How to Excel at the Multi-Mini Interview (MMI)
Here we’ll cover some strategies to prepare for the MMI, discuss how the MMI works, and some suggested resources (scroll to the bottom).
What is the MMI?
The Multiple Mini Interview is many short, structured interview stations allowing interviewers to evaluate soft skills. The MMI was developed by McMaster’s School of Medicine in 2001 to address the concern that traditional interviews did not predict performance in medical school or ability with patient interaction.
Evaluating Candidates with the MMI
Why do PA schools choose to use the MMI instead of the traditional interview?
Problems with the Traditional Interview – Imagine sitting in front a panel of three judges who are overseeing your interview. They each take turns asking your questions. They have a list of questions on their sheet from which to pick, “What made you decide PA school? How do you handle pressure or criticism? What are your greatest strengths? What are your greatest weaknesses? How are you a good fit for the program?”
There can be a few issues with the “traditional” interview approach
- An intimidating setting – A traditional one-interviewer, one-interviewee evaluation setting is a lot of pressure (or in the example above, a 3-interviewer on 1-interviewee).
- You have one opportunity to make a good impression – If you “fumble” in one of your answers, this may paint the way the interviewers may view you for subsequent questions you answer. There is no opportunity for a real “fresh start” on a new question in a traditional interview.
- If using “traditional” interview questions – some interviewees can anticipate and prepare for the questions ahead of time. Interviewers may get “canned” answers that have been doctored, memorized and rehearsed. PA Programs want individuals who will excel in their program and to be good representatives of the profession. However, some candidates that are not good fits may actually EXCEL at an interview, but turn out to be poor fits for the PA Program.
The MMI addresses several of these issues:
- There is more than one chance to make a first impression, in fact, there are 12: McMaster has 12 station circuit, each station with its own interviewer who is listening to answers from different candidates from the SAME question. It is difficult to escape bias, or to make a fresh impression if you happen to not do so well early on in the interview. The MMI eliminates this, since each question you answer will be with a different interviewer. So if you felt you did badly early on in the MMI with a particular question, that interviewer’s impression won’t carry on to later questions (because you have different evaluators!).
- Less predictability of Interview Questions: For interviewers, the structure of the MMI allows for less ability to express “rehearsed questions”. Imagine walking into an interview not knowing what questions to expect, you read the scenario on the door which has a question that they wish you to discuss at length with the interviewer inside. Content of the questions may deal with (not limited to) “communication, collaboration, ethics, health policy, critical thinking, awareness of society health issues in Canada and personal qualities. Applicants are not assessed on their scientific knowledge.” – McMaster Prospective Student Site. Most traditional interviews ask “Why do you want to be a physician assistant? Tell us about yourself, etc.”.
- Candidates have to think on their feet. With the MMI, its nearly impossible to predict what questions will happen, thus the answers given by the interviewee are more spontaneous, more natural, and perhaps more “reflective” of the interviewee’s actual merit and character.
The MMI Format
Multi-Mini Interview Circuit
The full MMI Interview may compromise of 8 to 12 “MMI Stations”. You start at Station 1 (or another station number) and progress in order. Each station has a different MMI question and MMI interviewer. You may also get 1 or 2 “rest stations” where instead of answering a question you simply sit and relax.
Format of a single MMI Station
Each station follows a similar format. You have an MMI question/prompt that you read and brainstorm ideas for 2 minutes. The buzzer goes off and you enter the room and discuss your response to the prompt in an interview in about 6-8 minutes. The interviewer may ask you a few follow-up questions with the remaining time. Then when time is up, the buzzer goes off and you exit the MMI station to start reading the prompt for the next MMI station.
Format of a Virtual MMI Interview
With the onset of the pandemic, many programs have turned to conducting virtual MMI interviews. The premise is the same (read a prompt, then discuss your response), however, instead of doing this in front of an interviewer, you are in the comfort of your own home, and recording your responses with your webcam.
The PA program conducting the interview may use a special platform to do the timing of MMI stations, and recording of candidate responses like kira talent, or other program.
When you enter a “virtual MMI station” you may see a timer on the screen (counting down for the “2 minutes of prep time”), and the text of the MMI prompt/question.
Instructions from the PA program may indicate whether or not you may have a piece of paper nearby to jot down some notes. (See tips below on how to use this effectively).
When the 2 minutes are up, the screen will change and a new timer will appear for 6-8 minutes. This screen records your discussion of your response. It may feel strange because you are speaking by yourself into a camera, so some tips below on how to practice for this!
Once it is done recording, you will be taken to another screen for either a short rest period, or to the next MMI station.
There is usually no opportunity to re-record your responses.
Format of an In-Person MMI Interview
If your MMI interview is taking place in-person (not virtually), you will arrive on campus into a facilitate with multiple rooms (that act as “MMI stations) labelled (Room 1, 2, 3 etc.).
The MMI Prompt/Question for that station is attached to the front of the door. Candidates begin by facing AWAY from the door, when the buzzer goes off to indicate the timer for “2 minutes of prep has started”, candidates turn around and read the prompt. Candidates may (or may not) have a piece of paper to write down notes during this time.
Once 2 minutes is up, the buzzer goes off and candidates then enter the room and sit down in front of the interviewer. A copy of the prompt is often available on the desk for you to reference just in case you need to remind yourself the details of the MMI prompt. Candidates have 6-8 minutes to discuss their response to the interviewer. If there is time left over, the interviewer may (or may not) ask follow-up questions.
Candidates remain seated until the buzzer goes off, and they exit the room to start on the next MMI station.
What this may look like with multiple candidates:
Keys to Performing Well on the MMI
Resources for MMI Prep
Online Guides to the MMI:
- MMI Resources for Pre-PAs by Canadian PAs/PA Students
- Practice questions and guides are available online which you can find with a simple Google Search. Often using the search term “MMI” or “Multi Mini Interview” or “Medical School MMI”
- The McMaster MD Program, of which the McMaster PA Education Program is based off of, has a website with information of the MMI as well as a PDF Training Manual for interviewers of the MMI.
- A quick Youtube search of “Multi Mini Interview” reveals helpful videos and sample scenarios that you may view.
PA Blogs that discuss MMI strategies:
- Eden, now Manitoba PA Graduate from University of Manitoba discusses MMI strategies: http://eden-pa.blogspot.ca/p/pa-interview-mmi.html
- McMaster PA Student Resources has a whole page dedcated to Application Tips, including a section on the MMI.
- Sandy Vuong, now McMaster PA Graduate recounts her day at the MMI for her interviews.
- BeMo’s Ultimate Guide to MMI by BeMO Academic Consulting
- Doing Right: A Practical Guide to Ethics for Medical Trainees and Physicians by Philip C. Hebert
- Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) for the Mind by Kevyn To M.D.
Mock MMI’s Practice Groups:
- I have had many Pre-PA students ask me about that one. Although good in theory, it may be difficult to find “local” mock MMI groups (again, you’d likely have to do a google search or skim through Canadian premed forums). Otherwise you can request an MMI practice partner on our Canadian Pre-PA Student Network Facebook Group.
- I found practicing on my own, with a friend or family member serving as the interviewer very helpful. They could watch my body language as I got to practice building comfort around interviewing.
- You may also practice in a mirror so you can get used to hearing the sound of your own voice.
This is quite helpful. Thank you.