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 anywhere from one to three people interviewing one to three students. It can be one-on-one or any other combination of these numbers. If a school uses a traditional one-on-one format, usually they will require two or three one-on-one interviews. Using a panel format can significantly save time which is why some schools prefer this approach. 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.
The types of questions that you will most commonly encounter in traditional interviews will ask about why you want to become a PA, why their school, and specific details about your academic record, application and your preparation for this career path. 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 be as 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 give you an edge. Some college campuses may offer practice interviews, contact your pre-health advisor to see if you can schedule a mock. The most effective mocks are as realistic as possible.
The best advice I can give you, without meeting you, would be to 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. You will be better prepared to answer their questions.
Tips to Prepare for Your PA School Interview
The most successful ways that I have seen students 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 their specific interview 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 students 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.
• Overly casual body language, like laying back in the chair and crossing their legs as wide as possible.
• Not dressing appropriately.
• Not addressing all people in the room, including other students, 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 students 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.
For additional assistance, you’re welcome to contact me and my colleagues at Accepted for help with your PA application package.Alicia McNease Nimonkar is an Accepted advisor and editor specializing in healthcare admissions. Prior to joining Accepted, Alicia worked for five years as Student Advisor at UC Davis’ postbac program where she both evaluated applications and advised students applying successfully to med school and related programs. Want Alicia to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!
• The Ultimate Guide to Medical School Interview Success, a free guide
• Andrea Benedict: Life as a Physician Assistant, a podcast episode
• How to Get Accepted to Physician Assistant (PA) Programs