August 20, 2014

Why you should prefer the MMI (Multiple Mini Interview)

Alison Herr

Blind dates are inefficient.  You make up your mind about whether you like the person roughly 2 minutes after meeting them, and you spend the rest of the time just confirming that opinion.

Similarly, the standard medical school interview is a big waste of time.  The evaluation is based on whether the interviewer likes you (not on a scientifically rigorous analysis of your answers).  Your interviewer has decided within the first two minutes whether he likes you; the rest of the interview is wasted time.

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.

The MMI is a little more intense than regular interviews, but once you learn what it’s about, you should prefer it to the old fashioned traditional interview.

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 vary widely. They may contain traditional questions (such as “why medicine” or “why our school”), ethical situations (confront a peer cheating on a test), medical knowledge (discuss why a doctor prescribing placebos without patient consent is wrong), to acting out emotionally laden situations (you have hit someone’s car, and he is very upset).
  • Some of the stations involve volunteer actors, while others only require an examiner with a standardized rubric.

Why does the MMI exist?

  • Medical schools felt that they had enough candidates with good grades and MCAT scores, but lacked candidates who would be emotionally prepared doctors.
  • The traditional interview was found to be ineffective at predicting who would become an excellent physician due to the inherent subjectivity of the interviewers.
  • Medical professors at McMaster University in Canada created an interview system to assess soft skills, including empathy, active listening, body language, teamwork, interpersonal skills, critical thinking, handling difficult situations, and communication style.

How should you prepare?

  • The MMI was designed to be hard to prepare for, but knowing what types of situations you will be confronted with will empower you to respond as your best self.
  • None of the situations will require medical knowledge, per se, but they do require a solid understanding of ethics.  This resource from the University of Washington (which looks like it was published back in 1995 or something) should help build your knowledge.
  • Start by reviewing the manual and select situations published by the makers of the MMI here: McMaster's MMI Manual

Why You Might Like the MMI Better than a Traditional Interview:

  • If you don’t get along with one examiner out of ten, it won’t affect your overall experience, as opposed to not hitting it off with one of two traditional interviewers.
  • Most students report that they had FUN at the MMI! Traditional interviews are sometimes described as good or thorough, but rarely fun.
  • MMI actors tend to be very talented, so you aren’t required to “act” as much as respond to a realistic situation.
  • The MMI is fair. MMI examiners are trained, so everyone gets a similar experience. With traditional interviewers, you might get a dud while the person next door gets an interesting conversationalist.

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