The medical school admission interview is an essential component of the application process and holds significant importance. Aspiring physicians must understand that success lies not just in academic prowess, but in the ability to confidently articulate their passion, experiences, and goals. It is through meticulous research, thoughtful introspection, and practice that one can unveil their true potential and stand out in a sea of applicants. The importance of preparing well for Caribbean medical school interviews cannot be overstated—it is the gateway to showcasing your unique qualities, demonstrating your commitment to medicine, and securing a place in a vibrant and diverse community of healers. So, we offer some insider tips and tricks you can leverage to make a strong and lasting impression on your medical school’s admissions committee.
Know When to Start, Pause, And Stop Answering
Most students who perform flawlessly at the interview stations are the ones who have done ample preparation beforehand. While you may want to establish a rapport with the interviewer, try not to dwell on pleasantries and small talk longer than necessary. You don’t want to exhaust the allocated slot for you to answer the questions that you will be assessed on. One other thing that most students fail to consider is the factor of timing when answering interview questions. For instance, if you rush through your answers and keep the duration under a minute, your answer may seem inadequate.
Same goes for lacking structure in your answer. Don’t waffle, beat about the bush, and waste time with irrelevant responses. Instead, take your time to imbue your responses with substance. Even if you get stuck, you can ask the examiners for clarification. If you need a few moments to gather your thoughts and form a palpable reply, let the examiners know, rather than making the examiner uncomfortable with awkward pauses. Lastly, it is equally important to know when to stop. It can be tempting to blurt out everything you can think of in an attempt to impress the interviewer, but more time spent on one question means less time on every other question that the interviewer wants to ask you.
Display Ethical Acumen
Doctors are faced with ethical dilemmas regularly, so it is not uncommon for your Caribbean medical school’s admissions committee to ask you a couple of questions pertaining to medical ethics. This is why it is good to brush up on ethical principles and the legal framework for controversial issues. For instance, a lot of aspiring medical students score poorly when asked about emerging ethical issues, such as organ donation and the ethics relating to this, reporting incompetent or unethical behaviors by colleagues, managing conflicts of interest, working with surrogate decision makers, or accepting gifts from patients.
While no one expects a medical school applicant to be well versed in the intricacies of ethical code, you should at least demonstrate a rudimentary understanding of the kinds of ethical responsibilities you’ll be expected to take on in your career down the road. Remember that this is not a test of your moral standpoint, rather the admissions committee wants to be assured that you would approach these scenarios in a balanced, level-headed, and emotionally intelligent manner.
Reflect on your Experiences
Caribbean medical schools look for candidates who show potential for becoming great physicians. This comes down to talking less about how resilient, empathetic, hardworking, communicative, and out-of-the-box- thinker, you are, and showing more. Reflect on the work/shadowing/leadership experiences that you’ve had and think of specific examples where you got to put your skills to work. Perhaps you can make a list of transferable skills you gained whilst working in a coffee shop or even training for that sports competition, and think about what you learned from them. The STARR technique helps to structure your self-reflection well and makes you come across as well-articulated in your answers:
- S: Give context to the experience; what was the Situation, such as an instance of workplace challenge?
- T: What was your Task or responsibility in a particular situation?
- A: What practical Action you took to address the issues causing a situation?
- R: What was the Result or outcome of your action above?
- R: What have you learned through Reflection?
Practice Role Play
It comes as a surprise how poorly students perform on role play and practical tasks in a medical school interview. This is where the examiner assesses your ability to communicate or show empathy. Here is a particular scenario you may encounter:
“You are a surgeon and must inform a patient that some nerve damage occurred during hip replacement surgery, meaning they no longer have full use of their leg.”
The key to leaving a great impression on the admissions committee is to demonstrate that you are a good listener, and can put yourself into the shoes of others. It all comes down to maintaining an appropriate body language, changing the tone of your voice while adapting to the context, speaking clearly, and delivering bad news while softening the impact, for instance with phrases such as “I know this must be really difficult for you,” or I’m in the difficult position of having to tell you.”
Prepare to justify your Interest in a Caribbean medical School
More often than not, your interviewer may ask your reason for choosing an international Medical School over those in your home country. Perhaps you found it difficult to obtain admission in your home country or maybe you seek a more global medical school experience. Make sure you have a valid reason ready and can articulate it clearly, openly and honestly. It also helps to show some genuine interest in the Caribbean Island you will be studying in. Take some time to learn more about the local culture, cuisine, and citizenry that will surround you throughout your years at medical school. Remember that Caribbean Medical Schools are looking for people who truly want to be there, so make sure the Interviewers can pick up on your enthusiasm.