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Words by Russ Thorne


We've all felt nervous when we've needed to go and see a doctor. So when that doctor is interviewing you for a place at uni, it's natural to feel a bit peaky. Happily, there are some things you can do to make sure you're in rude health at interview time - we chatted with Professor Mary Jane Platt, Director of Admissions at UEA's Norwich Medical School, to come up with five things you need to know.


Tip #1: Be prepared


First of all, research the place you're going to. Explore the website, read up on the course and revise any notes you made on an open day. You can use social media (and our forums) to get inside info from current students, too.

To keep things in perspective, think of it like a job interview. "You're on the first rung of the ladder to a career in medicine," says Mary Jane, "so as in a job interview there will be lots of other applicants. If you're not successful it's not always that you're a bad candidate, it's just that there was someone better than you on the day. You have to remember that."

Did you know?

Best prepared doctors. Norwich Medical School at UEA came out top when it came to preparing their students for their first year as a doctor. 97% of their graduates said that they were well prepared, compared to the UK average of 74% across all UK medical schools (General Medical Council’s State of Medical Education and Practice in the UK, 2014). Discover more.

Tip #2: Look the part



We don't mean you should arrive in a surgical gown, twirling a stethoscope. No need to get a whole new suit or outfit either, just something clean and smart. "If someone turns up looking scruffy it suggests that they're not taking it seriously," says Mary Jane.

Done work experience? Think about what you wore / saw others wear for that (this is less helpful if you did work experience on Strictly. No sequins, folks). If you haven't got any smart clothes at all, you might need to invest in some - you'll need them on work placements and so on once you start your course.

Tip #3:Make sure you know what the format will be



Your interview could come in a few different forms. You might face multiple mini interviews that last a few minutes each; have a more traditional half-hour interview with a panel; take part in group tasks; or a combination of all three.

Whatever the format, the medical school should provide all the details when they invite you for an interview. Read them, and ask questions, says Mary Jane. "There shouldn't be any surprises about the format on the day, so ask in advance if you're not sure."

Will you get any unusual 'how would you define this brick?' questions? Depends on the school and the interviewer, but remember that there's no one right response to an off-the-wall question. "What's actually being assessed here is how you manage the question, not how you answer it," says Mary Jane.

Tip #4:Manage your nerves


The best way to avoid nerves is to prepare well, and revise the day before – unis like UEA often have info for students that will help refresh your memory. Then relax before the interview. "It's like an exam," says Mary Jane, "cramming at the last minute isn't helpful."

Some nerves are inevitable, but your interviewers will understand this and will try to help you. They're human (even the brain surgeons) and recognise that people get nervous. Many are doctors, so they're used to dealing with anxious people, after all.

If you find yourself floundering, try not to panic: take a deep breath before you carry on. "It's also alright to say 'can I just take a few seconds to think about that?'" says Mary Jane. Don't sit in silence for five minutes, of course - but don't be afraid to pause for thought either.

Tip #5:Look and listen


Mary Jane recommends looking back at things like work experience carefully before your interview, and how it affected you, so you can talk about the personal side of being a doctor. "Think about what it taught you about being a doctor, but also what you learned about yourself in relation to the job. What do you think you'll find more challenging or less challenging about it?"

Finally: listen to the interviewer. If you go in with pre-prepared answers you might be so busy trying to recite your script that you'll forget to actually respond to their questions. "Being a doctor is as much about listening as anything else," concludes Mary Jane. "So listen and respond to the questions that are asked."

You can get more interview advice from us, or talk to fellow students on our forums. Deep breaths, and good luck!