The Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) has become a very common med school interview format – one that is meant to provide a fairer, more comprehensive assessment of applicants. It began to grow in popularity after 2004, when Canada’s McMaster University published a study illustrating the flaws in the traditional interview format, especially in the ways that interviewers often unfairly influence the quality of interviews. Additionally, it was expensive for students to fly to interviews, only to be interviewed by one or two people who may or may not provide them with an assessment.
Yes, it’s a long day to be sure, and in this post we will tell you what to expect, and how best to plan for success.
Here’s how a typical MMI is set up
The basic structure of the MMI in the U.S. includes an average of six to ten different interview stations. At each station, which could be in an open area or in a small room, you will have two minutes of prep time and six minutes to provide a response. Some schools have the prompt printed and taped to a door that you can read before entering a room to respond or participate in a collaborative or actor scenario. Some MMIs are hosted in large open rooms, where you can see (and hear) all the different stations, but different schools have different procedures.
There is an evaluator to observe at each station. Some schools will have interviewers introduce themselves at the beginning or you may meet interviewers at the station as you are giving your response.
During the MMI you will also have four main types of activities:
- Traditional interview questions, such as why you want to go into medicine or what you have done to prepare yourself for a career in medicine. You can expect to encounter these types of questions in any kind of interview.
- Ethical questions, such as scenarios involving organ donation, stem cell research, the legalization of marijuana, and others.
- Team activities, which vary widely from campus to campus.
- Actors and fake scenarios, in which you respond to mock situations where you must respond to distress, anger, grief, or other strong emotions.
Psychological tests are part of the deal
Most schools will have an interviewer who is intentionally abrasive to see how you handle difficult personalities and stressful situations. Expect at least one difficult interviewer per school. They may also have an intentionally friendly interviewer who is constantly giving you compliments, to see how you handle it. The MMI can take anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half or longer, depending on the number of stations.
What are medical school admissions committees looking for during an MMI?
Having multiple reviews and reviewers provides more data from which to make more accurate assessments of your qualifications for medical school. You will be rated based both on your process (how you interact with others) and your content (what you say).
Evaluating your process: How you interact with and relate to others
Your facial expressions, body language, spoken and written communication skills, and ability to collaborate as well as lead will all be evaluated. In a mock interview I provided for a student, I noticed that he held the expression of contempt – one side of his mouth pulled up in a half sneer – so frequently that I gently pointed it out to him. He was horrified and hadn’t realized what he was communicating through his expression.
When I was director of the UC Davis School of Medicine Postbac Program and identified contempt in the expressions of applicants during interviews, I recorded it as a negative – especially when it was directed at the other applicants. A strong sense of superiority in a student doesn’t make for easy collaboration or mentorship.
Evaluating your content: What you share
You have a powerful presence in the room, and you want to make it work in your favor. To set the right tone, I recommend beginning and ending every interaction with gratitude. This generates positive energy that will help ensure that your interaction goes well.
In your content, the most important thing you can do is allow them to see how you think through problems. Being transparent in your thought process will help them see that you are methodical (do not skip steps), thorough, and persistent in suggesting as many potential solutions as you can identify. Then you just may be the student they are looking for.
Choose your words carefully. Be thoughtful about what you say, and be thorough as you think out loud as you problem-solve. If you utter the word “like” mindlessly every other word, start editing it out of your speech now. You want to sound like an educated adult, not a lazy high schooler.
To help you shine in this interview format, you’ll want to review these key criteria that the adcoms look for during the MMI.
6 Strategies to Plan for Your MMI
Strategy #1: Before the interview: Review your AMCAS application
To prepare for the traditional interview questions, review your AMCAS application to help you remember all of the activities you have been involved in. This way, when you are asked a question about team work or meaningful clinical or volunteer experiences, you will be able to quickly recall the activities that reflect the best examples. It’s easy for an interviewer to spot the applicants who have not recently reviewed their AMCAS application or resume because they are likely to cite the same job over and over again or forget to represent the full range of their life experiences.
Strategy #2: Before the interview: Practice, practice, practice!
There’s nothing like practice to build your confidence before the big day. While most schools do not rank you lower for being nervous, that emotional state will make it much harder to articulate your responses. You might even blank out and forget what you were about to say.
One of the students I helped prepare for the MMI provided the feedback that “the mocks were very good at preparing me“. She emphasized the importance of being yourself and not stressing. A healthy amount of practice will help you gain that confidence.
Strategy #3: During the interview: Think out loud
This interview format is all about thinking on your feet. When you are given a challenging situation, whether it is an ethical question, a team activity, or a fake scenario with an actor, talk it through. Consider all possible options and solutions. Brainstorm. It takes time to come up with good ideas, so don’t hesitate to throw out as many ideas as you can before you find the one that will work best for the situation at hand.
Strategy #4: During the interview: Ask questions
Show your curiosity. Usually, you cannot resolve an issue or find a solution unless you first collect enough information to make an informed decision. Phrase your questions thoughtfully so that you will get the information you need in the shortest amount of time possible. This strategy can be used for multiple stations. Often, finding out what the other person’s main objective or goal may be can provide a shortcut to a happy resolution and an amazing answer.
Strategy #5: During the interview: Share your life experiences
Empathy is defined by our ability to understand and feel what others are experiencing. As stated above, some of the most difficult stations at the MMI may involve actors who are expressing strong emotions: anger, grief, and fear. Rather than feeling overpowered by these emotions, letting them wash over you – empathizing may be the best strategy. Sharing a story about a similar experience that you have had can help to calm a person faster than dispensing advice. Think of a time when you have been in distress. What were the things that other people did to help you manage the situation?
Strategy #6: During the interview: View other applicants with generosity
Try not to view the other applicants interviewing with you as competitors. Instead, view them as your future classmates. You may have a lot to laugh about in the fall if you survive the MMI experience together!
Starting the multiple mini interview day
If you have a morning interview, check-in can begin as early as 7:15 am, which may include eating breakfast with medical students. After breakfast, the dean or assistant dean will generally give a welcome speech. If you are selected for the first shift of MMIs, you will be introduced to the MMI style and given the school’s guidelines. Some schools allow you to have a pen and pad to take notes, other schools do not allow it. If you are unsure about any guidelines, ask. Usually, there is a break before the MMI begins.
After the MMI, lunch is provided and often hosted by medical students. After lunch, they often provide a tour of the school or a particular area of its facilities. Usually, there is a presentation at the very end with closing statements. The interview day can take anywhere from three to five hours or longer, depending on how many activities they have planned. The MMI itself usually only lasts an hour or an hour and a half.
Help! I’m an introvert! This whole process scares me
By their nature, extroverts have certain advantages in an MMI setting, but by no means are introverts without their strengths as well. Extroverts tend to excel at quick thinking, networking, collaborating, and conveying their ideas quickly. They also tend to appear happy and enjoy interacting with people.
Introverts can prepare by practicing the actions that will matter most: smiling, engaging in practice conversations, and projecting confidence that you are a great fit for their program.
Introverts can shine in MMIs for many reasons. Most sessions are done in a one-to-one setting – the introvert’s comfort zone. Introverts also have traits that are essential for a successful doctor-patient relationship. They are strong in listening, empathizing, problem-solving skills, and thoughtful communication. The key for an introvert is to calm themselves down multiple times and in multiple scenarios, and to do that, you need to practice.
Yes, you can expect a challenging interview experience that will have highs and lows, so focus on doing your best. We hope these strategies will help you accomplish your goal and earn an acceptance! In the meantime, explore Accepted’s catalog of Medical School Interview Services to find out how an admissions expert can help you prep for – and then ace! – your interview.
Get ready for your MMIs! First, sign up to watch the video of our fantastic Q&A with 2 med school experts: Ace the Multiple Mini Interview.
After that, check out Accepted’s Mock MMI Services. These mock interviews provide fantastic opportunities for you to up your game, sometimes to a remarkable degree. Clients tell us over and over again how well prepared they were for their own mock interviews based on our assistance.
Alicia McNease Nimonkar worked for 5 years as the Student Advisor & Director at the UC Davis School of Medicine’s postbac program where she both evaluated applications and advised students applying successfully to med school and other health professional programs. She has served Accepted’s clients since 2012 with roughly a 90% success rate. She has a Master of Arts in Composition and Rhetoric as well as Literature. Want Alicia to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!