Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, one of the main complaints among patients about their care was bedside manner.
For years, medical schools admitted students based on cognitive ability. Their ability to interact with patients was not high on the list of requirements.
In comes the McMaster University School of Medicine with their solution, the Multiple Mini-Interview format. It is said to be a better predictor of finding ethical, professional and empathetic doctors than regular interviews.
As the name suggests, and MMI consists of a series of several short interviews. These interviews attempt to assess your “soft skills” such as interpersonal skills, communication abilities, empathy, and professionalism.
Usually, there are 10 separate interviews/sessions, each taking no longer than 10 minutes (with a few exceptions for certain types of interviews). Each interview revolves around a question, quote or situation.
The sessions are (generally) broken down like this:
● The candidate is given two minutes to see the prompt and prepare a response
● After the two minutes, the candidate enters the room and is given 6-8 minutes for the actual interview. They respond to the prompt or deal with the situation (more on the types of prompts and situations below).
● Once the time is up, the candidate immediately leaves the room and moves to the next session
Simultaneously, other candidates will be participating in different sessions in different rooms. Sometimes, you may be asked to work with other candidates as well.
Each session is scored on a scale, and the candidates aggregate score is calculated at the end. The interviewer for each session usually stays the same the entire time, to provide unbiased scoring.
The MMI has been adopted by many schools across the United States and almost all schools in Canada.
There are some schools that rely completely on MMI and other’s that use a hybrid between MMI and traditional forms of interviewing. More and more schools are adopting the MMI format or a hybrid of it. Allopathic schools currently using the MMI or a hybrid format include:
• Arizona (both Phoenix and Tucson)
• Central Michigan
• University of Massachusetts
• Michigan State
• Oregon Health Sciences
• Robert Wood Johnson
• Rosalind Franklin
• SUNY Upstate
• UC Davis
• Virginia Tech
• Western Michigan
These things do change, so be sure to double-check with the schools you are applying to on their website.
This is tricky. The MMI is designed to be difficult to prepare for. Each med school will have its own prompts.
That being said, it is not impossible to prepare.
Here are a few tips.
The MMI is meant to be unpredictable, but there are some general questions/situations that are in most of them. For every major question type, we have a separate linked deep-dive article helping you best prepare for each category.
These prompts revolve around a scenario and may or may not be related to the medical field.
These prompts deal with grey areas, where there is not often a right or wrong answer. Here is a situation from Astroff’s website (the company that runs MMIs)
“A close friend in one of your university classes tells you that his mother was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. He feels overwhelmed by his studies and is considering dropping his courses to spend more time with his mother. How do you counsel your friend?”
Since this deals with moral grey areas, how you get to your solution is often more important than the solution itself.
When your session starts, you explain to the interviewer your thought process and how you arrived at that conclusion. It is best to bring in viewpoints from multiple perspectives.
Situational prompts test your ethical decision making, your empathy and your critical thinking abilities.
The same thing as a situational prompt, except you actively act out how you would handle the situation with an actor.
You could be given a prompt like the one above, or you could be given much less detail. It could be:
You are meeting your friend John at his house.
You may also have to break bad news to someone.
This is testing your ability to communicate and listen. You may need to ask questions and listen to what they have to say if the person has a problem. Empathize with them. Attempt to provide a solution or at least comfort.
One of the sessions may be similar to a normal interview. They may ask:
Why do you want to become a doctor?
What is your greatest strength/weakness?
If you were an animal, what would you like to be?
You may feel more comfortable answering these types of questions since they are closer to a normal interview.
Still, you want to elaborate. Show who you are as a person by explaining how you think and how you answer that question.
These prompts will more than likely ask you your opinion on current events or policy (within or outside the medical field.)
Most candidates feel more comfortable with this question because it is asked in normal interviews as well. (Check out how to prepare for this and other common interview questions here.)
This prompt tests how informed you are and if you can look at an issue from multiple viewpoints and come to a conclusion. Again, elaborate on your thought process and how you came to your conclusion.
Here you are asked to work with another candidate on a task or problem.
Potential prompts include:
● Help your teammate draw _______
Then you would explain how to draw whatever that thing is.
● Work together to build a table out of the supplies provided.
This one is pretty self explanatory.
How well can you collaborate? Can you clearly express your ideas to your peers? Are you dismissive of other people’s ideas or too shy to speak your mind?
A good session here is all about balance. You want to express your opinions, while prodding your teammates for ideas.
Ideally, you do not only show your best self, but also bring out the best in others.
Remember, each MMI is designed with the medical school's values in mind. A look at this could give you some insight into what types of questions could be asked.
Take a look at UCLA’s mission statement and core values.
To improve health and healthcare, UCLA will:
● Create world leaders in health and science
● Discover the basis for health and cures for disease
● Optimize health through community partnerships
● Heal humankind one patient at a time
● Excellence and Integrity
● Discovery and Innovation
● Service and Respect
● Teamwork and Compassion
We could assume that UCLA’s MMI’s would consist of ethical issues (“Integrity”). There is also a lot about community (“Optimize health through community partnerships” and “Service and Respect”), so service may be something to emphasize in your answers.
Lastly, we can assume that there will be a collaborative prompt (“Teamwork and Compassion”).
You can also see if they say anything about their MMI process on their website. You may be able to pick up some specific tips from them.
Understand and identify the problem through listening and communication
What is the problem that you are asked to solve?
When candidates are nervous, they skim over the prompt. They think they understand… but they don’t. This leads to answers that do not work with the situation (already looks bad) and shows that you did not pay attention to detail.
It is okay to ask questions. Make sure you fully understand the prompt/problem.
Let’s break this one down.
First, we need to craft an argument (or a line of thinking towards your solution). Next, make sure these arguments are empathetic.
Bring in multiple viewpoints, including your own and your personal experiences. What experiences from your past can you make relevant here? Are there any ethical codes/laws that you have to deal with here. Make sure you understand how your solution impacts others.
Show that you understand the big picture.
Walk up and shake hands with the interviewer when you are entering and leaving the room. Another aspect that they are always testing you on is professionalism.
This is good advice for any interview.
Ideally with a professional that can give you structured feedback on how to improve.
Regular interviews may be easier to practice on your own. However, you want to be sure that you are answering MMIs in the correct way. Having structured feedback from a professional is invaluable.
So check out our interview prep packages. Our practice sessions imitate the MMI process. You will feel much more prepared for your MMI if you have practiced the format beforehand.