Medical School Interviews: Multiple Mini Interviews (MMIs) and Semi-Structured Interviews

Last updated: 9/12/2021

The vast majority of medical schools (both direct and graduate entry) in Australia and New Zealand use some form of interview assessment to select their students. While they may already know the applicants’ academic credentials through the application form, they use interviews as a means to identify and evaluate personal qualities that would be essential for being a successful medical doctor.

These qualities include communication skills, critical thinking, decision making, empathy, ethics, maturity, motivation, problem solving, responsibility, self-knowledge, sensitivity and teamwork.

Read on to find out about:

A stopwatch

Medical School Interviews: Multiple Mini Interviews (MMIs)

Multiple mini interviews (MMIs) are used by the majority of medical schools in Australia and New Zealand. Each station is usually focused on assessing one or more soft-skills, allowing each university to evaluate you from different aspects.

Typically, a MMI consists of 6-10 independent stations that last 5-10 minutes each (including reading time), as outlined below*:

University

Time per station

Number of stations

Australian National University (also has one hour group task)

6 minutes

6

Bond University

7 minutes

8

Charles Sturt University

10 minutes

4

Curtin University

8 minutes

8

Deakin University

5 minutes

6

Griffith

7 minutes

8

Macquarie University

8 minutes

8

Monash University

10 minutes

8

University of Melbourne

5 minutes

8

University of Newcastle and University of England

8 minutes

8

University of Notre Dame (Fremantle and Sydney)

8 minutes

6

University of Queensland

9 minutes

8

University of Sydney

7 minutes

5

University Western Australia

11 minutes

8

Western Sydney University

8 minutes

10

University of Auckland

8 minutes

8

* Note: The table above is to the best of our knowledge based on official information available from the universities' websites and information from previous years. The number of stations and time per station may change without notice.

During this time, you will engage in a series of conversations with the interviewers about a given scenario or topic, be involved in a role play, give a short presentation or explanation, or carry out certain tasks (e.g. summarising a short article). Common topics include conflict resolution, decision making and prioritisation, ethical issues, knowledge of health, medicine and science, and motivation to study medicine.

A checklist

At the end, an aggregate score of all stations is used to rank each applicant. While this means that your performance in every station counts, it also means that if you don’t do as well as you would’ve liked to in a station, you can easily make up for it with a stellar performance in another. This approach minimises any potential bias from the interviewers.

Not all MMIs are not the same in terms of the type of questions asked, duration and number of stations, marking criteria and reading time. However, with sufficient preparation to work on your soft-skills and practice with various MMI scenarios, you can improve your performance with any MMIs. Indeed, there is even scientific evidence to suggest that practice and experience can improve MMI scores.

Two key points to keep in mind when practicing for an MMI interview are timing and replication.

  • Timing: Train yourself with a strict time limit of about 7–8 minutes to answer questions and learn to respond to prompts adequately in this timeframe.
  • Replication: Since each station is essentially a new interview, the structure takes some getting used to. Simulate the interview by asking friends or family to ask you typical interview questions at separate stations. This can create some familiarity with the format, which will be a huge help on the day.

An applicant smiling during a medical school interview

Medical School Interviews: Semi-structured Interviews

Most universities that do not use a MMI for their interview process use traditional semi-structured panel interviews. Instead of having multiple rotating stations and strict time schedule to follow, these types of interviews involve the interviewers asking a list of questions and then asking follow-up questions that do not necessarily adhere to a pre-written script. 

These interviews are typically centred around questions around your achievements/background/experiences, demonstration of leadership and teamwork, learning style, motivation to study medicine, and personal management. They may involve discussion of the healthcare system, and an assessment of your analytic skills, decision making, empathy, ethical reasoning, problem solving skills, and professionalism.

Focus on the following when practicing for a panel interview:

  • Practice waiting to give your answer: Even though you don’t have time to prepare, you should take a few moments after you’ve been asked the question to quickly arrange your thoughts so that you can give a clear answer rather than a jumbled one. Taking a moment to consider your response can actually give a great impression and help you come across as a calm candidate who doesn’t panic in stressful situations.
  • Practice speaking to groups of people: It is important to create rapport with the whole panel of examiners. When you’re in social situations, practice making eye contact with the whole group and making sure everyone feels listened to.
An onlineinterview

It should be noted that some universities may use online/phone panel interviews instead of MMI for international applicants.

The following universities use semi-structured interviews:

  • Flinders University (50 minutes)
  • James Cook University (40 minutes)
  • University of New South Wales (40 minutes)
  • University of Wollongong (45 minutes)

University of Adelaide is unique in that its interview is a mix of semi-structured interview and MMI and consists of two 15-minute sessions (or one 20-minute session for international applicants).

University of Sydney (provisional entry) is also unique in having a more relaxed and unstructured interview that is taken together with several other students. Note that this only applies to the double degree programme as the graduate entry programme uses MMI to assess its candidates.

General interview preparation

Below are the basics of medical interview preparation.

a) Work out your strengths and weaknesses

  • Make a comprehensive list of your positive and negative attributes framed around a healthcare context. Be honest.
  • Don’t try the classic trick of presenting one of your strengths as a weakness by saying something like 'I’m a perfectionist' or 'I work too hard'. Interviewers can tell that you’re dodging the question and that you haven’t done much self-reflection.
  • Don’t say anything that is a major red flag for medicine like 'I struggle to communicate with people', or 'I don’t work well under pressure'.
  • Discuss how you’re working to improve your weaknesses.

b) Read as much as you can

c) Stay up to date with current affairs

Know what’s going on in the healthcare, biomedical and medical fields. When you read news articles on non-healthcare related issues, think about how it can impact the medical field. 

Keep up to date while you’re on the go with the ABC news app or by listening to the radio. If anything in particular interests you then write it down along with where you found it. With this technique, you can mention where you found your information when discussing current affairs in your interview. This will make you sound much more credible. 

That being said, only talk about news you’ve found through respectable sources. It’s probably not a good idea to talk about things you’ve found on Reddit or Youtube.

Learn more about how to identify fake news with ABC’s article, Real or Fake News: How Do You Know?

d) Make a skills bank

It can be hard to think of ideas under pressure.

Few of us can recall a time we showed resilience or leadership on the spot. So in preparation for this kind of question, make yourself a bank of examples to demonstrate when you used a certain skill and reflect on it.

Here’s an example of what your skills bank could look like:

Quality

Example

Reflection

Good communication skills

'Had to explain percentages and fractions to a 10-year-old I was tutoring.'

Communication approach varies based on who you’re speaking to. It’s important to listen well in order to communicate well.

Ability to take responsibility for your own actions

‘Bumped into my neighbor's car, apologised and paid in full.’

Didn’t take time to check all the mirrors. Next time I will stay focused when driving.

Teamwork

‘Played in the school netball team.’

Communication is very important. Every role in the team is important. Be respectful to all.

A checklist of topics you need to read and research before your interview

e) Make a checklist of topics you need to read and research before your interview

Example pre-interview checklist

▢ Finishing my skills bank

▢ Gathering important medical stories from the past, e.g. Dr Bawa Garba, Charlie Gard

▢ Gaining sufficient knowledge of various bodies like the Australian or New Zealand government health organisations, Australian or New Zealand medical associations, Medicare and the World Health Organization.

▢ Mastering relevant knowledge of the Australian or New Zealand healthcare system (how it works, challenges, patient journey through primary and secondary care)

▢ Mastering ethics knowledge, particularly around:

       - 4 pillars of ethics: autonomy, justice, beneficence, and non-maleficence

       - Euthanasia

       - Abortions

       - Refusal of treatment

       - Organ donation

       - Consent

       - Confidentiality 

       - Capacity and Gillick competence

▢ Gaining sufficient knowledge of common conditions, particularly:

       - Diabetes

       - Obesity

       - Covid-19

       - Cancer

       - Cardiovascular disease

▢ Reviewing hot topics (i.e., topics in the news, which can change year to year)

f) Practice, practice, practice!

Self-reflecting, preparing anecdotes, learning about healthcare and understanding interview techniques are only effective if you can culminate this preparation into a cohesive interview answer.

Practise answering interview questions with friends, family, in front of a mirror and while recording yourself, and look for honest feedback from them and from yourself.

The more you practise the better you will become at incorporating everything you’ve learnt into a strong response. However, practising the same questions too many times can cause your responses to feel rehearsed and unnatural, so try to practise with new questions every session.

Sam, Curtin University

'I separated my medical interview preparation into two distinct components. The first was learning, where I found out more about myself and about broader topics like the healthcare system and medical ethics. The second was practicing, where I used what I’d learnt to answer interview questions. I moved between learning and practicing over the course of my preparation, but having these two components helped me stay focused and remember what I wanted to work on in each preparation session.'

Interview Information

Refer to the table below for how each medical school conduct their interviews.

University Name

Interview Information

Semi-Structured Interview

Griffith University Multi Station Admissions Assessment (GUMSAA)

Semi-Structured Interview

Multiple Skills Assessment (MSA)

Semi-Structured Interview

University of Notre Dame (Freemantle and Sydney)

MMI

No interview is required

Interview may be used as a tie-breaker. Exceptions apply to those applying through the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander entry scheme.

No interview is required

Semi-structured


Are you interested in attending a medical school in the UK instead of Australia or New Zealand? Check out Medify’s UK Medical School Admissions Guide.

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