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 candidates to fly to interviews, only to be interviewed by one or two people who might or might not provide them with an assessment.
An MMI makes for a long day to be sure, and in this post, we will tell you what to expect and how best to plan and prepare for success.
Here’s how a typical MMI is set up
The basic structure of the MMI in the United States includes an average of six to ten different interview stations. At each station, which could be in an open area or a small room, you will have two minutes of prep time and six minutes in which to provide a response. Some schools print the prompt out and tape it to the door of the interview station space so you can read it before entering to respond or to participate in a collaborative or actor scenario. Some MMIs are hosted in large open rooms, where you can see (and hear) all the people at the different stations, but procedures vary from school to school.
There is an evaluator at each station to observe. Some schools will have interviewers introduce themselves before the MMI process begins, or you might meet interviewers as you are giving your response at each station.
During the MMI, you will encounter four main types of exercises:
- Traditional interview questions, such as “Why do you want to go into medicine?” and “What have you done to prepare yourself for a career in medicine?” You can expect to in any kind of interview.
- Ethical questions, such as ones related to organ donation, stem cell research, and the legalization of marijuana.
- Team activities, which vary widely from campus to campus.
- Actors and simulated scenarios, in which you respond to mock situations involving 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. The school might also have an intentionally friendly interviewer who is constantly giving you compliments, to see how you handle that scenario. 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 with which to make a more accurate assessment of your qualifications for medical school. You will be rated 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 both to collaborate and to lead will all be evaluated. One interviewer shared the story of a candidate who frequently made an expression of contempt – one side of his mouth pulled up in a half sneer. The interviewer gently pointed it out to him, and the candidate was horrified. He legitimately hadn’t realized what he was unconsciously communicating through his expression.
When an interviewer identifies contempt in an applicant’s expressions during an interview, it is generally recorded as a negative – especially when the contempt is directed at other applicants. A strong sense of superiority 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. A good way to set the right tone is to begin and end 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 to allow the interviewer(s) 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 might be the person they are looking for.
Choose your words carefully. Be thoughtful about what you say, and be thorough as you think out loud while problem-solving. If you tend to use the word “like” mindlessly when you talk, start working to edit it out of your speech now. You want to sound like an educated adult, not a lazy high schooler.
To prepare to shine in this interview format, click here to review the key criteria adcoms look for during an MMI.
Six Strategies to Plan for Your MMI
Strategy #1: Before the interview – Review your AMCAS application
To prepare to respond to traditional interview questions, review your AMCAS application to help you remember all the activities you have been involved in. This way, when you are asked a question about teamwork 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 more difficult for you to articulate your responses. You might even blank out and forget what you were about to say.
One past candidate who used Accepted to get ready 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 presented with a challenging situation, whether it is an ethical question, a team activity, or a simulated 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 options as you can before you find the one that will work best for the situation at hand.
Strategy #4: During the interview – Ask questions
Demonstrate 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 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 might 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 as our ability to understand and feel what others are experiencing. As stated earlier, some of the more difficult stations at the MMI involve actors who express strong emotions, such as anger, grief, and fear. Rather than feeling overwhelmed by these emotions and letting them wash over you, empathizing might be the best strategy. Sharing a story about a similar experience you have had can help calm a person faster than dispensing advice. Think of a time when you were 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, think of them as your future classmates. You might have a lot to laugh about in the fall if you survive the MMI experience together!
Starting the MMI day
If you have a morning interview, check-in can begin as early as 7:15 am, which might include eating breakfast with medical students. After breakfast, the dean or assistant dean will generally give a welcome speech. You will then 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, while other schools do not allow this. 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 will often give 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 last anywhere from three to five hours, if not longer, depending on how many activities the school has 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 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-on-one setting – the introvert’s comfort zone. Introverts also have traits that are essential for a successful doctor-patient relationship. They are good at listening and empathizing, and have strong problem-solving skills and thoughtful communication. The key for an introvert is to be able to calm themselves down repeatedly and in multiple scenarios, and to do that, you need to practice.
You can expect a challenging interview experience that will have highs and lows – just 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 two 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.
Since 2001, Cydney Foote has advised hundreds of successful applicants for medical and dental education, residency and fellowship training, and other health-related degrees. Admissions consulting combines her many years of creating marketing content with five years on fellowship and research selection committees at the University of Washington School of Medicine. She’s also shared her strategy for impressing interviewers in a popular webinar and written three books and numerous articles on the admissions process. Want Cydney to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!