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Interview Questions for International Students

Updated: May 7, 2020

By Malaika Haider

Medical school interviews are daunting and there’s no denying that. Fortunately, all of us at Scrubbed Up have been through the process successfully! You’ll find plenty of interview advice on this website and you should absolutely give it a read, because you may very well be asked any of those questions.

These questions will be more specific towards international students and are based around similar questions I was asked during my interviews.

What do you know about the NHS?

This is a very open question. The interviewers don’t expect you to know the history of the NHS from conception to now, but they will expect a structured coherent answer with the basic facts.

1. Be aware of the 3 basic principles of the NHS:

a. Meets everyone’s needs

b. Free at the point of delivery

c. Based on the clinical needs of the patient rather than the ability to pay

2. Be able to explain the referral pathway from primary care to tertiary care, it’s best if you illustrate this with an example:

a. A patient goes to their GP complaining of tiredness, weight gain and an inability to tolerate cold weather. The GP conducts a blood test and suspects the patient of having thyroid issues.

b. The GP refers this patient to an endocrinologist, who prescribes medication. However, after 2 years of treatment the endocrinologist discovers a potentially cancerous mass in the patient’s neck.

c. The endocrinologist refers the patient to a specialized surgeon to remove the mass.

3. Be conscious of the national differences in NHS care across the UK. It’s unlikely you’ll be asked to describe them in detail, but remember a fact or two to keep in mind:

a. The NHS in Wales, as of 2017, have removed prescription charges.

b. In Scotland, NHS trusts don’t exist. 14 Health Boards provide regional healthcare.

c. Medical and social care in Northern Ireland are integrated.

How does healthcare in your country differ from healthcare in the UK?

This question is great for incorporating what you know about the NHS and your work experience. The interviews are looking for your personal experiences with the healthcare systems of both countries.

1. Talk about your work experience, if you were able to shadow anyone in a hospital or GP in your home country. This is a nice segue into comparing healthcare systems on a more personal level. For instance, if your home country charges for prescriptions without exceptions, you can comment on how this isn’t the case in UK and give some reasons as to which policy you think is more beneficial.

2. Don’t be afraid to give opinions! Just make sure they’re informed. This isn’t about which healthcare system is ‘better’ but about comparing and contrasting.

3. Why do certain healthcare systems work in some countries, but not others?

a. Is healthcare seen as a ‘right’.

b. Do religious or cultural influences determine how healthcare is regarded by the public or provided by the government?

c. Do cultural influences determine how healthcare is regarded by the public or provided by the government?

Why do you want to study in the UK?

This is a very broad question, don’t be afraid to mix personal reasons with professional ones.

1. Do you have a personal connection with the UK?

2. Independence. If you’re from a small country or have lived somewhere for a long time, moving to a new country for university is a chance to gain valuable life experience that you won’t receive at home.

3. Career specific goals. Be sure to give examples during your explanation and be knowledgeable on them. There will be most likely be follow up questions if the interviewer doesn’t think you’re being specific enough.

a. The opportunity for research in specific field

b. Specific career ideas that you have in mind (it’s fine to say if a particular field is of interest)

c. Accreditation, a medical degree from the UK is widely accepted and recognized

You don’t have to decide on a particular field yet, that’s what medical school is for! But based on your work experience and your own research, it’s fine to have some ideas of what interests you.

How do you think you’re going to manage being away from home?

Universities are aware that international students have unique circumstances when it comes to social support and family network. They want to know that you’re aware of the adjustment and that you’ve considered all the pros and cons.

1. Be honest, it’s alright to say that you anticipate the adjustment to be difficult.

2. If you’ve said you anticipate a difficult adjustment, show the university that you have considered how to manage this.

a. Do you have hobbies or sports that you are passionate about? These will offer a good distraction.

b. Does the university in particular offer any societies that you’ll be interested in?

c. How do you plan to communicate with your family and friends back home, are you aware of the time zone changes?

3. Does the university have any programs in place for international students? If there are any specific welcome events or societies, show the interviewers that you’ve done this research beforehand.

4. Don’t forget to show an appreciation for mental health services that the university may offer, it’s alright to ask for help and a good doctor will always do so.

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