Physician Assistant program interviews are similar to medical school interviews. There are three possible interview formats: traditional, MMI (multiple mini interview) or a hybrid of these two. Traditional interviews involve any combination of students and interviewers, with up to 3 students being interviewed by up to 3 interviewers. If a school uses a traditional one-on-one format, usually they will require two or three one-on-one interviews. They might choose to save time by using a panel format in which a student is interviewed by a group of interviewers in one sitting. Either way, the types of questions that you are most likely to encounter in traditional interviews will ask you why you want to become a PA, why you want to attend that particular school, and will seek additional information about your academic record, application and preparation for this career path.
Like medical schools, some PA programs are using variations of the MMI format by setting up mini stations where students collaborate, interact with a fake or real patient, answer traditional questions, or respond to challenging ethical questions. Schools that offer a hybrid format will have one or two traditional one-on-one interviews and then offer about five MMI stations.
For the MMI stations, you may be asked to collaborate with another student to build a structure out of legos or other materials, interact with a fake patient who is expressing strong emotions, respond to traditional questions, and/or come up with unique solutions to real life ethical questions. These stations may be timed. The average length of an MMI station is about six minutes. Interviews in the hybrid format could be any possible combination of the questions or stations mentioned above.
The best way to prepare for any type of interview is to practice interviewing! Practicing with friends or family will not, however, be maximally effective because it will not simulate the experience of meeting a person for the first time and answering questions under pressure. Working with an experienced PA admissions consultant at Accepted can therefore give you the edge you need! Additionally, some college campuses may offer practice interviews; contact your pre-health advisor to see if you can schedule a mock interview.
Most importantly, review your application materials every day before your interview so that, no matter what question they ask, you will have a history of your activities on the tip of your tongue.
Tips to prepare for your PA school interview
The most successful ways that I have seen applicants approach these interviews include:
- Traditional: practice, practice, practice.
- MMI: practice every possible variation of stations, with a timer.
- Hybrid: do your research to find out as much as you can about each school’s specific program and interview process so that you can practice as strategically as possible. Prepare responses from your experiences that demonstrate how well you fit with the school (for traditional interviews) or examples that reveal how you have handled difficult interpersonal interactions (for MMI or hybrid interviews) that are similar to what you may encounter as a PA.
Take a few seconds to think about a question and compose an answer in your mind before you start to respond.
The most unsuccessful approaches that I have seen applicants use include:
- Not reviewing their application.
- Not being familiar with their transcript.
- Being surprised by a question and not recovering quickly.
- Allowing a poor performance on one question to lead to a downhill spiral on the subsequent questions.
- Not having a response to a question.
- Answering a question when they don’t understand it, resulting in a confusing response.
- Rambling or going on tangents instead of staying on topic.
- Mumbling or covering their mouths, making it difficult to understand them.
- Not answering the questions.
- Rocking in their chairs or other repetitive movements that make noise.
- Displaying overly casual body language, like laying back in the chair instead of sitting upright with feet together or legs crossed.
- Not dressing appropriately.
- Not addressing all people in the room, including other applicants, respectfully.
There’s a lot to keep in mind to be successful in an interview! Give yourself the best possible preparation by practicing with mock interviews. I give my clients multiple levels of feedback on the content of their responses and delivery, facial expressions and body language. Many people don’t know how they will react in an interview situation until they’re in it. It’s a high stakes, high pressure environment that requires practice to conduct yourself professionally with ease and success.
- The Ultimate Guide to Medical School Interview Success, a free guide
- Macy’s Journey Through Yale’s Online PA Program, an interview with a PA student
- The Art of Interviewing—Are You a “Can” or a “Cannot”?