Traditional interviews are daunting enough as it is, yet more and more schools are adopting the multiple mini interview (MMI) format. Does completing more interviews equal more stress? Not necessarily. Having multiple interviews is actually an advantage for interviewees—your final evaluation is an average of how you do in each one, as opposed to everything riding on a single first impression.
What if your interviewer is biased against you? What if they’re simply having a bad day? What if you fumble through your very first question and struggle to get back on track? Or what if, in a horrible twist of fate, you manage to forget everything about why you want to become a doctor?
Multiple mini interviews can be a huge benefit to both applicants and schools, but why are they so effective, and how can you best excel? We wrote this comprehensive multiple mini interview guide to help hone your MMI skill set and feel confident come interview day. In this post, we’ll break down the multiple mini interview format, why medical schools use MMIs, how to prepare, and common MMI FAQs.
What is a Multiple Mini Interview (MMI)?
As the name implies, multiple mini interviews are multiple small interviews led by a variety of different interviewers.
MMIs were first pioneered by McMaster University 20 years ago in 2002 as a way of better understanding prospective students. McMaster felt the multiple mini interview was a more objective way of viewing applicants, as it allowed several different faculty members to form their own impression of candidates, offering a more complete picture.
The multiple mini interview generally consists of six to ten stations that applicants rotate through over the course of a morning or afternoon. Understandably, you may find this interview format intimidating if you’re hearing about it for the first time. Why are more interviews better than one? Well, chiefly, if you mess up one of your mini interviews or struggle to communicate with one of your interviewers, you have several more chances to make a good first impression.
The exact structure of multiple mini interviews varies from school to school and can change from year to year, but here are some general guidelines you can expect.
- You will circulate between 6 to 10 stations. Each may have a different format, such as behavioral questions, written prompts, personal questions, or acted out scenarios.
- You will receive a new prompt to read and digest before you enter each station. Typically, you will be given 2 minutes to formulate a response before entering the room.
- Station times can vary, but they are generally 8 minutes each. If you finish your answer before time is up, interviewers will either ask follow-up questions or face the awkward silence with you.
- Don’t be surprised if your interviewers do not give you any feedback. Many institutions tell their interviewers not to react to your answers, discouraging non-verbal feedback. They will simply ask questions.
- Some schools may run virtual multiple mini interviews.
Why Do Schools Utilize MMIs?
The multiple mini interview was created to measure an applicant’s social and non-verbal skills, oral communication, and teamwork—all of which are essential indicators of how the applicant will work alongside their fellow students, as well as their future patients and colleagues.
Medical schools use MMIs to gain a more fulsome impression of applicants. Mistakes happen, and it’s possible that an otherwise stellar candidate could rub an interviewer the wrong way and leave a bad first impression, which can completely sink your chances of acceptance at that specific school. It’s also possible the interviewer, for whatever reason, could form a bias against the candidate. Multiple mini interviews circumvent this problem by giving several different faculty members the chance to form their own opinions.
Multiple mini interviews mean you’re able to interact with multiple different evaluators, which means multiple different chances to shine. Your eventual admissions decision will depend on an average of these evaluations, so even if you freeze up and do poorly on one station, it won’t ruin your chance of acceptance.
The MMI also puts you on the spot in various unique scenarios. Unlike traditional interviews, you won’t be able to show up with an answer ready—you’ll need to think on your feet, just like you will in medical school, residency, and beyond. This interview format allows schools to see how you react under pressure. They enable schools to drill down into who you are as a person, including your values, ethics, problem solving abilities, and bedside manner.
What Medical Schools Run MMIs?
Some schools that typically run MMIs include:
- Stanford University School of Medicine
- University of California, Davis, School of Medicine
- University of California, Riverside School of Medicine
- University of California, San Diego School of Medicine
- David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
- Central Michigan University College of Medicine
- Duke University School of Medicine
- Albany Medical College
- University of Arizona College of Medicine
- University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine
- The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences
- University of Massachusetts T.H. Chan School of Medicine
- New York University Long Island School of Medicine
- State University of New York Upstate Medical University Alan and Marlene Norton College of Medicine
Whether a school runs a traditional interview or an MMI is completely up to each school. It’s your responsibility to determine what type of interviews are run by the schools you are applying to so you can adequately prepare yourself.
Many smaller schools do not have the resources, such as time, people, and money, to be able to run multiple mini interviews. So even if they may want to run MMIs, it’s simply not an option financially. MMIs require much more planning and involve more people, such as patient actors.
It’s also important to keep in mind that schools may change formats from year to year. This means you can’t rely on old lists or out-of-date websites or articles.
If the school has enough tech resources and updates their website regularly, you’ll likely be able to find out the kind of interview they run fairly easily under a tab marked “Applications” or “Admissions.” There could possibly be a further tab called “Interview.”
The MSAR is your ultimate resource in finding out whether or not you will have multiple mini interviews. If you are applying to medical school within the next 1-2 years, it’s well worth the small yearly fee. Through the MSAR, you’ll be able to view interview information for each school you’re applying or hoping to apply to. Additionally, the MSAR will show you tuition rates, detailed matriculant data, and school contact information.
Once you receive an interview invitation, you will likely be notified of which format to expect. They won’t tell you what type of questions you’ll be asked, and they may not tell you the length of the interviews or how many stations you will face, but you will be told whether it’s a traditional interview, MMI, or group interview.
However, by the time you get your interview invite, there will often be very little time left to prepare. Be sure to research each school’s interview process well in advance so that you know what type of preparation is required.
What Format Can Multiple Mini Interviews Take?
MMI length varies from school to school based on the format and number of interviewers. The full interview day can be as short as 6 sections or you could face up to 10 or 12 scenarios. The average to expect is 8-10 stations. The amount of time allowed for you to answer varies for each station. You may even have a section of the MMI that has a traditional interview format, during which you could spend 15-20 minutes with one person.
The number and type of stations will vary, but it’s fairly standard to begin each one with a prompt. This prompt could be a behavioral question, a preview of group work, a written prompt, a scenario to act out, etc.
Possible multiple mini interview stations could include:
- Scenarios involving interactions with an actor or a medical school’s standardized patient.
- An essay writing station; this station may take longer than the others.
- A standard interview station.
- A teamwork station where candidates must work together to complete a task.
- An ethical scenario involving questions about social and policy implications.
- A “rest” station to help students catch their breath and relax.
(List from AAMC)
This varied format is what makes preparing for MMIs so difficult. Some schools stick to a very strict format, whereas others may blindside you with unexpected scenarios and questions. You can never be 100% prepared because there are nearly limitless variables to contend with.
The format the MMI takes on depends on the mission and values of the school as well as the resources the school has available for running interviews.
Since there are so many people involved in MMIs, schools will use a standardized rubric that everyone follows to ensure scoring is completed on the same set of conditions. This is commonly based on a 1-10 Likert scale, but again, it varies from school to school and can change depending on the needs of the school in any given year. You may be evaluated by multiple 1-10 scales for different categories, or the school could use its own unique evaluation system.
Multiple Mini Interview Sample Questions (And How to Answer)
MMI Question: Ethical Dilemma
There is a struggling, low income community, and you have the ability to help them. You have three options.
Option 1: You can give them a microgrant for small businesses.
Option 2: You can give them livestock and farming equipment so that they can grow their own food.
Option 3: You can give them money so that the community can choose how to solve their problems on their own.
Your evaluators want to hear your thought process here. Instead of thinking about your answer in your head and then saying it, tell them how you got to that answer. Allow them in on your process. Remember back in your early school days when the teacher didn’t just want the answer, they wanted you to show your work? This is the same idea.
“I would need to speak to this community first to see what the people want to help them improve their resources. For example, if they have people in the community who have experience with livestock or those who are eager to learn farming, option two may be the best option. The livestock would be a sustainable source of food, and they could also sell products from the animals or the animals themselves to make more money. However, we’d need to consider the climate of the area and the upkeep that would be involved. Does the community have enough people to take care of a farm? Is there interest in learning how to take care of livestock? If this is not a realistic option for the community, I would continue to speak with them about their experience and interest in receiving a microgrant to set up a small business and ask what other ideas the community has for developing itself if they had the available resources to do so.”
Depending on your timing, you may be able to expand on your thought process for each option. What’s important is that you think through your thought process and express that process out loud. Illustrate that you would involve the community and showcase an understanding of some of the roadblocks that could prevent the option from working out.
MMI Question: “Speak about physician burnout.”
Your evaluators may purposely give you simple and vague prompts. They want to see what you come up with on the spot. How do you approach it? Is it from a problem-based format? Or do you take a reflective approach?
Aside from flat out saying you don’t believe physician burnout is real, there is no wrong answer here. Your evaluators simply want to see what you come up with, and they want to be able to evaluate your thought process. They are also assessing your ability to not get flustered or thrown off by an unconventional question or one that intentionally encourages you to express your own thoughts and opinions.
To answer this prompt, you might first define the problem of physician burnout.
“Burnout is a pervasive element for the healthcare workforce right now, not only for physicians but for all of the people involved in healthcare, from nurses to PAs, etc. It wears on the healthcare system, and that can actually put the patients in danger. For this reason, I feel that physician burnout is an issue that we need to address with more urgency and in a more direct format. Rather than giving resources to the people who are experiencing burnout, we need to change the environment that causes burnout in the first place. Let’s give more of a voice to the people who are experiencing burnout to make policy changes that can alleviate the phenomenon, or even better, eliminate it altogether. I understand that this complex healthcare issue cannot be fixed overnight, but it absolutely must be addressed because it not only affects the people working in healthcare—it affects the outcomes of the patients themselves.”
Depending on your timing, you may expand on some examples of the types of changes you might make before you conclude. This answer focuses on the systems in place and how they could be improved. It takes a birdseye view of the problem and shows that you are considering the needs of the people directly and indirectly affected by the issue.
Overall, in the time you are given, aim to define the problem, explain how you would approach it, give some potential solutions, and conclude with a reflective understanding of how difficult this problem will be to fix.
How to Prepare for MMIs
1 | Start Early and Be Proactive
Start early and be proactive about your preparation. We recommend starting to prepare about two months before an MMI but build in more time if you are someone who struggles with a fast paced format or interviews in general.
Take advantage of any help your college may offer, such as free mock MMIs. Even regular mock interviews will help you build confidence. If your school doesn’t offer these resources, you can seek out mock interview services.
Since the multiple mini interview is essentially designed to surprise and keep you on your toes, it’s critical that you take every opportunity to build your confidence, ethical problem solving, teamwork, adaptability, and critical thinking skills. These are elements you’ll need to develop and sharpen proactively, as they aren’t something you can learn with a few nights of practice before your interview.
2 | Build Consistent Prep Habits
Be consistent and develop a habit of your MMI prep. Consistency will help you effectively and efficiently build many hours of preparation into your routine without feeling like you’re using up a ton of your time. That 30-60 minutes of preparation every day will add up. Plus, any preparation you do for MMIs will help you adapt and think on your feet during any traditional interviews you may also have.
When it comes to the big day, your practice will pay off. In the end, you’ll be leveraging the same motions you’re used to going through every day, just with different questions.
After your first MMI, you’ll have a sense of what’s expected and what you can improve upon. Depending on how it went, you can likely begin to pair down your daily preparation time over the duration of interview season.
3 | Practice Within a Timed Format
Train yourself to get your entire point across in a short, inflexible amount of time. Practice answering questions within different time allotments, such as 6 minutes or 8 minutes. Do this for different types of MMI formats, including policy questions, writing stations, acting scenarios, etc.
On the day of your interview, you’ll need to get your points across succinctly within a limited amount of time. The sooner you begin practicing within this format, the better.
4 | Simulate the Pressured Environment
Interview day is a high-stakes, high-pressure environment. There’s a lot riding on your performance, and for MMIs, you simply don’t know what they’re going to throw at you.
As you practice, simulate the same pressured environment you will experience on interview day so that you build your adaptability and problem solving skills in the appropriate context. Surprise yourself with random questions. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. You’re not going to get the same questions you practiced, but you’ll be more comfortable thinking on your feet, no matter what curveball they send hurling in your direction.
5 | Record and Review
Record yourself answering practice questions and then watch it back. How do you look? How do you sound? How is your posture? While it’s by no means an easy thing to watch yourself, you must evaluate your own performance in order to continually improve. Watch for any nervous habits or slouching. If you spot any poor body language or any instances in which you mumble or do not enunciate clearly, record yourself answering again.
Ensure you do all of this within the timed format of the MMI, and surprise yourself with questions to simulate the pressure of a real multiple mini interview.
Evaluating yourself can be tough to do. If you feel you need help pinpointing how to improve, or if you feel like you don’t have any improvements left to make, ask a trusted mentor, family member, or friend to watch the recording. What notes do they have? How do you come across to them?
Record yourself in your interview outfit as well to get a complete picture of the person you will be presenting to evaluators on the big day. This will also help you test out the clothing you plan to wear on interview day.
6 | Always Remember Your Ethics
Similar to the Casper test, many questions won’t necessarily have a right or wrong answer, but you do need to ensure all of your answers are unbiased and ethical. Answer every question from this standpoint, bearing in mind that many questions are moral dilemmas designed to assess your ethics and understanding of the Hippocratic Oath.
If/then conditional statements can help you diplomatically answer these morally murky questions while still demonstrating strong ethics. For example, “If this is the situation, then I would respond this way. However, if this is actually the situation, then I would respond this way.”
These ethical questions will often be intentionally vague. Responding to them in this manner allows you to reframe the problem with important context while also demonstrating your ability to think ahead, appreciate both sides of an argument, and consider the potential consequences of your actions.
For example, imagine you’re presented with a scenario in which you see a fellow student, Jonathan, steal some textbooks from your school’s bookstore. What do you do?
Using if/then conditional statements, your answer might look something like this:
“I would find a time to calmly approach Jonathan in a private setting and encourage him to explain his actions. It’s possible Jonathan is experiencing a financial crisis. If so, I would offer to help him apply for a scholarship or find additional opportunities for financial aid so he could afford his books. If he agrees to let me help him, then I would help him replace the books and would support him through the next steps of solving the core issue. If, however, Jonathan ignored me and became agitated or aggressive, then I would have no choice but to report him to security. In doing so, I would tell Jonathan first and remain nonjudgmental throughout the entire process.”
Ethics are of supreme importance to doctors, so it’s important to demonstrate that you not only have a deep understanding of the moral foundations of physicians, but also the capacity to quickly judge a situation from an ethical point of view and act accordingly.
7 | Build Your Confidence
We often think of confidence as some kind of ethereal, elusive quality that only passes down to a lucky few. While it may be true that some people are born more confident than others, in the vast majority of cases, confidence needs to be cultivated steadily over time. It’s not magic. The key to confidence is preparation and experience. Do you ride a bicycle? Are you confident that if you get on that bicycle, you’ll be able to ride it to the other end of the street without falling over? Why? Likely, it’s because you’ve done it before, time and time again. The more we succeed at something, the more confident we feel.
The same is true of honing your confidence for the multiple mini interview. To build your self-efficacy, you need to follow through on each of the above points. Practice answering questions within the format of the multiple mini interview for as long as it takes until your answers feel natural and effortless.
All of that preparation will serve you well on game day and help you greatly improve your confidence. However, your answers aren’t the only thing you need to prepare. You also need to warm up your body, face, and voice to feel and present confidence.
Before your interview, find a mirror. Stand up straight in your sharp-looking suit. Ensure you have correct posture by allowing your arms to hang loose at your sides and then raising them slowly on either side of you. Once your fingertips are pointed toward the ceiling, roll your shoulders back and allow your arms to slowly fall to your sides. Your chest should feel unnaturally puffed out, but it’s not unnatural at all—that’s correct posture.
Perform vocal warm-ups before your interview to ensure you enunciate clearly and speak with confidence. Focus on warming up your facial muscles by alternating between wide, exaggerated faces and pinched faces. (If you’re wearing makeup, check to make sure you didn’t create any lines.)
In a previous article, we shared warm-up exercises you can use to ensure you’re as prepared as possible for interviews—Face and Vocal Exercises to Perform Before Interviews.
Correct posture, facial warm-ups, and vocal exercises help you speak clearly and look more enthusiastic and present—all of which will make you feel and look more confident. Learn more: How to Improve Your Interview Confidence.
Multiple Mini Interview FAQs
How Many Interview Stations Are Part of an MMI?
The number of stations you’ll face varies from school to school. You could face anywhere from 6 to 12 MMI stations, though you will typically face 8 to 10.
How Long is Each MMI Station?
From station to station and from school to school, stations vary in duration. They tend to last for about 8 minutes each, but a station could last as long as 20 minutes.
Don’t feel like you need to fill the whole time with your answer. Give a comprehensive response while also being clear and succinct. There’s nothing wrong with finishing before the time limit, so long as you’ve fully answered the question.
When Should I Start Preparing for MMIs?
The amount of time you dedicate to preparation completely depends on your own comfort level. If you are someone who struggles with confidence or on the spot questioning, you may require more time to practice and prepare.
Before you begin any preparation, double check to see if any of the schools you applied to have MMIs. If two of your top choice schools hold MMIs, you’ll want to dedicate more time to prepare. On the other hand, if only one of your back up schools holds MMIs and none of your other schools do, you don’t need to do as much advance preparation.
We recommend starting to prepare about two months out from your interview unless you’re someone who needs more than average interview preparation. Every day over these two months, surprise yourself with 3-5 practice MMI questions. This should take less than an hour each day.
This repetition will help build your confidence and adaptability. It’s the shock of a surprise question that you most need to familiarize yourself with. Remember to record yourself and play it back so you can see what you need to improve and estimate how much additional preparation is required before your interview.
What Should I Wear for a Multiple Mini Interview?
The same general principles from traditional interviews apply to MMIs. Dress professionally and ensure you are comfortable in what you’re wearing. Make sure you’re wearing comfortable, closed toe shoes because it will be a long day, often involving a lot of walking around the school campus.
Invest in at least one quality suit that is tailored to fit you. One quality tailored suit is better than having a few different suits that don’t fit you properly. Pick neutral colors/tones, as it’s not your colorful wardrobe you want to be remembered for. The same goes for accessories—keep them to a modest minimum so that they don’t distract you or your evaluators.
Test everything out well in advance so that you know you’ll be comfortable on the day of your MMI. Testing out your clothing is all the more important for MMIs because you will be moving around to different stations, sitting, standing, and waiting throughout the day. You need to know that you can comfortably move around in your attire and that no part of your outfit will become an unwelcome distraction.
How Do You Succeed in Teamwork Stations?
When approaching teamwork stations, be yourself. Be the team-based person you’ve had to be for group work in the past. The skills you noticed when observing the really good PAs or doctors in a team-based environment are what evaluators are looking for.
Talk and communicate with everyone while also being open and empathetic to other people’s ideas. If you feel strong in one area, you can tell your team that, but don’t override them. Don’t forget to listen. This station is all about working together to solve the problem and less about solving the problem itself.
Take Your Multiple Mini Interview Prep to the Next Level
Practice and preparation will give you the confidence you need to ace your multiple mini interviews.
Mock interviews put your interview skills to the test in a pressured environment that simulates the types of situations you’ll face on interview day. Med School Insiders offers mock interviews with former interviewers who provide insightful, direct feedback on your performance—feedback you can use to improve before interview day.
We have hundreds of other resources available on the Med School Insiders blog, including guides on preparing on the day of your interview, answering common questions, reducing interview costs, and effectively scheduling interviews.