How to Navigate Multiple Mini Interviews for Medical School

How to Navigate Multiple Mini Interviews for Medical School


Posted in: Interviews

Table of Contents

The medical school admissions process is rigorous. Medical colleges use an array of screening methods to find the best candidates for their programs. 

One of these practices is the multiple mini interview (MMI) system. Med schools use this unique interview format to assess your verbal communication skills and ability to think on your feet. Here’s a look at what MMI interviews are and how you can prepare for them.

What are multiple mini interviews?

Most MMI medical school interviews consist of 6 to 10 brief, successive interview stations. Each post is led by a different proctor who poses different questions or ethical scenarios and rates your responses. 

The purpose of MMI interviews is to evaluate your oral communication, non-verbal skills, critical thinking, and teamwork. This method reduces the chance of bias among evaluators and provides a more comprehensive understanding of the interviewee’s thought processes.

MMIs are not meant to test your medical knowledge. Rather, they judge your ethics and bedside manner based on how you would act in real-life scenarios. They may be held in-person or virtually.

Mini Interview Format

The MMI format is novel in its alternative approach to traditional one-on-one interviews or panel interviews. The multiple mini interview approach is conducted over a number of stations.

Each mini interview lasts about 7-10 minutes. With short breaks in between sessions, the entire MMI process takes around 2 hours. Each station occurs in a different interview room. Reviewers may ask you questions directly or watch your behavior in a role-play scenario.

How are MMIs scored? Each evaluator gives a grade of 1-10 based on your conduct at their station. Once the series concludes, all proctors’ marks are compiled into an aggregate score that encompasses your entire performance.

What is the difference between the MMI and a panel interview? Panel interviews involve a board of people all seated in the same meeting with you. They all hear the same questions and your responses. MMIs separate the evaluators into independent meetings.

MMI vs. Panel Interview

Number of Examiners6-10 meet you individually3-4 meet with you at once
Time to Answer QuestionsRoughly 5-7 minutesWhile time to answer individual questions is unlimited, the interview has a time limit. Answer fully, but don’t spend too much time on each question.
Length of InterviewAbout 2 hours20-60 minutes
BenefitsEach station is a fresh start, so if you feel you’ve underperformed at one, you can start over in 5 minutes with a different proctor.Because you spend the whole time with the same group, you can build a rapport with the interviewers.

There isn’t a better or worse form of interview — that comes down to personal preference. All medical school interviews are designed to assess the same qualities.

How to Prepare for MMIs

To get a high score on MMIs, you need to exhibit strong communication skills, interpersonal behavior, empathy, and problem-solving. Being confident during your MMI helps you make quick yet thoughtful responses and articulate them well.

Is it hard to score well on multiple mini interviews? That depends on how well you think under pressure. The scenarios themselves may  not be difficult, but the anxiety and stress of being interviewed can sabotage your performance. If you are nervous about these unrehearsed interactions, you may score poorly.

Therefore, the best way to succeed in multiple mini interviews is to be prepared and feel confident. How do I prepare for MMIs? The best methods of MMI interview prep are:

  • Familiarize yourself with your college of medicine’s interview structure.
  • Practice answering sample MMI interview questions.
  • Conduct mock interviews in front of mentors who won’t cut you any slack.
  • Improve your confidence in answering open-ended questions.
  • Learn some stress-reduction techniques to keep your nerves under control.
  • Develop your ability to speak at a measured, confident pace.
  • Get plenty of rest before and be punctual on interview day.

Ethical Dilemma Stations

These interview sessions pose scenarios that assess your ability to navigate ethical conundrums you may encounter as a physician. The exchange will securitize how you handle dilemmas regarding confidentiality, personal beliefs, medical law, consent, personal commitments, end-of-life aid, or conflicts of interest.

Evaluators probably won’t be looking for a “correct” answer that reveals your moral principles. Rather, they will be grading how well you handle yourself in a morally complex situation. They will look at qualities like how thoughtfully you weigh the situation, how calm you remain, and how you reach a conclusion.

To answer ethical questions well, you should:

  • Gather all necessarily information by asking questions.
  • Identify the central conflict of the situation.
  • Make a firm, justifiable decision.
  • Discuss the potential consequences of your decision.

Critical Thinking Stations

These MMI stations judge your ability to evaluate information, prioritize, and think rationally under duress. While ethical dilemmas appraise your interpersonal and moral judgements, critical thinking stations appraise your ability to think rationally in an emotionally tense situation. 

When you answer questions that test your decision-making, clearly vocalize:

  • What information you would need to solve a problem.
  • Your thought process in solving the problem.
  • Your response to any follow-up questions.

Traditional/Character Stations

Some MMI stations will simply consist of answering traditional interview questions. These character assessment stations use familiar queries to explore how you perceive yourself. The interviewer will directly ask you about your personal traits, including your strengths and weaknesses. They may even throw in some quirky questions like, “if you could pick a superpower, what would it be?”

Typically, this is the least stressful station for candidates because of the conventional material. However, don’t assume that this will be easy to ace — you still need to answer well to get a high grade. How can you do that? 

  • Show that you’re comfortable in your own skin.
  • Be willing to admit your faults.
  • Use personal experience in your answers.
  • Stay on topic.

Role-Playing Stations

Acting stations use a different approach than direct dialogue with the assessor. Another person will be present during the session to play a role. You will play out the scenario with the actor as if it was truly occurring. 

Role-playing stations let the grader more accurately see how you’d act in a situation — rather than listen to how you think you’d respond.

Situations often involve giving a patient bad news, confronting a superior about their behavior, or showing empathy to a distraught family member. The scenario may not even be a medical situation; it could involve how you handle angry neighbors, rebellious children, or emotionally dependent friends.

Professional nonverbal behavior is especially critical in role-playing to get a good score. Beyond merely what you say, you should mind your:

  • Eye contact
  • Body language
  • Tone of voice
  • Active listening
  • Tendency to interrupt

Teamwork Stations

Teamwork/collaboration stations are meant to assess your ability to work well with others. You may be asked to perform a task together, work through a situational prompt, or debate a topic. No matter what the task, your abilities to communicate and collaborate are key. Group exercises like this aren’t about whether or not you solve a problem, but how you solve it.

To get the most out of your partnership:

  • Ask for clarification if you disagree with a team member.
  • Don’t hesitate to contribute.
  • If you’re naturally more of a listener, get comfortable using your voice.

Writing Stations

Written communication can be just as important to medical admissions committees as oral communication is. That’s why some committees include writing stations in their MMIs.

Unlike AMCAS admissions essays, you don’t have the time to gather your thoughts, receive feedback, or make revisions. This is an impromptu writing assignment you have to ace on the fly. 

The time limit still applies to this station. You need to write your response quickly without rambling. There usually isn’t a word limit, but that doesn’t mean you should write as much as possible. 

Approach this challenge as you would any other writing assignment:

  • Introduce and conclude your ideas succinctly.
  • Provide strong examples in the body.
  • Organize your points so they flow from sentence to sentence.

20 Sample MMI Questions

Here are some common types of questions that you may be asked on your interview day. Review these sample questions as part of your MMI prep.

  1. A patient refuses treatment for a serious condition because they strongly favor alternative medicine. How would you handle the situation?
  2. An unconscious ER patient urgently needs a blood transfusion to avoid dying, but their religious beliefs prohibit them from receiving the transfusion. What do you do?
  3. A 13-year-old patient asks for a birth control prescription from you but does not want her parents to know. What would you do?
  4. A pregnant teenager does not want an abortion, but her parents and partner do. How do you act in this situation?
  5. What was the most difficult decision you’ve ever had to make? Why was it difficult, and were you satisfied with the outcome of your decision?
  6. How has your culture influenced the way you approach healthcare and the medical field?
  7. Describe the most frustrating coworker or boss you’ve ever had. How did that tension arise, and what did you do to attempt to overcome it?
  8. What are your thoughts on the legalization of marijuana for medical and/or recreational usage?
  9. A major vaccine has been recently introduced to combat a deadly virus that is causing a pandemic. Some of your patients refuse to take the vaccine because they don’t trust it. What do you recommend to your patients?
  10. How would you react in a situation when you have unintentionally offended a patient and they are threatening to lodge a complaint against you?
  11. Your relative has a major condition that is most likely fatal. They could have a procedure that would correct the condition but has a 20% mortality rate. Do you recommend that they take the procedure?
  12. A patient is having difficulty understanding the information you’re trying to communicate to them. They are not accompanied by anyone else, and your repeated attempts to rephrase the information have failed. What do you do?
  13. Describe a time that you took a major risk and it failed severely. What did you learn from that situation?
  14. What is your biggest fear as a physician?
  15. You work at a clinic where a patron requests a large amount of pain medication. Your assessment is that the person doesn’t need them. They threaten to go elsewhere for the painkillers if you do not prescribe them. How do you act?
  16. What is your opinion of the use of fetal tissue in stem cell research?
  17. Is physician-assisted suicide ever appropriate?
  18. You discover that your medical school roommate has been casually sharing patients’ confidential information in conversations with your mutual friends. Role-play the conversation when you confront them.
  19. What are the top three qualities of a great physician? Do you have any of these qualities?
  20. A long-time patient of yours has been repeatedly trying to reach you via social media, and you keep ignoring their communications. They have an office appointment soon, and you are concerned that they’re not emotionally stable enough to handle rejection. Role-play your conversation with this actor.

Schools That Use MMIs

The multiple mini interviews system is a newer approach to screening prospective medical students. More and more schools are opting to use MMI scenarios since Dr. Harold Reiter at McMaster University first introduced them in 2004.

These are the U.S. allopathic medical colleges that currently use MMI stations — either exclusively or in an interview process also containing traditional interviews or group exercises:

  • Albany Medical College
  • California Northstate University
  • Central Michigan University
  • Chicago Medical School at Rosalind Franklin University
  • Cooper Medical School of Rowan University 
  • Duke University
  • Florida Atlantic University
  • Geisinger Commonwealth
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • Medical College of Georgia
  • Michigan State University 
  • New York Medical College
  • New York University
  • Nova Southeastern University
  • Oregon Health and Science University
  • Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
  • San Juan Bautista School of Medicine
  • Stanford University
  • SUNY Upstate
  • Texas Christian University
  • UCLA David Geffen
  • Universidad Central del Caribe
  • University of Alabama
  • University of Arizona
  • University of California-Davis
  • University of California-Riverside
  • University of California-San Diego
  • University of Cincinnati
  • University of Colorado 
  • University of Houston
  • University of Illinois-Chicago
  • University of Massachusetts
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
  • University of Mississippi
  • University of Missouri-Kansas City
  • University of Nevada
  • University of North Carolina 
  • University of South Carolina-Greenville 
  • University of Texas-Austin Dell Medical School
  • University of Texas Medical Branch UTMB Galveston
  • University of Toledo
  • University of Utah
  • University of Vermont
  • Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine
  • Wake Forest University
  • Washington State University
  • Wayne State University
  • Western Michigan University 

Even if you aren’t applying to any of these schools of medicine, it’s wise to familiarize yourself with effectively navigating MMI interviews. More medical programs are adopting this assessment practice every year, so there’s a chance your school of choice will begin using MMIs soon.

Picture of 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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