MMI: The Experience

I started this post back in October, and really meant to post it sooner. Here’s the promised MMI post:

Huzzah! I popped my MMI cherry and wanted to share some insight on it, while it’s still (somewhat) fresh. [Side note: There’s an episode of Brain Games where “witnesses” are asked to recall details of the people involved in an acted crime. I was equal parts shocked and disturbed by how much I misremembered things. I could have sworn the lady had a hat *shakes fist*] For those of you who are unfamiliar, an MMI involves around 8 or so stations of short interviews, lasting anywhere from 6-10 minutes. You’re also given 2 minutes to read the prompt and gather your thoughts before entering the room where you’ll interview.

I don’t know who thought it would be a good idea to ask a bunch of neurotic pre-meds to do something they can’t prepare for. I spent hours scouring through SDN and YouTube, looking for any helpful anecdotes and/or examples. I actually sat and watched an 8+ minute video of an applicant doing an MMI. Twice. The entire thing was about why she wouldn’t give her apartment complex’s gym code to her best friend. I’m not proud to admit that I also frantically took mental notes on how she shook the interviewer’s hand and if she repeated the prompt back.

Please don’t do this. I, too, scoffed at all the “just relax” comments floating around the Interwebs. Having finally completed one, though, I see why this has primarily been the advice. Bad news: you really can’t prepare for this. Good news: you really can’t prepare for this. When you look down at your prompt and your brain goes as white as the Antarctic tundra, take a deep breath, and remember that everyone else around you is just as unprepared for the interviews they’re about to have. Unless you’re clairvoyant and can somehow predict the prompts, in which case, we need to be friends.

I’ve heard from fellow interviewees that each school does it differently, but I was fortunate enough to have my first experience at an institution that didn’t require you to monologue the entire 8 minutes. It was extremely conversational, and the interviewers had plenty of follow up questions to ask after each one of my spiels. I didn’t even have to repeat the prompt back, because the interviewers would take the initiative to ask if I’d read and understood it. Again, this was my personal experience at one particular school, so yours may be different; however, rest assured that you’ll get a sense of what you’ll need to do after your first station.

Speaking of which, I did horrendously at my first station. There’s this moment when you’re standing in front of a door, waiting for the cue that tells you to pick up your prompt. It felt simultaneously like an instant and an eternity. I looked around at all of us interviewees, standing in a line of neatly pressed suits in front of a row of identical doors, and a surge of adrenaline kicked in. The cue came on, and all I remember from those 2 minutes is the pounding in my ears and shaky hands. I also broke out into a bad case of cold sweats. I’m talking just-shoveled-an-ambitiously-spicy-burrito kinda cold sweats, guys. I have no idea how the interviewer interpreted my blank, doe-eyed stares and clammy complexion.

this is fine
Photo credits to KC Green.

The beauty of MMIs, though, is that you get 4-5 times more interviewers than you would in a traditional one. You really can afford to forget and move on. Clearly, easier said than done, but this is a brand new person, who’s most likely never interacted with you before (or witnessed your recent episode of excessive perspiration…). It’s an opportunity to make another first impression. Despite stumbling a bit (or a lot) in the beginning, I found my rhythm, and made an effort to clear my mind of anything that had happened in a previous station.

I think the only method of “practice” I might advise is to look up some example prompts. Practice talking out loud about them with a stopwatch nearby. I noticed I struggled to formulate my thoughts into words. I had a lot of ideas as to why I thought an issue was good, bad, or neither, but it’s a different story trying to thoroughly and accurately convey these ideas to another person. I gave myself 2 minutes to read an example prompt and make an outline of what I wanted to talk about in my head (i.e. pros&cons, pick a side, give process of reasoning, stick to it). Then I tried to discuss the topic for ~5 minutes. My issue was trying to fill up time, but I know some people have the opposite problem. Use the stopwatch!

Here’s a list of some of the sites that have prompts to practice with (you’ll see some crazy examples in there, which you can probably ignore):
1. This was actually fairly close to the kinds of questions I received on my interview day, and they even have 10 “stations” to practice with!
2. I liked this one, because it also gave me some perspective of what the interviewer might be looking for:
3. Tons of questions, neatly organized under specific categories:
4. I didn’t click on every link this PDF provided, but the ones I did happen to explore were very helpful:
5. I didn’t use this source myself, but found it recently on a Reddit browse:

You probably won’t get the same prompts during your actual interview day, but I like to think that the act of treating them as “real” prompts helped me (if only to calm pre-interview nerves). That’s the extent of my experience and knowledge of MMIs. I have another one coming up with another school, so I’ll update with any differences I see there. I hope this was somewhat informative, and best of luck to present/future interviewees!

P.s. If you haven’t seen it already, here’s the video with the gym code situation: click. For kicks and giggles. Again, please do not take notes. Yea, I see you, fellow overeager pre-med.


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