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2 hours. 10 stations. 10 minutes each.

You stand behind a closed door. There is a paper in front of you with a description of the task or scenario you’ll be facing in the following minutes. Two minutes later, you’re instructed to enter the room. After exactly eight minutes, a tone sounds. You leave the room. You proceed to the next station in the circuit and repeat.

This is pretty much the common procedure at any multiple mini-interview (MMI). Just to give you a bit of background, the MMI is an interview format consisting of a series of stations, each at which a different problem is presented to the interviewee. It was first developed by McMaster University in 2001, and since its inception at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, the MMI has been adopted in the admissions process at various schools for dentistry, medicine and pharmacy all over the world.

A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity of being invited to one of these interviews. Though I can’t reveal the details of the scenarios I encountered (yes, you do have sign a non-disclosure agreement), I can tell you that they were more or less common, every day situations. At times, you were given a different role, so you had to think of the social responsibilities and duties associated with that role, but your performance largely depended on your ability to think critically and handle the situation with the right attitude.

Typical MMI circuit; Image source: https://www.med.nyu.edu/school/sites/default/files/school2/u51/MMI_Map-03.jpg

I found the MMI very different from traditional interviews. First, the atmosphere. At most of the stations, you were in a room with an actor, and the evaluator was behind a one-way mirror. Other times, you were left to yourself to solve a given task, and the evaluator came to discuss your thought process near the end of the 10 minute period. Secondly, the questions. I wasn’t questioned solely within the context of my academic achievements or extracurricular activities, but my qualities as a prospective health care professional. I wasn’t asked what I envisioned myself in the next five or ten years, but how I would deal with the problem at hand.

The MMI was developed to address some of the main issues related to traditional interviews:

1. Validity & Reliability

Traditional interviews had a problem with the “halo” effect — where one’s overall impression of another person influences one’s feelings and thoughts about them. Moreover, interviews in these formats showed poor test-retest reliability, in that, the measurement of an attribute in one context didn’t necessarily translate into another (Prideaux, et al. 215). Nevertheless, studies have shown that the MMI addressed these problems. In fact, the MMI showed strong predictive validity of success in other aspects as well, such as clinical clerkship OSCE performance, clinical encounter cards and performance ratings (218).

2. Diversity

Another problem commonly associated with traditional interviews is the diversity of interviewees. In 2012, almost 30 percent of medicine and dentistry students were from private schools, which educated just 7 percent of children (Henry). As well, in traditional interviews, those who have had more experience were at ad advantage than their counterparts who may have not had the same opportunities. Likewise, it has been suggested that the MMI may promote diversity within the cohorts accepted into medical and dental schools, especially by increasing the number of accepted applicants from groups underrepresented in medicine (Terregino 1651).

Entrance to the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University, the birthplace of the MMI; Image source: http://sccri.mcmaster.ca/images/mdcl_entrance.jpg

Some people have brought up problems that the MMI might have. For instance, traditional interviews allow interviewers to confirm the candidate’s credentials listed on their application. As well, some believe that the MMI questions can be leaked prior to the interviews, since some schools purchase a bank of MMI scenarios from McMaster University. It’s also believed that experience in improvisational acting can also benefit the interviewee, and therefore, the MMI can essentially be coached.

Having experienced both traditional interviews and the MMI, I can definitely say they test different sets of skills. I personally think the MMI is a more versatile assessment tool. I had to be careful with the words I chose to communicate with in a given situation, be cautious of the advice I gave and, most of all, be able to explain why I had made such and such a decision. Nevertheless, I can’t disagree with the fact that traditional interviews also have their share of advantages, some of which are not as well reflected in the MMI. I really can’t say for sure whether the MMI is the perfect replacement for traditional interviews, but without doubt, both of these methods are great complements to each other in assessing a candidate’s character and abilities as a future health care professional. There’s still room for more improvement!


References:

Prideaux, David, Chris Roberts, Kevin Eva, Angel Centeno, Peter Mccrorie, Chris Mcmanus, Fiona Patterson, David Powis, Ara Tekian & David Wilkinson. “Assessment for selection for the health care professions and specialty training: Consensus statement and recommendations from the Ottawa 2010 Conference.” Medical Teacher 33:3 (2011): 215–223. Web. 26 Feb. 2016.

Henry, Julie. “Universities Drop Traditional Interviews Which Could Favour Private School Pupils.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 14 Oct. 2012. Web. 26 Feb. 2016.

Terregino, Carol A., Meghan McConnell, and Harold I Reiter. “The Effect of Differential Weighting of Academics, Experiences, and Competencies Measured by Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) on Race and Ethnicity of Cohorts Accepted to One Medical School.” Academic Medicine 90.12 (2015): 1651–657. Wolters Kluwer. Web. 26 Feb. 2016.