paper. They want to assess your professionalism and non-cognitive skills like your communication and interpersonal skills.
The second thing is that you are not the only applicant being interviewed. In fact, it is even more important that you do well in your residency interviews because all of the candidates being interviewed are the ones that the residency directors consider to be potentially qualified and ready for their program. So, if you want to beat the competition, you need to make sure that your answers stand out. Here are three ways to make that happen:
1. How competitive is neurology as a specialty?
Neurology has a relatively low level of competition for residency programs. So, if you meet the program’s requirements, submit a strong application, and do well on your interview, your chances of matching are pretty high.
2. Does the residency interview carry a lot of weight?
Residency program directors use interviews to assess your readiness for their program, but also your communication and interpersonal skills, as well as your professionalism. These factors are very important in their decisions, so to put it simply: yes. Residency interviews carry a lot of weight!
3. What type of questions can I expect during my neurology residency interview?
You can expect personal questions, questions about your background, your future and goals, your expectations and readiness for the program, and questions that are specifically about neurology and being a neurologist.
4. How can I prepare for residency interviews?
You can prepare by participating in mock interviews and structuring your answers to common questions in advance so that you are not caught off guard during the interview. Additionally, you have the option of investing in residency interview preparation services as they can significantly improve your performance.
5. Why should I keep my answers under two minutes?
A two-minute speaking time is long enough to provide an answer with substantial information, but it is also short enough that you won’t run the risk of the interviewer losing interest in your story or getting distracted.
6. Is neurology an IMG-friendly specialty?
Several graduates from international medical schools have been able to get into neurology residency programs, but the numbers are not as high as for specialties like family medicine or internal medicine. So, we wouldn’t consider it an IMG-friendly specialty, but it is not a hostile one either.
7. What should I avoid saying during my neurology residency interview?
You should refrain from using slang, or terms that are specific to a different industry. You should also avoid speaking negatively about other programs, your medical school, past colleagues, or mentors. Remember that this is a professional interview, so you need to maintain a polite and courteous attitude.
8. Who should I practice sample interview questions with?
You can conduct mock interviews by yourself in the mirror or a camera, with a friend or colleague, or you can enlist the help of a professional like one of our consultants, for example.
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