No matter how studied you are on a school’s curriculum and reputation, you might struggle to come up with questions to ask during your . After answering your , turning the tables on your interviewers may seem intimidating, but being an engaged interviewee takes more than simply answering their questions well. You need to ask them good questions too! Here are 40 solid sample questions to use or adapt for your medical school interviews, along with some comments to help you best utilize them.
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Failing to ask questions during your initial interviews is one of the , but it’s quite common for students to struggle with this aspect of interviewing. However, not “returning fire” is likely to come across as disinterest in the school, its program, and even the people interviewing you. Furthermore, in not asking questions—or not asking the right questions—you may miss out on the opportunity to learn useful information firsthand from people in positions of authority within your desired program. Asking the right questions can help you gather this important information, which will be extremely helpful when interview season wraps up and you start narrowing down your options. In addition to learning the basics of how to prepare for your medical school interview and knowing when the day arrives, it’s vital to have a sense of how to operate as an active and engaged interviewee.
Are you getting ready for medical school interview? Check out the most common interview questions:
We often think of questions as simply specific or general, and while that basic categorization is fairly useful you can rest assured that even the most general question can yield tons of helpful information from your interviewers when asked at the right time and in the right context. Utilizing both types of questions well is crucial in helping you operate your side of a medical school interview.
Specific questions are exactly that—questions specific to the school or program at which you’re interviewing. These show you’ve done your homework, and when posed at the right time with the right “spin” can both show off your interest and help you gain insights otherwise unavailable by simply reviewing public information. For instance, you may have done some research on and found out that school X has a unique new curriculum, about which you’d like to find out more information. Or you may have read on school Y’s website that it prides itself on specific post-graduate placements in global health or some other specialization. Asking questions like this show your interviewers that you’ve done your homework, and remain engaged enough to want more information. This is inarguably impressive to interviewers.
On the other hand, general questions, as noted, can be fantastic springboards to lengthy discussions. Every applicant should have a sense of what big-picture curiosities they have, and find ways to incorporate this curiosity into the interview/discussion. Asking a faculty member why they enjoy working at their college is a common option, but when asked sincerely, it’s usually a great basis for building rapport and indicating your interest in their personal experiences and thoughts.
We’ve organized our list around some basic topics that are useful and important during an interview. We encourage you to reflect on these categories and questions when doing your initial research into which questions you would like to ask your program of choice. This is important in two ways. The first is that it will help you clarify your understanding of the school and/or program with which you’re interviewing while you prepare for the interview. Heading into an interview with a clear sense of what you already know can greatly guide you in asking for information on what you don’t know.
Second, it can also save you from asking a question whose answer/s are readily available online or in other program overview materials. Asking a question that could be easily answered by a cursory perusal of a school’s website gives a poor impression to interviewers, specially that you didn’t do your homework—or at least didn’t do it well—on the school or program to which you’re applying.
In addition to organizing our list in some handy categories, we’ve also provided some commentary to help elaborate how you should use each question and what kind of answer you may expect to receive.
How do students like X aspect of your curriculum?
The point here is to ask about the overall curriculum or some specific aspect of it, such as its structure or emphases. Some schools may have extensive elective blocks in later years, and others may have novel or school-specific courses that make them unique. Asking to find out what other students think will allow you to gauge not only what students think of the program but how well your interviewers understand their students.
Is X aspect of the curriculum new? Does it focus on group-based and/or active learning?
Getting into curriculum specifics can be tricky—a lot of information like this is available on schools’ websites—but if you can’t find details like this online, it absolutely behooves you to ask about it in the interview. This shows that you’re already taking your responsibilities as a student seriously, wanting to understand what you’ll be doing and how your own strengths/needs as a student will mesh with the curriculum.
Is coursework Pass/Fail?
You can ask this about coursework in general, or about specific courses being Pass/Fail. As many medical programs are moving over to Pass/Fail grading, this also shows that you’re engaged with current academic trends as well.
How are students evaluated?
Related to the question above, if you already know that the curriculum isn’t graded Pass/Fail, it can be good to inquire as to how exactly grading operates, whether faculty utilizes grading curves, etc. Again, this shows your care about performing well!
How long is the preclinical curriculum?
As many schools are moving toward shorter preclinical periods, it’s a great question to ask whether this specific program is 1 year, 1.5 years, or 2 years long.
How do students perform on National Board Examinations?
Although some schools post median or average USMLE or COMLEX scores on their statistics pages, odds are this isn’t public information. Asking this is more a question for you, as a school whose students perform poorly on boards may in fact not be all it’s cracked up to be. Showing that you’re capable of approaching such a big decision with forethought and a curious—even somewhat critical—eye can be quite impressive to interviewers as well.
Why was X change to the curriculum implemented?
A question like this shows a lot to the interviewer, but most importantly it proves you’ve done your homework. You don’t need to present this doubtfully—i.e., don’t make it seem like you’re too skeptical of the administration’s decisions. The point is that you should be curious and engaged with your potential school's curriculum, and asking a specific questions about it displays this curiosity. This may also invite your interviewers to ask why you're interested in this particular aspect of their program, so be ready to explain your curiosity if you do ask a question like this.
Have any aspects of/recent changes to curriculum been based on student feedback?
Student input on curriculum decisions is historically not a common thing, but certain changes like the aforementioned Pass/Fail grading or shortening of preclinical block lengths may have been influenced by students. Finding out if a school values student feedback on big-picture matters like curriculum changes can help you determine how a program values the thoughts and expressed desires of its matriculants.
What is considered your most difficult course?
This shouldn’t be a make-or-break answer, but it may help you understand how faculty approaches certain subjects. For instance, if their answer refers to an advanced course that seems objectively difficult, then that seems logical, and not a red flag. However, if their answer is a basic medical concepts course, then you’ll want to dig into why it has such a gnarly reputation.
Here's a quick recap:
In how many hospitals do students perform rotations?
Performing clinical rotations in more than one hospital may mean more commuting, which can add significant weekly stress during an already-stressful period. However, it can also enrich students’ education, greatly expanding the number and variety of both physicians and patients they interact with. This is an extremely helpful question and shows that you’re able to look ahead and engage with matters that, pre-matriculation, are still years away.
Do students use paper or electronic charts in rotations?
This won’t invite a hugely revealing answer, but it shows you already have a grasp on what clinical rotations will entail, and if you have a strong preference, you may use this information to help you decide between a program that uses more traditional paper charts and a more technologically sophisticated system of electronic charting.
Are clinical grades Pass/Fail?
Clinical grades being P/F may take away some stress, but it more accurately redirects that stress onto performing well on your Step exams, whose scores become even more important if clinical grades provide less detail.
Are the standardized Shelf exams used for clinical grades?
If you loathe standardized exams then going to a school that doesn’t use Shelf exams may be a priority for you. Again, this isn’t necessarily make-or-break information, but if you find yourself really needing to chart out the positive and negative aspects of multiple schools in order to make a decision, information like this can be extremely helpful to have.
What are some unique fourth-year electives that your program offers?
Some schools offer short courses on the business behind owning a clinic, courses on narrative writing, or even outdoor rotations on wilderness medicine. This information may be available on a school’s website, but in the event that it’s not, it may be useful to find out. Additionally, asking this question may serve as a springboard to more granular discussion about faculty interests and program strengths that aren’t immediately apparent in general program overviews.
Are there any apps or special technologies used in rotations?
There’s a now enormous industry of apps specifically designed for use by medical students, and while many are helpful, others can be frustrating and difficult to gain comfort with. Finding out what sorts of peripheral technologies are used in rotations will help you better understand how easily you can acclimate to a given school’s resources.
Does this school host any conferences or other research-oriented events?
Not only can an affirmative answer to this question signal your ability to participate in such a conference, it will also allow you to get comfortable with the structure of conferences even just by attending as an audience member. Additionally, if a school hosts a renowned conference or event, you’ll be able to listen to speakers discuss cutting-edge research which may even match your personal research interests.
Do you offer research electives?
Finding time to undertake research, let alone publish on it, is incredibly difficult as a medical student. If a school structures time for this into the later years of its program, though, you’ll have a much easier time populating your .
What opportunities are available for students to get involved in research?
A general question, but often a very necessary one since program websites won’t go into much depth on research opportunities. Additionally, schools often have very specific research foci, and how this specifically translates into student opportunities is very helpful to know. Additionally, given that faculty are typically the ones driving said research this question is another opportunity to build rapport and leave a personal impression on your interviewers.
Are there research stipends or available to students who wish to stay in town over summer and pursue research?
A question this keen can come off a bit try-hard, but if you earnestly and sincerely want to engage in research then it’s important to ask about financial support. Asking a question like this could also open the door to your interviewers wanting to know more about your research interests, so be prepared to explain yourself further if you do ask something along these lines.
What big research projects are going on in this school currently?
Another opportunity for your interviewers to talk about their interests! This is of course helpful for you as well though—if a school is currently administrating a project in epigenetics, for instance, and that’s an interest you share, it’s a great opportunity for you all to discuss the nitty-gritty of why that particular topic excites you.
Are there research assistant positions available while I am studying at this medical school?
Requesting information on specific RA opportunities is, like the prior question, a great way to invite your interviewers to discuss the ongoing research being undertaken by the department. If you are indeed interested in obtaining a research assistantship during your time in the MD program, you'll want to get as much preliminary information about these opportunities as possible, especially for use in crafting materials like the . A question like this also signals to your interviewers that you'd like to be an active contributor to the academic and scientific work of the school, which will undoubtedly be positively received.
Do students have opportunities to study or work abroad?
Finding out if a school has an ongoing investment in global health outreach can not only be exciting for you if you share that passion, but it can also help you contextualize the way a school may be perceived by the rest of the world.
Are these global health initiatives funded? When are they usually undertaken?
If a school does arrange for work abroad but doesn’t fund it, you might not be able to participate. Finding out when these activities happen and how students are supported in undertaking them is incredibly vital information.
What kind of student organizations does this school have?
In addition to more administrative-adjacent organizations like a medical students association or student council, many schools have medical student-run newspapers, journals, and other clubs that give students a different environment in which to build camaraderie and secondary skills. After all, your are important, but non-academic activities you participate in while in med school will be helpful in buffering your or applications for residency as well.
Is there a student council? If so, how is it structured and what does it do?
Medical student councils are a longstanding tradition, especially in more elite programs. Finding out information on this kind of body shows interviewers you’re confident enough to (possibly) engage with this kind of leadership activity, and the exact details may in fact change how you feel about your potential time in the program.
Does this school offer any leadership training programs?
Related to the first question in this section, some schools will have specific programs geared toward helping students develop leadership skills. While these programs are uncommon, their presence likely speaks to a school’s commitment to training truly high-performing medical professionals, and if you’re interested in eventually taking on administrative roles in your career you can’t start developing those skills early enough.
Are there student mentoring programs?
Mentoring programs specifically help the newest students by putting them in formal contact with more experienced students, creating another support structure for these stressful years. If a school prides itself on having such a program, you may feel much more comfortable when things get especially challenging.
Do you offer opportunities for students to volunteer in the community?
In almost every case schools will have some sort of assistance in place to help students arrange volunteering experiences. While volunteering experiences aren’t the most crucial part of your eventual applications for residency, they are necessary to have.
Does this school have a free clinic?
If this isn’t immediately apparent on a school’s website, you should absolutely ask about any free or low-cost care services they provide.
Does this school oversee any specific health initiatives within the community?
Some schools are located in areas with notable demographics like large refugee or recent immigrant communities, and so may have health outreach services geared specifically for helping these communities.
What do you love most about this institution? What do you enjoy the least?
Although the second part of this question is likely to at least raise some eyebrows, it’s important to approach your interviewers as fellow medical professionals and human beings, and getting their subject opinion on their school can provide incredibly helpful insight if they’re inclined to be candid.
What is it like living in this city?
If you’re interviewing in a place you’ve never been to previously, getting a longtime resident’s input on the city in a general sense can be extremely helpful in understanding how comfortable you’ll be there for the next 4 years.
What is the cost of living in this city?
Somewhat related to the more general question prior, getting a sense of the financial demands of living in a given city, especially if it’s unfamiliar, is crucial. Many medical schools will present an average annual cost for rent, but getting into the details about sizes of accommodation and neighborhoods is really important. If you’d like to learn more about the cost of attending medical school in rural and urban areas, check out our .
What is the patient population here like?
Don’t try to force a conversation about demography, but understanding the socio-economic and cultural currents in the school’s surrounding environment can be very helpful in understanding who you’ll be interacting with in clinical rotations and volunteering experiences. Knowing the breakdown of rural/suburban/urban populations can also help you get a sense of what health issues you may be tasked with responding to.
What is the student population like? How diverse is it?
This is another question whose answer may be on the school’s website, but if not it may be another great springboard to further discussion.
Do you have any time off during the summer?
Without making it seem like you need to take off for 3 months of surfing every June, it’s good to determine if you’ll have any lengthier breaks while you’re in med school.
What mental health or other support services are offered by the school? To medical students in particular?
The reality of medicine is that interactions with patients will sometimes be incredibly difficult, even traumatic. Likewise, the academic schedule of a medical student is often unrelenting and exhausting. This question is more of a personal thing to find out if you’ll have access to support throughout your time, but asking it can also signal to your interviewers that you have a grasp of the difficult experience you’re asking to undertake with them.
What do you wish you had known before starting medical school?
This is an almost purely conversational question, but in so being it allows you to get a deeper sense of your interviewers’ motivations and personal history without overtly prying. Most importantly though, take this answer seriously, and consider it long after you’ve left the interview room. Faculty in medical schools generally do want students to succeed, so a sincere answer to this question may help you avoid some serious pitfalls.
What are the characteristics of your most successful students?
This is a tricky one to answer due to its potential complexity, but answers will be helpful in understanding who thrives in this school’s environment. Depending on the answer, you may even be able to infer what kind of systemic biases exist at the institution, whether they be purely academic or even class-based.
This may feel like an odd one to ask, but if your budgetary situation is tight already, it could be important information in deciding between schools that otherwise feel even.
If you had to work in a field other than medicine, what would it be?
The innermost aspects of your interviewers’ personalities aren’t really relevant for the most part, but you may have some significant non-medical interests in common with one or more of them. If this is the case, not only will it leave a positive impression but it may be a nice break in the conversation in which you can talk about something other than medicine and academics. Your interviewers have likely spoken with quite a few other students that day and week before you, and enabling—but not forcing—a brief moment of unpretentious human interaction, even geeking out, can be a delight for all of you.
With every question on this list, there are two key factors in making them work for you. The first is earnestly, genuinely wanting to know the answer. Asking a question you don’t care about simply because you think it’s the right thing to do will be obvious. Again, these people have had dozens if not hundreds of these conversations over the preceding weeks or months. They can smell insincerity a mile away, and are often experts in reading tone and body language. Don’t let this scare you though! Focus on what you actually truly care about finding out, and approach it as a conversation with an interesting group of people. That’s exactly what it is!
The second factor is the oldest truism about interviewing there is: listen! Even if you’re super excited about a response, and feel a volcano of excited follow-up thoughts ready to blow in your brain, hold off and give them space to respond in their own time. Being a good listener is integral to being a good doctor, and showing that you have that skill in a situation as stressful as a medical school interview can make a massively positive impression on the people you’re speaking with.
Get to your interview early and briefly review those questions you feel are especially important, and then try to just relax and discuss things throughout. Rushing in breathlessly and periodically grilling your interviewers from a sweat-smudged notepad is no way to present yourself. Do your best to be calm, collected, and confident that you have the answers they want, and vice versa.
1. Are there any questions I shouldn’t ask?
Anything overtly personal or that demands a harsh answer should be avoided. In general, you want your interview to be about curiosity and illuminating details, not about invasive psychoanalysis or pressing for “dirt” on the institution.
2. Should I practice asking these questions before my interview?
Absolutely yes! Some questions aren’t really applicable to anyone besides your interviewers, but many can be asked of anyone familiar with med school, a school’s location, and so on. For more general questions, interview friends or family members! Low-stakes practice with people you feel comfortable with can be extremely helpful in building confidence to not only ask a question well but to know how the conversation may evolve beyond the initial response.
3. When should I arrive at my interview?
You should aim to arrive at least 15 minutes early but not more than 20 or so. Sitting and stewing aimlessly for a long period before your interview will likely exacerbate any lingering anxiety you have, so 15-20 minutes should suffice. It's essential that you know exactly where you're going and how on the day of your interview though, so be sure to do some reconnaissance prior to your interview day. Be sure to note exactly how long it will take you to travel to your interview location as well, and give yourself a few extra minutes on the day of.
4. My interview isn’t in person. Does that change anything?
Not at all! One of the points we hope is clear is that the exchange between you and the interviewers is key. That is, a well-intentioned dialogue is the goal, and that can happen whether you are doing a or in-person one.
5. Sometimes I get freaked out in interviews and gap out. What should I do if I short-circuit?
It’s always fine to pause and collect your thoughts, and your interviewers are used to students having moments of panic. In fact, they’ll likely be impressed if you can breathe through the initial urge to run screaming out of the room, collect your thoughts, and restart your line of thought to a more appropriate conclusion.
6. My interviewers don’t seem to want to talk about themselves much. What should I do?
If your interviewers are more reserved, don’t worry. Just shift into questions about the institution, or that have specific, even short answers. It’s rare for a faculty member in this position to not want to converse, but in the rare case that your interviewer seems extremely business-only, just recalibrate to not ask them personal questions.
7. When should I start preparing for my interview?
You should be preparing for your interview from the first day you decide to apply to a given school. Remain curious about the institution and its faculty, and consider making a list of questions you’d like answers to at the outset. As you continue to research the school, cross off questions you no longer need to ask in the interview. There will inevitably be at least a few questions left even at the end of a very thorough study on your part, and your desire to hear responses to them will be especially strong. This will make asking them in the interview even more natural and easy to remember.
8. How many questions should I prepare per interview?
Ultimately there isn't a set ideal number—instead, focus on what you really want to know or talk about, and use those questions. 3-5 should be sufficient, though if a question goes over well and expands into a longer conversation you may not get through all of them. Interview days are busy, jam-packed marathons for interviewers, so while it's important to gather the information you want to know, it's equally important to not become a time hog and go too far over your allotted interview window.
9. Should questions I prepare be school specific?
Having a mix of general and school-specific questions is best, but you should absolutely strive to ask specific questions. Not only does this mean you'll get a more detailed sense of the program, but it will show your interviewers that you've researched their school thoroughly.