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Preparing for the MMI Interview

Photo courtesy of the New York Times

Photo courtesy of the New York Times

The Multiple Mini Interview, known as the MMI, is an interview format that is spreading with increasing frequency in US medical schools. Started in 2001 at McMaster University in Canada, the MMI has caught on due to studies which have validated its use in predicting medical school students’ performance. Since the MMI seems to be more effective in assessing students’ non-cognitive factors and their future success in medical school, the technique is being adopted at more schools each year.

The MMI format can take a variety of guises but always entails a number of stations (usually between 8-10) which applicants visit one after the other. Most commonly, the applicant would stand outside a room and be given a few minutes to read a written scenario; she would then enter the room and either discuss the situation with the interviewer or engage in role playing with actors who assume characters described in the scenario. Each station normally takes approximately 10 minutes to complete; two minutes to read the scenario and 8 minutes to respond to it. The interviewers rate applicants on their handling of the situation and are often independent observers. In some cases, “traditional” interview questions may be posed in a few of the scenarios.

What is the best way to prepare for the MMI format?  The following skills are usually assessed during MMI; knowing what’s assessed can help you prepare effectively.

Ethical Decision Making:  When faced with an ethical dilemma how do you respond? Being able to think through all of the ramifications of an ethical dilemma, while explaining how you would handle such a situation, shows that you have the maturity, thoughtfulness, and professionalism to handle medical school and the complex decision-making entailed in the medical profession. Common topics might be euthanasia, stem cell research, patient autonomy, conflict of interest, informed consent, and patient confidentiality. How do you prepare for these scenarios?

Become familiar with the kinds of ethical dilemmas that are typically posed in the MMI. This will help you think through common scenarios and prepare you for what might come your way. A simple Google search for MMI questions will give you examples.

Critical Thinking:  In these scenarios complex situations—sometimes entailing drug development, public health issues, polarizing topics, or health policy—are posed and you are expected to quickly analyze and address how you would handle the problem. How do you prepare for scenarios which entail critical thinking?

Become familiar with issues at the forefront of medicine by reading the news and getting up to speed on policy issues; a helpful site for this is the Kaiser Family Foundation. Read the situation posed by the prompt carefully and try to understand all aspects of the situation; then explain your answer thoughtfully and fully. Another site that is helpful is Columbia University’s Bioethics Program‘s website, which gives information and resources to prepare for the MMI process.

Communication Skills: Every scenario posed is fairly complex and will require good communication skills for applicants to explain their responses or to engage with actors who pose as characters. In a scenario involving actors, the interviewer (or “rater”) will observe your interactions and assess how effective they are. It may be that you have to persuade the actor to do something (complete a task, for example) or it might be that the actor is posing as a fellow student who hasn’t contributed to a group project. The way you communicate with him/her will be assessed on a number of different levels. How can you best showcase your communication skills?

You may want to engage in role playing with friends or others, coming up with situations in which you have to try to convince someone to do something or encourage him/her to change a particular behavior. If you become used to role playing you may be more comfortable with it when you arrive at the MMI. Be sure to listen carefully (a trait of outstanding physicians) and communicate clearly.

Health Policy and Issues in the Medical Profession:

In some of the MMI scenarios you will be tested on your knowledge of issues within the medical profession. Topics could include health care costs, the Affordable Care Act and its implications, or societal public health issues. Common topics might include physician shortages, methods for improving the medical profession, obesity as a public health issue, legalizing drugs, the allied health professions, and integrative medicine. How can you prepare for this?

Having some background knowledge and a general overview of issues within the medical profession can be helpful. Again, peruse the Kaiser Family Foundation’s site (see above link) to help prepare for this. Being able to think through the situations posed and responding with some backup knowledge is helpful. If you have no actual knowledge of the situation posed simply think it through and give a measured and well-reasoned response. 

Most applicants enjoy the MMI experience and find it much more interactive than the traditional interview. More importantly, it gives applicants more chances to do well; instead of having only one or two chances, as with the traditional format, they typically have 8-10 opportunities to showcase their attributes and skills.

A mock interview is enormously helpful in preparing for both traditional and the MMI formats. If you’d like to schedule a mock interview please email me at  Good luck!

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting


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