It is never too early to start preparing for an interview. I am bit excitable so I started in year 11. That is I started looking at my competition and realised that I hadn’t done saved any babies in Africa from AIDs… it was a concern (yes I am still neurotic). So here we’ll cover some basic ways on how to prepare.
This guide is intended to cover you for all the universities in Australia. It is very broad and likely to contain questions that you may never encounter. So bear with me.
This guide is organised into broad categories of the types of questions that you may encounter.
1) Introduction – who are you? where do you come from?
This is a common first question that crops up at many interviews. It’s not a trick question. Its actually meant to relax you before they head into the bigger scary questions.
Still don’t know the answer? Here’s an exercise to get you started. which is useful to draw out for other questions as well.
Pull out a pen and paper or a word document and write down what you have done so far with your life. Start with the basics; age, gender, occupation, siblings, friend, hometown. Now make it a bit bigger- what are your hobbies, interests, values, favourite subjects, colours, friends, pets etc. Now list your significant achievements so far, awards, activities, defining experiences.
This was a bit of a warm up activity to show you that- yes you are a person and you have done stuff so far. Don’t worry if its a bit hard at first, keep at it and you’ll find lots of things that you’d forgotten about yourself.
Should I keep my school a secret?
The reason you don’t mention what school you go to is to protect you. A lot of kids in med have gone to private school and its because they’re generally well off and have been given a lot of opportunities. Med schools cop a lot of flak for that, particularly Adelaide.
I was told that mentioning what school you went to was an absolute nono. I kept is quiet, for all my interviews except for UNSW, which simply due to the nature of the questions they asked, it came out a number of times in the interview. I got in on an unbonded place, so I don’t think it disadvantaged me in the slightest.
For further discussion on this topic check out this thread
Religion and Athiesm in interviews
2) Reflective Questions
Some questions likely to pop up around this topic are general reflective type questions may be
– What is your most valued achievement?
– Tell us about an event in your life and how it shaped you
– What people have influenced you and why?
You are a part of all that you have met- so… what have you met?
All these questions are asking you to reflecton your life so far. We have all had these experiences, good and bad, and they have molded the person you are today.
It’s hard to figure out what they would ask but here are some good reflective questions you might like to ask yourself
– What’s your favourite subject? and why?
– Who was your favourite teacher and why?
– What are your parent’s values (or any influential figure in your life)? How have they shaped you?
Spend some time thinking about your experience, and how the experience has affected in you different areas of your life. In an interview situation it is perfectly valid to spend a little time thinking about the question before jumping in. Indeed it shows you are properly reflecting rather then just making it up.
Another type of question similar to reflection are the strength and weakness questions
– what is your greatest strength?
think empathy, strength, enthusiasm, leadership, happiness, work ethic, friendship, listening etc. Find an example or two to back it up.
– what is your greatest weakness?
This one’s a bit more challenging, not as bad as you think. First recognize that its okay and 100% normal to have a weakness. You definitely DO have them, and if you think that you don’t, then your weakness is arrogance!
The best bit about knowing of a weakness is that youcan act proactively to overcome it. eg me I’m good at big ideas, organising and thinking creatively. However I suck at details, like big time. My work generally has to be gone over incredibly closely to make sue it doesn’t contain grammatical errors. I simply don’t care; concentrating on details frustrates me, and its a problem.
Dos in choosing a weakness
– be honest
– choose a weakness which can be improved
– discuss how you are working to overcome this
Generally weaknesses regard a skill, or a working style are good to use.
– tell them that you lie, backstab, bitch, racist, sexist …. Come on guys use some common sense!
Another tactic to answer this question is to choose a weakness that is not really a weakness. I personally think this is a super lame idea but whatever floats your boat. Some examples of weaknesses which are not really weaknesses are
– I work too hard
– I try to please people
– I do well academically (not really a weakness in any sense, this is possibly a weaker one as almost everyone attending the interviews will be a high achiever)
(This is a tactic that I used in my interviews which seemed to please the interviewers immensely. I do stress honestly however, don’t say that you’re a perfectionist if you’re not as you probably will be asked to back this up with an example. ~Hav)
3) Dealing with Adversity
Medicine is hard. There will be times when things don’t go your way and things are shit. Make no mistake. Medical schools want to know that you are up to the challenge. The best predictor of future performance is past performance.
The problem generally is that many year 12 students haven’t encountered much adversity, indeed if they had, they probably wouldn’t have done so well academically. So don’t worry if you have lived a rosy life as many med applicants have done that too. Its only the weird ones like me who get to have the pleasure of answering this question and making the interviewer uncomfortable.
(For the school leavers, you could talk about how you think you would try and overcome adversity which is something I did since life was and is pretty sweet ~Hav)
– tell me about a time you failed at something
Sounds kinda mean doesn’t it? Its not what you think though. They interviewer is not asking about you failing something, they’re REALLY asking you how you reacted to failure.
I have missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot… and missed. And I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why… I succeed.
Successful people fail, they fail a lot. What makes them successful is that they pick themselves up after the failure and keep on going. Indeed if you cannot do this, then your behaviour becomes increasingly conservative until you find yourself never pushing what you can do in case you fail. Not only does your world shrink if you do this, but you never get the chance to see if maybe, just maybe it wasn’t as bad as you thought it was, or maybe you could have succeeded.
Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm ~ Winston Churchill
Of course you can fail at something then work hard to overcome it. Or you can fail at something, think about it and then change your approach or even your attempt at the situation.
Good examples of failure include
– academic prizes
– driving licenses
Try if you can to make it something which was important to win. Overcoming emotional failure is harder and makes you a stronger person then random failures. eg for me I wanted to be a dancer, and it was awful to hear that I would never make it.
Good things to acknowledge you answer
– it was crap/painful/ugly
– I really wanted it
– I was upset for a while
– then I thought about it and realised why I had failed
– i changed my approach
– that was my solution
– the whole experience was hard
Things you shouldn’t do include
– reacting particularly badly/inappropriate- eg. I bashed up the other team
– overreacting, my life was over,
– taking it out on others
– not looking critically at reasons for failure and addressing them
(I actually misread this the first time, the best method of approaching this is to talk about a time when you’ve “failed”, I see this as “working in progress” personally, and how you showed perseverance in order to succeed. As such I’ve never really “failed” at doing anything I’ve wanted to do. ~Hav)
– what is the most awful thing that has happened to you
Again, chill, not many med applicants have had disasters befall them. I did, but I like freaking those interviewers out 🙂 It is just another way for the interviewer to assess how you reacted when the shit hit the fan.
(When the shit hit the fan I ducked…In all seriousness, its OK to say that “nothing truly awful has happened to me but the worst thing thus far is ___” where it really isn’t that bad. ~Hav)
Stress management is crucial to be able to succeed in the medical professions. Medicine can be incredibly stressful at times, and the profession tends to place you in positions that will push you to your limit. This is first seen in medical school and then later on when you are responsible for patients.
Although there are backups in place to catch you at many of these stages, the stress you feel is real. As of such medical schools like to see that you are well equipped to deal with stress.
– how do you deal with stress
If you have the marks to get into medicine, undoubtably you will have experienced stress. So simply draw from your past experience.
Some examples of stress management include:
– talking with friends
– team sports
– running or other regular exercise
– taking regular time off
– read the bible/pray/other religious
– say you don’t experience stress (you are a liar!)
– (Say you drink excessively or take illicit drugs. No joke, I’ve heard people say this. ~Hav)
There are different variants of this question eg.
– describe a difficult time in your life and how you coped with it
Draw from your own experience. What did you do to cope?
4) Teamwork/Conflict Resolution
Medicine is all about teamwork. The different specialities work together, as well as allied health to help facilitate a person’s healthcare outcomes. Medical schools want to see some evidence that you can work effectively as a team.
– can you describe a time you worked in a team
Firstly they want to see that you have some experience working in a team. Some kind of experience where you worked collaboratively to achieve an outcome drawing on people’s strengths to achieve a common goal. So brainstorm some times in the past where you were part of a team working towards something. Try and keep it non academic (though leadership in groupwork situations at school is a great one to use ~Hav).
Some examples of times you may work in a team include
– community activities
– family activities
I’d encourage you to come up with a couple of examples of when you have worked in a team. Describe to yourself what part of the team you were. What and how did you contribute? What were the problems you encountered? What did you achieve?
– Are you more of a leader or a group member?
It’s a good idea for this question to say that you fall into the position that suits your strengths at the time. For this question go back to your examples. What part of the team did you play? Did you have different roles in different situations? Tell them about under which circumstances you were a leader vs situations where you were a team member.
I would be very weary of saying you are never a leader or never a team member. Traditionally doctors are seen to be leaders in healthcare. Leaders of a team. This doesn’t mean they do all the work, it just means they are in charge. So to say you always prefer someone else to be calling the shots may not be well welcomed. Conversely you don’t start up the top. Indeed medicine will throw you down to the bottom of the totem pole on multiple occasions. You will be required to do menial work when you start and will not have the knowledge or experience to be a leader. You should recognise this with humility. Saying that you cannot is arrogant
– you’re in a team situation and one of your team members isn’t pulling their weight. Everyone in the team is upset with this as it is putting additional pressure on them. They have come to you to fix the problem. How to you approach this situation
– how would you deal with someone who wasn’t working a team?
Again you will be working in teams as a medical student/doctor. You will inevitably encounter problems when working in said teams. As someone who hates group projects but loves working (not studying) you learn to deal with conflicts. OR someone else in your team learns :p
Conflicts generally arise because people’s working styles are different. Everyone assumes that their own working style is the best as it works for them. Obviously. The reality is a bit different as there are many ways for something to get done. Indeed there is much to be learnt about watching someone who works in a different way from yourself.
There are a couple of ways you could deal with someone who is not working but this is my suggested approach
– ask the person how they’re doing, how are things at home, see if there are some underlying issues
– bring up the topic of group work, talk about own work and ask the person’s opinion on your own work
– ask them about their work and see how its going
If at this point they do not bring up their own work, or discuss any other issues. If they do explore these other issues and renegotiate workload or work task delegation
– mention that a few other teammembers have mentioned that the person hasn’t been pulling their weight and if anything was wrong?
– suggest that renegotiating workload may be in order
DO NOT attack the person. Often people (and indeed patients too) need a simple reminder to complete their work. Did you know comphrehensive reminder systems are almost the most effective way to target adherence out there?
5) Cultural and Socioecomic
As a doctor you are going to encounter a number of people from a diverse range of people. Many of whom will be discussing issues of critical importance. It is crucial that you are able to treat these people with the respect they deserve and treat their medical problems with respect.
Interviewers are going to look to see if you have had experience dealing with people whose backgrounds differ from your own.
– What kinds of friends do you have?
A good answer would be, yes, you do have experience dealing with a wide variety of people. If you haven’t, I strongly recommend you gain some experience doing this as it can be a eye opening experience.
Also it is important to realise that there isn’t a “better” way, or culture. Cultures can be equal and different. For example just because we sit on the toilet seat, this doesn’t mean sitting on the toilet seat is better then squatting. Indeed squatting is cited by many as being more hygienic. This example highlights the fact that although different cultures go to the toilet differently, our way is not necessarily the better way.
Being able to accept someone elses belief is first acknowledging your own belief and recognising that it comes from how you were raised. Once you know what you are in a much better position to accept someone else’s belief that differs from your own.
– your 18 year old friend is Indian and about to have an arranged marriage to a man she has never met before. How do you feel about this?
1. A good way to approach this situation is to first acknowledge your own beliefs. – Do you agree with arranged marriage? Do you agree with people getting married young? By acknowledging your own beliefs and that they may affect your judgement you change the situation to not be about you and it comes to be about the other person. The person who needs help.
2. Then once you have given your own values, sit back and listen to what the girl wants to say. Maybe she’s just nervous and wants to talk, maybe she wants to run away from home. In any case she needs someone to listen nonjudgementally to her side of the story. She does not need someone preaching at her.
3. Make a decision based on the information gleaned in step two.
With most cross cultural encounters the best thing we can try to do is to listen. Same with grief and loss. Many people do not want solutions, answers or advice, they simply want someone to talk to. So the process of just sitting there listening attentively is a gift.
6) Problem Solving/Critical Analysis questions
In Medicine you have to learn how to make decisions based on the available evidence. Problem solving is a crucial skill in medicine, and the interviewers want to see that you have the basics down pat. In my experience problem solving questions are usually take the form of a scenario.
The most important thing in this question is to take some time and think about the question, to think about the scenario. Don’t jump in with “the answer”. Spend some time thinking up holes in the argument, things that work, things you’d like to knowmore about. Then an action plan or two.
The elements of any good problem solving question would include
– summary of issues involved
– summary of any personal bias’
– based on these a solution/approach to the problem with explanations why you chose that
– acknowledgement of why another approach may be bad as well as possible issues with your own approach
Problem solving questions are typically scenario questions.
Tip: Speak your thoughts out loud. The interviewers are assessing your approach to problem solving not the final answer. If you answer a scenario with a short solution to the problem. You’ll either score badly or the interviewers will probe you as to how you reach the conclusion you did.
Ethical questions are a special type of problem solving questions. They are a bit trickier as your own personal values also come into the equation. If you’re not careful they can colour your answer. There’s nothing wrong with having strong values, just if you do, you MUST be aware of these and acknowledge them to the interviewer. eg abortion – it is my personal belief that abortion is murder, however I can see why a poor teenage girl might like to have one.
Often people think these questions are politically motivated, or trying to exclude people on the basis of belief. I seriously doubt this is the case. Most likely they were excluded because they failed to recognise an opposing view as having some credence.
With ethical questions in addition to the advice about general problem solving questions, it is a good idea to
– give perspective of more then one stakeholder. Think about it from the perspective of all parties in the scenario
– think about it from a couple of different view points; is the action itself good or bad? is the outcome good or bad?
– Above all make sure you discuss why you gave your answer.
You are a member of the university disciplinary committee and have been asked to review a case of a full fee paying medical student who forged a doctor’s signature to confirm he completed his attendance requirements during placement. The student is in his 4th year of 5, both his parents are educated professionals to have met with the committee to vouch for their son’s otherwise exceptional standing in the community. The student argues that the doctor had been busy and that he couldn’t find him to sign his attendance form.
The other two members of the committee are advocating the student repeat the year and pay the full fees for the extra year’s tuition. What argument would you make as a committee member?
Vaccination has been lauded as an important public health measure but it requires at least 80% of people, ideally more than 90% of people, be vaccinated before a whole population is protected. Some groups in Australia are opposed to vaccination, often referred to as conscientious objectors.
Overseas, in the UK, there have been calls to make vaccination compulsory for children in public schools. What is your opinion on this issue and what are your reasons?
Challenges are particularly common in ethical questions. However they can crop up in response to any question. The challenge is typically gauged to help highlight or bring out a particular response to question. Or to get you to look at a scenario from a different perspective.
Expect your answer to be challenged. In many scenarios involving a sick child/person the challenge will be that your action killed/compromised the child/adult etc.. Don’t worry its a hypothetical situation, no matter what answer you give, it will be the wrong one.
An example of a challenge to the vaccinnation question for example would be
Not too long ago a 6 week year old died of whooping cough. She was too young to recieve a vaccination herself, however the area she lives in is known for having low vaccination rates for whooping cough. In light of the fact that if she lived somewhere with high vaccination rate that she would still be alive, is it still fair that someone has the right to object to vaccinating their children?
You are a GP
A mother brings in her child for her daily checkup, on looking at her record she has had none of the expected vaccinations. On further probing you find out that 3 years ago her other child died 12 hours after recieving a flu injection. Do you still maintain your stance?
(The trick to success is to argue a moderate position strongly rather than a strong position weakly. If you’re able to explain why you did something the first time and you’re line of reasoning was solid – if presented with the same situation again then you should take the same approach regardless of the outcome of the first situation. You must be consistent and be comfortable with the decisions you make. ~Hav.)
To read more about approaches to these sorts of questions, check out the following threads.
Good Threads to check out
7) Motivation/ Why do you want to do medicine?/ why us?
The almighty important question, motivation. As you may have gleaned above Medicine will use you up, eat you and then spit you out (in that order). So having a) motivation and b) a good reason for that motivation is incredibly important. If you don’t have it, the chances are high that you’ll hate what you’re doing. You’ll either have to transfer out or you’ll be a mediocre doctor.
– why do you want to do medicine?
– what attracted you to medicine?
Get a piece of paper out and write down all the reasons you want to do medicine. All of them, every single one of them no matter how silly they sound. Include experiences, teachers or friends who inspired you along the way. Go away for an hour and then think some more about how you came to apply. Be honest, this exercise is for yourself and yourself only.
Write as many motivations as you can on the piece of paper
Now categorise them, according to the below
– friend/family/me is sick
– I want to help people
– My parents/community/school want me to do it
– I enjoy biology/science
– I have the marks
– medicine is the hardest thing you can do
– I want to do medical research
– I want to help developing nations
– I want to serve the community
– I want to help fix xxx problem
– I want money
– I want job security
– my parents are in health
I’m not going to tell you how to answer this question however I think you all should dig deep down to find an answer that resonates with you personally. I think if you don’t challenge your own answers personally that you are doing yourself a disservice.
I will however address some “maybe you should think again” motivations
My parents/community/school want me to do it
Stakeholders such as parents, community and school are important. They are invested in your life as well as you are. Naturally they want the best for you. So their opinion does hold some weight. However the fly in the ointment is that at the end of the day you are going to be the one living the life. Not your parents, not your community and definitely not your school. So while their opinions do matter, you have to have some other pretty strong motivations to get you through medicine in one piece. Indeed otherwise you’ll end up hating the people you originnally wanted to please.
(I took the approach of “I’m doing medicine because I want to and nobody is going to tell me otherwise” ~Hav.)
I have the marks
That’s awesome, you have the marks to do any degree you choose. Throughout school we are ranked continuously against each other so its natural to think that the brightest of the land should go on to do medicine, law, or both. However this isn’t how the world works. Guess who is at the top of the world? Basically anyone who reaches the top of their field, gets this honour. Mark Zuckerman, Nicole Kidman, Mia Freedman, the chaser guys, Kerry Packer, Julian Assange are some individuals who are on top of the world. They are incredibly bright individuals who went on to use their intellect in fields they chose. Medicine is not the be all end all to success.
Medicine is the hardest thing you can do
Not true, here are some other really hard things you may liketo think about
– becoming a rhodes scholar
– cure for cancer/aids
– ending sex slavery in SE asia
– closing the gap
– winning the olympics
– travelling to every country in the world
– representing australia
– world debating competitions
plus many of us are doing medicine, so you’re like… unoriginal :p
These are all incredible challenges, don’t be narrow minded and think you can only find challenge in a medical degree
I want money/job security
There is 100% nothing wrong with these goals. I personally think they’re pretty awesome looking goals. However if they are your main motivations for medicine you are likely to be disappointed as
a) you can earn SO MUCH MORE money in other fields for LESS effort; finance, law, corporate, commercial. Trust me I know guys who work in these fields and you bet your ass that I make them buy me lunch. Don’t get me started on the engineers. They don’t know what to do with their money.
b) while medicine used to be the most stable job out there, right now with the tsunami coming, your job prospects are looking a lot less stable. You will have to work harder and smarter to get the job you want. Its not all rosy cheeks.
– Why do you want to do medicine with us?
– Can you tell us your understanding of our course
– What is PBL
This question is of particular relevance to those who are travelling interstate to study. They are looking to see really if you got an offer, would you actually take it. They’re really asking “are you wasting our time”. The best way to answer this question is figure out the university’s strengths and why they appeal to you. This involves checking out the relevant university websites, researching the courses, and examining what you are looking for in a university.
Typical pros/cons for universities that could be used
– research interests
– structure of course; eg pbl
– early exposure to clinical work
– rural emphasis
– university life
Obviously this question requires you to research the universities. I’m not going to do that for you :p
8) Realistic Expectations; Work Experience and Volunteering
Having realistic impressions about medicine is crucial. Its all very well and good to be motivated to save the world from cancer, but what if you don’t like blood? What if you want to be a stay at home mum?
Typical questions involve
– what are the challenges for a rural GP?
– what are the cons of being a doctor?
– can you describe the training pathway of xxx ? (this question is rare I’ve been told) (I agree with you there, its not a fair question since the pathways are different for different specialties and its not reasonable to expect a non-medical person to know them. ~Hav)
Other ways this question is asked is in scenario form, typically this question is in a work/life balance form, or being overworked in a rural location.
You have promised your daughter you will pick her up at 5:30. However at 5 you are running 30 minutes behind schedule and still have a room full of patients. How do you handle this situation?
9) Detech Questions
Monash likes to ask you to explain a scientific word to someone who has never/year 10 science. These questions are difficult, but the important thing to realise is that you don’t have to explain detail. You can dumb it down so that the layman can get the general gist of the function.
Typically words are taken from year 11 chemistry
– take a breath
– think of the core ideas
– start with something simple, something a layman will definitely know e.g. photosynthesis “you know plants? they don’t eat food, but they still need energy”
– use paper or a whiteboard, draw a diagram
Words to practice with
– periodic table of elements
10) Debating Questions/Current Medical Topics
These type of questions have a dual purpose. To see if you can have ideas and debate them. Also to check your general awareness of medical issues. Obviously if you are interested in medicine you’d have some idea about common issues that the medical profession is currently facing.
Sometimes these topics are controversial. You can state your opinion, but again use some common sense. If its racist/intolerant… uhh don’t say it?!
mso members generally recommend one of two approaches
– take a moderate but strong sitting on the fence approach
– take an opinion
(In both cases, it is very important to acknowledge the major benefits and flaws of each argument. ~Hav)
Now I think not making an opinion is a sissy little girlie approach but oh well. I’ll also say when I had to debate topics, I have no doubt that I came across as strongly left, and very critical of the liberal party (oi it was 2007 after all). Also the fact that I knew so much about the topic I was given obviously impressed the panel as they seemed taken aback by how much I knew
– why did the last party win the election
– research vs. clinical medicine
– closing the gap
– carbon tax
I should mention that although debating your point of view is a common to most interview. Discussing current affairs is really a JCU thing. When I went through I was given a choice of 3 topics and I just picked one.
11) Questions at the end of the interview
This is your chance to ask anything you’d like to know about the course you may not know already. I wouldn’t make up a question if you really didn’t have anything. I did ask about exchange opportunities in a few of my interview.
(Pretty sure I said “don’t ask anything” at the end of that thread and I’ll reiterate it. There is nothing you can ask the interviewer that you wouldn’t find on the internet which makes you look lazy or is stupid which makes you look stupid or is overly personal which is rude. Thank them for the interview, be very pleasant and leave. ~Hav)
12) An Aside: Obscure questions
– what is your earliest childhood memory
– if you were an animal what would you be
I never knew why they asked these questions, and still don’t know. I imagine they want to know how you see yourself. In this case – don’t
– say you want to be a snake to kill people
– say you want to be more powerful
– say a cat, to be more lazy
ie make sure whatever reasoning you use make sure it sounds kind of intelligent.
My other hunch was it is a test of your psychological stability. In which case, please don’t say you were abused as a child. Think happy memories such as “mum was carrying me around the house”.
I have a hunch that these sorts of questions may reflect a pscyhological testing of somesort. If you’re extra keen it might be worthwhile to do a literature search for these sorts of questionnaires
12) Life Experience + extra co curricular activities
These will typically come out as examples in other questions. However I’d like to mention that the more diverse your examples are, the more rounded you will come across in the interview. So if you don’t have anything to demonstrate how awesome you are. Starting thinking about picking something up.
Also you probably have done more then you think. Get a piece of paper and write down examples for all of the questions mentioned above. I’m sure you’ve found you’ve experienced a lot.
Another thing I would do is if you have major non academice experiences, make sure all of these are mentioned in the interview. These are your x factor qualities. Trust me if you don’t think them over they may not come out in the interview and you’ll kick yourself when you come out thinking “gosh I should have told them about the books I published’ :p
General Interview Dos and Don’ts
13) Finishing up
Smile, tell them how much you want to do medicine with them, and thank them for their time. They get tired too.
Then go out and do your little dance as you just smashed your interview 🙂