Preparing for Multiple-Mini Interviews (MMI)

August 27, 2018

Interview season for professional schools has begun! Those of you who are selected for interviews may be told that the school will use an MMI interview format.   This is a common interview format used by admissions offices for medical schools (MD, MD/PhD, DO), dental, pharmacy, veterinary and other health professions schools.   Using the MMI helps a committee assess candidate’s professionalism, interpersonal skills, ethical and moral judgement.   Other areas that are assessed are cultural awareness, empathy and listening skills, problem solving and judgement.

The Format

In a typical MMI interview, a group of 8 candidates progresses through a circuit of six to eight stations where they are asked to answer a question, complete a task or engage in an activity. Each session is approximately 10 minutes in length. After a brief group introduction, each candidate is placed in front of one of the rooms. Next, they will hear a signal and will have two minutes to read a prompt and think about how they will respond to it. At the next signal, the candidates enter the room and have six to eight minutes to respond to the prompt with the interviewer(s). A final signal will be heard and the candidate finishes their sentence, thanks the interviewers, exits and proceeds to the next room. This cycle continues (for about 90 minutes) until the candidate has visited all 8 MMI stations. In some schools, there is a final station that is about 20 minutes in length where a traditional interview is held.

How to Prepare

Here are some suggestions to prepare for the MMI interview.

  • Practice your answers to MMI questions verbally with a partner. Review websites to gain familiarity with the typical MMI questions. Here are a few: US News MMI Preparation |
    Portland State University website that has a comprehensive list of resources
  • American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC)
  • Review a reserve copy of Desai’s book Multiple Mini Interview MMI: Winning Strategies from Admissions Faculty from the OITE library.
  • Practice physically moving through a circuit of stations when answering each question to experience what it is like to adapt to new rooms and persons.
  • Practice and use the SAR behavioral interview technique so that you are able to describe the behaviors, feelings, and ways you think through a situation.
  • Stay abreast of current issues, events, and policies related to health care by viewing the AMA (American Medical Association), American Dental Association, etc. websites.
  • University of Minnesota – MMI Overview
  • Prepare for ethics and professionalism questions by reviewing the Hippocratic Oath taken by medical students. The University of Washington has a useful site to learn about ethics in medicine to help you prepare. Also review a copy of the Hebert’s book, Doing Right: A Practice Guide to Ethics for Medical Trainees and Physicians or Hope’s book, Medical Ethics: A Very Short Introduction located in the OITE library.

Visit the OITE website to take advantage of our about our premedical resourcesIf you are part of our extended readership, we encourage you to visit your college’s pre-med office or the AAMC for more resources to prepare.

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Re-Applying to Medical School

April 30, 2018

The decision to re-apply for medical school naturally brings mixed feelings.  You should be congratulated for the investment of time, effort, and expense that all applicants invest during the application process.  For those of you who are on waitlists for admission this cycle, there is still a possibility for matriculation this year.  Simultaneously, it is time for you to consider re-applying.

You Are Not Alone

The reality is that in 2016, the AAMC reported that there were over 49,000 medical school applicants.  From that pool of applicants, fewer than half matriculated into their first year of medical school.   Dr. Bill Higgins, Pre-Professional Consultant in the OITE, suggests that you address the following questions to decide if you should re-apply to medical school.

Ask Yourself: What were the strengths and deficits in my application?
Never just reapply without addressing the problems in your application. Can these be remedied prior to the next application cycle?   Take ownership of this process and do not re-apply with the same application you used previously.  Schools will appreciate the persistence towards the goal of admission to medical school; however, you should re-apply with a new and updated AMCAS application.  Preferably, you will also show a marked increase in clinical hours, new publications or awards, and or an increase in your science GPA and MCAT scores.   You will need to update your AMCAS application including your 15 experiences, personal statement, and references.

Remember the golden rule: apply early in the cycle (during the month of June)!

Am I creating a convincing personal statement about my preparation for medical school to a selection committee?
It is recommended that you revise your personal statement.  As you review your statement, instead of asking are your telling a story, ask yourself if you are providing appropriate proof and examples to the selection. To get you started, review the blog regarding writing a persuasive personal statement.

Is it in your best interest to re-apply for the next cycle?
Be honest with yourself and decide if is better to apply during this cycle or apply or in one-year so that you are applying when your application will be at its strongest.

Did you overlook applying to schools that could be a good fit?
Make sure you have a realistic understanding of your credentials and the admissions requirements at various medical schools.  Factor in each school’s metrics (Science GPA and MCAT scores), mission, curriculum as well as your desires for a medical education, and your values.

Do I need to apply to a pre-medical post-baccalaureate program?
Completing a pre-medical post baccalaureate program can be the most effective way to gain the qualifications needed for medical school acceptance.  If you have determined that you need to increase your science GPA, gain clinical or research experience, re-take the MCAT, and/or need more support through the process, then there are a variety of programs that would suit your needs.  Visit the AAMC post-baccalaureate programs information site which describe the various programs nation-wide.

Have you considered related health professions? Graduate programs?

You may want to consider additional health care career options if you have not gained entrance to medical school after several attempts or if you have an interest in another field.  In fact, in 2015, the AAMC published an updated report on “The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections from 2013-2105.”  The conclusion of this study suggests, “that the demand for physician services is growing faster than physician supply and that by 2025 demand will exceed supply by 46,100 to 90,4000 physicians.” While the demand for physicians will grow, so too will the demand for other health-care related positions like nurses or physician assistants.   You may also consider applying Doctor of Osteopathy programs or pursue doctoral education in a scientific career as well.

Did you attend OITE workshops and utilize pre-professional advising services?
If you are at the NIH the OITE Career Services Center provides pre-professional advising, career counseling and a host of workshops and programs that will support your decision to re-apply. For example, you can attend the next workshop, Filling Out the AMCAS workshop on May 8, 2018. If you are not at the NIH, check with your college or university for these services or at a community or private counseling center in your community.


Which Medical School Should I Choose?

March 26, 2018

It is exciting to receive offers to attend medical school.  Simultaneously, it is stressful to have to choose which medical school to attend.  It is natural to experience a mix of anticipation, excitement, and fear of making a mistake as you make this career decisions. Here are some suggestions to help you make this important career decision.

Med school pci

Revisit your criteria for choosing a medical school

Look over your original criteria that you developed when choosing a medical school.  You can go beyond the national rankings of medical schools ask yourself, has anything changed, become better clarified, or new come up that will influence your decision?  Be sure to factor in your personal impressions from your interview, opinions that you received from medical students, your desires from medical school training, and your values .

For MD/PhDs

You may want to consider such things as location, time allotted for research and clinical, the faculty you will be working with, and the opportunities for conference and presentations.  Review the following article for additional criteria to use when choosing a medical scientist training program.

Attend the Second Look programs

One of the main reasons that medical schools hold revisit or “Second Look” programs is to give admitted students another opportunity to learn about their school without the pressure of an interview.  This is time well invested by Deans, faculty, medical students, staff and other campus departments  who come together to put on their best show with the goal of helping you to experience what it will be like to matriculate in their school.   If you attend you will have a second opportunity to ask questions of students, sample classes, tour learning facilities, learn about housing, libraries, research, ask more questions about financial aid, and other resources without the burden of interviewing.  In the instance where two or more schools have conflicting second look dates, you will have to choose the one that you need to visit most. Before you go, review the AAMC article that discusses several questions that medical students wished they had asked when selecting a medical school.

Use a weighted decision- making ranking system

To look at your decision more objectively, use a ranking system to evaluate the schools on key criteria that you have identified.

Step 1    Make a list of the criteria that you must have in a medical school

Step 2   Using a scale of 0-5, rank each criterion using 5 as the highest correlation

Step 3    Add up the numbers in each column

$ Funding Family Housing Research Options Diversity Great Peers Total
School 5 4 4 4 5 21
School 3 0 3 4 5 13
School 0 5 5 3 5 18

These are a few additional criteria that will help you with make this decision.   Feel free to make an appointment with an OITE career counselor or premed to further help you with decision making. We encourage out expanded readership to utilize resources in your community for similar assistance.


Reapplying to Medical School

May 30, 2017

The decision to reapply to medical school naturally brings with it mixed feelings. You should be congratulated for the investment of time, effort, and expense that all applicants invest during the application process.  For those of you who are on waitlists for admission this cycle, there is still a slight/small possibility for matriculation this year.  Simultaneously, it is time for you and those who were not admitted to consider reapplying.  You are not alone.  The reality is that in 2016, the AAMC reported that there were over 49,000 medical school applicants.  From that pool of applicants, fewer than half matriculated into their first year of medical school.   Dr. Bill Higgins Pre-professional consultant in the OITE suggests that you address the following questions to decide if you will re-apply to medical school. Ask yourself,

Never just reapply without addressing the problems in your application.

What were the strengths and deficits in your application? Can these be remedied by the next application deadline?   Take ownership of this process and do not re-apply with the same application you used previously.  Schools will appreciate the persistence towards the goal of admission to medical school.  So re-apply with a new and updated AMCAS application.  For example, show a marked increase in clinical hours, new publications or awards, and or an increase in your science GPA and MCAT scores.   Revision of your personal statement and updating 15 experiences can make a huge difference   You will need to update your AMCAS application including your 15 experiences, personal statement, and references. Also, remember to apply early in the cycle and prepare for interviews (traditional and MMI).

Is it in your best interest to postpone reapplying to the next cycle?

Be honest with yourself and decide if is better to apply during this cycle or apply or in one-year so that you are applying when your application will be at its strongest.

Did you overlook applying to schools/programs that could be a good fit?

Make sure you have a realistic understanding of your credentials and the admissions requirements at various medical schools. Factor in each school’s metrics (Science GPA and MCAT scores), and mission, your desires for a medical education, their curriculum, and your values.

Do I need to apply to a pre-medical post- baccalaureate program?

Completing a pre-medical post baccalaureate program can be the most effective way to gain the qualifications needed for to medical school acceptance.  If you have determined that you need to increase your science GPA, gain clinical or research experience, re-take the MCAT, and/or need more support through the process, then there are a variety of programs that would suit your needs.  Visit the AAMC post-baccalaureate programs information site which describe the various programs nation-wide.

Consider related health professions career graduate programs

You may want to consider additional health care career options if you have not gained entrance to medical school after several attempts or if you have an interest in another field. In fact, in 2015, the AAMC published a report on the “The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections from 2013-2015.”  The conclusion of this study suggests, “that the demand for physician services is growing faster than physician supply and that by 2025 demand will exceed supply by 46,100 to 90,4000 physicians.” While the will demand for physicians grow, but so too will the demand for other health-care related positions like nurses or physician assistants.   You may also consider applying Doctor of Osteopathy programs or pursue doctoral education in a scientific career as well.

Seek further pre-professional advising and counseling services

If you are at the NIH the OITE Career Services Center provides pre-professional advising and career counseling as well as a host of workshops and programs that will support your decision to re-apply.  If you continue to struggle with the mixed emotions that can come from not being accepted this cycle, the OITE recommends seeking wellness counseling.  In addition, The NIH Employee Assistance Program provides counseling services to help current employees with their health and wellness issues. If you are not at OITE, you may check with your college or university for these services or at a community or private counseling center in your community.


Staying Sane During the Waiting Game for Professional School Admission

December 19, 2016

You successfully applied to a range of medical or dental schools and now are anxiously waiting to be contacted about interviews and (hopefully!) acceptances to these schools.  During this time, it is normal to feel anxious, worry that you have not provided enough information, or think that there is something else you can do to improve your chances.  Maybe you are tired of family or friends asking, “have you heard yet?”

Here are common challenges and strategies to help you maintain your sanity and manage stress during this time:

Common Questions

  • Is it okay to call or email the schools and ask for an application status update?
  • Call only once. Curb your desire to call repeatedly.  Sometimes schools feel like students put them on re-dial with the volume of individual calls!
  • I want to update my application materials. Is this a good time to do it?
  • Some schools accept updates to applications and will publish this clearly on their webpage. If you do send updates, it should contain only SIGNIFICANT additions (e.g., papers published, new clinical experience position, completed science courses with a grade, leadership).  Remember that the on the original AMCAS application, a description of each experience is limited to 750 characters—this limit remains. In most cases, an update should be a concise bulleted list.  If you have a publication, use the formal citation.  No lengthy letters with veiled pleas for acceptance. One update letter is acceptable, a second is pushing it unless it contains something amazing.
  • I have been placed on a waitlist for an interview or acceptance. Does this mean I won’t get in?
  • Being placed on a waitlist or in the hold file is not a rejection. This means that you still have a possibility for acceptance. Some schools are sorting through their acceptances and attempting to figure out their yield rate before extending more invitations to interview.  Schools with a high number of applicants are still reviewing applications as well.
  • Should I send a letter of intent?
  • Submitting a Letter of Intent at this point in the cycle is of little value. You applied to the school, so the committee knows you want to go there.  It is not going to move you into the ‘accept’ category if you are not there already.  Letters of intent should not be sent to all schools.  Rather, letters of intent should be reserved for the school where you can guarantee that if you are accepted you would turn down other offers that you may have.  Check out the US News article on letters of intent.
  • How long can I expect to be on a waitlist?
  • Expect significant movement from Waitlists and Hold files after 15 March. Another time will be around  April 30 of each application cycle year, when admitted applicants are required to choose a medical school to attend and decline multiple offers.  This way, medical schools begin filling these spaces. Still, many in April, May, and often up to one week prior to the first week of medical school.
  • I have begun to receive rejections from schools to which I have applied.  Should I plan to re-apply next cycle?
  • Each year, many students are not admitted to school and decide to re-apply to medical school and successfully matriculate in later years.   You should re-apply when you have significantly improved your application materials and experiences. Meet with mentors, career or professional school advisors, medical students, and admissions officers to get feedback on how to strengthen your applications.  You may need additional clinical hours, research, or leadership experience. You could work on strengthen your AMCAS application and personal statement.  You should be practicing your interview skills.  See the 2015 blog article, “So I didn’t Get in Medical School Now What

Step 2   Do’s and Don’ts in the waiting game
Here are some do’s and don’ts behaviors that many applicants may default to during times of high stress.

Don’t

  • Launch a social media rant about schools or admissions teams. Admissions committees and students check social media.
  • Complain to admissions officers or medical students about the perceived amount of time it is taking for them to reply to you for interviews or admissions decisions.
  • Contact each school more than once to check on the status of your application.
  • Re-take the MCAT yet without significant preparation. Your goal is to raise your score significantly before re-applying.

Do:

  • Surround yourself with positive and healthy individuals, mentors, groups, and activities
  • Meet with advisors, career and personal counselors who can support you through this period.
  • Continue to show your continued passion for professional school. This includes staying involved in a combination of clinical, research, leadership, service, coursework activities.
  • Prepare for interviews. Many professional schools are now using the Multiple Mini Interviews.
  • Stay emotionally strong and resilient
  • Practice healthy coping behaviors including exercising, healthy eating, and involvement in social activities and mindfulness
  • Utilize any cultural, spiritual, familial, and other personal support to maintain hope and develop coping skills and strengths.

Feel free to visit the OITE https://www.training.nih.gov to meet with medical school advisors, wellness or career counselors who can further support you during this process.

* OITE services are available to NIH intramural trainees only. Check with your home university or college and utilize the personal, career, and professional school advising resources they offer to you.


MD/PhD: Is it Right for You?

August 4, 2015

A few weeks ago, OITE hosted NIH’s Graduate & Professional School Fair. One of the sessions focused on MD/PhD programs and how to decide whether it is the right program for you. If you missed it, the presentation can be found online.

The goal of most MD/PhD programs is to create physician-scientists who aim to spend about 80% of their time on research and 20% of their time on clinical care. Most MD/PhD programs are training you to enter research-oriented careers. If you have no interest in research, an MD/PhD might not be the best fit for you. Remember also that MD physicians can conduct research and many MDs pursue research fellowships during their training. Many MD/PhD applicants falsely believe that they will spend about half of their time in the lab and half of their time in the clinic. This is not true until maybe fifteen or so years into your career.

So, how can you decide? First and foremost, allow yourself ample time to gather information in order to make this decision. Before undertaking any further education, it is extremely important for you to consider your own interests and career plans.

Is doing translational research and making discoveries really important to you? If yes, perhaps you are leaning toward an MD/PhD. Are you more drawn to basic research and the idea of running a lab within the biological science field? If yes, perhaps you are leaning toward a PhD. Or maybe you are most interested in working with people in a clinical setting? If so, an MD or other medical training program might be the best fit for your long-term career plans.

Many prospective applicants wonder whether an MD/PhD is worth it for them. Some big considerations are the financial and time commitments. On one hand, an MD/PhD program is longer and generally takes seven to eight years to complete. However, on the upside, they are generally pretty well-funded. Another consideration is the level of competition. Medical school is difficult to get into and MD/PhD programs are even tougher. There are approximately 20,000 MD students and 600 MD/PhD students. These statistics aren’t meant to deter, but rather to highlight that MD/PhD students are a unique group. It is important to be focused yet realistic. Ultimately, your path will be decided through a mix of your interests, motivations and aptitudes.

The AAMC has a lot of resources about MD/PhD programs and they have even compiled a list of frequently asked questions. It is definitely worth checking out here. However, it can often be helpful to talk through your options with mentors or advisors. Do informational interviews with people who have an MD/PhD to see if this would be the right fit for you. If you are at the NIH, you can also meet with medical/graduate school advisors or career counselors within OITE.


MCAT Meltdown – Dealing with Test Anxiety

April 1, 2015

Image of a boy with sitting at a desk with a test in front of him. He has his hand clasped to his face and a furrowed brow.Testing for the new MCAT begins this month, on April 17th to be exact. Testing will go through September. You can see the full 2015 testing calendar here.

If you are a registered test taker, you have undoubtedly been spending a good portion of your time studying and preparing. For many test takers, the hours spent not studying are consumed by another activity – worry.

Many people experience nervousness in preparation for an exam and especially on test day. Surprisingly, moderate levels of stress can actually be helpful. In preparation for the exam, it can help motivate you to study. On test day, you can get a boost of adrenaline which can actually help you feel more mentally alert and can help you perform better.

Problems arise though when this fear becomes excessive and debilitating. Like more general forms of anxiety, test anxiety is categorized as a psychological condition. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, test anxiety can cause emotional symptoms (fear & anger) as well as physical symptoms like nausea, headache, rapid heartbeat, light-headedness, and a shortness of breath. These physical symptoms can trigger a panic attack. The behavioral/cognitive symptoms that arise from test anxiety often include negative thoughts and a difficulty concentrating.

If you know you are prone to anxiety, especially test anxiety, then you will need to adopt coping mechanisms to help you throughout your MCAT experience. Use your own tried and true methods, while keeping these tips in mind.

Managing anxiety DURING TEST PREPARATION:

  • Maintain a balanced schedule – Study and prepare but don’t spend all of your time focusing on the MCAT as it will only serve to stress you out even more.
  • Keep healthy – Eat right, exercise and get plenty of sleep. It will be more difficult to combat stress and anxiety if you are overtired and sick.
  • Look at the big picture – Your entire self-worth is not dependent on this one exam and if it doesn’t go well, you will have other chances. Putting undue pressure on the situation will only create more stress.
  • It matters what you tell yourself – Instead of saying “I’m nervous,” say “I’m excited.” This can help transform some of the anxiety and in reality, you are excited because taking this test is moving you forward to where you want to go.
  • Practice relaxation techniques – Dr. Andrew Weil swears by a breathing technique which has been described as a natural tranquilizer. Try 4-7-8. Breathe in for four counts, hold for seven counts and the release the breath with your mouth open and hold the tip of your tongue behind your front teeth for eight counts. Repeat this three times.

Managing anxiety ON TEST DAY:

  • Utilize relaxation techniques – It’s time to use the techniques you practiced! Take calming deep breaths and say to yourself “All shall be well. All matters of things shall be well.” Research on meditation has shown that the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain in charge of abstract thinking and critical analysis, responds to positive slogans, exercise and mindfulness.
  • Take a pause – If you begin to panic on test day, then allow yourself a quick break and to breathe and regroup.
  • Focus on you – Test anxiety often comes from dysfunctional cognitive-behavioral patterns, like comparing yourself to others. Do your best to concentrate on YOU!

If you have strategies for managing test anxiety, please comment below!