Medical school interview questions?
September 19, 2008 12:38 PM   Subscribe

Right now, the 2008-2009 US medical school application cycle is substantially underway. I've submitted applications to a number of allopathic programs, and in the hopes of receiving interview invitations and then making a positive impression, I'd like some recommendations on books to brush up on commonly asked topics.

From what I understand, topics like universal healthcare and medical ethics are particularly frequent. As a non-traditional applicant, I am interested in reading up on these and other common medical school interview topics, so please recommend books and other resources in these areas. I am not particularly interested in books on general interview technique.

Thanks! Questions?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I went through the interview process 2 years ago, and I have to say that in all of the interviews I was in (probably upwards of 20 individual interviews of 30-60 minutes each at 7 different schools), I was never asked a single question about my thoughts/opinions on medical ethics or political topics like universal healthcare.

Granted, its a politically charged climate these days, so such questions may be more on people's minds, but I do think that most interviewers are advised by admissions committees to leave the more controversial questions out of the interview. The purpose of the med school interview, from everything I have heard and experienced myself, is mostly as a low bar to filter out the real crazies who really just shouldn't be doing medicine. As long as you are even remotely normal, you'll do fine.

I don't think any medical school interviewer expects you to have a full understanding and in-depth analysis of controversial health care issues like end-of-life decisions or the ethics of organ transplant, but if you can talk intelligently about the question and are able to show a little critical thinking about the issues, you will be fine. Also, if you are uncomfortable because they are trying to ask you about an ethical issue like abortion or physician-assisted suicide or try to pin you down on one side or another of a heated topic, there's no harm in saying to the interviewer "I'm sorry, I don't really see how this is related to X Medical School or my interest in starting my medical training at your institution. Can you tell me more about Y at your school?"

That being said, the interview is really your time to sell yourself to the school, so being well-read on topics relating to health care wouldn't hurt you, but I wouldn't suggest textbooks on medical ethics or universal healthcare. They will be too dry for you to get through anyway, and you'll be less likely to remember the pertinent information that you would like to get across if you're stressed in an interview. Plus, you will no doubt be way too stressed this year with interviews and the interminable waiting to really want to work your way through something more academic - not to mention the fact that this time before med school will be the last time you have free time to read books you want to read for a LONG TIME, so enjoy it while you can!

Instead, try some pop medical books that have come out in the recent years - likely the interviewer will have read the book too, so it will also be a point of connection and something interesting to spend a few minutes of time talking about. Here is just a short list off the top of my head:

Atul Gawande's Better or Complications are both great, quick reads.
Jerome Groopman's How Doctors Think
If you've caught the global health bug, something by Paul Farmer, or his very readable bio, Mountains beyond Mountains
Anything by Oliver Sacks - one of the best neurology writers out there.

If you have more questions about the interview process, feel free to memail me, I'd be happy to help.
posted by i less than three nsima at 1:14 PM on September 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Go to for a nice large forum of people doing the same thing. The overwhelmingly most common (and as I understand it most relevant) questions for me were "why we should admit you" "why you're a good fit here" "why you want to do this" "what do you think of city X" etc. I'm research oriented, so lots of "explain this research" and "what type of research would you do here" also.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 2:07 PM on September 19, 2008

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