What is the Modified Personal Interview (MPI)?
The Modified Personal Interview (MPI) is an interview format that was first used for medical school admissions by the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine during the 2013-2014 application cycle. The purpose of the interview is to allow interviewers to get to know different aspects of the applicant’s character and background, as well as to assess the competencies necessary for admission into medical school. The interviewers will ask questions designed to discover who you are as a person and how you will conduct yourself, both as a medical student and as a practicing physician.
The MPI consists of a few successive interview stations, interspersed with short breaks. Each station involves a brief interaction (approximately 12 minutes) with a single interviewer and each focuses on assessing specific characteristics of the applicant. The interview, including the four interviews and breaks, takes approximately one hour.
One Interview Subdivided into Four Independent Interview Stations
The MPI consists of a series of four brief independent interviews, each of which involves a one-on-one interaction with a single interviewer (e.g. a physician, health professional or senior medical student). The MPI is a semi-structured and conversational interview, meaning that while the interviewer has a list of prompting questions related to the subject of his or her station, he or she is free to deviate from listed questions and will allow conversation to evolve naturally, as in a standard personal interview.
Individual MPI stations tend to fall broadly into the following categories: those aimed at getting to know the applicant and his/her achievements, those which assess an applicant’s ability to evaluate an ethical dilemma, and those which require applicants to engage in self-reflection about past experiences (often past experiences that involve a key attribute sought in applicants, such as leadership or teamwork). There is little publicly available information concerning what MPI interviewers are specifically assessing, but a research article outlining a trial MPI conducted by the University of Toronto (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22914517) cited maturity, communication skills, and interpersonal skills as common attributes that were assessed across all MPI stations in the trial, regardless of the topic of the individual station.
MPI vs. MMI (Multiple Mini Interview)
Though there are similarities between the two, an MPI is different from a Multiple Mini Interview (MMI).
Similar to an MMI, an MPI requires applicants move from room to room during the interview process in order to complete each of the four independent interviews. However, unlike on an MMI, there is no prompt for applicants to read at the door of each MPI.
Both the MMI and MPI involve a series of brief one-on-one interviews, each with (in most cases) a different interviewer. While the MMI doesn’t necessarily focus on the candidate’s personal experiences and background, the MPI does. Most questions will be aimed at gaining insight into the candidate’s experiences in order to assess his or her suitability to enter medical school. Additionally, unlike the MMI, which provides you a few minutes to brainstorm an answer to a question, prior to entering the interview room, at the MPI, you first encounter each question while already in the interview room with the interviewer.
Importantly, the interview discussion in an MPI is open-ended, and no single question is being asked of an applicant. Rather, each interview is meant to progress as a conversation centered either around an attribute the medical school is seeking in applicants (such as leadership or ethical decision-making) or around an applicant’s past experiences. Because of its conversational nature, an MPI offers applicants more opportunity to develop rapport with their interviewer than a more standardized interview format like the MMI. The MPI is thus intended to allow interviewers to get to know applicants, their experiences, and motivations for entering the medical profession on a personal level. It is worth noting that, unlike many MMI stations, individual MPI interviews may be open-file, meaning that interviewers may have briefly reviewed applicants’ submitted application materials in advance.
MPI vs. Panel Style Interview
While the Panel style interview involves one single long interview with the same group of interviewers, the MPI is broken up into four short interviews with individual interviewers in each room. While some Panel style interviews have more than one interviewer interviewing the candidate, the MPI has either one or two interviewers in each interview.
The types of questions and the goals of the Panel style interview and MPI are very similar. Both aim to gain insight into each individual candidate’s experiences and competencies, and both pose questions to learn about the applicant’s skills and suitability through their experiences.
What types of questions should I expect?
Despite the rotational component of the MPI interview format, candidates can expect questions of similar nature to panel style interview formats. While it is difficult to predict the specific questions you will be asked, topics relating to your personal experiences, including academic, employment and extracurricular experiences may arise.
At some stations you may be asked questions related to your written application, in order for the interviewer to learn more about the your background. At these stations the interviewer might have your application in front of them and will choose to focus on certain experiences listed.
At other stations the interviewer may ask questions that assess the candidates competencies in the following areas:
- ethical decision making
- communication/teamwork skills
- ability to advocate
- current Canadian healthcare issues
At these stations, try your best to use personal experiences to articulate your thoughts, where you see fit.
Candidates can also expect questions relating to their motivation for pursuing medicine and their desire to attend the specific medical school you are interviewing at.
How to prepare for the unique style of the MPI
The unique style of the MPI necessitates advance preparation and planning. Below are some specific suggestions to help maximize your chances for success.
- Have a good understanding of the items in your autobiographical sketch, as well as how each item relates to the various qualities and attributes needed for success in the medical profession (for example, teamwork, compassion, maturity, integrity, and self-directed learning).
It can be helpful to complete a chart that lists each item in your sketch, and alongside it, the key attributes necessary for success in medicine you developed in that experience. Be sure to include specific challenges you faced, and actions you took to address them, that demonstrate how you possess each attribute. This exercise is particularly useful in preparation for an MPI because you may be asked behavioural descriptive questions (questions that query how you dealt with past experiences that you are likely to encounter again as you enter the profession) on an MPI (source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22914517). The following is an example of a behavioural descriptive question: “describe a time when you had to deal with a challenging problem.” It can be very helpful to have given some thought to the work and life experiences that show how you, for example, dealt with criticism, adapted to a new environment, co-operated with others, or led a group.
- Familiarize yourself with recent ethical issues in medicine, particularly those that are relevant to the Canadian healthcare system.
Try to understand what makes these issues controversial, and the merits of each of the various conflicting viewpoints on the issue. On interview day, remember to approach ethical issues and scenarios from different perspectives and in as balanced a way as possible.
- Have two to three insightful questions about the medical program prepared.
Extra time at each MPI station may be allotted to field applicant questions, and having a few ready will create a good impression.
- Make the most of the conversational nature of the interview.
Though interviewers may have briefly read your application materials, they are not experts on your experiences (but you are!). Take the opportunity to draw attention to items on your sketch or past experiences when they are relevant to the topic being discussed. Interviewers may have skimmed your materials, but it is possible they missed experiences meaningful to your path towards medicine. Taking the initiative to raise relevant experiences will help to set you apart from other applicants.