By Behrouz Moemeni
The Multiple Mini Interview, commonly abbreviated to “MMI”, is one of the most dreaded interview formats.
Applicants fear the MMI so much that some students literally freeze during their interview! This is because the actual questions are less predictable compared to traditional or panel-type interviews. Each mini interview has a different question type, and applicants find it hard to prepare for them.
First, realize that the Multiple Mini Interview is essentially an in-person CASPer test. Both of these admissions screening protocols were created by McMaster University, a public university in Canada. This is important to note, because although different universities may have slightly different combination of question types, they all share the same principles created by McMaster.
Now, I’d like to give you some of the strategies we have developed at BeMo Academic Consulting (BeMo), based on our experience helping hundreds of students prepare for their MMI each year.
The approach to an MMI involves similar strategies to the ones we discussed in a previous post about CASPer. I encourage you to read those strategies first, as I won’t go into details again.
1. Understand the MMI process.
It is important to understand how you are being evaluated before you start preparing for the MMI. McMaster publicly shares the interviewer manual, which can be found here. Importantly, note that interviewers are instructed to rate each response based on three categories: a) communication skills, b) the strength of the arguments expressed, and c) the applicant’s suitability for the profession.
2. Learn to manage your stress.
Nothing is worst than feeling so nervous when you walk into the interview room that you can’t even formulate a coherent response. Yet one of the most common reasons students fail their MMI is precisely an inability to control their stress level. Recall that you are being rated on your communications skills, and unless you have your stress levels in check, you won’t express yourself articulately.
Here are some short-term and long-term strategies to manage stress: first, prepare well in advance using realistic and timed mock interviews, preferably with expert feedback, to identify your weaknesses. The act of preparation in and of itself will boost your confidence and help reduce your stress, because preparation removes the fear of the unknown. Second, develop strategies to cope with stress during the actual interview. For example, try deep breathing exercises between stations to relax your body and mind. Alternatively, maintain a dominant body posture by stretching out your shoulders, and spreading your arms open for at least 5 seconds. Everyone is different, so you’ll have to find out what works for you. (I know someone who did jumping jacks between MMI stations to relax!) Whatever you choose, practice it consistently during your mock interviews, so that the routine comes naturally on your actual interview day.
3. Read each prompt at least twice.
Make sure you take your time to read each prompt outside of the interview room at least twice. If you rush, you are more likely to miss key information and wind up delivering a poor or even judgmental response. Remember, you usually have 1-2 minutes to read each prompt, then 6-8 minutes to provide a response inside the interview room.
In practice, an organized and concise response should take no longer than 3-4 minutes. This means you’ll have extra time inside, and can afford an extra minute or two outside the room to make sure you understand the question even after the buzzer sounds. If you do enter the room late, make sure you briefly apologize for the delay, and explain you wanted a bit more time to gather your thoughts before delivering your response. That would actually put you ahead of your competition, because it shows careful thought and deliberation even in high stress situations.
4. Use the Primacy Effect to your advantage.
It goes without saying that once you enter the room, you must smile, say hello, introduce yourself, and when appropriate, even shake hands – all before delivering your response. This is something students often miss: they are too nervous to remember the MMI is also a test of their professionalism. Interestingly, your interviewer is more likely to remember the first thing you say or do, than anything else that happens after. This is a well-documented phenomenon in psychology, called the Primacy Effect.
5. Master your non-verbal communication skills.
There’s ample evidence in the literature that humans more frequently communicate with non-verbal cues and body language than with verbal cues. This includes using eye contact effectively, smiling genuinely, and maintaining a confident body posture. There’s a comprehensive article on PsychologyCompass summarizing the science of body language, which I encourage you to review in preparation for your MMI.
6. Provide your response using the same strategies we discussed for CASPer.
In case you haven’t read my previous post on SDN about CASPer preparation, here’s a brief overview. Similarly to CASPer, to do well on your MMI you must:
a) Remain non-judgmental at all times.
b) Gather all the missing facts.
c) Identify who is directly and indirectly impacted by your decisions.
d) Identify the question type and prepare your course of action before you enter the room.
e) Provide the most rational and common sense solution that causes the least amount of harm to those involved using an “if, then” approach.
7. Get comfortable with awkward silences.
Remember this is a test of your communications skills more than anything else – after all, that’s the hallmark of an excellent medical doctor. A great physician can convey complex ideas in simple and concise terms. If you are being concise, you are likely to finish your response before the time is up. If the interviewer does not have any follow-up questions, you need to be comfortable with the awkward silence that will ensue until the buzzer sounds. A common mistake students make is to continue rambling until they run out of time, instead of bringing their response to a firm conclusion. As a result, they end up displaying poor communication and time management skills!
8. Don’t forget to say your goodbyes!
Remember when we talked about the Primacy Effect, earlier? Your second best friend in the MMI is the Recency Effect. The Recency Effect, another well-documented principle in psychology, says that people are more likely to remember the last piece of information mentioned than what was said during the body of a conversation or meeting. Therefore, it is critical that you walk out of the interview room leaving a positive impression. It’s not rocket science: smile, thank the interviewer for their time, and politely say goodbye before exiting the interview.
About the author
Dr. Behrouz Moemeni is the CEO of BeMo Academic Consulting, the creator of MMI SIM™ practice interviews, founder of SortSmart™ candidate selection and the co-author of the book, Ultimate Guide To Med School Admissions.