By: Ryan Kelly
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has published a list of 30+ questions to at your medical school interview. That’s right - easy peasy lemon squeezy - just memorize those questions and recite them at the end of your interview, and you’ll be a shoe-in.
Wrong. News flash: these questions are likely to get you rejected.
Huh? Surely the AAMC’s official list is reputable? How dare we challenge a sacred pre-med doctrine?
Go ahead - read them over to yourself - are you impressed?
They sound robotic, as if some AI used an algorithm to compile the generic list of questions possible. Don’t get us wrong - the AAMC questions would be good to ask yourself AFTER you’ve been accepted and want to narrow down your choices, but we don’t think they’re useful for the interview itself.
We have three criteria for the Worst Questions to ask at your medical school interview, and nearly all of these AAMC questions fit one or more of these categories.
The Worst Questions to Ask at Your Medical School Interview
1. Questions that could be easily answered through a basic internet search.
This might seem a bit obvious, but you wouldn’t feel that way by looking at some of the AAMC examples:
“Please tell me more about the integrated curriculum.”
“Are standardized tests used such as the NBME shelf exams?”
“Is there flexibility in the coursework (the number of electives) and the timing of the courses (accelerating, decelerating, and time off) during the pre-clinical and clinical years?”
“What type of clinical sites—ambulatory, private preceptors, private hospitals, rural settings, international—are available or required for clerkships? Does this school allow for students to do rotations at other institutions or internationally?”
Asking these questions is a bit like when people forget your name after just meeting you. You’ll probably forgive them for asking, but it won’t leave a great impression on you.
These types of questions fail our litmus test: if it’s essentially a “yes or no” question (not open-ended) and it can be found through the website, then it’s not a good question to ask.
Sure, it’s good to do research, and you don’t want to sound completely uninformed, but you must take the information from the website a step further and ask something that’s more specific and personally relevant.
Click here to find out how to use research from the websites to your advantage.
2. Questions that are self-serving.
Imagine meeting someone new for the first time--a coworker, a friend of a friend, maybe someone at a party. Someone you’ll be spending the foreseeable future with, even if just for a few hours.
Right away, they start talking about things that turn you off: a dream they had, a story about their long delays at the airport, inane comments about the weather. Or worse, they start the conversation by asking you for a favor - can you cover for me on Friday, can you put in a good word for me with _______, can you give me a ride home later?
First impressions are key, whether in regular life or in medical school interviews, so you want the conversation to start strong. That way, you can establish a give-and-take with the interviewers and hopefully segue into follow-up questions. If the interviewers develop a lukewarm impression at any point, it might be impossible to overcome that.
Again, we’re worried that the AAMC list has too many of these “self-serving” questions:
“May I see a list of residency programs to which this school's recent graduates were accepted?”
“Does this school provide guidance to its students and to its graduates/alumni, on debt management?”
“How do students from this medical school perform on the National Board Examinations? How does the school assist students who do not pass?”
“What kind of academic, personal, financial, and career counseling is available to students? Are these services also offered to their spouses and dependents/children?”
Although these are important questions to research on your own, they will sound very self-interested, and maybe even neurotic, from the interviewers’ perspective. They have a presumptuous tone and flash prematurely to the future, before the relationship and agreement with the school are even established.
Read the example questions again - do they sound like someone you’d like to converse with, or someone whose problems you suddenly need to solve? You should avoid asking these questions, or risk coming across as too needy.
3. Questions that miss the big picture.
When you’re applying to medical school, everything seems magnified in its importance. So it’s no surprise that we frequently get emails, texts, and calls from our pre-med students, asking very specific questions about very minor things.
We like to call these “micro-considerations,” since they only really matter to the candidate and won’t mean much to anyone else. It’s understandable to have these questions, but the interview is not the appropriate time or place to ask them.
No surprise, the AAMC’s list has plenty of these time-wasters:
“What modalities are used for student lectures?”
“Are students required to have a laptop?”
“Is a car necessary for clinical rotations? Is parking a problem?”
“Does this school provide, or does the student pay for, vaccinations against Hepatitis B or prophylactic AZT treatment in case of a needle-stick or accident?”
Yeah, you read those correctly - the AAMC wants you to ask about parking and laptops. DON’T DO THIS. Your priorities will sound incredibly warped to the interviewers.
And just saying the word “modalities” makes us yawn. Sure, maybe that pedagogy is important in some contexts, but it’s extremely boring to discuss at an interview and will make you sound like a pre-med android.
And vaccinations? Sure, that’s a good thing for a school to offer, but this question sounds downright paranoid. The interviewers might even wonder if you have a history of missteps or are unusually accident-prone.
Not to mention that these questions overlap with our other two criteria as well - they’re micro-considerations that are self-serving and could be answered through your own research. That’s a trifecta that is sure to leave your interviewers nonplussed at best, and more likely perturbed and soured to you as a candidate.
During interviews, knowing what NOT to do is just as important as knowing WHAT to do, so we hope these tips will help you avoid the tragic fate of the generic pre-med. Click here to discover how to make your interview answers more interesting.
Best of luck with the rest of the interview cycle!