Monday, 4 June 2012

Let's talk MMI, shall we?

Happy Monday, everyone!

I was inspired to write a post about the med school interview process by one of my readers. Donna Lee wrote:

"Hey there thanks for sharing your stories, they're really inspiring and I look forward to reading about your journey through med school! I am currently resolved to improve my interviewing skills, as I have been rejected twice now as well and also from UBC and I am hoping to gain some more tips on how to improve my chances and interviewing skills. What did you change, if anything, for your interviews? Did you set up a structure to your answers? thanks, much appreciated :)"

Thank you, Donna Lee, for your question. And good luck with your future applications! I was rejected pre-interview last year, and I know it can be hard to stay motivated and really pin-point what we need to do in order to improve our chances. I applaud you for your commitment -- it takes serious motivation to keep going as this is such a long process. Now, you mentioned applying to UBC, which uses an MMI style interview.

What is the MMI?

Ah, another odd abbreviation my non-medical readers must be shaking their heads at. In Canada, most medical schools opt out of a traditional panel interview and will use what is called the "Multiple Mini Interview" format instead. It's very military style: there are several stations, and each station has a prompt waiting for you outside the door. The bell rings and you have two minutes to read your prompt. An example of a prompt from the University of Saskatoon website:

"Dr Smith recommends homeopathic medicines to his patients. There is no scientific evidence or widely accepted theory to suggest that homeopathic medicines work, and Dr Smith doesn't believe them to. He recommends homeopathic medicine to people with mild and non-specific symptoms such as fatigue, headaches and muscle aches, because he believes that it will do no harm, but will give them reassurance.   

Consider the ethical problems that Dr Smith’s behaviour might pose. Discuss these issues with the interviewer.  "

Depending on the school you are interviewing at, you might be given a notepad and paper to write down your thoughts. Though, I felt perfectly fine without using a notepad. After the two minutes are up, you must enter the room and provide and answer. Most schools will give either 7 or 8 minutes to do so. And if you finish answering your question early, you may have follow up questions provided to you. Once your time is up, the bell rings, and you have to pack up and move to the next station. You repeat this process until all stations are completed. Often there are rest stations where you can relax, and clear your thoughts. And, depending on your personality, the MMI can be a lot of fun!

I was only interviewed once and I felt it went well. So I'll give you a few tips on what I did to prep and subsequently have an MMI experience I was quite happy with.

  1. Practice early, and frequently.
    I would suggest to practising questions soon after receiving your interview invite. The purpose for practising is not to have prepared answers, but so you can develop a method that works for you. Seven minutes for an interview question seems a little bit odd at first, but the more you practice the better you can gauge how to answer the question effectively within the allotted time frame.
  2. Practice a variety of questions.
    There are many resources on the internet that will provide you with practice MMI questions. Personally, practicing questions that were quite difficult made my actual experience easier -- I felt like I could conquer any sort of question they threw at me.
  3. Find a method that works for you. 
    I'll share my method and this is not to be taken as a golden MMI approach by any means! It's simply what seemed to work for me.

    - Look at the prompt, and whatever the question is, do not panic. It might seem odd at first, but you've practised difficult questions. You can answer anything.
    - Is the question asking for you to make a decision? If so, you can break it down into: advantages, disadvantages, and conclusion. Two minutes were enough for me to equip myself with arguments for both sides decide on a position. Sometimes, this would come to me in the actual interview room, other times I would just look at the question and decide immediately how I felt about the question.
    - Is the question an ethical dilemma? Skimming the novel "Doing Right" helped me understanding different perspectives of various ethical dilemmas. Always try to understand where the family/patients are coming from and your responsibilities as a physician.

    - Practise simple etiquette. When you walk into the interview room, try to stay calm and collected. And if you can, shake the hand of your interviewer, introduce yourself. If anything it gives you a second to just breathe and feel pleasant. I would often glance at their name tag and if my interviewers name was Sheila I would say "Hi Sheila, nice to meet you" or "thank you for being here today." And when I hear the final bell, I would smile, thank the interviewer again, and end with a simple "It was a pleasure to meet you."

    - Providing your answer. I would often try to answer my question as effectively as I could in minimal time. Say, for instance, I had seven minutes to answer a question -- I would often try to answer in 3-4 minutes. You need time to answer the follow up questions. Try to cover as much information as you can, and avoid sounding redundant at all costs. Your interviewers have already heard similar answers that day, possibly even that weekend. Be concise.

    - Follow up questions. I loved these! At the end of my answer I would have follow up questions, and often, these challenged my position or stance. Listen to what the interviewer is asking, and if you're unsure about how to proceed, I think it is okay to take a bit of time before answering the question.

    - Onto the next station. So you've finished a station, and are looking at your next prompt. Forget about your last station. Clear your mind. Each station is a new prompt and a new interviewer and you don't want to bring post-MMI-station-baggage into the next room. You did your best, maybe you didn't answer as well as you wanted to, but it doesn't matter. New station, new beginning.

    - The acting station. I practised for this station in a counter-intuitive way. When practising, I would often take the acting role. Initially, I did this because I have a lot of acting experience, and I seemed to be the best person for the job. But I think I had too much fun doing this. And I wish I would have been a bit more adamant about taking the interviewee role. When it came to the real MMI, I felt like this station went pretty well but could have gone better.

    - The writing station. I did not practise for this station. I felt the prompting question was fairly straightforward. Try to be structured, and if it helps, take a couple of minutes to write an outline. But the questions they ask you should be fairly simple to answer as long as you are answering honestly.
  4. Be yourself. Though it might sound cliché, be yourself, and do not fake being who you think medical schools want you to be. And don't fool yourself into thinking you are a good actor. Don't force what isn't there.
  5. Celebrate! Look at all of this work you put in! You survived an MMI! Now comes the waiting period. At some schools, expect to wait several months before notifications come out. So do your best to keep busy, and stay positive. Freak out if you need to. But you made it this far, you should be proud.
Phew! That was a long one, wasn't it? I really hope this helped applicants. Thank you, Donna, for the question! If you have any more questions, or you have done what I've mentioned and it just doesn't seem to be working, please comment below. I'm not an expert by any means. I don't get paid or sponsored to do this. I'm just happy to help.

Thank you for reading, and enjoy your Monday.

Thank you for stopping by!


  1. Whoa, this is really interesting! Our med schools don't have this system, so this is the first time I've heard about it (here, you take written exam from biology, chemistry and physics I think, or you are accepted without exams in case you have a perfect GPA). This must be really tough... And thanks for sharing your tips, I think they're useful for all kinds of similar-style interviews.

    1. Very interesting, here it's quite similar as in the Czech Republic, only that you take biology, chemistry and physics (all advanced) on your A-levels and usually need an 85-90% score in all of them.

  2. Hey, this was fascinating, thank you! I know nothing about medical but you still held my interest through the whole thing. I love learning about the process and hope you'll post more about your experiences. It's great to know how things work.

  3. yo girl, you're very inspiring.

  4. Last year in Qc, there were 12 stations of which 6 were acting stations (alternating). It certainly gives a different dynamic! :) I remember that those were the ones I was the most nervous about because I don't like role-playing, but the actors were so "good" that it felt natural.

    Most important part: HAVE FUN!

  5. Thanks for this! A great help to someone who is freaking out for their MMI next week!! :D

  6. Hey this is awesome !

  7. Excellent post about the MMI, and I wish I had come across it earlier. The advice about not using the entire time to speak is spot on. When I do mock interviews with my advisees, many of them feel as if they must use up all the time. If you end your response several minutes before the bell rings, the interviewer can ask you follow-up questions. In case your original response was lacking, the follow-up question may allow you to score some bonus points. Many applicants rob themselves of this very important opportunity. Good luck to all!


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