Need help with medical school interview questions? We got you covered.
Interviews are the third and final component of the medical school application process.
If you’re sitting across from an interviewer, you’ve successfully completed two application rounds.
- The interview is the only thing standing between you and admission to medical school.
Since you’ve made it this far, you can feel confident that the medical school is impressed by your qualities and credentials.
- Now they want to learn more about you, evaluate your communication skills, and get a better sense of your personality.
Preparation is the key to putting your best foot forward.
To help you prepare, we’ve put together a list of 75 of the most common medical school interview questions.
We’ll also share tips on answering 10 of the most difficult.
75 Most Common Medical School Interview Questions
We’ve grouped some of the most common medical school interview questions into several “buckets” or categories.
Some of these questions may belong in multiple categories, but this list will give you an idea of what to expect.
- Note that this list is unlikely to include every question that you’ll be asked at your interview.
- However, most questions will fall into these categories.
By brainstorming other questions or topics related to these categories, you’ll cover all your bases and enter your interview feeling confident and prepared.
Questions About Your Background
- Why did you choose to major in [your undergraduate major]? How has it prepared you to work in the medical field?
- If you’ve had undergraduate research experience, how has it prepared you for a medical career?
- How have your extracurricular activities, volunteer experiences, and jobs you’ve had prepared you to perform the duties of a physician?
- Throughout your undergraduate experience, what skills have you learned to help you manage time and stress?
- What experiences have you had in a medical or clinical setting, and what have you learned from these experiences?
- Do you have role models or family members in the medical field?
- Does your academic record reflect any major challenges? If so, what were they and why did they happen?
- What was the most memorable achievements of your college career?
Questions About Your Motivation and Goals
- When did you decide to become a physician and why? What have you done since then to investigate the field and confirm your choice?
- What are your specific career plans and what led you to these decisions?
- What do you feel is the purpose of medical school, and what do you hope to gain from this experience?
- Why did you decide to choose medicine over other fields that involve helping others, such as nursing, social work, education, or psychology?
- What will you do if you’re not accepted to medical school this year? Do you have alternative career plans?
- Where do you see yourself in 10-15 years?
- What does “success” mean to you? After 20 years in the medical field, what sort of “success” would you like to have achieved?
- Is there anything else you would like to share about you or your interest in becoming a doctor?
Questions About Your Personality and Personal Qualities
- What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
- How would you assess your compassion and empathy? Provide examples from your recent past.
- How do you spend your free time? What do you do for fun?
- What qualities do you look for in a physician? Can you think of a physician who embodies these qualities? How do they demonstrate these qualities?
- Who has been influential in your decision to work in medicine?
- If you were given one million dollars to help improve society/your community, what would you work on and why?
- What reservations do you have about working in the medical field?
- Discuss a book that you’ve read for pleasure. Why did this book interest you?
- If you could go back and start your college career again, what would you do differently?
- How do you handle failure?
- What do you think you will need to give up to become a doctor?
- If we contacted your references now, what would they say about you? What would your best friends say about you?
- Tell me about a mistake you’ve made.
- Tell me about a time you were disappointed in a coworker or teammate. How did you handle the situation?
Questions About Medicine/The Medical Field
- What excites you about medicine?
- Tell me what you know about current trends in our healthcare system.
- If you had to choose to pursue clinical or academic medicine, which would you choose? What do you think you might lose by having to make this choice?
- What are some of today’s most pressing health issues, in your opinion? Why?
- What is the difference between Medicare and Medicaid?
- How do you think the U.S. should address the physician shortage, especially primary care doctors in rural areas?
- If the United States adopted universal healthcare, would your plans to be a physician change?
- Why is medicine rewarding?
- Why do you think some doctors are unhappy practicing medicine?
Questions About Ethics/Critical Thinking
- What are some current controversies in the area of medical ethics? Discuss some of these.
- Have you ever encountered a moral dilemma? What was the situation and how did you handle it?
- How do you feel about medically assisted suicide/euthanasia?
- Would you share your religious beliefs with patients?
- How would you handle working with a terminally ill patient?
- Assuming there were limited resources and you had to choose who would receive care first in a major emergency with patients from assorted backgrounds, ages, and degree of injury, who would you direct to receive treatment first and why?
- What are some ethical issues that our society considers in relation to teenage pregnancy?
Questions About Diversity
- What experiences have you had working with diverse populations? What have you learned from these experiences?
- Where have you traveled, and what exposure to other cultures have you had?
- If you are a minority, how do you feel your background uniquely prepares you to be a physician? How will it impact your practice?
- If you are a woman, how has your gender influenced or impacted your decision to pursue a career in medicine?
- If you are not part of a minority group, how do you plan to meet the needs of a diverse patient population?
- If you come from an economically disadvantaged background, how do you think this adversity has shaped you? How will it influence your practice of medicine?
- What do you feel are the social responsibilities of a doctor?
- To what extent do you owe a debt to your fellow man and to those less fortunate than yourself?
- What do you think is the most important social problem facing the United States today? Why?
Questions About Medical School
- What types of medical schools are you applying to? Why?
- What would you do if you got in everywhere?
- What would you do if you got in nowhere?
- What makes [this medical school] desirable to you?
- What skills do you hope to gain from medical school? How might your ideal medical school achieve this outcome?
- There are 1,000 candidates applying who are equally qualified. Why should we offer you a spot at our medical school?
- What do you think will be the biggest challenge for you in medical school?
Behavioral Interview Questions
- Give an example of a situation in which you had to use effective interpersonal/communication skills.
- Describe a situation in which you demonstrated initiative.
- Tell me about a time when you were not as dependable as you would have liked.
- Tell me about a time when you had to get creative to solve a problem.
- Describe how you deal with someone in crisis. If you have not dealt with someone in crisis, how do you think you would handle this situation?
- Tell me about a time when you were angry with another person or faced a conflict. How did you handle it?
- Tell me about a time when you had to make a difficult and/or important decision. What is your typical decision-making process?
- Tell me about some books, films, or other media that have been important to your non-medical/non-science education.
- Do you stay up to date with current events? Tell me about a current event that interests you and why.
- What would you do if you saw a classmate cheating?
- If you could have dinner with any four people, who would you choose? Why? What would you discuss at the dinner?
- Is there anything we have not covered in this interview that you would like to share with us?
- Do you have any questions for us?
How to Answer the 10 Most Difficult Medical School Interview Questions
We recommend thinking through your answers to these questions.
For questions that you find challenging or that are especially complex, create a notecard.
- On one side of the card, write the question.
- On the other side, make a list of bullet points that you would like to mention in relation to the question. Do not write your full answer to the question—you don’t want to sound like you’re reading from a script during the interview.
However, it is a good idea to be aware of the points you would like to mention.
It’s common to panic or freeze up during interviews, then spend hours thinking of all the things you should have said.
- Creating notecards with bullet points can help you avoid this fate.
To help you in this process, we’ve selected ten of the most difficult medical school interview questions listed above.
For each of the ten questions, we’ve put together a list of helpful tips that will help you compile an eloquent and effective response.
1. Why medicine?
This question often stumps students because they don’t want to sound cliché. Answering, “I like science and helping people,” is an extremely generic answer that is probably true of every medical school hopeful.
You will need to dig deeper.
Think about what first inspired you to pursue medicine:
- Do you have a role model or family member involved in medicine?
- Did you witness an excellent physician help you or a family member through illness?
- Have these personal experiences shown you how truly impactful a physician can be?
- Do you have a specific anecdote you can share that cemented your decision to work in medicine?
- Has medicine changed the world in a way that intrigues or inspires you?
As with most interview questions, get specific. Getting specific eliminates the possibility of being cliché, because specific details are unique to you.
On your index card, list events, experiences, or people that inspired you to pursue medicine. When asked, “Why medicine?” start by sharing these uniquely personal stories.
- This question is not asking what you like about medicine or what skills you have that are related to medicine.
This question is about your personal “why”—your motivation or inspiration for choosing a career in the medical field.
2. Why this school?
Again, specifics are key. Make sure you’ve done your research on the school and can name unique opportunities, experiences, professors, or even courses that this school offers.
Demonstrate that you’ve spent time imagining yourself on campus.
You should already know some of the courses and activities that you’d like to participate in and how this school can uniquely prepare you for a successful career in medicine.
- If you’ve visited campus before, mention your experience.
- Name anything you witnessed that made a lasting positive impression on you.
- Do you know other students or family members who have attended this school? What did they share with you that got you excited to attend?
Although you should describe what interests you about the school, make sure you don’t sound like a brochure.
- Explain why these programs or opportunities genuinely interest you and why you would want to participate in them.
As you answer this question, be sure that your excitement and passion for the school resonate with the interviewer.
Make it clear that you would be thrilled to attend this school and that you plan to be actively involved on campus, taking full advantage of available resources and opportunities.
3. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
The only thing more uncomfortable than talking about your strengths is talking about your weaknesses. But at medical school interviews, you’ll often be asked to discuss both.
Let’s start with strengths.
The key is to choose 2-3 strengths (unless you’re only asked to name one) that will help you be successful in the medical field.
- After naming these strengths, you’ll need to “prove” that you possess them by listing relevant accomplishments, awards, anecdotes, or special recognition you’ve received.
- Adding supporting evidence to your response will strengthen your answer and help you stand out. After all, anyone can rattle off a list of impressive strengths.
On your index card, list a few strengths you have related to the medical field (empathy, integrity, problem-solving, working under pressure, communication skills, and so on).
For each strength, list as many pieces of evidence as possible. Choose the three most convincing strengths to discuss during your interview.
Now, what about discussing your weaknesses? Choose a real weakness (not, “I’m a perfectionist!”) that will not destroy your ability to be an effective physician.
- For instance, you wouldn’t want to say that you struggle with empathy or that you freak out in stressful situations.
- But you could say that delegating tasks to others is sometimes difficult, or that you’re working to improve your time management skills.
Whatever weakness you choose, you will also need to explain how you’re actively working to better yourself in this area and have made some improvement.
This demonstrates that you’re a reflective, introspective individual who consistently works toward self-improvement.
The interviewer already knows you’re not perfect. This isn’t some big secret you’re exposing. Answering this question the right way can make you an even stronger candidate.
4. Tell me about a time you made a mistake/failed.
Like asking about weaknesses, this question is designed to give the interviewer insight on your ability to reflect and learn from mistakes.
Share an honest experience you’ve had with failure (but not an extreme mistake that might make a school hesitant to admit you).
- Discuss the failure itself only briefly, then focus on why you failed, what you learned from the experience, and what you’ve done to improve moving forward.
- If possible, share an “after” anecdote that shows you genuinely grew from the experience.
- This was a one-time failure that you’ve learned from, and you’ve taken steps to prevent similar mistakes from happening again in the future.
Effective physicians are reflective in their practice and able to learn and grow from mistakes. They’re also honest, so don’t respond, “I’ve never really failed.”
5. How do you feel about euthanasia (or other controversial topics like abortion, stem cell research, etc.)?
Students often panic when asked for their opinion on controversial issues like medically assisted suicide/euthanasia, abortion, cloning, or stem cell research.
By following the steps below, you can answer this question confidently and avoid offending your interviewer, regardless of his or her beliefs.
- First, write out the guiding principles that you apply in ethical dilemmas. If you haven’t thought about this before, now is the perfect time.
- For example, a guiding principle might be, “Do no harm,” or, “Minimize the suffering of patients.”
Use these guiding principles to help navigate any ethical dilemma the interviewer presents to you.
Depending on how you define “harm” or “suffering,” your answer may vary, but the interviewer is especially interested in seeing how you think critically and arrive at a decision.
In your answer, acknowledge the pros and cons of each side to show that you’re open-minded and willing to consider other perspectives.
Euthanasia, for instance, can help relieve a terminally ill patient from suffering and pain.
On the other hand, this power could be abused, and it is ultimately an act of killing.
- Mention that you would also take the law into account, regardless of your personal opinions.
- This is a crucial quality for any physician, so be clear on this point. Say something like, “Of course, I would have to take the law into account and act accordingly.”
- Finally, avoid giving an answer that is overly black or white. Land somewhere in the middle with a more nuanced response. You might say, “I’m in favor of euthanasia in certain circumstances, like when a patient is terminally ill and mentally capable of making a decision about assisted suicide.”
Ultimately, it is not your stance on the issue that’s important.
The interviewer wants to see you think through an ethical dilemma and make a choice.
Explain your guiding principles and how they relate to the dilemma, discuss the pros and cons of both issues, arrive somewhere in the middle, and explain that you would observe the law, regardless of your personal beliefs.
6. What will you do if you don’t get into medical school this year?
The last thing you want to think about during a medical school interview is the possibility of not getting into medical school, but this is a commonly asked question.
- Acknowledge that being a doctor is very competitive, and all physicians will experience failure or setback at some point in their career.
- What’s important is how you respond to these setbacks.
Emphasize that you’re certain medicine is the career for you and that you will reapply if you don’t get into medical school this year.
- Say you will ask for feedback and use your initial experiences to strengthen your application and make it more competitive for next time.
You may find more research or clinical experiences, retake the MCAT, etc. Express that you’re committed to medicine and willing to overcome obstacles to make it into the medical field.
7. Why not nursing/social work/education?
Your interviewer may say something along the lines of, “So, you want to help people.
- In that case, why not nursing, social work, education, or psychology?”
- Simply helping others can’t be your sole motivation for becoming a doctor, because there are many other helping professions.
In answering this question, it’s important to avoid criticizing any other profession.
- The best way to do so is by emphasizing what appeals to you about being a physician more than anything else.
Using an anecdote is a great approach to this question. Is there a moment where you’ve seen medicine change someone’s life?
Describe the moment and your desire to create similar moments for others.
What is it about being a doctor that is more appealing to you than any other career?
8. There are 1,000 candidates applying who are equally qualified. Why should we offer you a spot at our medical school?
As in the previous question, it’s important to avoid criticizing other candidates when you answer this question.
Focus on some of your good qualities and how they are related to medical school and a career in medicine.
- For instance, you might describe your dedication to both personal and professional growth. Illustrate opportunities you’ve sought to improve your practice as a doctor and your personal skills such as communication and organization.
- Perhaps you’ve taken multiple personal development workshops annually, or you’ve taken advantage of any chance to gain exposure to other cultures and backgrounds.
You may also want to mention especially compelling volunteer work or clinical experiences, unique skills like speaking multiple languages, any additional certifications or degrees you bring to the table, or a story that showcases an exceptional level of compassion, empathy, or another key personal quality.
Brainstorming potential responses to this question now will keep you from panicking and drawing a blank during the interview.
9. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
It probably goes without saying that your answer should indicate that you plan to be working in the medical field.
You don’t have to know your specialty now—medical school will help you determine that, but you can list a general idea such as surgery, family practice, pediatrics, or internal medicine.
- Give a brief explanation of why you see yourself in this area.
What are you passionate about?
- What are your ultimate goals as a physician (advancing medicine, contributing to the improvement of global health, making patients and their loved ones as comfortable as possible)?
Before going to your interview, think through a few specialties that intrigue you and why you find them interesting.
- You can also explain that you’d like to learn more about these specialties before making a decision.
As you describe where you see yourself in 10 years, be sure to smile—show that you’re excited about your future as a physician, despite the time and hard work it will take to get there.
10. Do you have any questions for us?
This question is deceptively simple. After answering far more complex questions successfully, however, it often throws candidates off guard.
And unfortunately, saying that you don’t have any questions about the school can make you appear uninterested.
Brainstorm a few questions beforehand and write them on your index card, and be open to inspiration that may occur during your interview. Some ideas include:
- Asking questions about the interviewer e.g.
Did you always want to practice X specialty? What made you decide? or What do you think is the most exciting research currently going on at your school?
- Asking for more information about something that interests you—but that you could not answer through a quick Google search
I was excited when I learned that you have clinical rotations in X field, since I’ve had some experience and exposure in that area. Can you tell me more about past students’ experiences with these rotations?
- Asking questions related to something you learned on your interview day or at the interview itself
I really liked the question you asked earlier about X. It’s a complex topic, and I was interested in hearing your ideas and learning from someone with more experience or I heard at the interview dinner that your school plans to start X program next year. What new opportunities will this present to your students?
Most importantly, your questions should indicate that you’re sufficiently knowledgeable about the school and genuinely interested in attending.
Final Thoughts: Medical School Interview Questions
Medical school interviews can be intimidating, but effective preparation will help you feel much more confident.
Write common interview questions that you find complicated or challenging on index cards.
- Then, record a list of points you’d like to mention in your response.
- Read over these questions and bullet points in the weeks leading up to the interview, and even give the cards to a friend or family member to conduct a mock interview.
Think about the medical school interview as a conversation to determine whether you and the school are a good fit for one another.
Do your best to smile and relax.
- Create the impression that you’re confident, friendly, and enjoying the conversation, and you’ll go a long way toward making a positive and memorable impression on the interviewer.
If you’re truly stumped by a question, don’t panic or throw out a random (and potentially disastrous) answer. Practice saying, “That’s a great question. I need to learn more about that.”
There’s no way to prepare for every single question that will come your way during the interview.
But if you’re ready to talk about the topics listed above with honesty, poise, and enthusiasm, you’ll greatly increase your chances of earning an acceptance letter.