Medical school interviews are the final step in the tedious, turbulent, and time-consuming process of applying to medical school. But while they’re the final step, they are also one of the most challenging. A bad interview can ruin your chances of acceptance, even if you scored a perfect 528 on the MCAT. You’ll face a number of challenging medical school interview questions, and if you’re not properly prepared for them, you could fall flat on your face in front of the admissions committee.
In this post, we’ll share 21 of the most common medical school interview questions as well as how to answer each of them.
1. Tell Me About Yourself…
Some version of this question will open most of your interviews. The broadness of this question is daunting, but keep in mind that the interviewer has already seen your GPA, MCAT score, personal statement, coursework, and extracurriculars. They know you’re a promising candidate—that’s why they’re interviewing you. Don’t answer this question by giving them another rundown of your credentials.
The interviewer is asking this question because they want to get a better sense of who the person is behind the accomplishments. Who are you? Why do you want to be a doctor? What drives you? What’s your favorite hobby? How has your family experience shaped who you are? Why are you a good fit for this program in particular?
The broad and open-ended nature of this question may seem intimidating, but it can actually work in your favor. It’s an opportunity to create your own narrative and steer the entire interview in the direction you’re most comfortable with. Providing a multi-layered answer with plenty of threads the interviewer can draw on and ask you about enables you to control the flow of the conversation.
That’s why it is essential to prepare for the tell me about yourself question before your interviews.
Prepare a few interesting and important life events or facts about yourself that you are confident you can expand upon. The interviewer can then pick and choose which stories or facts they would like to know more about. Where did you grow up? Who raised you? What experience in your past made you know you had to pursue medicine? Structure your response and practice answering this question in front of friends, family, a mentor, the mirror, and during mock interviews.
Learn more in our Guide to the Medical School Interview Tell Me About Yourself Question.
2. Why Are You Applying to Medical School?
This could be the most important question you’ll be asked, and it’s not one that you can afford to flub. Unfortunately, most of your fellow applicants will have similar answers to this question, so it’s important to be as unique as possible. The best way to do this is to draw from your own personal experiences.
Do not, under any circumstances, give a generic answer. Use a personal anecdote or experience from your past, as it enables you to speak about yourself and the field you’re pursuing in a way that will keep the interviewer engaged.
Practice your response before your interview so that you can keep it to less than 1-2 minutes.
3. Why Do You Want to Attend This Medical School?
This question is meant to test how intimate your knowledge is of the program. The interviewer is looking for details about why you’re attracted to the school and why you believe it’s a good fit for you specifically. You cannot give a solid answer without a thorough understanding of the school’s values and offerings.
It is vital that you do ample research about each school you’re interviewing at. What are the school’s strengths? What’s unique about the school? Is there a physician there you’re eager to study under? Intertwine your knowledge of the program with your own personal strengths, attributes, and interests to demonstrate how you are a good fit. How do your own experiences and dreams for the future complement the school? How will the program help you achieve your personal and professional goals?
4. What Makes You Stand Out?/Why Should We Pick You?
This is the time to clearly describe your values and how they relate to the school’s values. What specifically makes you a strong applicant? What separates you from the other applicants? Which of your academic achievements or research or clinical experiences can you relate to the school’s offerings?
Use actual stories and experiences from your past to sell yourself. It’s great that you have values, but listing them isn’t enough. Provide examples of how and when you lived those values. Demonstrate how they compliment the school’s own values to illustrate why you’re a good fit for the program.
5. What Are You Looking for From a Medical School?
This question is an opportunity to highlight what you find most important in a medical school. How you answer this question says a great deal about who you are as a person and applicant.
Are you looking for good research or clinical opportunities? Are you hoping to find a group of fellow students you can grow with and learn from over the course of your med school career? Are you excited to find a mentor in one of your professors?
Each of these directions is a good one to take, as they demonstrate that you’re applying to the program for the right reasons—you’re not only applying because you think it would be cool to live in New York City or because it’s the school your parents are forcing you to attend.
Avoid bland answers; flat, mild responses to this question suggest you haven’t put enough thought into the schools you applied to, making you seem wishy-washy and unprepared.
6. What Are Your Biggest Strengths?
The interviewer isn’t asking this question because they’re looking for a long list of appealing adjectives. Select strengths that are unique to you as an individual, but demonstrate them through tangible examples from your past.
Don’t come up with strengths on the fly. Prepare for this question well in advance. Ask your friends, family, and mentors what they believe your strengths to be. Sit down with a pen and notepad and reflect on what makes you uniquely you.
Are you skilled with time management? Are you a highly empathetic person who excels at communicating with people and achieving compromise? Always relate your strengths back to how they make you a good addition to that particular medical school.
7. What Are Your Biggest Weaknesses or Flaws?
Yes, this is a bit of a trick question. Don’t think you can get around it by saying that you’re a perfectionist—interviewers have heard that response 1000 times. Be honest, but be positive.
No one is perfect, and your interviewer knows this. Everyone has weaknesses; what matters is what you learn from them and how you are able to address any professional shortcomings. This shows maturity—an extremely appealing quality in a prospective medical student and future doctor.
This is not an opportunity to highlight your personal insecurities; it’s best to keep the focus on your professional and academic development. If you struggled with research and it shows on your application, what have you done since to rectify that gap in your knowledge? If you have trouble saying no to opportunities, you can be honest about that, but specify how you are learning to prioritize.
8. Describe a Recent Challenge and How You Overcame It
Select a personal experience you had in which you were forced to deal with a difficult team member, an overbearing manager, or manage an otherwise challenging personal struggle. How did you find a reasonable compromise and diffuse the conflict? What strengths and values did you demonstrate in doing so?
What’s most important is choosing a genuine experience from your life you can speak about comfortably and authentically that reveals your own personal and professional strengths.
As with all of these questions, prepare for it beforehand. You must have one or more stories ready that address overcoming a challenge or conflict.
9. Explain a [Specific Shortcoming] of Your Application…
If there’s an aspect of your application that’s particularly weak, expect to be asked about it. Don’t be defensive. Instead, explain what happened, what you learned in the process, and how the situation affected your growth as a human being and medical student.
Everyone makes mistakes. Don’t sweep them under the rug. Demonstrating what you learned from the experience shows maturity and perseverance.
10. Describe One of Your Research Projects…
If you listed a paper, idea, or abstract on your application, there’s a good chance the interviewer will ask you to elaborate on it. If you included it on your application, it’s fair game for the interviewer, so ensure you reread your CV as well as any publications or research projects mentioned on your application. Be prepared to discuss them in detail on interview day.
11. What Specialty Are You Interested in?
Be careful answering this question, as it’s a lot more dangerous than it seems. It’s important that you appear open to learning all fields of medicine. If you do have a particular interest in a specific specialty because of family or a personal or academic experience, it’s okay to mention that, but make sure that you clearly demonstrate curiosity and an interest in all fields.
12. Who Inspires You?
Use this question as an opportunity to discuss the person or people in your life who had the greatest impact on you. Pick someone close to you that you feel comfortable speaking about, such as an important mentor, teacher, or family member. Pick someone you know personally so that you can speak about them and their impact on you in depth.
It’s a chance to break down how that person inspired you, which, in turn, allows you to discuss your own strengths and unique qualities in relation to them. For example, you could say that you admire your late mentor’s integrity and try to match that level of integrity every day in order to keep their memory alive.
13. How Has Your Undergraduate Education Prepared You for Medical School?
This is a great opportunity to highlight your accomplishments in academics, extracurriculars, or the lab. Don’t be arrogant, but don’t shy away from all that you’ve managed to achieve.
Provide background and context for these accomplishments with tangible anecdotes from your life that showcase your technical chops in biology and medicine. It’s also a good idea to include a couple of stories that showcase your soft skills and bedside manner to demonstrate that you can remain calm under pressure.
14. What Are Your Hobbies?/What Do You Do for Leisure?
Select a handful of hobbies, around three to five, that you’re passionate about and comfortable discussing. What do you do during your downtime? What do you like to do for fun? Do you enjoy spending time with your family, playing sports or music, dancing, cooking, reading, writing, watching movies, gardening, horseback riding, or painting? Whatever hobby you choose, be prepared to speak about it with genuine enthusiasm.
Be honest. The interviewer wants to know more about you, but they also want to ensure you’re someone who is able to take a break. If you have no hobbies but studying for medical school, it may seem like dedication to you, but it’s also an indication that you could overwork yourself and burn out on the process.
If you’ve just started trying out a new hobby, feel free to discuss that as well.
15. What’s the Last Book You Read/Enjoyed?
This is quite similar to the previous question, as it’s another opportunity to demonstrate there is more to your life than the strict pursuit of medicine. The interviewer could ask you about a book, movie, or television show you enjoyed recently.
If you didn’t enjoy the last book you read or program you watched, it could also be a good opportunity to flex your critical reasoning and analysis skills and discuss the specific reasons why you didn’t enjoy it. Were the writer’s arguments weak? Did you not enjoy their writing style? Did you find the actors or plot unbelievable?
16. What Do You Think About [Current Recent Topic]?
Stay on top of current affairs during your application cycle—especially if they pertain to healthcare. You don’t need to have a strong opinion about the issue; in fact, it’s better to appear informed and diplomatic than overly opinionated.
For example, a few years back, the Affordable Care Act came up in interview questions. More recently, you might get questions about the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines.
17. What Career Would You Pursue if You Couldn’t Be a Doctor?
You can be honest about how disappointing it would be not to be able to become a doctor, but that’s not an answer to the question. Medicine is a very value-driven field of employment, so it’s important to select a career with similar values to the ones you find in medicine. For example, if you wanted to stay in the realm of medicine, you might say you would become a paramedic, a lab or radiologist technician, or surgical technologist.
Pick a field that demonstrates your values and desire to help people.
18. What Will You Do If You Don’t Get Into Medical School?
This is by no means an easy question. The best course of action is to say you will reapply to medical school after you take the time to strengthen your application. It’s vital you demonstrate to the interviewer that you have a realistic and comprehensive backup plan in place, as this shows your maturity. If you say you want to grow your research or clinical experiences to enhance your application, detail exactly the steps you would take to achieve that.
19. Where Do You See Yourself in 10 Years?
Answer this question thoughtfully and honestly, and try to avoid being overly ambitious. After all, if all goes well and you’re accepted to medical school, you’ll have four years of that before three to seven years of residency, depending on your specialty. So, it’s possible you’ll still be in residency in ten years. Saying you hope to become an internationally sought-after neurosurgeon in ten years is bold—but extremely unlikely.
Pick a realistic answer and explain why that reality would be ideal for you. If you want to one day become a neurosurgeon, explain why pursuing that goal is exactly where you hope to be in ten years. Take time in advance to think about how you will answer this question and be prepared for variants of it, such as, “where do you see yourself in 15 or 20 years?”
20. What Questions Do You Have for Me/Us? (Interviewer)
Never answer no if an interviewer asks if you have questions for them. If you don’t have a long list of questions about the opportunity, it demonstrates to the interviewer that you’re either unprepared or uninterested. Having a list of well-thought-out questions shows that you have a genuine and long-term interest in attending the medical school in question.
Do not ask questions that can be easily answered on the school’s website. Take advantage of the interviewer’s expertise. What’s their favorite thing about working at the school? Why did they decide to teach for that particular program? If the interview goes well, asking detailed questions based on what you spoke about could be a way to turn the interviewer into a valuable mentor and supporter.
Questions to ask the interviewer:
- What are you most proud of about this medical school?
- What are this medical school’s greatest strengths?
- Are there any new additions planned for this medical school in the near future?
- Is there anything you would change about this medical school?
- Are there any research requirements or structured research mentoring programs?
- How do the students here do in The Match?
- Why did you decide to become an interviewer?
21. What Questions Do You Have for Me/Us? (Student)
You should have different questions prepared for student interviews. They have a deep understanding of what it’s like to attend that specific school, so take full advantage of their knowledge of the programs, faculty, campus, other students, and surrounding city.
Questions to ask students:
- Why did you choose this medical school?
- What is something you would change about this medical school?
- How competitive or collaborative are the other students?
- Are there any fields or specialties that are underrepresented at this school?
- How difficult is it to travel to and from the campus?
- Do you need a car, or is there public transit available?
- What is life like outside of the hospital?
- What is life like in this particular city?
- Do the students spend time with each other outside of medical school?
How to Prepare for Medical School Interviews
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You’ll have dozens of years of medical school admission committee experience on your side. Our team of top doctors, all with adcom experience, came together to build this course from the ground up to provide you with the ultimate resource to master the medical school interview. The course includes all of the details, from what precisely to pack to making a cheat sheet to common pitfalls to how to address the most common questions.