Part 1: How to Prepare for the MMI

  Image credit:   NYU Medical School

Image credit: NYU Medical School


Blind dates are inefficient.  You make up your mind about whether you like the person roughly two minutes after meeting them, and you spend the rest of the time just confirming that opinion.


Like a blind date, the standard medical school interview is a big waste of time.  As much as your interviewer might try to be objective in his evaluation of you, he decides within the first two minutes whether he likes you; the rest of the interview is a formality.


Enter our savior, the MMI.  Like speed dating, the MMI (the Multiple, Mini Interview) gives you that same two-minute exposure to multiple people, and at the end of the night, you’ve been given a much more thorough analysis by multiple people about whether they like you.  It’s a better way to date, and it’s a better way to interview.


We’re kicking off a multi-part series on the MMI.  Let’s get to the overview:


1. What is the MMI?

  • The MMI consists of eight to ten stations on interview day.

  • Each station lasts about eight minutes, with two minutes to transition between stations.

  • At each station or room, you will receive a notecard with instructions.

  • The instructions may contain traditional questions (such as “why medicine” or “why our school”), ethical situations (confront a peer cheating on a test), tests of medical knowledge (discuss why a doctor prescribing placebos without patient consent is wrong), or an acting scene (you have hit someone’s car, and he is very upset).


2. What will I be asked?

Med schools act like what’s on the MMI is some huge secret.  This is understandable - why give away the secrets of what will be asked of students on interview day?  That would obviously be unfair.  


Ignoring the fact that pre-meds share these questions with each other all the time, we at Passport Admissions have a completely ethical solution to this conundrum - there are sample stations posted multiple places online.  


Just a smattering of some of the questions:


An ethical problem station:

Station 1: Placebo (Ethical Decision Making)
Dr Cheung recommends homeopathic medicines to his patients. There is no scientific evidence or widely accepted theory to suggest that homeopathic medicines work, and Dr Cheung doesn't believe them to. He recommends homeopathic medicine to people with mild and non-specific symptoms such as fatigue, headaches and muscle aches, because he believes that it will do no harm, but will give them reassurance.
Consider the ethical problems that Dr Cheung's behaviour might pose. Discuss these issues with the interviewer.


A standard interview station:

Station 5: Standard Interview 1
Why do you want to be a physician? Discuss this question with the interviewer.


A station testing your critical thinking:

Station 7: Class Size (Critical Thinking)
Universities are commonly faced with the complicated task of balancing the educational needs of their students and the cost required to provide learning resources to a large number of individuals. As a result of this tension, there has been much debate regarding the optimal size of classes. One side argues that smaller classes provide a more educationally effective setting for students, while others argue that it makes no difference, so larger classes should be used to minimise the number of instructors required.
Discuss your opinion on this issue with the examiner.


The above stations are from a research paper that’s available via PubMed Commons:


This is - from what I can tell - one of the original research articles on the pioneering institution for the MMI format, McMaster University.  And from the stories of those who have interviewed at many med schools, a lot of these questions are still being asked.


In other words, you can expect many of these same (or similar) stations to show up during the MMI that you will experience.


3. Where can I find more sample stations?


4. How do I prepare for the MMI?


Practice (duh).  Using the stations above and a willing friend or roommate, you can practice for the stations you will face during your actual interview.


Beyond the obvious, you should try to understand how the format was created.  Read how medical schools evaluate applicants at each station so that you can understand what you’re supposed to be showing at each station.


And as you practice, time yourself.  One of the trickiest parts of the MMI is knowing how long 8 minutes really is.  Sometimes - in situations where you just get one question - it can seem like an eternity.  In others, especially when the interviewer asks multiple follow-up questions, it can fly by.  Getting a sense for the passage of time in relation to your answers will help you feel more comfortable when you get to the interview.


Also read

Part 2: Which Schools Use the MMI? 

Part 3: How to Prepare for the Ethical Discussion Scenarios of the MMI

Part 4: How to Prepare for the Acting Scenarios of the MMI