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Hardest Medical School Interview Questions and Answers

Advice & Insight From Interview Specialists

​Key Information

Interviews for Medical school can cover challenging topics. Here, we present 10 of the Hardest Medical School Interview Questions and Answers. We’ve combined questions for US and UK students to highlight some of the most challenging areas across both. 

Knowledge of Medicine and Healthcare

What is the significance of personalised medicine and how do you see it impacting the future of healthcare?

Personalised medicine, often referred to as precision medicine, is a medical model that separates patients into different groups—with medical decisions, practices, interventions, and products being tailored to the individual patient based on their predicted response or risk of disease. It offers immense potential to transform healthcare by allowing treatments to be specifically tailored to individual patients.

The application of personalised medicine can potentially lead to better diagnoses and earlier interventions, more efficient drug therapies, and a reduction in high-risk treatments. For example, in the field of oncology, genetic testing helps identify patients who would respond to targeted therapies, thus increasing treatment effectiveness and reducing side-effects.

Despite its potential, challenges such as ethical issues in genetic testing, data privacy, and equitable access to healthcare technology remain. It’s crucial that future doctors, like myself, understand these challenges and contribute to discussions on how to best integrate personalised medicine into routine care.

If you were in charge of health education, name two areas that you would focus on for a) grade 8 students and b) pensioners.

(a) The two areas I would focus on if teaching grade 8 students would be regarding physical and mental health. Regarding physical health, I would focus on remaining active and following a balanced diet; I would describe the components that make up a healthy diet, providing examples of items making up each food group, and additionally give information on how active one must be. Whilst children at this age generally do remain active through school sports and activities, it is still important to ensure they enter a routine of doing regular physical activity, whether it be through simple things such as walking or cycling to school. Often at this period of children’s life, they are going through emotional and physical changes, especially for young girls, who may be starting their periods at this time. Therefore, I would encourage teaching on how to cope with feelings of anxiety or depression that may appear at this stage, and what services are available should they want to seek help.

(b) I feel that two main issues that may become prominent amongst the elderly are loneliness and physical inactivity. Due to factors such as the potential loss of a partner or feeling isolated from their family should they live far away, it is common for pensioners to feel lonely, particularly without a job to occupy them. For this reason, I would provide them with information on services that could provide them with company or activities to partake in should they feel alone at any point. I believe that volunteering opportunities in particular would be extremely beneficial, as it would also benefit the local community. Following on from this, I would also teach the elderly ways to remain active – to improve their overall wellbeing and reduce the risk of degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis – and signpost them to clubs or groups that specialise in providing enjoyable activities for the elderly.

Should the childhood vaccination schedule be made compulsory?

When discussing this topic, an important consideration is that patient autonomy should be respected, and through making childhood vaccinations compulsory, the autonomy of the child – or the guardian of the child – could be threatened. Often the reasoning for choosing to not have children vaccinated is the potential side effects of vaccines. For example, the flu-like symptoms such as a fever and chills or the (arguably irrational) fear of the children going on to develop the disease that they are being vaccinated against. Although such an opinion is not factually correct, parents of these children do have the right to decide against vaccinations, and thus it could be argued that their decision should be respected. However, it must be argued that withholding childhood vaccinations could have detrimental consequences. Childhood vaccinations protect against diseases such as polio, tetanus and measles, mumps and rubella. These conditions can be fatal – measles is particularly dangerous and has a high rate of mortality in children – therefore preventing these vaccinations could place infants in greater danger than if they had the vaccine. For this reason, I believe that childhood vaccinations should be compulsory, as they provide children with a high level of protection against diseases that can be life-threatening.

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Personal Attributes

How have you demonstrated your adaptability in a challenging situation?

During my summer work experience at a local clinic, there was a particular day when the clinic was extremely short-staffed due to unforeseen circumstances. As an intern, I was asked to assume a higher level of responsibility than usual, including managing patient records and schedules, which were usually outside of my scope.

Although I initially felt overwhelmed, I quickly recognized the need for adaptability. I prioritized tasks, focused on maintaining patient care and confidentiality, and learned how to manage the new software on the go.

By the end of the day, despite the pressures, we managed to run the clinic efficiently without any disruptions to patient care. This experience demonstrated my adaptability and resilience in the face of unexpected challenges, which I believe are essential traits for a medical professional.

Can you tell us about a time when you faced a significant setback or failure and how you handled it?

Last year, I applied for a prestigious research position at our local university hospital. I spent weeks preparing my application, securing references, and preparing for the interview. Unfortunately, I was not selected for the role. I felt quite disappointed as I had invested a lot of time and effort, and I truly believed I was a good fit for the role.

However, I realized that this setback provided an opportunity for growth. I reached out to the interview panel and asked for feedback on my application and interview. They highlighted areas for improvement, specifically my lack of hands-on research experience. I took this feedback constructively and sought out other opportunities to gain this experience. I ended up volunteering in a small research project at my university, which gave me invaluable practical exposure to research work.

In medicine, resilience is vital, as there will be instances of setbacks, challenging patient outcomes, and high-pressure situations. This experience taught me the importance of resilience, seeking constructive feedback, and continuously working on self-improvement.

Describe a situation where you had to work in a team to achieve a common goal. What role did you play and what did you learn about teamwork?

During my final year of school, I was part of a team project to organise a health awareness camp in a local community. We were a group of five, each with our own ideas and strategies for the event.

Initially, we faced difficulties due to differing opinions on how to execute the camp. I suggested we each take on roles that fit our strengths and proposed a democratic approach for decision-making, which was welcomed by the group. I took up the role of the event coordinator due to my organisational skills and experience.

Over the weeks leading to the event, we worked together extensively, learning to negotiate, compromise, and appreciate each other’s strengths. The health camp turned out to be a great success, with a good turnout and positive feedback from the community.

From this experience, I learned the importance of clear communication, respect for diversity of ideas, and the synergy that good teamwork can create. In the field of medicine, teamwork is paramount, with healthcare professionals working together to deliver comprehensive patient care. My experience with this project has well-prepared me to be a collaborative member of any healthcare team.

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Ethics

If a 14-year-old girl requested birth control pills from you and asked you not to tell her parents, how would you handle this situation?

This is a complex situation that involves ethical considerations about patient confidentiality, autonomy, and beneficence. In both the UK and US, clinicians have a duty to maintain patient confidentiality, which also applies to minors if they are judged competent to consent to treatment. This judgment involves assessing if the minor understands the nature, purpose, and potential risks and benefits of the treatment.

If the girl understands these factors, her confidentiality should typically be respected. However, I would also discuss the importance of involving a trusted adult in her decision, for additional support and guidance. It would also be essential to ensure there’s no coercion involved and to provide appropriate counseling about safe practices and consent.

If there was any concern about abuse or exploitation, I would have a duty to safeguard the minor and might need to breach confidentiality. I would seek advice from a senior colleague or legal/ethics advisory service in my institution. This scenario highlights the delicate balance needed in medicine between respecting autonomy and ensuring the patient’s best interests.

Discuss the ethics of treatment resources being used on patients who knowingly ignore public health advice on smoking and exercise.

The issue here is one of a slippery slope. Many clinicians in the UK have refused to perform non-urgent procedures on smokers, and requested that they quit smoking in order to be eligible for surgery. Their argument centres around smoking causing self-inflicted damage.

However, does that mean we then should not treat over-eaters, under-eaters, alcoholics, steroid abusers, or even someone that injures themselves playing a sport they chose to play? Treating patients shouldn’t involve assignment of blame. People are entitled to make their own lifestyle choices and live without worry of those choices leading to them being refused treatment.

The health professional’s role therefore is not to refuse treatment, but to promote health. One must take every step to alleviate pain and ill health – and this involves advising and educating patients on the effect that smoking or not exercising will have on their health. The British Medical Association advises that clinicians should not make decisions for patients by posing ultimatums to them, as legally they are not permitted to do so.

Everyone should be allowed access to the NHS, whether their injury or ill-health stems from their own behaviour or not.

In the current age of Medicine, should stem cell research be supported?

The stem cell research debate centres around embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are obtained from early-stage embryos that are three to five days old. The embryos are fertilised outside the womb, and in turn destroyed.

So the debate centres around two moral principles: the duty to alleviate suffering and the duty to respect the value of human life. Through acquiring embryonic stem cells, a potential human life is destroyed. Yet, there could be immeasurable benefits to humankind.

This is a personal question. The key is whether an embryo constitutes a human life; it could be said to have full moral status from fertilisation as development is a continuous process, or it could be labelled less than human, due to not having the psychological, emotional or physical properties that would class it as ‘human.’ – without being implanted into a uterus, the embryo cannot develop into a baby of its own accord.

In the UK, research is only permitted if it satisfies certain conditions, like promoting treatment of infertility, increasing knowledge of how miscarriages work, etc. This position makes sense to me – I don’t believe an unfertilised embryo to have the same rights as a human, and therefore see this as carefully taking the course of the most benefit to humanity.

You are a medical student in a GP surgery, shadowing one of the GP partners, who is also your supervisor. Your next patient is Mrs Collins, a 30 year old secretary who your supervisor states is a ‘typical hypochondriac…always coming in with new concerns, with no real medical problems’. Your GP supervisor advises you that placebo medications (sugar pills) are the best treatment for these patients, and ‘always do the trick’. Outline the main issues raised.

 

There are two important sides to consider

  • On one hand, by effectively deceiving patients and giving them placebo medications rather than actual medications, you are undermining their autonomy.
  • Slippery slope argument: If this doctor is prepared to deceive this category of patients, they are likely to feel comfortable acting similarly towards other patients for example ‘self-inflicted conditions’ (eg. Smokers/alcoholics/sporting injuries).
  • Attempting to categorise patients (eg. ‘hypochondriacs’) may lead to missing more serious diagnosis, as you will consistently ignore potentially sinister red flag symptoms.
  • Should this doctor be practicing medicine, let alone training future medical professionals?

On the other hand, it may be argued:

  • Placebo medications (sugar pills) are likely to have fewer side effects than prescribing stronger alternative medications which are unlikely to be required, if there is no underlying medical condition.
  • With patients often reporting some benefit from placebo medications, you are fulfilling your duty of beneficence as a doctor.
  • This GP is effectively managing the patient with limited resources, hence not placing additional strain on the resource-stricken National Health Service.
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