Everything You Need To Know About The Medical School AAMC Video Interview Tool For Admissions (VITA)

Medical School
July 11, 2020
A table containing the expected time to complete each portion of the AAMC VITA
AAMC VITA Timing Overview from their site

Frequently Asked Questions: The AAMC VITA

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench into the works for countless medical school applicants this cycle. Now the AAMC and its member schools are trying to figure out how to move forward with medical school interviews, visits, and other traditionally in-person aspects of the application process.

In response, the AAMC worked to create the Virtual Interview Tool for Admissions, or VITA. It will be made available in August 2020, it is free for applicants, and it uses AI to judge applicants – but there’s a lot to unpack. Let’s jump into it!

Update 7/21/2020: The AAMC released the list of participating schools here.

What is the VITA?

Firstly, it’s free! Unlike many other aspects of the application process, there is no fee for applicants who are invited to interview via VITA.

The VITA is an interview tool that uses machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to assess candidates and provide a set of scored attributes to medical school admissions committees. It consists of six open-ended questions.

You will be asked to answer these questions via a video platform that can be accessed either by your computer, mobile phone, or tablet. The program will give you one minute to read a question and gather your thoughts, and then three minutes to speak into the camera and record your answers. You will be able to pause the tool after completing an answer, but you cannot pause at all once a question has been revealed to you.

According to the AAMC, the VITA aims to judge your “social skills, cultural competence, teamwork, reliability and dependability, and resilience and adaptability”

You will only be able to take the test once. There are no voids, and no retakes unless there is a covered technology issue – see page 14 on the AAMC’s VITA essentials PDF for more details.

Who makes the VITA?

The VITA was developed by HireVue, a company that created another interviewing tool that is often used by banks and consulting companies for screening potential employees. There is some controversy around this tool, with some people claiming that it is opaque and unclear how the AI algorithm judges candidates. Others claim that it has been developed with a diverse group of faces and features, so it avoids bias in ways that human interviewers cannot.

Which schools will use the VITA?

The AAMC states that a list of participating schools will be added here starting in July and will be updated on a rolling basis. Should you be invited to interview, the HireVue invitation will be generic and will not include information about which medical school selected you to receive the invitation.

Some anonymous admissions committee members have noted that they don’t think it will be widely used, but there currently is no other information about which schools may choose to participate.

Update 7/21/2020: The AAMC released the list of participating schools here.

There are currently 44 medical schools that are confirmed to be participating in the VITA program.

What’s in the VITA?

Unfortunately, the AAMC offered a pretty slim preliminary set of sample questions, so right now we only have a broad idea. They include questions like:

• “Why did you decide to pursue a career in medicine”

• “Describe a time when you experienced a conflict with a classmate. What did you do? What was the outcome?”

The questions seem pretty similar to questions on the CASPER test or other Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) scenarios; they’ll ask about your journey to medical school, situations you’ve been in, and your past behavior and judgement.

However, HireVue’s platform has been used by many banking and consulting companies, so some other resources do exist! For example, here is a bank of sample questions from Duke students who interviewed with companies that used the HireVue platform.

How do I prepare for the VITA?

Preparing for the VITA is likely to be similar to preparing for the CASPER or for MMIs – start by thinking about examples of conflicts you’ve resolved, challenging moments of leadership, and other experiences you’ve had that have helped you become more professional or mature.

It’ll also include a lot of the same soul-searching that you would need to do to prepare for a traditional interview.

You’ll also want to practice giving your answers to another person and make sure to dress appropriately. Test yourself by recording on the same device with the same setup you plan to use for the real thing. Check your lighting, posture, and body language. Make sure that the camera is recording you at an angle that is straight on – not tilted down or up. Focus on the camera when you speak, not the screen.

Remember that this is an AI that will be judging your responses, so try not to rush when you speak, and make sure to pick words that portray you and your story in a positive light. For example, don’t speak negatively about anyone in an anecdote, so that you avoid seeming judgmental in that moment. If you are someone who talks with their hands, that’s all right, but try not to hold your hands in front of your face or body for very long.

Later on in summer 2020 the AAMC will release a practice VITA interview here, so check back for another resource.

How do I take the VITA?

If a participating medical school invites you to take the VITA, you will receive an email from HireVue with information about getting set up and next steps. You will have a time period of multiple days to a few weeks in which to take it, so make sure you find a day and time to take it when you will be uninterrupted and in a quiet location.

Make sure your background is clean, clear, and quiet. Choose a light or white background if you can. Check your laptop angle, lighting, and sound quality before beginning. Mute your phone and turn off notifications – or, better yet, turn it off to avoid distractions.

Focus on the camera when you speak; if you need to, tape some googly eyes up there to make it easier to focus! Smile some when you speak, like if you were talking to a person, and dress appropriately!

Make sure that you answer all parts of the prompt! In the minute that you have to read the question and think of an answer, it might be a good idea to make a quick bullet-point list of topics that you want to address. However, make sure not to read off of the paper, and focus on that camera.

From your practice, you should have detailed anecdotes at the ready. Avoid generalized statements and avoid speaking negatively about any other people if you can.

Final thoughts on the VITA

While some admissions committee members have speculated that the VITA may not be used, and while there is little information about the test as of July 11th, 2020, it is always better to be prepared than to be caught off-guard. This year has been full of surprises!

This article will be updated as more information about the VITA is made available, so check back from time to time.

Our team of expert medical school admissions advisors are abreast of the latest application process changes and are always here to help. This team of Harvard Medical School graduates is focused on helping students like you achieve your medical school dreams. Contact us today to set up a free consultation or just ask us a quick question; we’re happy to help!

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