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Hardest Medical School Interview Questions & Model Answers

Advice & Insight From Interview Specialists

 

If there was someone with the same grades, BMAT score and similar academic profile to you but from a less privileged background, who should we accept?

 

 
​Example Answer

​That is a very difficult question to answer. I would preface this by saying that privilege includes a multitude of subjective factors – this includes socioeconomic status, ethnicity, disability, the educational level of your parents, scholastic opportunities etc. This is incredibly hard to quantify, even with the information stipulated in UCAS.

If we can safely assume this other candidate is less privileged, I would argue they should be accepted. This is for two reasons; firstly, all of their qualifications would have taken a lot more effort on their part to achieve, and therefore should be given more weight. Secondly, they would have better potential, as when we are both given the same resources, assuming they continue to work as hard as before, they would likely perform better in this academic environment.

Nonetheless, I hope that with my enthusiasm for medicine and academic rigor, that you consider me an appropriate candidate to study medicine at the University of Cambridge.

The Interviewer’s Verdict
A politically charged question which may be hard to navigate without knowing the political opinion of the interviewer. Excelling candidates will recognise the additional challenges encountered by those from less privileged backgrounds, possibly mentioning specific university outreach programmes that are working to narrow this gulf, whilst also having confidence in their own medicine application credentials.
 

 

​How many mammograms are done each year in the UK? 

 

 
​Example Answer

​I understand that the NHS Breast Screening Programme invites all women aged 50 to 70 to undergo a mammogram every 3 years. This means that every year about ⅓ of ½ (50% male : 50% female) of the total 50 to 70-year-old cohort undergo a mammogram.

We then need to estimate the size of this cohort. The UK is currently facing an ageing population – so I imagine this cohort will be larger than the 0 to 20-year-old cohort. I know that the current UK population is about 66 million. The average lifespan in the UK is approximately 80 years old. So this cohort will be slightly larger than ¼ of 66 million, which is 16.5 million. For ease of division, I will round this number to 18 million. So ⅓ of ½ of this cohort is 3 million. I doubt all invited patients would want to undergo a mammogram. Conversely, there may be individuals outside of this age range who would like a mammogram performed nonetheless, perhaps if they have a breast lump, a family history of breast cancer or are BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation-positive. Based on my work experience I would probably venture that the former is greater in number than the latter, so maybe about ⅔ of this figure.

Therefore, I would estimate that about 2 million mammograms are performed in the UK each year.

The Interviewer’s Verdict
This is a test of your logical reasoning, as opposed to your knowledge of the actual number. Even if you do know the actual number, begin by reasoning it out nonetheless. According to Cancer Research UK, the figure is slightly over 2 million.
 

 

How does the Japanese healthcare system differ from the US healthcare system?

 

 
Example Answer

The greatest difference between Japanese and US healthcare systems is that Japanese healthcare is universal. Universal healthcare is defined as a system in which healthcare is provided to all individuals, with Japan having a ‘fixed fee schedule’, meaning that costs for medication and treatment are equal for everyone. These fees are regulated by the Japanese government.

​This differs from the US healthcare system, in which healthcare is not provided to the whole population, but is instead provided to those who can afford health insurance. Another distinction is what is covered by these two healthcare systems. In comparison to the US, Japanese healthcare covers services such as dental care, whilst also providing a lower cost for provisions including blood tests and MRI scans; in the US, such services can cost up to ten times more. 

The Interviewer’s Verdict
A challenging question that requires in-depth knowledge about two very different healthcare systems; excellent candidates will utilise any knowledge they have to engage the interviewer and generate an interactive discussion regarding the advantages and disadvantages of state-funded healthcare.
 

Citizens with private health insurance should be given a partial tax rebate? Outline your thoughts on such a policy

 

Example Answer

One could argue that patients with private health insurance should not be given a partial tax rebate, as in the majority of cases they are making the choice to access or pay for this healthcare, and thus would be aware of the financial costs associated with it. Often many services that are not covered by state health services are not life-threatening, for example cosmetic surgery – thus the autonomy lies solely with the patient.

However, it must be argued that for many cases, accessing private healthcare is not a choice but a requirement. Certain services that are generally not covered by state health services may be essential for patients, such as speech therapy for head and neck cancers, resulting in patients from more deprived backgrounds suffering as a result. Therefore, receiving a partial tax rebate may benefit these patients who cannot afford, but need, private healthcare. Furthermore, one could say that if patients are utilising private as opposed to public healthcare – whilst also contributing and paying towards state health services, ethically it would be correct to reimburse these individuals for the services that they do not use. 

The Interviewer’s Verdict
A controversial proposal that requires a balanced approach and understanding of potentially opposing views. Excellent candidates will commence by recognising that there are two important sides to consider.
 

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