You made it to the final step in the gruelling medical school admissions process.
Getting to the interview stage is a huge accomplishment, because it means you’ve achieved a high enough ATAR or GPA and you’ve aced the entrance exam (be it UMAT or GAMSAT) – both huge accomplishments in themselves!
An interview offer is a definite cause for celebration, but don’t let it go to your head, because you’ve still got a big task in front of you.
On paper, you look great! Now the university admissions officers want to make sure you match this image in person before they accept you.
The way they do this is with an interview. Or in most cases, interviews… of the mini variety.
Yep, you know exactly what I’m talking about: Multiple Mini Interviews
Those three words are enough to send chills down any prospective med student’s spine. But fear not, (future) doc. I am the MMI master, and you’re about to benefit from my many pearls of medical interview wisdom.
Alright then, let’s get you that spot in med school!
The MMI Interview
FIrst, a bit of background.
Multiple Mini Interviews, or MMI, is a style of interviewing that is used at The University of Auckland in New Zealand and most Australian medical schools.
It’s pretty self-explanatory, but basically, instead of having one long traditional panel interview, you have lots of little ones with different panels!
Depending on the university, you’ll rotate around six to 10 timed “stations”.
Sounds just like musical chairs, right?
Except there’s no music… and no one’s laughing… and your career is on the line…
Okay, maybe that was a bad analogy. Sorry.
But, it is possible to make the MMI a pleasant experience – by being prepared!
And now that you’ve found this blog, prepared is most certainly what you will be by the time the MMI rolls around.
Universities That Use the MMI System
Not all universities make you sit an interview as part of the admissions process, but the majority that do use the MMI system.
Why is it so popular? Because universities love to torture you, obviously!
Nah, just jokes. Actually it’s because it’s a fair and reliable way for them to assess your suitability to practise medicine.
Involving more interviewers eliminates bias and gives the university a broader, more holistic evaluation of your non-academic qualities.
The idea of having to sit multiple interviews can be intimidating, but there’s no need to be scared! The MMI has advantages for you, too.
Think about it.
In a traditional panel interview, which used to be the norm, you had just one shot to impress the interviewers, making it almost impossible to recover if you got off on the wrong foot.
In the MMI, however, you are given the opportunity to make multiple fresh starts. One station’s weighting is only a fraction of your total score, so you can still do well if you take any missteps in your stride and focus on acing your remaining interviews.
The following ten universities are advocates for the MMI:
- The University of Sydney
- University of Wollongong
- Australian National University
- The University of Melbourne
- Monash University
- Deakin University
- Griffith University
- The University of Notre Dame
- Bond University
- The University of Auckland (NZ)
You’re off the hook if you’re applying to any of the following universities that don’t require an interview for admission into medicine:
- University of Queensland
- Griffith University
- Charles Darwin University
- University of Tasmania
- University of Otago (NZ)
And then there are a few universities that use a different style of interviewing to assess applicants:
- UNSW: Semi-structured interview
- Flinders University: Semi-structured interview
- James Cook University: Semi-structured interview
- University of Adelaide: A mix between the MMI and semi-structured interviews
- The University of Newcastle: Multiple Skills Assessment
The MMI explained
The MMI assesses you on a range of skills and aptitudes with a mix of interview stations and activity-based stations.
At each station, applicants are presented with a specific question, task or scenario and they are judged on their answers, reactions and skills.
There’s a time limit for each interview station, which ranges from five to 10 minutes, depending on the university.
Usually, two of those minutes are allocated to reading time, where you will be able to read the station’s scenario. The remaining six to eight minutes are dedicated to interview timeand when time’s up, you are required to move on.
While the MMI does look holistically at your potential to be a medical professional, it is important to remember that there are also key traits that the stations assess you on.
- Quality of argument
- Critical thinking
- Social responsibility
- Cultural safety
- Awareness of health issues
- Moral reasoning
- Conflict resolution
- Career choice
Don’t worry, you won’t be assessed on all of these traits at once. Every station will have its own set of attributes that the interviewer is looking out for.
For example, interviewers at the station that focuses on your interest in medicine will look for self-awareness, critical thinking, and an insight into your choice of profession.
MMI Practice Questions
Now before we get into MMI prep, let’s take a look at the interview subject, which fall into five categories:
1. Motivation to study medicine
Why do you want to be a doctor?
Bet you’ve heard that one before! Medicine is definitely not for the fainthearted (or squeamish!).
So what is it that draws you to this profession? What need does it fulfill? What do you want to achieve in the medical field? Try explaining that in five minutes while sounding genuine, informed, intelligent, and motivated!
You also need to be prepared to back up your statements with follow up questions that will gauge how much you’ve actually thought about this major life decision.
Oh, and being obsessed with Grey’s Anatomy is not a good reason to want to become a doctor.
- Why do you want to do medicine? Why not another profession that involves caring for others or is as intellectually challenging?
- What impact do you hope to make in the field of medicine?
- What steps have you taken to try to determine whether you really want to become a doctor?
2. Behavioural questions
Leadership and teamwork are crucial elements of practice in the medical profession.
As a doctor, you’ll play a key leadership role that involves problem solving, decision making, and coordinating the efforts of others.
You must also be committed to continuous growth and learning to ensure you’re delivering the highest standard of care to your patients, and that’s where self-awareness comes in.
The interviewers are interested in your ability to demonstrate your potential to be a leader and your commitment to personal development.
They’ll probably also ask you about your weaknesses, so it’s important to be able to reflect on your experiences with maturity and critical thinking to identify where you might need some improvement.
- Thinking of your work experience, can you tell me about a difficult situation you have dealt with and what you learned from it?
- What attributes are necessary in a good doctor? Which do you have, and which do you need to develop further?
- Who are the important members of a multidisciplinary healthcare team? Why?
3. Ethical scenarios
It’s inevitable that you’ll face some moral grey areas as a doctor, and when you do, you’ll likely have to make a tough decision and deal with the consequences – good or bad.
A key skill is the ability to form a strong opinion before making a measured decision – and most universities will have a station or two to test just that!
These stations present you with an ethical scenario and ask you what you would do in that situation. The scenario may specify that you are a doctor, a medical student, or just yourself, and the situation can be as simple as a friend in need or perhaps a doctor/patient interaction.
- Would you perform abortions as a doctor? Do you think it’s right?
- A man has been diagnosed with HIV. He is currently having unprotected sex with his partner and refuses to tell her he is HIV positive. Do you tell the man’s partner of his status?
- You have one dialysis machine to share between three patients. One is a 20 year old drug addict who has just overdosed, one is a 45 year old diabetic mother of three with end stage kidney failure and the third is a fit and healthy 80 year old man who has a longstanding metabolic disorder. Who gets the machine?
4. Cultural awareness/health knowledge
Being culturally sensitive is of utmost importance to doctors. These stations test your understanding of the significance of ethnicity in a health context.
In Australia, questions will focus on Indigenous or rural health, while at The University of Auckland, at least one question will have an ethnicity and/or Maori focus.
Assessors are looking to see that you understand the background, cultural practices, and significance of ethnic groups in your country, as well as your ability to empathise.
These stations are also designed to test your understanding of public health issues in Australia or New Zealand.
You’re expected to demonstrate insight into the issues and this is impossible without some background knowledge. So get reading and keep up with the news!
- What does the term “inequalities in health” mean to you personally?
- What would you do differently when consulting a Maori patient compared to a European patient? (NZ)
- You are a medical student in the hospital elevator with your supervisor. Your supervisor, who is grading your attachment and is the head of General Medicine in the hospital, makes a racist comment about an Aboriginal patient in the presence of other members of the public in the elevator. However, there are no Aboriginal people in the elevator. What do you do? (Aus)
5. Practical tasks/acting
Some universities will have a station dedicated to practical exercises.
You’re not a doctor yet, so you won’t be asked to act out medical diagnoses or treatment of medical problems. Instead, you’ll be asked to carry out somewhat trivial practical tasks which are used to assess skills such as verbal communication, manual dexterity, problem solving, and most of all… patience!
Often this will involve giving instructions to the interviewers and having them complete a task, such as origami folding, rope tying, or arranging blocks.
You won’t necessarily be judged on the outcome. They just want to see how your mind works and how you reach solutions.
This might sound silly, but if you come across one of these stations unexpectedly it can be seriously intimidating!
- Follow these step by step instructions to make origami.
- Without using your hands, explain how to tie shoelaces.
- Instruct a person who is holding a clamper to pick up a number of small blocks and place them onto a particular point of an A4 card. The card has other blocks on it and knocking them over would lose you points. The person you are instructing on is very particular to your instructions and would take the instructions to the extremes. How would you navigate through such a delicate task?
How to Prepare for the MMI
There’s no point beating around the bush – preparing for the MMI is a massive task.
Then again, nothing about getting into med school is easy, so surely you’re not surprised?
The good news is that, like the UMAT and GAMSAT, there’s an effective and systematic way to prepare for the MMI using some tried and tested techniques, worked examples, and – everyone’s favourite – practice questions.
The structured nature of the MMI makes it easier to prepare for than an open-ended interview.
More points in the MMI’s favour, woohoo!
MMI Preparation Strategies
There are three strategies that will set you up for success in the MMI:
- Using cue cards
- Expanding your vocabulary
- Building your confidence
Cue card system
The best way to prepare for the MMI is by answering practice questions.
BUT, don’t memorise word for word your answers to questions. The interviewers do not want to hear recited, clichéd responses – and you will probably struggle to make any prepared responses “fit”.
The best way to use practice questions is with cue cards.
For every question you come across, think of two or three key points that you want to talk about. For each of these main points, have some topics and examples ready to explain or support that point.
Question: “What problems do you foresee being a doctor?”
A couple of prompts you could write on your cue cards include:
- Work/life balance: Managing patient demands, family demands, and social demands
- Stress: Taking on patients’ problems, long hours/being on call, ongoing professional development
Then, practise elaborating on these points in timed conditions until you feel comfortable with your delivery. By not writing your answers out word for word, you won’t come across as too rehearsed.
Expand your vocabulary
A broad vocabulary will add weight to your answers and ensure you sound impressive.
Write down a list of words and practise using them daily. Include positive action words as well as some basic medical lingo.
Some “buzzwords” that will score you points in your interviews include:
You also want to practise using some “action” words, such as:
If you’re subject to a bit of stage fright, you’ll need to work on building skills in this area. The last thing you want is nerves ruining all your hard work.
The good news is that confidence is developed, not inherited! But you’ll need to put some time into it.
It is recommended that you take a public speaking course, as you’ll learn how to speak professionally and control your nerves.
Make sure you practise with friends and family, too, as they’ll offer you honest feedback and (hopefully!) encouragement. Bonus points if you do it under timed MMI-style conditions!
See, when you break it down, the MMI doesn’t seem like the worst thing in the world now does it?
Make use of this preparation guide to carefully prepare for each different category of interview station, and you can’t go wrong.
Just remember that you’ve only got a small window of time in each interview, so you can’t afford to waffle or go off on tangents. Your answers need to be direct and concise, and that’s something you can master with practice.
You’ve made it this far, now get ready to smash the MMI and achieve that med school dream!