Tips for Dental/Medical School Panel Interviews

As a part of the requirements for medical and dental schools, professional programs use panel interviews to assess candidates and determine if they have the personality and characteristics they’re looking for. Therefore, the medical and dental school panel interview decisions can make up a significant percentage of final admission decisions. This post breaks down all you need to know regarding the panel interview for medical school and dental school, including its purpose, weighting, and tips/tricks to succeed in your professional school admissions.

What is the Dental/Medical School Panel Interview?

The panel interview will be between 30-minutes and 1-hour in length without any breaks.

Usually, a panel interview will take place in front of a panel of two to four interviewers. These panellists may include upper-year medical students, faculty members, and practicing professionals. Additionally, you may be interviewed by non-medical persons depending on the university.

These interviews may either be open file or closed file. Open file interviews give interviewers a chance to read your application before meeting you. This can give them insights into where to take a conversation. Closed file interviews are not privy to your application. This typically results in a more general and organic interview.

Questions asked during the interview may be broader than their MMI counterparts and can include a review of your autobiographical sketch (ABS) / curriculum vitae (CV) and standardized interview questions with follow-up. Common questions encountered in a panel interview include “What does it mean to act ethically?”, “What is your motivation for pursuing medicine?”, “Tell me about a time when you worked in a team” and “What is your greatest weakness?”

What is Being Assessed on a Panel Interview?

CanMed Roles: Dental/Medical School Panel Interview

Panel interviews provide the only chance for the admissions committee to get to know an applicant outside of what they have read on paper. Interviews use this time to better understand your qualities and characteristics, including strengths and weaknesses and possible red flags in an application. Qualities that the panellists will look for in their applicants include, the CanMEDS Roles:

  • Communication skills
  • Maturity
  • Empathy
  • Ability to work collaboratively
  • Leadership
  • Advocacy
  • Professionalism
  • Academic abilities

This list is not exhaustive. In general, panellists are looking for candidates who exhibit qualities that will allow them to excel in both professional schools and as practicing professionals. Or, in other words, candidates who exhibit qualities that they possess.

What Professional Schools Use the Panel Interview?

Nowadays, most universities use the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) instead of a traditional panel interview. The following is a list and weighting of all professional schools that use this style of interview.

Canadian Professional Schools

Medical SchoolsWeightingDental SchoolsWeighting
Queen’s University*UnknownUniversity of TorontoUnknown
University of OttawaUnknownWestern UniversityUnknown
Western UniversityUnknownUniversity of Manitoba33%
Memorial University*UnknownUniversity of British ColumbiaUnknown
Laval UniversityUnknown
Universite de MontrealUnknown
Dalhousie UniversityUnknown
*The university uses both MMI and Panel Interviews

American Professional Schools

Medical SchoolsWeighting
University of PennsylvaniaUnknown
Brown UniversityUnknown
Columbia UniversityUnknown
Cornell UniversityUnknown
Dartmouth CollegeUnknown
Harvard UniversityUnknown
Princeton UniversityUnknown
*The university uses both MMI and Panel Interviews

How to Succeed on your Dental/Medical School Panel Interview

Research the Universities in Advance

Every school is unique in its interview process and will require different kinds of preparation. Make sure that you understand the exact interview process of each dental school you interview at. We recommend that you contact each dental school directly and learn everything about their interview process. Look into what the professional school specifically looks for in their candidates. Additionally, we have articles written on the requirements for Canadian medical schoolsrequirements for American dental schools, and requirements for Canadian dental schools here. 

Understand Your Unique Story and Values

It is impossible to come up with all the possible questions you will be asked during your interview. However, you can know with certainty that your interviewers will be trying to figure out who you are as a person. By knowing your unique story, you will be able to explain what makes you an excellent fit for their program and give them examples. Know the interests, volunteer experiences, job experiences, and activities that have made you who you are today. Be able to clearly and confidently give examples of why you are a perfect fit for their school.

Be Professional

It is vital that your remain professional at all times during your interview. Both medicine and dentistry are professional careers and expect their students to act likewise. Being professional means:

  • Being on time (Preferably 10-15min early)
  • Greeting interviewers with a handshake and smile
  • Dressing appropriately (business/professional attire)
  • Using appropriate language
  • Having the right attitude

Have the Right Body Language

Over 50% of communication is non-verbal. Therefore, your body language will play a vital role in communicating an intelligent response to your interviewers. To convey the correct body language, make sure to:

  • Sit up straight and have good posture
  • Keep your body loose
  • Avoid repetitive movements of the hand, foot, or face
  • Look into the interviewer’s eyes
  • Use open hand gestures
  • Smile!

Do Mock Interviews

The key to being good at anything is consistent and deliberate practice. The more you practice responding to questions that your interviewers could ask, the more comfortable you will be at your actual interview. Additionally, your ability to formulate your thoughts and respond to questions will improve as you continue to practice.

Have a friend or family member act as an interviewer for you. Ask them to give you feedback and possibly record yourself so you can playback your response. Make sure to practice with realistic interview conditions to better prepare yourself for interview day.

Panel Interview Sample Questions

A sample of the most commonly asked panel interview questions is included below for your practice. For additional practice take a look at our free collection of 350+ traditional medical school practice questions compiled from various blog posts, admissions websites, medical school universities, and Reddit discussions.

  1. Tell me about yourself
  2. What is a goal you have failed in / Talk about a failure in your life.
  3. Describe a situation in which you were the leader and what you learned from the experience.
  4. Who has had the most influence on your life so far and why?
  5. If your schedule was cleared for one day, what would you do to pass the time?
  6. Are you a leader or a follower? Why?
  7. Who do you admire the most in your life?
  8. Describe a situation where you felt like a fish out of water.
  9. What are your 3 weakest characteristics?
  10. Describe how you can effectively deal with some in a crisis.
  11. Tell me about why you are interested in this program.
  12. Did anyone you know influence your choice of career?
  13. What is your preferred way of learning and how do you learn best? Tell me about your study habits.
  14. In your view, what is the most pressing problem facing medicine/healthcare today?
  15. How do you help people who don’t want to be helped?
  16. Describe an experience you have had in which you were misjudged. What were your responses?
  17. What is the hardest question you’ve been asked at any interview?
  18. You are granted any three wishes by a genie. What would your wishes be?
  19. Describe a time in your life you disagreed with a person of authority, ex. a professor, and how you dealt with it.

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