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by Giulia Bankov December 17, 2020 14 min read
Whether you are a medical or dental applicant, you have probably heard of multiple mini interviews (MMI) and are aware that they are a somewhat new interview method used in the admissions process that have become increasingly popular in the past years. MMIs differ significantly from the typical interview setup you might be imagining when you think of an interview in both how they are organised and in what skills and qualities they can assess.
If you aren’t certain what an MMI entails though, don’t worry - in this blog, we will look at what MMIs are exactly and how they work. We will also explore the types of MMIs that you can expect to come across this interview season and try to answer some frequently asked MMI questions.
Let’s talk about what MMI means first. As mentioned already above, MMI stands for multiple mini interview, which is a newer interview format that has largely taken over from traditional panel interviews. The name for this type of interview describes its nature quite well, in that you can expect not a single interview, which is the case for the panel style, but rather a series of multiple interviews, which are known as MMI stations. Naturally, this will mean that the length of each MMI station will be significantly shortened in comparison to the length of traditional interviews, hence the term “mini”. So an MMI interview, in essence, is a series of small interview stations, each with a different examiner, that can last anywhere between 3-7 minutes. There are pros and cons to this setup, so let’s delve into the specifics behind MMIs in a bit more detail.
You may be asking yourself the question - “Why was the MMI format introduced in the first place?”. The truth is, medicine is unlike any other higher form of education, in that it is highly academic but at the same time an incredibly social and practical vocation as well. As such, it was discovered that standard panel interviews were finding it difficult to assess softer qualities that are required for a good doctor on top of their academic and intellectual abilities. Qualities, such as communication skills and empathy, which are not easily quantified or described in words, require a more novel and creative approach in order to be showcased successfully by applicants.
MMIs in their nature are a lot more structurally creative and rarely take the form of simple questions and answers. More often than not, candidates can expect role plays, practical tasks, or video stations to be included in the interview. These types of setups are much better equipped at evaluating applicants’ reaction to an unfamiliar situation, making decisions under pressure and communicating with strangers. As such, MMIs took over as the leading tool for medical school admissions in sourcing the best equipped candidates, not only from an academic but from a practical perspective, too.
MMIs are not necessarily harder interviews, but they can be challenging for students, because they are different. Anything new and unfamiliar can seem difficult at first, so the secret to an excellent performance at an MMI is preparation. In terms of the time it takes to prepare for the MMI, this does not differ majorly from what you would want to spend preparing for a traditional interview. In fact, a lot of the questions will likely overlap, because there are certain important factors that medical schools are very keen on evaluating in their candidates, such as motivation and insight. Therefore, no matter what interview type you will be invited to, you can almost always expect a question of “Why do you want to be a doctor?” and “Why do you want to study here?”. Making sure you cover your bases, therefore, can often help you kill two birds with one stone.
We have briefly alluded to the fact that MMIs do introduce certain special stations, which we will talk about in detail shortly, and therefore, you need to factor those into your preparation time. They are much more challenging to theoretically prepare for, because even if you know there will be a communication station as one of the MMI components, you will not necessarily know what the scenario will play out like.
This is different from a panel interview setup, where you can imagine a question will follow the basic structure of “Give me an example of a time you showed good communication skills”. Therefore, the secret is not to spend ages trying to anticipate every single situation possible, but instead to spend short chunks of time at regular intervals with family, friends or mentors playing out a scenario where they test your communication skills. The most important part of that practice, however, will be to listen to and implement the feedback you receive from them at the end. Only through this, will you consistently improve your practice and ensure you are ready for your interview.
Once you know what types of MMI scenarios may be given at the interview and how to tackle them respectively, you will find that they are actually quite fun and enjoyable! This blog is dedicated to solving the mystery that shrouds the MMIs and give you a full overview of what to expect and walk in the interview fully prepared.
We already briefly mentioned the typical setup of an MMI, but let’s recap and provide even more detail to your understanding. MMIs are a type of interview, which consists of several stations. While the number of stations will depend on each school, you can expect an MMI circuit to consist of anything between 6 and 12 stations at an interview. Each station will ask you one question, which may then be accompanied by one or two follow-up questions, before it’s time to move on to the next - and as such, you can imagine the fast-paced and time-pressured nature of MMIs - they can run at anything between 4 and 7 minutes, but rarely ever longer. Depending on the school interviewing you, you might be given up to a minute before each station to read the question given and prepare an answer, though that’s not always the case.
Something new to consider that hasn’t been a point of much deliberation in the past, is the timing in which you will be giving your answers. As with the majority of work and school affairs worldwide this year, medical school interviews in the UK are also exclusively held online for the 2021 entry. Even then, there can be differences between medical schools of how exactly they choose to set up their interview. Most schools will choose to conduct their interviews in real time, in which you will have the opportunity to speak to the examiners over the internet through a video chat software, such as Teams or Zoom, and you will be asked questions in real time with your answers being timed.
A select few schools, however, notably St George’s and Imperial, have decided to carry out their interviews asynchronously. What this means is that you will receive a list of interview questions that you will be scored on and given a timeframe, in which you are to record your answers and either upload or send them back to the university. The examiners will then review your answers in their own time and assign you a score.
Whether you sit the MMI interview in real time or asynchronously, you can expect each station to give you a score and at the end all scores from all stations will be put together to give your overall performance a total mark, which will ultimately decide whether you will be offered a place at that university.
While these are the general rules of how MMIs work, each medical and dental school will implement them slightly differently - your university of choice will likely provide you with further information regarding their MMI when they send you an interview invitation, so make sure you are fully prepared before the day by having read and familiarised yourself with those. Another important consideration to keep in mind is that you will likely be asked to sign a confidentiality agreement, preventing you from disclosing information about the stations after you leave the interview.
We already discussed that certain aspects of motivation and preparation for medicine will be assessed fairly similarly between different schools of medicine and different interview styles. However, MMIs are much more suited for testing softer qualities like empathy or teamwork in practical settings as opposed to asking questions of regurgitating examples. These qualities are often deemed just as, if not more, important for success in medicine, where social insight and maturity are expected of all applicants. The following chapter in our blog will deal with some of the stations you can expect to come across and how to tackle those.
Classically, when students are asked what they know about MMIs, role play is the go-to answer. At this stage in your preparation and training, they are novel and scary, so the concern around them is perfectly understandable. In fact, MMIs give you a glimpse of what your entire time in medical or dental school will be like! Role plays are a huge part of the curriculum and they aim to develop your communication skills, empathy and ability to listen. As such, this type of station often comes up at MMIs to check how well you currently implement these qualities. While nobody is expecting of you to break bad news like a medical professional, the interviewers would be assessing how well you are able to listen to the patient’s concern and how well you communicate.
Medical ethics are a very common topic for MMI interview questions. Interviewers can ask you to discuss or give an opinion on a particular ethical question, such as abortion and assisted suicide. These questions assess your level of knowledge on these important topics but more importantly - test your critical thinking skills and ability to make a decision by weighing arguments for and against a certain issue.
Alternatively, you could also be given a difficult scenario, such as witnessing your colleague showing up drunk to work or your classmate cheating on an exam, and asking you what you would do - think of these as a detailed version of the SJT type questions you were asked when you sat the UCAT exam.
Similarly, you could also be asked to form an opinion or discuss a certain aspect of our healthcare system. Unsurprisingly, this year you can expect a fair share of interviews to enquire about your knowledge of coronavirus, basic knowledge of its pathogenesis, understanding of the analysis behind its mortality rate, and as of this month - the perceived successes and concerns of the new COVID-19 vaccine. Questions might be even more detailed and enquire about your understanding of the differences between the industry leading Pfizer vaccine and alternatives available on the market, their efficacy and their inclusion in the country’s vaccination plan.
Amidst all of the sensation that has been caused in the news by these current events, make sure you don’t overlook the longstanding issues that the NHS has been facing and continues to face this year too, e.g. pressures experienced during the winter or privatisation. Even though your reasoning would be the most assessed component here, this would be difficult unless you had some background understanding and knowledge of these issues, so make sure you have those covered.
You might come across one or two special stations, which are interactive in nature and will require you to use lateral skills, which later might be followed up by one or two questions addressing the importance of this exercise and why you might think this is being tested at an interview. Typical special stations include describing a picture to the interviewer, analysing a graph, performing a calculation or even making an origami! While your performance at these tasks is assessed, don’t forget to also reflect and be able to engage in a discussion with your interviewer as to why you think these are important skills for a dental or medical student to possess.
Lastly, don’t forget the typical questions that you will be expected to answer at an interview. Make sure you know your personal statement inside out, are able to support all claims with evidence and are able to reflect on these experiences and skills and how they have shaped you into a suitable candidate. Also consider other standard interview questions, such as “Why do you want to be a doctor?” and “Why do you want to study at this medical/dental school?”
This has been a general overview of the types of stations you can expect from a typical MMI station. For more insight into commonly asked interview questions and a more comprehensive list you can use to prepare for your interview, be sure to check out our blog 50 Medical School Interview Questions.
You’ve now gotten an overview of what you can expect from an MMI circuit, but you still might be wondering - why are medical and dental schools increasingly turning to this method of interviewing candidates? We covered this briefly and it is important to understand that this largely goes hand in hand with the values and qualities that medical and dental schools are looking for in prospective students. Schools have largely moved away from testing your scientific knowledge in detail, but rather put a lot more focus on checking whether you are a good communicator, natural empath and critical thinker.
The idea behind MMIs is to put you in a more realistic environment, one that you will likely encounter day in and day out during your professional career, and assess how you would perform in it, rather than ask you questions you could read up on and rehearse beforehand. Also, think of the advantage this gives you - with the interview being split into numerous individual stations, even if you don’t show your best self at one of them, you still have plenty of opportunities to catch up and make up for it!
Your approach to answering MMI questions should take into account the differences and challenges that this format poses. As we already discussed, certain questions will remain the same and many MMIs will incorporate a panel-like question-answer type question, so make sure you have covered your basics and have an idea of the answers you want to give to commonly asked questions. When it comes to the practical and role play station, however, practice is the only real answer that will yield an excellent performance.
Consider the ways in which one comes across as a good communicator, consider not only your verbal language, but your body language, your ways of portraying listening skills, your tools of demonstrating empathy. Be aware of yourself and of your social surroundings when applying these to a real practice situation and most importantly, be mindful of feedback and use that to reflect on and improve your performance. On the day of the interview, make sure everything about your setup portrays the same qualities you are trying to convey - ensure a non-distracting and tidy background for your online interview, dress smart and maintain a positive attitude and a good body language throughout, for the interviewers will be assessing you in all possible ways, not only in the answers you provide.
Make sure you introduce yourself and you smile, this will immediately put you at ease and will relax the atmosphere. When giving an answer, don’t feel like you have to fill the entire length of the station with talking, as there will likely be a follow-up question, which you want to leave time for. Having said that, do not rush your answer and make sure that it is a well thought out response with enough reflection to inform a further discussion. Once the interview is finished, thank your interviewers for their time for a strong ending.
There is no such thing as an overpreparation for an interview. Remember a large chunk of your preparation would serve as a very good basis for both panel-style interviews and MMIs. Where you need to put an extra effort for MMIs is those practical scenarios, where practicing real life situations is much more useful than learning answers by heart. If you dedicate even half an hour a day to practicing a scenario, receiving feedback from your peers and reflecting on your performance, and keep doing so consistently, you will ensure an adequate level of preparation. Make sure you check out our Mock MMI Circuit for extra practice to aid your preparation too!
A lot of schools in the UK have moved on from the traditional panel style interview setup and have adopted the MMI format in recent years. With all recent developments, however, that have forced schools to carry out their interviews all online, not all universities previously known for favouring the MMI style have had the resources and possibility to conduct virtual MMIs. As it stands, Hull York, Warwick and Anglia Ruskin have all confirmed that 2021 entry interviews will be held in the form of an MMI consisting of 6 stations, Norwich, Exeter and Aberdeen - of 7 stations, Leeds and Leicester - 8, whereas others, such as Sunderland can have up to 10 stations! Some schools, such as Kent and Medway are still reviewing their interview procedure and will inform their shortlisted applicants on the format as soon as possible. This is not an exhaustive list of schools that are using an MMI this year, so make sure you are well familiar with the details on your invite!
All MMIs this year will be run virtually. The first important thing to find out is whether they will take place in real-time or if they will run asynchronously. Each medical school will have its own set of instructions regarding how they plan to run their interviews, including what video chat software they expect you to use. To ensure you don’t fall victim to technical difficulties or run in any other trouble on the day, your best bet is always to triple check your invitation email and make sure you’ve tested all the intermediate steps. If you still have questions or concerns regarding the process, make sure you contact the school’s admission office with plenty of notice!
Once again, this is a very school-specific question, which will be tackled differently by the different MMIs. Most schools have not released their marking schemes to the public, but we can use a select few who allow a glimpse into the way they score MMIs for a broad understanding of how MMIs are scored. Anglia Ruskin for example, whose MMIs consist of 6 stations, score each station based on three domains, communication and interpersonal skills, initiative and problem solving, and personal integrity and moral reasoning. Each of these domains is scored out of 5, which means that each MMI station is scored out of 15 for a total possible score of 90 points. Anglia Ruskin has not announced whether there is a cutoff score or candidates are simply ranked from highest to lowest score and the top candidates offered a spot.
Other universities however, such as Exeter (whose MMI consists of 7 stations) have released information that a minimum of 5 stations need to be passed for the performance to be considered successful. There is no hard and fast rule on what a good score for the MMIs is or that MMIs can even be compared in scoring systems, so err on the side of caution and make sure you give your best effort at all times.
Many schools will have released a list of questions that are typically asked at interviews or at the very least, a list of qualities they look for in successful candidates, which you can use to gauge what questions you might come across on the day. Don’t forget that our blog 50 Medical School Interview Questions is another excellent resource available for you when searching sample interview questions! We hope this information was useful and you now feel familiar with MMI structure and question types. For more guidance with the interview preparation, make sure you check out our free Self-Study Medical School Interview Resource and our live online Medical School Interview Course.