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Canadian Guide to Med School (Made by volunteer medical students)

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September 26, 2022
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Interviews are a crucial aspect of the application process. Being invited to interview is an indication that the medical school you have applied to is interested in learning more about you! This is your chance to showcase who you are and to highlight your interpersonal skills.

Types of Interviews

Traditional/Panel Interviews

These interviews are the OGs of all interviews. Traditional interviews consist of a meeting between the interviewee and 1 or 2 interviewers (traditional) to up to 3-4 interviewers (panel). Usually, the interviewers would be formed by faculty, upper year medical students and, sometimes, members of the community. Through light discussion and a series of questions and answers, the school representatives will be able to get a better picture of who you are as a human, why you’ve decided to pursue medicine and if you are a right fit for their program.

MMI

The MMI, or the Multiple Mini Interview, is a relatively new way of evaluating candidates that was created at McMaster University School of Medicine in the early 2000’s. Since its creation, it has been widely adopted by many schools within Canada and the US. It is believed to foster a more representative view of a candidate's soft skills (e.g. communication, teamwork, leadership) and believed to be less prone to biases due to the use of multiple independent interviewers, compared to traditional one on one or panel interviews.

The MMI consists of a series of stations where each station will prompt you to either answer a question (written or verbally), collaborate on a particular task, or role play with an actor. Some institutions will give students an idea of what to expect during their MMI, so if you are unsure, reach out to your respective Admissions Committees to get an idea of the type of stations you can expect at your interview. The standard MMI format is that you will be given about 2 minutes (amount of time allotted will vary between schools) to read the prompt and formulate your response. Once the 2 minutes are up, you will be instructed to enter the room and share your response with the interviewer. Your discussion with the interviewer will be about 8 minutes in length, so the total time at a station is roughly 10 minutes. Once the time is up, you will leave the room and proceed to the next station; rinse and repeat until you are through all the stations. The exact format and timing is school dependent and may vary, but they typically follow this base structure.

Each station is assessed by a different interviewer, thus reducing potential biases from the same interviewer assessing all your stations. The stations where you are asked to answer a question typically involve ethical dilemmas, current issues (especially in health care), interpretation-based questions, or personal questions. Some general examples of the topics can be seen below:

  • Ethical dilemma, e.g. you catch your friend cheating on an exam
  • Current issues, e.g. abortion, MAID, Indigenous health
  • Interpretation-based, e.g. interpreting a quote or picture
  • Personal, e.g. tell me about your strengths/weaknesses

Collaboration stations typically take the form of completing a task (e.g. a puzzle) with another person while being assessed by the interviewer. These types of stations assess communication, teamwork, and leadership. Usually the emphasis is on assessing your ability to work in a team and communicate with the other team member to complete the task in an accurate way, with less emphasis placed on completing the task in time. This station can show the interviewer that you are a team player, you communicate well, are receptive to feedback and capable of adapting if things don’t work as planned or based on the feedback from the other participant. These are all critical attributes to becoming a good physician!

The role-playing station is exactly what it sounds like. The prompt will explicitly tell you what is expected of you and put you in a situation where you will be interacting with an actor and being assessed by the interviewer. Here, the interviewer will be assessing you for many competencies (e.g. CanMEDS Framework), it really depends on the exact situation, but communication is the most common component being consistently assessed. These role-playing stations can take the form of you breaking bad news, diffusing a conflict situation, comforting a friend going through a tough time, giving advice, etc.

Tips on how to prepare for the MMI, practice questions, and other helpful resources can be found later in the chapter!

Modified Personal Interview (MPI)

See the “University of Toronto” School-specific section.

Group Interviews

Teamwork is an integral component of medicine as physicians rely on various healthcare professionals to provide multidisciplinary care for patients. Medical schools may use a group interview to assess your ability to work in a team setting. For example, you may be asked to work alongside other candidates to solve a problem during the allotted time.

The size of the group you interview with may vary depending on the school, but typically range between 5-7 interviewees. An interviewer may provide instructions to the group, or a prompt may be provided for each interviewee in the same way MMI prompts are administered. Remember that interviewers are assessing your ability to work in a team-setting, therefore it is very important to share your thinking with your group while also providing space for others to share their thoughts as well. Above all, it is important to be kind and to support your team!

School Specific Points

The University of Toronto (U of T)

Similar to many other medical schools, getting an interview is often referred to as the hardest part in your journey to medical school. The interview selection process is rigorous and once you receive an interview invite, you have close to a 1 in 2 chance of receiving an acceptance! The time at which you receive your interview - be it in early February or late March - is in no way reflective of your file review score. Overall, the timing of your interview does not impact your chances of being accepted post-interview so bring your "A game" no matter what.

U of T employs a modified personal interview (MPI) format. This consists of four independent interview stations, each lasting about 12 minutes, assessed by four different interviewers, with a 3 minute break between stations. An MPI is as a cross between the MMI and panel style interviews. It consists of relatively short one-on-one interactions permitting a more personal and conversational tone similar to a panel while having independent stations similar to an MMI. Note that there are no stations involving role-play, collaborating with other applicants, and there is always one assessor in the room.

These 12-minute stations consist of questions, follow-up questions to those, and if time permits, you will also be presented with the opportunity to ask questions of your own. Each station follows specific guiding themes, and based on the station, there is a mix of standard questions as well as those that are more specific to your application. It would be helpful to familiarize yourself with U of T clusters (professional, advocate, scholar, communicator/collaborator/manager) as well as the CanMEDS framework. This will give you an idea of the sort of qualities the program is looking for, and can provide a to framework within which to reflect on your experiences.

According to the University, the goal of the MPI is to learn more about each applicant and assess whether they possess the qualities necessary to be successful in the medical program. Since interviewers are from U of T's medical community, the one-on-one interactions also provide an opportunity for applicants to learn more about U of T’s medical school. Interview day at U of T also consists of time outside of the interview. It is a half-day affair that includes campus tours and information sessions with faculty and current students. Outside of the MPI itself, you will be interacting with other applicants, and current students and staff. Thus, even though you are not being actively assessed during these times, it is important to always present your best self forward.

University of Manitoba

At the University of Manitoba the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) is used for all applicants. For information on the format of the MMI please see the MMI section!

There are 12 MMI stations which includes 1 rest station and 1 written station. You require a passing mark on 9/11 stations, a total MMI score greater than 2 standard deviations below the mean, and a mean score acceptable to the Admissions Committee in order to be eligible for admission. All applicants who are applying in the Bilingual Stream (French/English) will have MMI stations conducted in French as well. The MMI is worth 35% of the total score for admission.

Canadian Indigenous applicants who wish to be considered in the Canadian Indigenous Applicant Pool will do both an MMI and a panel interview. For more information on the panel interview please see the panel interview section!

For more information please see the U of Manitoba application bulletin. Link here!

University of Ottawa

In order to choose their candidates, the University of Ottawa conducts traditional panel interviews. The panel is composed of a faculty member, a 4th year medical student and a community member (usually, another MD). The day of your interview, you will have to arrive 45 minutes prior to your interview and you will be welcomed by snacks and be sitting with other interviewees and some medical students. You’ll have the chance to relax, meet potential future classmates and ask some questions about the student life.

The interview itself lasts 40 minutes. They offer interviews both in French and in English. However, the language of the interview will be concordant to the MD language stream you’ve applied to. If you had checked the box indicating you are bilingual in your application, know that they will ask you a question in the opposite language. Even when it seems like a lead to discussion, the purpose of this question will mostly only be to test your linguistic fluidity. Otherwise, the interview is as traditional and classic as it gets. You will be asked questions relating to your motivation to study medicine, your personal attributes, your ability to think critically through ethical scenarios and your conflict resolution skills in role-play. They will also have on hand your autobiographical sketch (ABS) and may directly ask questions about your past volunteer experiences, leadership engagements and/or your research. Knowing this, you should anticipate some of the questions you will be asked and prepare beforehand. Know your ‘why’ for pursuing medicine, be able to show passion and introspection when speaking on your past experiences, read and reflect on ethical issues, and be informed on current events and health topics.

Understandably, panel interviews tend to be intimidating. To help candidates mitigate their stress, 1st year medical students at the University of Ottawa usually offer in-person mock interviews around February for a small price (all proceeds go to charity!). The Black Medical Student’s Association at the University of Ottawa also offers mock interviews for free to minority students. These opportunities are incredibly valuable and highly recommended!

UDEM, ULaval, UdeS

The interviews take place in Montreal, Québec city or Sherbrooke. The interview location is chosen randomly. You will pass one interview and the result will be transmitted to the three medicine programs. The interviews will take place in French only. If French is not your first language, it’s important to practice during the weeks leading up to your interviews. Some interviewers might speak or understand English, but again, all the interviews will take place exclusively in French.

The interviews take place in MEM (Mini-Entrevues Multiples) format. There will be role-play situations, task completion stations and discussion situations. There are 10 stations during which you will be allotted two minutes to read the situations in front of the door and seven minutes to do the interview itself. After five minutes inside the interview station, a bell will ring. If you are in a role-play situation or a task-completion station, the remaining two minutes will be spent responding to the evaluator’s questions in order to explain your reasoning.

During the role-play situations, the interviewer will be in the room, observing your behavior. You are not to interact with the evaluator until the last two minutes, during which you respond to his questions.

Since you do not submit CVs or letters or motivation before Quebec’s francophone interviews, the interviews are the only moment to speak about your past experiences, your motivation, your community involvement. Therefore, the evaluators will try to get to know you and your personality.

MgGill University

McGill University uses the MMI format and interviews are conducted in the Faculty of Medicine’s Steinberg Centre for Simulation and Interactive Learning. These mini-interviews consist of approximately ten stations that can be task-oriented, simulation- or scenario-oriented, or discussion-oriented. Stations are designed to evaluate the various abilities and skills that form the basis of the Physicianship curriculum component, which in turn references the CanMeds roles developed by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. There is also a rest station at some point in the interview.

Interviews are held in February for candidates applying through the undergraduate stream and in March for those applying through the CÉGEP stream. Students can choose ahead of time to do their interview in either French or English.

University of Saskatchewan

The University of Saskatchewan hosts its MMI around late March of every year in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The interviews are conducted in English. There will be 12 interview stations, and each station runs for about 10 minutes (2 minutes to read the scenario, and 8 minutes to answer the question). Of these 10 stations, there is a rest station and a written station.

The following are some of the type of topics asked at the University of Saskatchewan:

  • Ethical Decision Making
  • CanMEDs roles
  • Role-play
  • Current events
  • Knowledge of the Healthcare System
  • Interpersonal/Communication
  • Personal

Similar to other universities, the University of Saskatchewan does not ask for CV, letters of support, or research papers, etc., in their application. Additionally, the MMI makes up 50% of the application weight, while the UAA is 30% and the MCAT is 20%. Therefore, this is an important opportunity to showcase your extracurriculars, work and volunteer background, research experience, and general life experiences.

University of Calgary

The Cumming School of Medicine conducts interviews in late February to mid-March in Calgary, Alberta. Once you arrive, you will be assigned to a group with a Team Lead (usually a first or second year medical student) who will take each of you to your first station. This will be the beginning of the interview circuit which includes MMI stations, a group interview and a panel interview. Each interview will be approximately seven minutes, with two minutes to prepare totaling nine minutes per station. However, it should be noted that you may not be provided two minutes to prepare for the panel nor the group interview stations.

As you prepare for your interview day, it will be helpful to read through the competencies that the school will be screening for, which can be accessed via the following link: https://cumming.ucalgary.ca/mdprogram/future-students/admissions/mmi-information Once you complete the circuit, you will be invited to tour the school with your Team Lead and fellow candidates. Even though your interview will be completed at that point, it is important to remain professional at all times.

Dalhousie

Dalhousie offers an interview invitation to all eligible Maritime applicants and approximately 60-100 eligible Non-Maritime applicants depending on the number of applicants and interview capacity. For Non-Maritime applicants, interview selection is determined by GPA, MCAT, CASPer and the supplemental application, specifically the applicant’s reason for choosing Dalhousie. Interview invitations are typically distributed via email in October with the Interview usually scheduled for the last weekend in November. Interviewees are given the choice of interviewing at either the Saint John campus in New Brunswick, or the Halifax campus in Nova Scotia. However, the choice is on a first-come-first serve basis as there are limited spots available at either location. The interview invitation will include instructions on how to schedule your interview at either location, and at various time slots.

Dalhousie utilizes the MMI format solely, with 10 interview stations and 2 rest stations, each lasting 8 minutes and a 2-minute transition between stations. The interview runs for approximately 2 hours. The interview stations cover a range of scenarios with the goal of assessing the applicant’s motivation, compassion, ethics, teamwork, awareness of societal issues, critical thinking, problem solving, and communication skills, among others. However, they do not assess any scientific knowledge. In each station you will typically be interacting with or observed by a single rater. In stations you may be asked to discuss a topic, ethical dilemma, problem solve with another applicant, or even role play.

Overall, interviewing at Dalhousie can be a pleasant experience. Everyone including volunteers, interviews and administrators are all quite friendly. The key to a successful interview day is to be prepared, believe in yourself, and just go into each station to have a conversation and be yourself. Also, don’t forget to smile!

Lastly, be sure to look on the Dalhousie website as there is usually a page with additional information on the MMI, tips on how to prepare, and even sample questions!

How to Prepare

General tips Be on time. Be confident. Be yourself. Smile. Prepare your attire and any documents you may need to take with you in advance. Make yourself a checklist if necessary to make sure you don’t forget anything.

Where to stay

  • If your interview takes place in the morning, it’s strongly recommended that you arrive at the city at least the night before and book a hotel or motel room close to the location.
  • This will not only help you to de-stress and feel more relaxed, but it will also help you avoid any traffic or mechanic issues that could happen the day of.

What to wear

  • First impressions are important! Therefore, it’s important to feel comfortable. Having a nice outfit helps build your confidence, which will help you perform better during your interview.
  • Most of the gentlemen wear a blazer and a tie or a nice shirt and dress pants. Just remember:
    1. Neutral colored socks
    2. Avoid or be mindful of using cologne as many people have scent sensitivities
    3. A nice dress shirt with a matching tie
    4. No Jeans! Dress pants are typically worn
    5. Comfortable dress shoes
  • As for the ladies, it would be best to wear flat heeled shoes to be as comfortable as possible. Indeed, some interview formats, like the MMI’s will require you to stand for a big part of the interview. Here are some ideas:
    1. A professional skirt (no mini-skirts!) or pants and a blazer
    2. A professional dress
    3. A suit

Budgeting tips

  • Before you go out and buy an interview outfit, check your closet to see if you already have items that could suit the occasion. Also, don’t be shy to borrow some items if you can’t afford to buy them. For example, you may borrow a blazer from a friend. Also, be sure to check out your local thrift shops. You can often find dresses and skirts at an affordable price. Renting suits is also an option for men.
  • Even if it is an additional expense, if you think it could affect your stress level the morning of the interview, we would recommend arriving the day before your interview. Some budget-friendly options may be renting an Airbnb or a motel room versus an expensive hotel room. You could also stay with family or friends that live close to the location.

Weeks Before the Interview

Okay, so you found out you got an interview, congratulations that’s great! What should you do leading up to the interview? Elsewhere in the chapter you’ll find information on tips for how to prepare for the MMI. What else should you do?

  1. Stay up to date on current events - read the news. Think about what’s going on in the world and how you feel about it. Current events are great topics for your interview so it’s good to have an idea about what’s going on before your interview.
  2. Start having discussions with your family or friends about current world issues. This is really good practice for what an interview scenario might be like.
  3. Figure out what you’re going to wear for your interview. More info on this in the section in the chapter! But, it is a good idea to think of this well ahead of time in case you need to make any alterations, which could take some time, before your interview day.
  4. If you have a morning interview start waking up at the time you will need to wake up on your interview day. That way you can get used to waking up early and you don’t feel tired on the day of your interview.

Days Before the Interview

Your interview is just a few days away! You’ve been practicing hard for weeks now what do you do the days before the interview?

  1. Ease up on the practicing a bit. You want to be well rested for your interview and you’ve already done all the work! Try doing some things that help you relax. It’s okay to still practice a bit, but start to dial it down.
  2. Plan out the day of your interview. Think about what you’re going to eat, how you’re going to get there, where you’re going to park, how much time you’ll need to get ready and travel there. Planning all of this days in advance will relieve a lot of stress on your interview day.
  3. Get a good amount of sleep the days leading up to your interview.
  4. Most importantly, try to relax a bit and de-stress before your interview. I know this is really difficult, but your interview will be nerve-racking- no matter what. It’s best to try and reduce the amount of stress you go in with as much as possible. Try to think about your interview as a simple conversation you’re having with someone. You’ve worked hard to get where you are and you’re prepared! Go in and do what you’re prepared to do with confidence!

Strategies After the Interview

You’re finally done your interview! Congratulations! What now? First of all, do something for yourself. For most medical schools this is the last step you need to get over for your application. The fate of your application is now out of your hands. For some this sounds great - you’ve done all the work and now it’s just time to wait. For others, this can be really stressful because there is a sense of loss of control because there isn’t any more you can do to improve your application and most medical schools make you wait months before you find out if you are accepted or not. So, what should you do after your interview?

  1. Try not to think about it for a bit. The interview is probably ALL you’ve been thinking about for months. Think of some fun things to do that can distract you from the interview.
  2. Try not to over-analyze your interview. There will always be things you wish you had said or things you wish you said differently. Nobody is going to be perfect in their interview. One of the positive aspects about many interview formats that include independent stations is that doing poorly on one part of the interview does not carry over to other parts of the interview. Each part is evaluated separately and with different interviewers. Even if you felt like you were not perfect in a traditional/panel interview without multiple stations, remember that no one is perfect, and no one expects perfection. Don’t sweat it.
  3. After a good amount of time taking some well-deserved rest time. It may be time to think about the future a bit. Plan for multiple scenarios. Plan for things if you get into medical school, but also plan what you can do if you don’t get in and think of what you can do differently if you apply again. This can help relieve some stress because then everything isn’t riding on one outcome. Obviously, you want to get in, but if you don’t it is not the end of the world. There are still many things you can do with your year off and you can apply again the next year as a stronger applicant. Some things you could consider are other programs you want to apply for, if you are going to work instead of go to school, if you want to write the MCAT again, if you want to do any travelling. Unfortunately, schools often let people know late whether you’re accepted or not so it’s always good to plan ahead of time for all scenarios.
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