Often it is not the provocative scenarios or challenging data and dosage questions that trip up and scare medical school candidates, it’s the personal ones! Being asked, “Why do you want to be a doctor?” or, where “Where do you see yourself in 10 years?” are the biggest fears of some participants. Why? Because it isn’t immediately clear what the panel wants to hear. In this article, we’re going to have a look at these kinds of Personal Insight MMI questions and the sorts of approaches that will help you make the perfect impression.
How to Ace MMI Personal Insight Questions
In this article, we’re going to discuss,
What’s the purpose of MMI personal insight questions?
MMI personal insight questions are used to allow you to demonstrate some of your own personal qualities – goal setting, self-awareness, ability to communicate, and ability to reflect.
Self-awareness and the ability to reflect on your past actions, successes, and failures, is a crucial part of developing as an individual. In the medical professions, self-reflection and goal setting are essential skills for developing and maintaining your own practice – that is, how you apply your knowledge and skill in a clinical setting.
Medical professionals never stop learning and, consequently, need to consistently develop their practice.
How you respond to personal insight questions gives the interviewer(s) a sense of how you will develop and how you will offer patient care as an individual and as part of a team.
If you’ve been invited to the MMI, the university is already confident in your academic ability. The university admissions process for medical degrees is not just about academic success. It is also designed to see if you have the right qualities of resilience, self-awareness, and personal growth to work in an industry where self-reflection, constant professional development, and assessment of professional practice are essential for high-quality patient care and team safety.
Personal insight questions are a good means of assessing these qualities. They allow candidates to shine in a different way and also provoke candidates to think about the sorts of skills they’ll need in their chosen career.
How will personal insight questions help me?
While personal insight questions help the interviewer get a sense of who you are, they are useful tools for you, too!
Personal insight allows you to consistently develop. This is what’s known currently with the buzz-term – “Growth mindset.”
Having a growth mindset means that you:
- Regularly set out goals
- Describe a process for attaining them
- Regularly reflect on your progress
- Take the time to contemplate failures and assess where you went wrong
- Use failure and reflection as a means of growing and succeeding
- Don’t become complacent with success but…
- Reflect on your success to scale it elsewhere and further your successes.
Now you know the what and the why of personal insight questions, let have a look at the different sorts of questions you may be asked.
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What are the types of personal insight questions?
The challenge in preparing for personal insight MMI questions is the sheer breadth and variety of questions you might be asked.
MMI personal insight questions fall into, but are not limited to, the following categories:
- Background and motivation for medicine
- Work experience
- Personal reflection
- Depth and breadth of interest
- Imaginative and quirky questions
What we’ll do now is take a tour of the different subject areas that crop into MMI scenarios from UCAT and non-UCAT medical schools. We’ll look at a selection of questions, give an overview of what the panel or interviewer will want to see, before moving on to discuss how to approach these sections.
Background and motivation for medicine
These questions assess why you’re keen to get into medicine. The interviewer will want to see your motivations, resilience, and character.
- Why do you want to enter medicine? What do you want to achieve in medicine?
- How have you tried to prepare for a career in medicine?
- What makes you think you have the skills and stamina to complete a medical degree and practise medicine?
- Why do you want to be a doctor? Why not another intellectually challenging career?
- What medical specialisation would you undertake? Why?
- When you think about becoming a doctor, what do you think will be the most challenging part?
- What impact do you hope to make in the field of medicine?
- If we were to switch positions, what questions would you ask of a potential medical candidate?
- How have you tried to discover if you really want to be a doctor?
- Or, simply: Tell us about yourself. Who are you?
What do you need to demonstrate?
For these questions, you want to provide an honest appraisal of yourself and your skills. The interviewers want to see what sort of research or planning you’ve done in preparation for a medical career.
Work and life experience
These questions are written to discern what you’ve done to gain experience in medicine. They don’t expect you to have volunteered at a hospital (but will be happy if you have!). Interviewers will be particularly interested in how you draw on your experiences of medicine to respond to the question.
- What experiences have you had of medicine? How have these inspired you to become a doctor?
- What aspect of your work experience did you find the most challenging? Why?
- What skills have you learnt that you feel you can apply to medicine?
- Have you visited any friends or family in hospital, or had work experience in a hospital? From these experiences, what did you see that you would like to change?
- What have you learned from work experience, either in caring or other settings?
What do you need to demonstrate?
While, it won’t hurt your score for this question type if you haven’t had work experience in a hospital, it is beneficial if you have had some. What interviewers want to see is how you think about your experiences of medicine – as an observer, a patient, and work experience candidate – and think critically about how your knowledge and skills can translate.
Personal reflection questions want to explore your character. Interviewers want to understand how you perceive yourself and your strengths and weaknesses.
- What ways of working and studying have you developed that you think will assist you through medical school? What are your weaknesses?
- How do you cope with criticism? What do you do with it?
- “Positive criticism is important.” Discuss this statement.
- Describe an issue where you’ve had a strong opinion and later changed your mind. Why did you change your perspective?
- Have you ever been in a situation where you realise afterwards that what you said or did was wrong? What did you do about it? What should you have done?
- What do you do for fun and relaxation? How do these hobbies and pursuits round you out as an individual?
- Many don’t complete their medical study and some who qualify never practice. What makes you different?
- Are communication skills learned or innate? Why?
- How do you respond to a bad review on “Rate my doctor”?
- What interests do you bring from school/college life that you think will contribute to your studies and practice?
- Are there negative aspects of being a doctor? How will you cope with these?
What do you need to demonstrate?
Personal reflections require you to demonstrate critical thinking skills and the ability to critically and constructively reflect on your strengths and weaknesses. You need to demonstrate the ability to objectively assess your performance. You need to be able to demonstrate humility but not self-flagellate.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand how other’s feel. It’s important that you can differentiate between empathy (the ability to understand how another feels and respond accordingly) and sympathy (feeling sad on somebody’s behalf).
Empathy allows us to critically consider others’ feelings and act accordingly. It is an essential skill in medics who must be able to emotionally connect with patients but remain clinically objective.
- What is the difference between empathy and sympathy?
- Should doctors get emotional over their patient’s illnesses?
- A friend’s parents tell you they are getting divorced and ask for advice on how to tell their child. How do you respond?
- Describe a situation or incident where clear communication has averted disaster. Why did it?
- Your neighbour who has a disability is mocked by local school children. How do you think your neighbour feels?
- Who is a character from a novel, film, or play that you’ve empathised with recently? Why?
What do you need to demonstrate?
You need to demonstrate the ability to distinguish between empathy and sympathy. Medical professionals need to be able to place themselves in the shoes of the patients and understand things from their perspective. However, they need to also maintain professional objectivity and focus on patient care and not sympathy.
Depth and breadth of interest
These questions are there to see how interested you are in the history of medicine and its current practice and innovations. You don’t need to know everything or be an expert on the subject, but this is a question type that will reward those who are informed about current health discussions or the history of health.
- Who was Hippocrates?
- What recent advance in medicine or science do you feel is most impressive?
- What’s the most important medical development in the last 100 years? Why?
- You are invited to speak at a senate committee for medical funding. What research area do you advocate for? Why?
- Who has been a major influence on you? Why?
- What’s the most important public health advance of the twentieth century?
- Are financial supplements paid by governments to families or businesses during the global pandemic money well spent? If yes – why? If no – how would you have spent that money?
What do you need to demonstrate?
These questions determine how invested in medicine you are. As a medical professional, you will be expected to be abreast of the politics of medicine and its funding, current events and affairs relating to medicine, as well as the latest innovations and advances in the field. These questions seek to explore what you know already and whether you have the requisite interest for life-long learning and growth.
Quirky and imaginative questions
These questions help you demonstrate how you think imaginatively about yourself and/or your chosen field. These questions want you to think critically but creatively when you respond.
- In 100 years, will medicine still be an occupation?
- You are invited to a medically themed fancy dress party. What do you go as? Why?
- Stranded on a desert island, you find you only have a phone charger. What can you do with it?
- What will be the most popular sport in 100 years? Why?
- If you were a genre of music, what would you be? Why?
As you can see, there is a significant amount of variety in the questions listed above. This makes the preparation for these quite challenging.
What do you need to demonstrate?
These question types are all about seeing how you problem solve. They want to see how you think on your feet and bring your whole arsenal of critical; thinking skills to bear on a problem that might be quite obtuse or unusual.
How to respond to MMI personal insight questions
There are no right or wrong answers to personal insight questions. Instead, the responses you provide indicate to interviewers your qualities and critical thinking skills.
Some things that you need to always try and showcase are your ability to think outwardly and show humility and, where relevant to the questions, focus on patient outcomes and care.
How should I respond to questions about me?
Personal insight questions that focus on you and your qualities can be the most daunting. Nobody wants to be perceived as a person with the wrong views or motivations to join their chosen profession. In addition, questions like “Who are you?” are vague in scope and candidates struggle to gauge exactly what the interviewer wants to hear.
The thing is, what the observers and interviewers in these scenarios want to hear is the truth. They want an honest and frank account of you, your values, your strengths, and – yes – even your flaws. With that in mind, there are a couple of rules you should follow when responding to MMI personal insight questions:
- Be honest and frank – This is a process about figuring out who you are and how you will thrive in a medical career.
- Be direct – Doctors and medical professionals need to be excellent and clear communicators. You want to demonstrate that skill.
- Don’t dissemble – Pretending to be something you’re not or obfuscating around difficult questions will leave a poor impression. You’re not expected to be an orthodox individual or thinker. Heterodox ideas and opinions can demonstrate critical and imaginative thinking skills, a positive thing!
- Don’t boast or gloat – Doctors and medical professionals need to show humility and professionalism
- Don’t flagellate or beat yourself up for your flaws – Doctors and medical professionals need to be self-reflective and cooly self-critical. Self-flagellation or excessive self-criticism don’t demonstrate a positive attitude towards growth from failure.
Clearly, honesty and clarity are the key qualities you need to exude. You also need to be able to demonstrate critical and imaginative thinking.
Is there a process for responding to MMI personal insight questions?
As with any MMI scenario, you want to be methodical in your approach to the task. To that end, follow a process:
- Pay attention to what the posted question or task requires from you
- Identify key terms and verbs. Words like “what”, “how”, “why”, “describe”, “explain”, and “are” require specific types of responses. Make sure that you can reframe the question to make it clear that you understand it.
- Use your planning time to develop and structure your response. Figure out your opening line and the key issues that you wish to focus on. For example, if asked “Who are you” or “Describe yourself” identify the key qualities you need to showcase to define you and why you’d make an excellent medical school candidate.
- Visualise the conversation. Picture how you want the conversation to go. Plan out how you want the interviewer to receive you.
- When you enter the room, be confident, direct, and polite. Greet the interviewer politely. Use your full name. Ensure that you maintain eye contact and keep open body language.
- The MMI tests EQ (emotional intelligence), amongst other things. Personal response questions and scenarios require you to demonstrate an ability (or attempt) to develop rapport.
- Structure your response clearly:
- Reframe the question or situation
- Outline what your response will include. For example: define the different responses to a scenario, different qualities you have, emotions others may be experiencing or have experienced.
- Keep a mental checklist as you move through the points you’ve outlined above.
- Where necessary, examine the issues from different perspectives.
- Try and use anecdotes and analogies where possible. This allows the interviewer to see how you’ll respond to certain issues and situations.
- Conclude by summarising what you’ve discussed.
- Don’t fluff or pad things out. Begin your response clearly and concisely. Don’t be afraid to end your response once you’ve said everything the question requires.
- If you have a question about policy or how you’d respond to something, make sure you address the different perspectives on it.
- Ensure you conclude politely by thanking the interviewer for their time. Demonstrating cordial and collegial behaviour is essential here.
Qualities that Personal Insight MMI questions seek to identify
The different sorts of question types you can face all require different strategies to respond to them. This means there aren’t any “right” or ‘wrong” answers.
Instead, the interviewers are charged with identifying the kinds of qualities you, the candidate, possess.
The sorts of qualities medical schools want from their candidates can be identified in the professional standards documents for different countries. These different documents all share a concern with identifying the following sorts of qualities in their candidates:
Additionally, McMaster’s University, which implemented the MMI in the first place, provides the following list of qualities they hope MMI candidates can demonstrate:
- Practise medicine within their defined scope of practice and expertise
- Perform a patient-centred clinical assessment and establish a management plan
- Plan and perform procedures and therapies for the purpose of assessment and/or management
- Establish plans for ongoing care and, when appropriate, timely consultation
- Actively contribute, as an individual and as a member of a team providing care, to the continuous improvement of health care quality and patient safety
- Establish professional therapeutic relationships with patients and their families
- Elicit and synthesise accurate and relevant information, incorporating the perspectives of patients and their families
- Share health care information and plans with patients and their families
- Engage patients and their families in developing plans that reflect the patient’s health care needs and goals
- Document and share written and electronic information about the medical encounter to optimise clinical decision-making, patient safety, confidentiality, and privacy.
- Work effectively with physicians and other colleagues in the health care professions
- Work with physicians and other colleagues in the health care professions to promote understanding, manage differences, and resolve conflicts
- Hand over the care of a patient to another health care professional to facilitate continuity of safe patient care.
- Contribute to the improvement of health care delivery in teams, organisations, and systems
- Engage in the stewardship of health care resources
- Demonstrate leadership in professional practice
- Manage career planning, finances, and health human resources in a practice.
- Respond to an individual patient’s health needs by advocating with the patient within and beyond the clinical environment
- Respond to the needs of the communities or populations they serve by advocating with them for system-level change in a socially accountable manner.
- Engage in the continuous enhancement of their professional activities through ongoing learning
- Teach students, residents, the public, and other health care professionals
- Integrate best available evidence into practice
- Contribute to the creation and dissemination of knowledge and practices applicable to health.
- Demonstrate a commitment to patients by applying best practices and adhering to high ethical standards
- Demonstrate a commitment to society by recognising and responding to societal expectations in health care
- Demonstrate a commitment to the profession by adhering to standards and participating in physician-led regulation
- Demonstrate a commitment to physician health and well-being to foster optimal patient care.
How to practise and demonstrate MMI personal insight skills
While these questions and scenarios lack definitive answers, it doesn’t mean you can’t rehearse for them. What we’ll look at now are methods and tips for preparing for MMI Personal Insight questions.
Practise responding to unseen questions
To get used to responding to questions within the time limit, work with a friend to rehearse your responses. The observers or interviewers will want to see that you don’t produce a pre-written or memorised response.
- Have a friend post a scenario or question on the door to a room.
- Have them sit inside and give you 2-minutes to prepare.
- Once the 2 minutes is up, they call you in and you speak on the subject for between 6-8 minutes.
- Have them score your response using a form like the one at the end of this document.
To help you present a more natural response, try and mimic the conditions of the MMI. Give yourself 2 minutes to prepare for a type of MMI question above. Then try and respond for 6 to 8 minutes.
Make sure you set a timer for preparation and then for the response. Being familiar with working under those time constraints will help you produce more concise responses.
Use palm cards to develop erudition
Interviewers don’t want prepared responses. It’s very obvious if you’re just reading off a memorised response. To help avoid this appearance, don’t use a script or palm cards during your actual interview.
However, you can use palm cards when you are practising for your MMIs.
Practising with prompts will help you develop as an off-the-cuff speaker. To do this, write the topics you’d like to speak about on your palm cards, refer to them briefly as you present your argument.
Plan before you speak!
You have two minutes to plan before you enter the room. Take this time on the day to sketch out the structure of what you will say.
Before the MMI, practise jotting down a plan for your response before going on to speak. Writing out a plan will get you used to scaffolding a response and sticking to it.
The MMI interviewers and observers will not expect you to be an expert. However, they do expect you to have some broad knowledge about the field and current issues.
To fulfil this, you want to take some time throughout the year to research medicine. Some things to research are:
- The history of medicine
- Innovations in medicine
- Public policy medical issues discussed in the media
- Medical issues and crises that have made the media.
When considering current issues, consider them form a variety of different positions or perspectives. Consider thinking about how you can play devil’s advocate or steelman an issue.
Focus on body language
An important part of how you present yourself to others is your body language. To help you prepare for the MMI, you want to work on your body language. Things to focus on are:
- Making consistent eye-contact
- Remaining open, not crossing your arm or hunching
- Stay neutral, don’t overuse your hands or gesture too excitedly
- Maintain an upright posture
- Keep a relaxed and open facial expression – avoid frowning or grimacing, if possible.
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