By: Savvy Pre-Med Staff
In case you didn’t know, the AAMC’s Video Interview Tool for Admissions (VITA) is right around the corner.
If you haven’t already, we recommend taking our Free Practice VITA to familiarize yourself with the format, time constraints, and type of questions.
But even if you practice for the VITA until you’re blue in the face, it might feel like you’re alone in an echo chamber, with no objective way to gauge the quality of your responses.
That’s why we wanted to place you in the position of the evaluator by showing you a sample VITA response and inviting you to participate in our critique.
By seeing the negatives and positives of someone else’s sample response, you can hopefully improve the quality of your own answers.
If you’re completely unfamiliar with the VITA, take some time to read our comprehensive guide before diving into this sample.
According to the AAMC’s VITA FAQ, “participating medical schools will evaluate interviews based on their own evaluation system. The AAMC and its delivery administrator, HireVue, will not score video responses.”
That’s not much to go on, but we decided to make our own rubric. We’ll be using the following categories to critique and grade our sample response:
All categories will be scored on a 1-5 scale, with 5 being the highest score for any category.
Describe a time when someone in a position of authority did something you disagreed with. What was the situation? What actions did you take? What was the outcome?
Resilience and Adaptability
A time when someone in a position of authority did something I disagreed with occurred when I was taking an art course and we were all assigned to create a mosaic emulating one of our favorite works of art. My understanding of the assignment was that the only rule was that we needed to break the tile ourselves and then compose it into the work of art that we were trying to emulate. I went about breaking my tile in a very methodical way, trying to chop the tile into the exact size and shape that I would need to put it into my mosaic, in the exact correct spot.
My disagreement occurred when my teacher observed how I was going about this in a very scientific method and she came over and scrapped all of my tile pieces that I had spent days breaking apart and cutting apart, telling me that I was doing the project completely wrong. I was initially very shocked and upset because my understanding of the project was that there were no rules and that I could go about creating my work of art in any way I wanted, and I was also very stressed to find out that the project was due in two days and I would have to start over. I was also upset that she just threw away my pieces before talking to me, and so after collecting myself for a few minutes, I went over and asked her why I was doing the project incorrectly and why I needed to start over. And she explained that the way an artist creates a mosaic is a much more organic process than the way I was going about it, and that by creating the tile pieces in the exact shape and size that I needed, I wasn’t really immersing myself in the artistic process that I needed to do to truly meet the goals of this project.
She offered to work with me to meet the deadline and show me how to go about this as she would, and I explained that I normally go about things in a methodical manner, and she kind of understood after observing me that this is how I normally go about creating my works of art. And so, for the next two days, her and I worked together to create this mosaic that turned out quite beautifully, and by the end of it, I really realized that working with her was totally to my benefit because I learned to create this work of art from a new approach, and I learned that I can go about doing things multiple ways. There isn’t just one correct approach to do something. And I really learned that having the conversation with her to understand why she disagreed with the way that I was going about creating my work of art was super essential for gaining something myself and go on to create something much better and that appeased both of us in the end.
It’s important to note that having “high energy” is not the goal here.
Rather, the goal is to exude an appropriate amount of energy and emotion for the given response.
Think about it this way - would your explanation of your greatest challenge have the same energy as your explanation about your favorite hobbies? Probably not. More likely, the first explanation would be more serious and reflective, whereas the second explanation would be more lighthearted and humorous.
Energy is also not simply a matter of speaking loudly or quickly. Instead, energy is conveyed in multiple ways - posture, inflection, volume, tone, eye contact, facial expressions, non-verbals, etc.
Our sample candidate’s energy was rather even-keeled, which felt apt for a response about a disagreement with an authority figure. She used an appropriate amount of inflection when discussing why she was upset with her teacher’s actions; this made the response sound genuine and unscripted, but there was not a surplus of emotion, which would risk sounding resentful or indignant.
Her mannerisms, facial expressions, and non-verbals exuded this same even-keeled energy, riding the line between animated and composed.
Final Score - 5
We’ve written an entire article about appearance tips for the VITA, and our sample candidate did a good job of following our advice.
She was dressed formally and professionally, and her background was aesthetically pleasing and devoid of distractions.
She was sitting at an appropriate distance from her webcam, with the right angle and consistent eye contact.
The room was well-lit, and she avoided any potential issues with glare, shadows, or reflections.
The only criticism would be that she blinked quite often (to a noticeable degree), and occasionally looked off screen (to the left and upwards). At times, this distracted a bit from the actual content of the response.
Final Score - 4.5
On a tonal and aesthetic level, our sample candidate definitely came across as professional. The actual steps of her conflict resolution with her teacher were also ethical and sound.
However, there was some minor room for improvement here. The diction, or word choice, could have been more formal or elevated at certain times.
For example, phrases like “super essential” or “really realized” came off as a tad too informal and conversational for our personal taste. When in doubt, just drop the adverbs and qualifiers. “Essential” and “realized” would have sounded much better on their own.
Another example was the repeated use of the phrase “the way I go about” (which came up about five times throughout the response). It was noticeably overused, and it’s not exactly a concise, formalized choice, compared to words like “process,” “approach,” “method,” or “system.”
You don’t want to sound robotic, but a finer articulation and wider vocabulary will certainly help you stick out from the pack.
Final Score - 4
Delivery essentially boils down to certain key elements - pace, tone, flow, diction, etc.
In terms of pace, our sample candidate started off strong, with a measured cadence and rhythm, but she had a noticeable increase in her pace as she moved deeper into her answer. The resolution of the story felt especially hurried. This could have been solved by removing some of the superfluous details and repetition in the middle portion of the answer.
As mentioned before, the tone of the response was appropriate for the topic at hand.
There were certain notable disruptions in flow, namely at the 0:33, 0:41, 2:31 marks. To our candidate’s credit, she pushed through them and recovered.
Additionally, certain sentences were quite clunky and long-winded, especially towards the end: “And I really learned that having the conversation with her to understand why she disagreed with the way that I was going about creating my work of art was super essential for gaining something myself and go on to create something much better and that appeased both of us in the end.”
Think about how much better it would have sounded to say: “Having a conversation with her was essential in understanding each other and producing a piece that satisfied us both in the end.”
Even the small difference between “appeased” and “satisfied” is important, since one has a connotation of mere acceptance or tolerance, while the other conveys true success and agreement.
Other sentences were rather circular in their nature: “I explained that I normally go about things in a methodical manner, and she kind of understood after observing me that this is how I normally go about creating my works of art.”
Correcting this would have given more time for a slower pace and more dominant, conclusive final message.
Her diction was sometimes excellent (e.g. “organic,” “emulate,” “immersing”), but sometimes it was a little too informal (e.g. “she kind of understood,” “doing things”).
Final Score - 3
This question was meant to test the Resilience and Adaptability competency.
Let’s take each of these elements one at a time. In terms of resilience, our sample candidate could have spent a little more time lingering in the challenge of the situation. For example, she could have discussed more of her feelings in the moment when her teacher threw away her work.
Also, the two-day period of rectifying the project was somewhat glossed over, making it feel like less of a challenge than it probably was in reality. Did it involve working at unusual hours? Did she have to sacrifice time that could have been spent on other important tasks? Did she feel tempted to quit? Did it feel like it would never get done in time? Did she ever lose her patience? Did she ever question her teacher’s logic or methodology?
This is not to say that her response needed to be melodramatic, but getting a better sense of her internal conflict, struggle, or frustration would have made the situation feel more like a triumph, as opposed to merely a reconciled misunderstanding.
Adaptability was much stronger than resilience in this case. She showed herself to be a flexible person who could abandon her deeply-ingrained scientific mindset and adopt a more organic, artistic, expressionistic approach. She also illustrated that she can adjust her actions according to the preferences of her supervisors and collaborators in order to reach a compromise.
Perhaps most importantly, she admitted that the opposing perspective and approach were actually more effective, as opposed to being a circuitous, tangential way of achieving the same objective. This showed that she is capable of recognizing when she’s wrong and growing from the mistake.
Final score - 3.5
Total score - 20/25
Disagree with our grading for a particular category? Have any questions about the VITA and other medical school virtual interviews?
Feel free to chime in with your opinion in the comments below, and we’ll respond to you personally.
Stay tuned for more sample VITA responses and critiques!