Interviews are a necessary part of the medical school application process, but they can also be one of the most stressful parts for students. Whether your interviews are taking place in person or virtually, you want to go in well-prepared.
During the interview, your interviewer will ask a variety of questions designed to assess your personality, your determination, your commitment to the medical profession, and your fit for a position at their school. Fortunately, many of these questions take the same form from school to school, so candidates to research the most common medical school interview questions and prepare in advance can have a competitive edge.
How to Answer Interview Questions Effectively
Answering med school interview questions effectively takes practice. Since your interviewer will be evaluating not only the content of your responses but also your confidence, body language, and delivery, it is important to rehearse in advance for many of the common questions.
Crafting effective responses
Here are some tips to consider as you begin crafting responses to common interview questions.
- Assume the “why” – If an interviewer asks a question like “What is your biggest strength?”, an effective response would not be “Leadership skills”. Your interviewer wants to understand the why behind your responses, so be sure to include a concise explanation, even when it’s not directly asked.
- Avoid overly negative responses – For most questions, there are a variety of answers that will be acceptable, especially when they are delivered confidently and with some thoughtful (but brief) explanation. However, there are a few answers that could reflect poorly on you if they are overly negative. Honesty is important, but that doesn’t mean you need to be brutally honest. When choosing the weakness or failure you plan to discuss during the interview, be sure you can present it in a positive light.
- Demonstrate grit – You will undoubtedly be asked about some negative things from your past in every interview. Don’t stress about the negatives – everyone has some. Instead, use these as your opportunity to show that you can persevere despite the challenges you faced.
Organizing your medical school interview preparation
As you begin to gather your talking points for various medical school interview questions, organization can go a long way to helping ensure you are fully prepared for your interviews. Flashcards are a great tool to helping you stay organized and practice your answers for a variety of questions.
Your answers shouldn’t sound memorized or overly scripted, so don’t write out your responses word for word. Instead, write a common interview question on the front of your card and some bulleted talking points on the back. These points should include specific stories or examples you want to prepare, along with how you can connect your experiences to your ability to succeed in medical school.
To help you get started, we’ve provided a list of 100 commonly asked questions in medical school interviews, broken down by categories.
List of the Top 100 Most Common Medical School Interview Questions
Questions about YOU (Personal Insight Questions)
- Tell me about yourself.
- How would your peers describe you?
- How do you like to spend your free time?
- What is one thing you wish more people knew about you?
- What is your favorite book and why?
- What is your biggest weakness?
- What is your biggest strength?
- How do you deal with stress?
- If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
- Who do you most admire?
Questions about your prior experiences (Background Questions)
- How have your parents influenced your decision to go to medical school?
- What are some of your personal goals that you’ve accomplished within the past 5 years?
- What extracurricular activities did you pursue during high school/undergrad?
- What was your favorite college course and why?
- Discuss your previous academic records and whether you feel they are a reflection of your true abilities.
- What clinical experience, if any, do you have?
- What non-medical jobs have you had and how will those help you in the medical field?
- What kind of work do you really dislike doing?
- What has shaped you to be where you are today?
- What is one accomplishment from your past that you are most proud of?
Questions about medical school and the healthcare field (Medicine Questions)
- What sets you apart from other medical school candidates?
- What qualities do you think are most important in a medical student?
- What is the number one issue in healthcare today and how do you suggest we fix it?
- Why do you want to go to our medical school?
- What excites you about the medical field in general?
- What medical specialty are you most interested in?
- What other medical schools have you applied to and why?
- What problems do you predict medicine will face in the next decade?
- What impact will you have on the medical profession?
- Where do you think the next major medical advancement will come from?
Questions about your experiences with others (Leadership/Teamwork Questions)
- Tell me about a previous research project you’ve been involved in.
- Tell me about a time when you were criticized unfairly.
- What kind of community or volunteer work have you done?
- When have you had to take initiative and step into a leadership role?
- Share a time when you’ve experienced conflict with a coworker and what you did to work through it.
- How would your teammates/classmates/roommates describe you?
- How do you handle change?
- Do you prefer individual research or working with teams?
- If you could go back and redo your work during your undergraduate experience, what would you change?
- Have you had any negative job experiences, and if so – what did you learn from them?
Questions about your views/perspectives (Ethics Questions)
- What do you think about euthanasia?
- If you discovered someone cheating, what would you do?
- What would you do if a patient refused treatment that could save his or her life?
- What would you do if you learned that a patient had HIV and you suspected their partner didn’t know?
- When is it acceptable to break patient confidentiality?
- What would you do if you saw a fellow doctor make a mistake with a patient’s medicine?
- Share your feelings on a controversial topic related to medical ethics.
- What do you feel should be done about the high cost of medical care?
- Do you think it’s better to care for more people in less time, or spend more time with patients but not be able to care for as many people?
- Should vaccines be mandatory for the good of the general public?
Questions about your ability to relate to others (Empathy Questions)
- Is empathy a skill that can be taught to doctors?
- How would you explain to a patient that you made a mistake with their care?
- Tell me about a time that you’ve displayed empathy.
- Do you think it’s more important for a doctor to be empathetic or honest and straightforward with patients?
- How would you tell a patient that they were dying and there was nothing you could do?
- How would you define empathy?
- Why is empathy an important skill for healthcare professionals?
- How would you show empathy to a patient whose views are very different from your own?
- How do you handle anger?
- How would you handle it if a patient with no healthcare experience told you that you were wrong?
Questions about your cultural competency (Diversity Questions)
- What experience do you have working with diverse populations?
- Have you traveled outside of the country? What was that like and what did you learn from it?
- Do you think minority candidates should be given an advantage in the medical school application process?
- If you are a minority, how has this shaped your approach to medical care?
- If you are not a minority, how will you relate to patients from populations that are different from your own?
- What do you feel are the social responsibilities of a doctor?
- What languages do you speak and why?
- What does diversity mean to you?
- How can a healthcare professional increase their cultural competency and why is it important to do so?
- How would you contribute to the diversity of our school?
Questions about your ability to think critically (Creativity Questions)
- How many atoms are in a glass of water?
- If you could wave a magic wand and fix healthcare in America, what would you do to fix it?
- If you could have lunch with any person in history, who would it be and why?
- If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
- Tell me about a time you had to solve a problem by thinking outside the box.
- How many ping pong balls fit in an airplane?
- What do you think is the most important invention in history and why?
- If you were providing care during a crisis where many patients with varying conditions were affected, who would you give treatment to first and why?
- What is an unpopular opinion you hold?
- If you could live anywhere, where would you choose?
Questions about your grit and determination (Perseverance Questions)
- How do you handle failure?
- If you don’t get accepted at any medical schools this cycle, what will you do?
- Tell me about a time where you didn’t live up to your own expectations and what you did to turn it around.
- Does your application reflect any challenges you’ve faced? If so, how did you work through them?
- What motivates you?
- Why do you want to become a doctor and not some other career in the healthcare field?
- What is your biggest fear and how do you face it?
- What is a daily habit you have that helps you accomplish your goals?
- Tell me about the most challenging period in your life and how you worked through it.
- Tell me about a time when you had an idea to improve a process at school or work and you implemented it successfully.
Questions about the school (Interest Questions)
- What do you know about our school?
- Why did you apply here?
- If you get accepted at every school you apply to, which would you choose and why?
- Are there any specific features about our program that interest you?
- From what you know about our program, what challenges will you face here and how do you plan to overcome them?
- If we had 100 applicants with the same test scores and GPA as you, why should we choose you over them?
- What specific things are you looking for in a medical school program and how do we fit that bill?
- Do you have any questions about our school or program?
- What will you do if you are not accepted here?
- What other schools have you applied to and have you been accepted anywhere else?