Doctor offers second opinion on medical school interviews -

Doctor offers second opinion on medical school interviews

Multiple Mini Interview criticized (and defended)

medical school

Photo courtesy of Tulane Public Relations on Flickr

Medical school applicants at the University of British Columbia will no longer take part in a block-building exercise, reports the Vancouver Sun.

But the other exercises that make-up the school’s Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) process are here to stay, according to Dr. Joseph Finkler, associate dean of admissions at UBC.

The news comes after Dr. Brian Day, former head of the Canadian Medical Association, wrote an editorial in the B.C. Medical Journal, calling the MMI process “contrived, artificial, and bizarre.”

The MMI, now the norm in Canada, requires that applicants move through several different stations to be assessed by interviewers who attempt to discern motivation, social concern, creativity, maturity, integrity, empathy and more.

At UBC that includes a station where students imagine themselves as an animal, a station where actors fight in front of the applicants, and—until now—the blocks station. Finkler told The Sun that the block station didn’t perform well as an indicator, which is why it won’t be part of the MMI next year.

MMI is an increasingly common way to pick doctors in Canada. It was developed at McMaster in 2002 and quickly spread to a majority of Canadian medical schools—and beyond. A 2004 study published in the journal Medical Education found that it reduces interviewer bias and provides valuable insights into applicants’ abilities. A 2007 study in Medical Education found correlations between MMI results and later performance in clerkships and on national licensing exams.

But Day argues in his editorial that the old system, with a single physician interviewer, was less biased. “At a recent meeting of a group that included many successful leaders in our profession, this topic was raised,” he explains. “Virtually none of those present felt they would have succeeded in gaining entry to medical school if current methodologies had applied in their time.”

Day admits that Canada’s medical schools end up with good doctors, but he says that’s simply because so many apply. Indeed, in-province success rates for medical school admissions range from four per cent at Northern Ontario School of Medicine to 39 per cent at Dalhousie University, according to the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada.


Doctor offers second opinion on medical school interviews

  1. The opinion article referenced speaks to only one of the over 250 interview scenarios used in conducting an MMI. The scenario is called a Collaboration Station. Usually, two candidates, placed back to back, are asked to complete a given task using only verbal communication and props. One gives instructions and the other receives. How the two applicants interact verbally give the interviewers some insight into how well the candidates communicate and process information. Communication is a valuable skill in any profession. To be fair, each student has the opportunity to both give and receive instructions. Tasks are also changed periodically to limit any bias. Scenarios are designed to be non-trivial and unfamiliar to the applicants so no one would have an unfair advantage. Why not see how well you can communicate instructions? Call up a friend and tell them how to make an origami canoe in 8 minutes or less.

    The MMI is better than other interview techniques because it employs a powerful mathematical theorem from elementary statistics – the Law of Large Numbers. The Law states that the average result from a larger number of trials for a given event should be closer to the expected true value. Therefore, the average rating from ten or more interviewers will provide a more accurate assessment than the score from one. But the benefits don’t stop there. Imagine that you’re a nervous candidate and you fumble the first interview question. In a one-on-one interview, that first impression could taint your entire assessment, however, in an MMI after 10 minutes you move on to a new scenario and a NEW interviewer so you can brush yourself off and start fresh. So how many interviewers would you want?

    • I am a medical school candidate, and I went through that interview with the blocks station FIRST and it threw me off. I did not get in last year, and it was because I fumbled at ONE station. So… the MMI is just too much, too contrived and is very disadvantageous if you get a grumpy interviewer, which I did. I do not love watching a year of my life go by and get ‘wasted’, as it were, but it seems that the interview process has somehow made it so. It is so frustrating that family and friends do not even understand why I am ‘back at it’ this year. I hope I get another invitation.

      • Don’t fool yourself. You didn’t get in because your application was weak, not because of one MMI station. If what you described is enough to throw you off your game, maybe it’s good that you got rejected seeing how you can’t keep your composure in the face of adversity.

  2. This is definitely an interesting article. Interestingly the collaboration skills station was viewed by most of the applicant as difficult and `pointless`. The above poster (Paul Grunthal) brings up some valuable information regarding the philosophy of the multiple mini interview (MMI). However, his description of the `block building`station at University of British Columbia (UBC) is somehow inaccurate. This station did not involve two interviewees. While some medical schools conduct the collaboration skills` station with two interviewees, in the 2010-2011 application cycle UBC applicants had to interact with the evaluator (an interviewer) to complete the task. An example of the collaboration skills station can be found here:
    Thus, there is nothing wrong with the MMI or the `block building` exercise. However, schools that utilize the MMI as their preferred interview format must thoroughly perform the appropriate research (i.e do their homework before introducing a new station). In any collaboration skills station it`s crucial that the evaluator (interviewer) is not involved in the exercise. Because he or she must focus on evaluating the applicant!