How to ace your vet school interview – top 10 tips
For many of you, applying to study veterinary medicine will be a goal that you have had for a long time. The process involves a series of hurdles, including taking arguably some of the hardest A-level subjects, summarising years of work experience into 4000 characters and for some universities, sitting the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT).
Obtaining an interview for this highly oversubscribed degree is an accomplishment in itself and a chance to show the university why you would be the right candidate. Below are 10 tips to help you prepare and excel in your interview.
Before the interviews:
1. Carefully read any information given to you about the interview
It is likely that you will receive information on the interview style and structure from the universities that invite you to attend an interview. Read this carefully and use it to structure your preparation accordingly. Practical tasks are often difficult to prepare for, so it is a good idea to focus on reading through your work experience placements and personal statements. Give real-life examples to back up any point you make. For example, do not just state: ‘I have very good communication skills’; instead give an example of when you have communicated efficiently within a clinical setting and why this is an important skill for a vet to have.
2. Do not over prepare!
There are lots of resources online to help you prepare for questions you can expect to be asked at a veterinary medicine interview. Although practising questions is a very good idea, it can be tempting to construct “perfect” answers based on what you think the interviewer wants to hear. This can often lead to your answers sounding rehearsed and not genuine. Remember, the interviewer wants to get to know you, hear about your experiences and better understand why you’ve chosen to study veterinary medicine. As long as you’re applying due to a genuine interest in the career and have engaged with your work experience placements, your unique answers will be better than any answers that you have rehearsed.
3. Focus your extra reading on topics that interest you
An important part of your preparation should involve reading about current news in the veterinary and scientific community. Although it is always good to brush up on some high-profile cases such as bovine tuberculosis or animal welfare post Brexit, it is also good to have some unique research that interests you. This could be something that relates to a specific case you’ve seen and a subsequent development in the diagnostic methods of that disease, or even an article that relates to something you have learnt about. This shows that you are engaging within the field outside of your work experience and school work.
4. Don’t panic over maths questions
A lot of people worry about the maths requirement of veterinary medicine interviews. These questions often involve mental maths as no calculator is provided; however, they are extremely structured. There is an abundance of practice questions online, especially if you Google ‘veterinary nursing maths questions’ (some useful links can be found here and here). Read the question carefully and always check the units before starting any calculations.
During the interviews:
5. Arrive early and remember the whole day is the interview
On most interview days, you will have your individual and possibly group interview before having an optional campus tour. It is important to remember that you will be wearing a name badge and will be a candidate for the entirety of the day; it is not just the multiple mini-interview (MMI) or panel interviews that you will be assessed on. Be polite and be on your best behaviour. Talk to the interviewers outside of the interview setting if you get the chance.
6. Push the conversation in the direction that you want it to go
During MMI stations and panel interviews, you have the chance to direct the conversation. Expand on your answers to bring in relevant cases and real-life examples, highlighting your engagement with work experience placements. Avoid mentioning cases that you have limited knowledge about in order to avoid follow-up questions that you can’t answer.
7. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know the answer to a question
There is a possibility that you may be asked an interview question that you simply don’t know the answer to. If this happens, don’t be afraid to say that you are unsure, but that you are willing to make an educated guess on the answer. Interviewers are just as much interested in seeing how you think as well as how much knowledge you already have.
8. Give the interviewer time to ask you a variety of questions
While it is always important to develop your answers, don’t fall into the trap of limiting what the interviewer has time to ask you. Most interviewers will have a list of questions they need to get through, so make sure to keep your answers succinct in order for there to be time for all questions.
9. Make sure you are ready to ask questions during your interviews
At the end of the interview, you will probably be asked if you have any questions. It is good to have at least one question prepared and it is even better if it is specific to an aspect of that university’s particular course. This shows that you have done your research into that particular university.
After the interview:
10. Decide if that particular university is the right place for you
Interviews are not just a chance for the university to pick you; it’s an opportunity for you to see if it’s the right place for you. You will be spending 5 years there, so it’s important that you get a good feel for the place, can imagine yourself there and understand the teaching methods on offer. Speak to other students who might be around and ask them what they consider to be the pros and cons of studying there.