Common Medical School Interview Questions [Plus Answers]

Common Medical School Interview Questions With Sample Answers

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Posted in: Interviews

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Advancing through the medical school application process and getting into medical school is no easy feat. However, with the right interview tips and preparation, you can attend your medical school interview feeling prepared to wow the admissions committee. 

In this article, you’ll find a comprehensive list of medical school interview questions — plus, tips and examples for how to answer the most common ones.

What are the best ways to prepare for a medical school interview? To prepare for a medical school interview, be ready to share the stories about your life and experiences that best represent who you are and why you want to be a doctor.

Don’t memorize complete answers word-for-word — this just makes you sound like a robot to the members of your admissions committee. Instead, you want the interview to be a natural, but professional, conversation. 

Look for common themes among sample questions to identify which stories and facts to share. Whether you share information about your extracurricular activities or an experience with a good doctor that inspired you, be yourself and be passionate!

This interview question guide will help you down the medical school admissions path towards gaining an acceptance and becoming a healthcare professional. We’ll give you the tools to stand out as the top interviewee of the day, whether by teaching you how to answer difficult ethical questions or just explain why medicine is the right career choice for you.

Still looking for more? Schedule a meeting with our enrollment team to talk about our advising services to help you get into medical school the first time.

Most Common Medical School Interview Questions:

Every medical school interview will vary in format and content. The questions below are representative of those asked during a traditional interview. Traditional interviews are one-on-one, typically with a physician advisor. We’ll get more on how to answer some of the most common of these a little later.

Looking for how to nail your multiple mini interview (MMI)? Consult this guide for more on MMI interviews.

Here are some of the most common questions asked during a traditional med school interview:

Education Questions

  • How have your previous jobs, volunteer, or extracurricular activities prepared you for a medical education and career in medicine?
  • Can you share more about your undergraduate research experience? How have those  helped prepare you for a career in medicine?
  • Why did you choose your undergraduate major?

Medicine and Medical Profession Questions

  • What do you think are the most important qualities for a doctor to have?
  • How do you plan to balance your personal and professional life as a doctor?
  • Where do you see your career in a few years? Are you interested in academic medicine or more community-based work? What would you miss about the other?

Personality, Character, and Motivation Questions

  • Why do you want to be a doctor?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What do you look for in a physician for yourself?
  • Tell us about any travel and/or experience with other cultures you have.
  • How do you handle stressful situations?
  • Why did you choose medicine and not another field where you could help others?
  • What does success look like to you?
  • What do you do for fun?
  • Tell us about your experience working with sick individuals and what you’ve learned from it.
  • What would you do if you couldn’t be a doctor? 
  • Are there any role models or influential people who contributed to your decision to pursue medicine?
  • Tell us about a challenging experience you had in your life and how you overcame it.

Diversity Questions

  • How do you plan to contribute to the diversity of the medical school community?
  • How has your background, race, gender, or socioeconomic status shaped you, impacted, or prepared you to be a physician?

Societal, Ethical, and Current Event Questions

  • Describe a time when you faced an ethical dilemma. How did you handle it?
  • How do you feel about our current healthcare system? Should the United States move to universal healthcare system?
  • What is your stance on euthanasia? Should patients be able to undergo physician assisted suicide? 
  • How would you feel working with a patient with HIV?
  • Please discuss some current medical ethics issues you feel passionately about.
  • Have you been a part of any moral dilemmas?
  • Describe a current healthcare issue that interests you and how you think it could be addressed.

Tips & Example Answers to 8 Common Medical School Interview Questions

As with any other interview process, it’s important to be prepared to answer questions thoughtfully and honestly. Keep in mind that the medical school interviewers are trying to get to know you and assess your fit for the program, so be yourself and try to relax.

These two tips actually apply to every question below:

  1. Be specific. Admissions committees speak to hundreds of students each year. It’s easy for your name to disappear into a list of names when you give broad answers. Take every opportunity in your interview to be as specific as possible. This won’t just make you more memorable. It will also help your interviewer understand how you, as a healthcare provider, will best fit into the field of medicine — and how they might help you along the way! Examples of too-broad answers include things like “I want to help people,” “I’m a hard worker,” or “I want to be a successful doctor.” Instead, follow up any broad statements with nuanced statements. For example, “I want to help people understand how to manage conditions that impact their metabolic health and weight so they can reach goals that previously felt impossible.”
  2. Be sincere. Avoid the people-pleasing tendency to say what you think the people across from you want to hear, and choose to be as honest as you can. Don’t present yourself in a certain way to be impressive or self-deprecating. Accurately describe your experiences, motivations, strengths, and weaknesses.

Now, let’s get into some specific questions and how to best answer them (and common mistakes to avoid).

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1. Tell me about yourself. 

The “tell me about yourself” question is commonly asked at the beginning of a medical school interview. Take this opportunity to give the interviewers an overview of your background, experiences, and interests that are relevant to pursuing a career in medicine.

A few tips for answering:

  1. Keep it brief: This is not the time to go into great detail about your entire life story. Keep your answer concise and focus on the most important or relevant information.
  2. Highlight your strengths: Use this opportunity to highlight your strengths and experiences that make you a strong candidate for medical school. For example, you could mention your passion for medicine, relevant coursework or research experience, or any relevant volunteer or clinical experiences you have had.
  3. Practice: It’s a good idea to practice answering this question beforehand so you feel more comfortable and confident during the interview.
  4. Avoid stats (GPA, MCAT scores, etc.) at all costs: This is not the place to start spewing your academic credentials. That data is available to your interviewers already — the purpose of meeting them in a conversational format is to go beyond who you are on paper.

Sample answer: I’m from Long Island, New York. I’m an avid travler, and I enjoy baking and scuba diving during my free time. I just came back from a clinical volunter trip in Nicagrauga where the organizaton I was working with distrubuted vital medical care to communiteis in need. A fun fact about me is, I was voted homecoming king my senior year of high school. “I’ve always been interested in the sciences, and I’m drawn to help others. I volunteered at a local hospital when I was in high school, and that solidified my desire to pursue a career in medicine. Since then, I’ve taken a number of relevant courses and gained valuable clinical experience through internships and shadowing opportunities. I’m excited about the opportunity to continue my education through medical school.”

2. Why did you choose medicine?

The second most common question is also the most obvious to be asked. Don’t be afraid of this question! Instead, you should be excited to answer it. It’s an opportunity for the interviewers to understand your motivation for pursuing a career in medicine and how you see yourself fitting in.

Tips for answering this question:

  1. Reflect on your experiences: Think about your experiences and how they have shaped your desire to pursue a career in medicine. Did personal health issues inspire you to become a doctor? Is there a particular healthcare provider or mentor in your life that you look up to? Don’t be afraid to talk candidly. If you or a family member overcame a personal tragedy that led you to medicine, talk about it! 
  2. Consider your long-term goals: Medicine is a demanding field, so it’s important to have a clear idea of what you hope to accomplish as a doctor. Do you want to work in a specific field of medicine? Do you want to work in a particular location or with a certain population?
  3. Don’t just say you want to help people: That is why most pre-med students want to attend medical school — you will not sound unique. During your medical school interview, cover a brief timeline of how you came to the decision you wanted to pursue medicine. Simply saying, “I dreamed of it since I was little,” isn’t enough either.

Sample answer #1: Seeing my grandfather take countless medications when I was younger instilled a seed of curiosity in me to want to know what he was taking and what it did to him. As this seed grew, I began having a passion for biology and became fascinated with learning about the human body. My fasciation with the human body translated to wanting to help people with diseases affecting their bodies. Medicine as a field collectively, is constantly growing and offers the opportunity for lifelong learning. Something that I deeply admire and want to be a part of.

Sample answer #2: “I’m fascinated by the complexity of the human body and the ways we can help others through medicine. I volunteered at a clinic during my premed years serving underserved populations, which solidified my desire to become a doctor. I’m particularly interested in working in primary care and serving rural or underserved communities. I see medicine as a way to make a meaningful impact on people’s lives by addressing health concerns that can create obstacles in the way of a thriving life.”

3. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

This traditional job interview question still pops up from time to time, and can trip up even the most confident. But rest assured: You are not expected to have your entire career or specialty mapped out at this point in the process. 

This question is an opportunity for the interviewers to understand your long-term goals and how you see yourself fitting into the field of medicine.

Tips for answering this question:

  1. Consider your interests: Think about your interests and how they specifically align with your long-term goals. Are you looking to provide a financially secure life for your family on a 9-5 schedule by establishing a primary care practice? Do you want to learn cutting-edge surgical techniques or become the top OB/GYN in Florida? Do you hope to travel abroad to provide basic services for impoverished international communities?
  2. Be realistic: While it’s admirable to have ambitious goals, it’s also important to be realistic about what you can achieve in 10 years. Consider the training and experience that will be necessary to reach your goals, and make sure your plans are feasible.
  3. Be open to change: Keep in mind that your goals and plans may change over time, and that’s okay. It’s important to be flexible and open to new opportunities as they arise.

Sample answer: “In 10 years, I see myself completing a residency program and starting my career as a physician. I’m particularly interested in working in an established primary care setting to serve underserved populations in a metropolitan area of the Midwest. While I have specific goals in mind, I’m also open to discovering new areas of interest as I study medicine full-time. I know that no matter what speciality I choose, I want to be directly involved with patients, particularly children, as I truly feel that they are amazing bundles of joy.”

4. What is your greatest weakness?

Create an honest list of what you think are your strengths or weaknesses and then pinpoint a couple you can remember. Practice your responses so that they sound natural and you are prepared for the question on your actual interview day.

Remember our earlier tip on authenticity, and sprinkle in some healthy self-awareness. Your greatest weakness shouldn’t actually make you look better or as if you can’t honestly examine yourself (like “I care too much about people”).

Tips for answering this question:

  1. Choose a weakness that is not a deal breaker: It’s okay to admit to a weakness, but try to choose one that is not a deal breaker for a career in medicine. If you have trouble showing empathy towards others, or prefer to work alone without collaboration from others, you may not be cut out to be a physician or healthcare provider.
  2. Show how you’re addressing your weakness: It’s important to show that you’re aware of your weakness and are actively working to improve upon it. For example, if you struggle with time management, mention that you’re using a planner and setting specific goals to help you stay organized.
  3. Keep it relevant: Choose a weakness that is relevant to your career in medicine. For example, if you struggle with anatomy, you could mention that you’re working on improving your understanding of the subject by reviewing your notes and seeking additional resources.

Sample answer: “One of my weaknesses is that I can be a bit of a perfectionist. I sometimes struggle with balancing the need to be thorough with the need to be efficient. To better prioritize my tasks and reach my goals, I’ve begun using a physical planner and time blocking each day. I’m also trying to be more aware of when I’m being overly critical of myself and to focus on the progress I’m making rather than dwelling on any mistakes I may make.”

Looking for a firsthand experience to understand the work of a physician and get your required shadowing hours?

5. What are your strengths?

Now is the time for interviewers to understand your strengths and how they will contribute to your success as a medical student and future healthcare provider.

Tips for answering this question:

  1. Use examples: It’s helpful to provide examples of times when you have demonstrated your strengths. For example, you could mention a time when you were able to work well under pressure or when you were able to communicate effectively with patients or colleagues.
  2. Choose strengths relevant to medicine: Consider the skills and qualities that are important for a healthcare provider to have, and choose strengths that align with those. Some examples might include problem-solving skills, empathy, communication skills, or teamwork. 

 

Sample answer: “One of my greatest strengths is my ability to communicate effectively with peers and colleagues. I think this will translate very well to patient care. I’ve had the opportunity to work in a number of clinical settings, and I’ve found my ability to listen actively and explain medical concepts in a clear and concise manner is helpful in building rapport with patients and working effectively as part of a healthcare team. I also consider myself to be a compassionate and empathetic person, and I believe these qualities are important for building trust and rapport with patients.”

6. What are the current challenges in healthcare, and what can we do to improve the field? 

This question will be asked, and you need to have an answer. Read NYTimes articles, the Economist, and other publications beforehand to understand the current healthcare climate and policy so that you can better answer this question during your medical school interview.

Consider these examples of problems facing our healthcare system:

  1. Access to care: Many people, particularly those in underserved or rural areas, have limited access to healthcare services. This can be due to a lack of healthcare providers, financial barriers, or other factors.
  2. Affordability: Healthcare costs, including insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses, continue to rise and are a burden for many families and individuals.
  3. Quality of care: Despite advances in medical technology and treatment, there are still significant disparities in the quality of care that people receive (both in the US and worldwide). These disparities are often caused by factors such as income, race, and location.
  4. Workforce shortages: There are shortages of healthcare providers in many areas, particularly in primary care. This can lead to longer wait times and decreased access to care. This issue was further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are many ways we can work to improve the healthcare system, but it will require a multifaceted approach. Some potential solutions include:

  1. Increasing funding for healthcare: More funding could be used to increase access to care (particularly in underserved areas) and to improve overall quality of care.
  2. Improving healthcare affordability: This could involve initiatives such as lowering the cost of prescription drugs, increasing transparency in pricing, and expanding financial assistance programs.
  3. Promoting healthcare innovation: Encouraging the development of new technologies and treatments can help to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the healthcare system.
  4. Increasing the healthcare workforce: Steps could be taken to attract more people to careers in healthcare, such as offering financial incentives or expanding training programs.
  5. Focusing on prevention: Investing in preventative care, such as public health initiatives and preventative screenings, can help to reduce the need for more expensive, reactive care down the line.

7a. As a minority applicant: How has your background prepared you for a role in healthcare?

Medical schools value diversity and seek to create a diverse student body that reflects the communities they serve. If you come from a minority background or are otherwise part of an underrepresented community, you may have a unique perspective relevant to your future career.

Tips for answering this question:

  1. Pull from your experiences: If you’ve had positive or negative experiences in the medical field based on your background, share how these experiences have impacted your motivations to become a doctor. Whether you’ve dealt with discrimination or worked with a provider sensitive to your unique needs, this sort of storytelling can help solidify your unique perspective.
  2. Discuss healthcare issues specific to your diverse background: If you are a person of color, you may have experienced issues (or have loved ones who have) related to inaccurate racial bias in pain treatment. If you are a member of the transgender community, consider discussing your experiences in finding gender-affirming care. Talk to your interviewers about how your history has shaped the way you can work with others who share your background.

Sample Answer:  As a minority applicant, my background has provided me with a unique perspective and empathy towards individuals from diverse backgrounds. Experiencing first-hand the barriers and challenges faced by underrepresented minority communities in accessing quality healthcare, has driven my passion to pursue a career in healthcare. This drive has been further strengthened by witnessing the positive impact that culturally competent physicians can have on improving health outcomes in minority populations. I am committed to using my diverse experiences to provide culturally sensitive and effective care to patients from all backgrounds. And I hope to one day bridge the gap between minority poverty stricken communities and readily accessible healthcare.

7b. If you are not a minority: How might you best meet the needs of a multiethnic, multicultural patient population?

You don’t have to be a member of an underrepresented community or come from a diverse background to support and contribute to diversity in medicine.

When asked this question, aim to show that you understand the value of diversity and have the skills and experiences that enable you to contribute to the community in meaningful ways.

Tips for answering this question:

  1. Emphasize your unique experiences and perspectives: Discuss any personal or professional experiences that have given you a unique perspective or have exposed you to diverse cultures and communities.
  2. Highlight your commitment to diversity: Discuss any initiatives or activities you’re  involved in that demonstrate your commitment to diversity, such as volunteering in underserved communities or participating in cultural events.
  3. Discuss your communication skills: As a healthcare provider, it’s important to be able to communicate effectively with patients from diverse backgrounds. Discuss any experience you have that helped you develop strong communication skills or that exposed you to diverse cultures and communities.
  4. Focus on your potential to contribute: While it’s important to highlight your past experiences, it’s also important to show you have the potential to contribute to the diversity of the medical school community in the future. Discuss any plans you have for continuing to learn and grow as an advocate for diversity.

Sample answer: “I’ve had the opportunity to volunteer in underserved communities and have worked with patients from a variety of cultural backgrounds. I’m committed to continuing to learn and grow as an advocate for diversity. I’ve looked into the diversity programs at [this medical school] and look forward to getting involved.”

8. [Insert an ethical question here.]

Ethical questions are common during medical school interviews, and we didn’t choose any specific one because they vary quite a bit. Medical schools want to ensure their students have a strong foundation in ethical principles and are prepared to handle ethical dilemmas that will inevitably arise in their careers.

Tips for answering ethical questions during a medical school interview:

  1. Understand the principles of medical ethics and use a framework to guide your decision-making: Familiarize yourself with the principles of medical ethics, such as beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice. When answering a question, consider using a framework that lays out the principles.
  2. Consider the context: When faced with an ethical dilemma, it’s important to consider the specific context and all of the relevant factors presented to you. This may include the patient’s values and preferences, the potential risks and benefits of different courses of action, and any legal or professional obligations.
  3. Be transparent: Be open and transparent about your thought process and explain how you arrived at your conclusion.
  4. Be open to feedback: Be open to feedback and be willing to reconsider your position if new information becomes available or if you receive input from others, especially from your interviewer. Most questions are open ended, and you won’t have all the information you really need. Don’t be afraid to ask for that information from the interviewer.

Sample Question: If you had two patients who were being considered for a kidney transplant, one who is 35 but a former drug dealer. The other is an 86 year old kindergarten teacher. How do you decide who gets the kidney? 

Sample answer: “In this situation, as the health-care provider, I must be guided not by my own biases, but by medical ethics. Negating my biases in this situation means I cannot take into account a person’s profession when deciding if they are deserving of life saving medical interventions. The question comes down to the health of the two individuals who may receive the transplant. The person who would be most likely to live a longer, healthy life made possible by the transplant would be the person I’d give the kidney transplant to.”

What To Do If You Can’t Think Of An Answer

If you can’t think of an answer during a medical school interview, stay calm, and don’t panic. 

Consider these tips:

  1. Pause and collect your thoughts. It’s okay to take a few seconds to gather your thoughts and compose yourself.
  2. Ask for clarification. If you’re not sure what the interviewer is asking, it’s okay to ask for more information or context. This can help you better understand the question and come up with an answer.
  3. Be honest. If you genuinely don’t know the answer to a question, it’s better to admit it rather than trying to bluff your way through an answer. You can say something like, “I’m sorry, but I don’t know the answer to that question. However, I’m always eager to learn and would love to research the topic further.”
  4. Offer a relevant example or personal experience. Even if you don’t know the answer to a question, you may be able to provide an example or personal experience that illustrates your knowledge or skills in a related area.
  5. Use the opportunity to show your critical thinking skills. If you’re asked a complex or open-ended question, try to approach it with a critical and analytical mindset. This can help demonstrate your problem-solving skills and ability to think on your feet.

Remember, it’s normal to not know the answer to every question during an interview. The key is to be honest, and calmly show that you’re willing to learn and think critically.

Questions to Ask Your Medical School Interviewer

Asking questions during your medical school interview is a good opportunity to learn more about the program and to demonstrate your enthusiasm and interest for that school. 

What are some good questions to ask in a medical school interview? Some good questions to ask during a medical school interview include:

  1. What are the strengths of your medical school, and what distinguishes it from other programs?
  2. How does your medical school support students during their education and training?
  3. What opportunities are available for students to get involved in research or other experiential learning opportunities?
  4. Can you tell me more about the clinical training opportunities available to students?
  5. How does your medical school support students as they transition into their residencies and careers?
  6. How does your medical school work to promote diversity and inclusivity within the student body and faculty?
  7. How does the curriculum at your medical school prepare students for the challenges and demands of the profession?
  8. Can you tell me more about the community service or outreach opportunities available to students?
  9. How does your medical school support the development of leadership skills in its students?
  10. What is the average class size and student-to-faculty ratio at your medical school?

Be respectful and professional when asking questions. Avoid asking questions that were already answered during the interview, or that are easily found on the school’s website.

The best way to be prepared for your interview is to practice! MedSchoolCoach physician advisors can help you prepare for medical school interviews through mock interviews and an assortment of other ways. Contact us today!

Renee Marinelli, MD

Renee Marinelli, MD

Dr. Marinelli has practiced family medicine, served on the University of California Admissions Committee, and has helped hundreds of students get into medical school. She spearheads a team of physician advisors who guide MedSchoolCoach students.

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