April 6, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 98  

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Mac med applicants run a gauntlet

By Megan O’Toole
Gazette Staff

McMaster University has adopted a “speed-dating” approach to medical school interviews for the upcoming academic year.

According to Kien Trinh, chair of McMaster’s medical school interview committee, the new selection process involves applicants going through 12 separate mini-interviews.

Applicants are provided two minutes to read through a scenario or specific question, and then given an eight-minute interview during which they are expected to respond to the reading, Trinh said. A ringing bell signifies the end of each interview, at which point the applicant must move to the next one in a process that takes approximately two hours, he added.

“There are a number of different reasons we decided [on this approach],” Trinh said, noting that McMaster previously used a more traditional panel interview process.

“In the past only one or two people would interview each applicant, so they only had one opportunity,” he said. “If you didn’t get along well with the interviewer, you blew your chance. With 12 separate interviews, the applicants are given 12 chances.”

The interviews test communication skills, assess critical thinking and determine how well applicants are able to work in a team setting, Trinh added.

Jim Silcox, associate dean of admissions and student affairs for Western’s faculty of medicine and dentistry, said the interview process at Western is still quite traditional.

“The process at McMaster is really groundbreaking and innovative; we’ve been watching it develop over the past couple of years,” Silcox said.

He noted that while Western’s medical school is always open to change, they are waiting to hear whether or not the new selection process at McMaster is successful.

“It should be very interesting for students,” Silcox said in reference to the speedy interview process. “Some will find it quite stimulating, but others will probably find it difficult having limited time — that can be upsetting to students, because as they move from one station to another, they might be thinking backwards and wondering what they could have done differently [in the previous interview].”

First-year medical student Rebecca Stacpoole said the process being implemented at McMaster sounds like a good idea. “It forces you to think on your toes; you can’t prepare or rehearse for it,” she noted.

“Once candidates are accepted into med school, they have to handle high stress situations and make quick decisions,” said first-year medical student Dennis Bhui. “I think [the process] would help prepare students for that.”



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