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MMI Interview Prep: Collaboration Station

Collaboration and Teamwork in MMI Medical School Interviews

As a doctor, you will work with a lot of people. Not only patients but other doctors as well. That is why medical schools need to test your ability to collaborate.

In a regular interview, this would be in the form of a question like, “How well do you work with others?”

MMIs like to see how well you work with others.

In a collaborative MMI station, you will work with one or multiple people to solve a problem of some sort. The people that you are working with could be other candidates, or they could be an instructor.

Preparing for the collaborative station is straightforward.

There are three things that you should always keep in mind and a few different types of situations that you should prepare for and practice.

If you have not already done so, check out our MMI overview. This will give you all the basics you need to know, like the different types of questions you will receive and tips to crush it on your interview day.

Three Things To Keep In Mind

To start, whenever you are in an MMI collaboration session, there are three things that you will want to keep in mind at all times.

● Be assertive

● Speak clearly and listen well (aka communicate)

● Try to bring out the best in others

Be Assertive

We want to note here that when we say to be assertive, we do not mean aggressive.

Assertive is confidently speaking up for yourself, but doing so in a respectful manner to others.

Aggressive is confidently speaking up for yourself, but with no regard for others' feelings or opinions.

You need to be assertive to show that you are confident in yourself and that you can work with other people. If you stand shyly to the side, not offering any input, you are not giving the interviewer an opportunity to see who you are.

Let’s put this in context.

Let’s say you are at a collaboration station with two other candidates. You are about 3 minutes in and the two other candidates have only talked to each other as they were completing whatever challenge/task that was assigned to them.

However, you have barely spoken a word and you can’t seem to find a time to provide input because they are constantly talking.

This is when you need to insert yourself into the conversation.

You do this by saying what you have to add. What do you think can help solve the problem that you are facing.

You may have to be a little forceful, and for some, this may feel rude. But assertive is not rude. It just shows that you believe in yourself and your input.

Speak Clearly and Listen Well (aka Communicate)

One of the main things that the collaborative station is testing is your ability to communicate.

Many of the problems/challenges that you will face in a collaborative station, revolve around giving instruction. It is best to choose your words wisely. Be specific and clear.

For example:

A common collaboration challenge is to instruct someone (usually the interviewer) on how to make a sandwich.

Your first instinct may be to say: “Okay, open the bag.”

The first thing that interviewer is going to do is rip the bag straight down the middle while every slice of bread falls out on the table.

“But, they should have obviously known that I meant to open it at the end!” Yes, they obviously know how to open a bag, but that is not what they are testing. They are testing how clearly can you communicate.

So be ultra-specific.

“Okay, open the bag by locating the twist tie at the end of the bag. Rotate it either counter-clockwise or clockwise, whichever loosens it to come off.”

Being this ultra-specific is not as important when you are with other candidates. However, it is still important to be specific and clear.

Furthermore, you should always make sure you are listening to other people. You need to show that you value what your teammates have to say and, in the situations that need it, that you can clearly follow instructions.

And this leads us into our third thing to always have in mind...

Try to Bring Out the Best in Others

A good way to show that you work well on a team is by bringing out the best in others.

The whole idea of a team is that when people work together, they can accomplish much greater than they ever could by themselves.

Go back to the situation in our “be assertive” section above. Those two candidates that were not including the third, were not doing well in this category.

You don’t want to just look at someone who is not speaking and think, “Well, I guess I won’t be seeing you next fall.”

You want to attempt to bring those people into the group. To get them to offer ideas and help out.

This is not hard.

Let’s go back to that situation in the “be assertive” section. However, this time you are one of the candidates who has been exclusively working with the other.

You have just noticed that the third candidate in the room has not said anything in the three minutes you have been in here.

All you have to do is say: “Hey third candidate, what do you think?”

If they don’t have any input, maybe give them something to work off of.

“Well, I think this, do you think that would be effective or is there something else you would try?”

In the end, even if they do not speak up and still don’t really offer anything, it shows that you tried.

Just periodically check-in and get the best input you can. That is the best that you can do.

MMI Collaborative Question Examples

There is no for sure thing when you are participating in an MMI. You can talk generalities, but they like to keep things unexpected.

However, there are a few types of collaboration sessions that seem to be popular.

Drawing Station

In this type of situation, there are two candidates. One of the candidates is given a drawing. The other is given a canvas or piece of paper.

It is the job of one candidate to draw what the other describes. The candidate that is drawing never sees the drawing, so it is up to the candidate with the picture to describe it to them to the best of their ability.

Again, the most important thing to remember from above is to speak clearly and listen well.

If you are the candidate giving instruction, make sure you are specific. Similar to the “making a sandwich” example.

If you say, “It is a picture of an arachnid,” the person drawing probably won’t know what you are talking about.

A better instruction would be, “It is a scorpion. It has eight legs and is black.”

Then you would go into more detail. Where is it located on the page? How much of the page is it taking up? What angle is it pictured from? Is there anything else in the picture?

If you are drawing, you may think that you are completely dependent on what your partner has to say. This is not the case.

As you are drawing and receiving instruction, make sure to also communicate with them. Ask for clarification where you need it.

You can do that by asking the questions from above. Where is it located on the page? How much of the page is it taking up? What angle is it pictured from? Is there anything else in the picture? (Quick note: Usually, drawings will not be as intricate as a scorpion. Instead, they involve simple shapes and structures. So don’t worry about your drawing abilities.)

Get the specific details that you need out of them.

Puzzle Station

A puzzle station will most likely be one of two things.

One, it will be similar to the drawing station, with one partner giving instructions and describing it to the other partner. If this is the case, you follow the same guidelines above.

Two, the puzzle could include everyone.

An example of this could be you only getting a certain amount of newspaper and tape and you have to build a table out of it. Maybe, between you and your teammates, you have to make the maximum amount of paper airplanes in a limited time span. It could be an actual puzzle.

It could be anything, so there is no specific instruction to give here.

The main thing is to remember to be assertive, speak clearly and listen well, and bring out the best in others. Work with your teammates to solve whatever problem you are faced with.

Instruction with Interviewer Station

We already talked through an example of this in the “speak clearly and listen well” section with the “make a sandwich” example.

What you want to keep in mind when you are working with an interviewer, is that they likely have the interviewer there for a reason.

Think about it.

If you did the “make a sandwich” situation with another candidate, and you said “open the bag,” they would most likely open it normally, which defeats the purpose of the exercise.

So keep that in mind.

Practice

These are probably some of the easier MMIs to practice because, in the end, they are just fun games to play with friends.

You can easily recreate the drawing and puzzle sessions. However, you do want to try to simulate the experience, so don’t look at the picture if you are drawing or give yourself unlimited time to complete the challenge. (In an MMI collaboration session, you will most likely have 8 minutes to work on whatever challenge you are faced with. Use that as a benchmark.)

As you are practicing, you can take note of things that get the best out of your teammates and learn how to make your point clear to someone else.

After practicing, you will feel much more confident with any collaboration station you are put in.

Last Notes

Have fun!

Seriously. This is reported to be one of the more “fun” MMI sessions. You are essentially playing games with your peers.  

As always with MMIs, prepare for the unexpected