How to Excel at the Multi-Mini Interview (MMI)

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 Setup

On each door, there is a scenario posted with a question at the bottom. You have TWO MINUTES to read the scenario and question, before the buzzer goes off and you enter the room:

After you’ve had two minutes to read the scenario, the buzzer will go off, and you will enter the room. You will be met by an interviewer who will listen to you speak about the scenario you just read for 8 minutes.

After speaking with the interviewer with 8 minutes, you will switch to station 2 where you can read the next scenario.

Keys to Performing Well on the MMI

Anticipate Anything

MMI questions aren’t restricted to any subject. This varies from school to school, so expect questions outside the area that you are pursuing. Some questions can be traditional, situational, behavioural, or even quirky.  Remember, the point of the MMI isn’t to assess your knowledge, rather your soft skills, and ability to critically think.

Do Background Research Before Going In!

 Do as much research as you can specifically on the:

  • The format of the MMI, make sure you have an understanding of how this works. It will alleviate some anxiety about the uncertain nature of the MMI.
  • The Philosophy of the school: What specific features are they looking for in ideal candidates to the program?

Practice Questions MMI style

How to practise: Print some sample questions (some sources for MMI questions are listed below). Paste the first sample question on a door (don’t read it yet!)

  • Get a timer, give it to a friend who will act as a timer and interviewer.
  • With the friend sitting inside a room, and you positioned outside the room, have your friend start timing 2 minutes while you read the question on the door.
  • Have the friend knock, when the two minutes are up, walk in.
  • Begin speaking about the subject while your friend times for 8 minutes.

Why Practise? It gives you confidence about the interview format, there aren’t as many promises, and that added confidence and calm will also reflect on the interviewer’s impression of you.

Format your answers

Organization to how you answer the questions will help you organize your thoughts, much like an essay. This is applicable regardless of whether you are doing an MMI or more traditional interview. Are you trying to persuasive? explanatory? Reading up on essay formats may help give you an idea about how to answer different types of questions. (e.g. Pros vs. Cons, Chronological, Your opinion vs devil’s advocate).

Resources for MMI Prep

Online Guides to the MMI:

PA Blogs that discuss MMI strategies:


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.

One Comment

  1. Oluwasegun March 29, 2021 at 8:55 pm - Reply

    This is quite helpful. Thank you.

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