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Should you practice for the MMI? Science says: "Maybe not? Difficult to say."


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Take a look at this 2008 article, studying the effect of coaching, practice, and repetition in Australian UMAT (the Australian MCAT) and their MMI, which sounds very similar to the ones we're about to take.

 

http://www.mja.com.au/public/issues/189_05_010908/gri10324_fm.pdf

 

No citing literature seems to present data of its own, so this might be the only empirical word on the subject. In the study, no statistical difference was found between the un-coached and coached groups, and coaching actually seemed to decrease scores in an "understanding communication" portion of the exam. The definition of coaching in the study seems to include MMI practices like those organized here in the forum, though they don't appear to draw clear distinctions between UMAT and MMI coaching groups.

 

The obvious problem with the study, and one acknowledged in the discussion, is that coaching is not randomized among the students studied; it's possible that students seeking coaching are also the ones that perceive weakness in the MMI areas, and the coaching effect is confounded with pre-existing lack of self-confidence/forum-induced neuroticism/etc. :D This is not to say that the coached students themselves were weaker overall; rather, coached students generally had higher GPAs and other university indicators.

 

Solid gains only seemed to occur when questions were repeated from one year to another, and students took the test both years. I'm not sure what Calgary's plan is on question repeats, but this could be a nice bonus for the persistent.

 

Overall, though: if you don't attend a bunch of practice sessions, it's not the end of the world. Don't prepare a bunch of canned responses for the MMI, and don't seem rehearsed. The important thing seems to be just relaxing and presenting "just being yourself," as trite as that may sound: there's no silver bullet for the MMI.

 

 

What d'y'all think?

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I tend to agree - I did very very poorly on my first MMI, at Calgary. Like, 40% poorly. By the time I got to McMaster at the end, I was so sick of the whole thing that I just threw my practising to the wind and started telling personal stories, joking with the interviewer and just being relaxed. McMaster was the only MMI out of the 4 MMIs I did where I got accepted.

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Read through the article pretty quickly (so correct me if I'm wrong :P )...

 

It's not clear what exactly the authors mean by "coaching," especially for the MMI, is it? Is it going over an entire MMI? Multiple times? With who? Or paying an MMI "coaching" company? And what does that entail? Is the professional coaching actually relevant to the MMI questions that this school uses during interview day?

 

The "Effects of repeating the MMI" section seems to make sense - I agree Filius, award the ones who really want to be in medicine. ;)

 

Interesting comment in the discussion about "g-loading" - Standardize the question... and you'll standardize the answers, no? But is that a bad thing?

 

I'm not sure I fully agree with your reasoning Ellorie. If you perform an appendectomy 4 times, once during each Saturday in March, what Saturday is likely to be your best? And why?

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I tend to agree - I did very very poorly on my first MMI, at Calgary. Like, 40% poorly. By the time I got to McMaster at the end, I was so sick of the whole thing that I just threw my practising to the wind and started telling personal stories, joking with the interviewer and just being relaxed. McMaster was the only MMI out of the 4 MMIs I did where I got accepted.

 

Western doesn't use MMI?

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That is true for myself; after going through it twice, I have practised and most importantly I can be 'myself' now. Before I jumbled my thoughts because I was busy thinking about so many other things... 'What are they really loking for? Am I giving it to them? If I fail this, I will have to wait a YEAR!' (I can now offically laugh at myself for that last thought). These weird thoughts don't affect me in other aspects of life or in job interviews because there is just so much riding on the MMI....

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That is true for myself; after going through it twice, I have practised and most importantly I can be 'myself' now. Before I jumbled my thoughts because I was busy thinking about so many other things... 'What are they really loking for? Am I giving it to them? If I fail this, I will have to wait a YEAR!' (I can now offically laugh at myself for that last thought). These weird thoughts don't affect me in other aspects of life or in job interviews because there is just so much riding on the MMI....

 

to go Zen on everyone the only way practice works is you practice so much you forget.

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there is just so much riding on the MMI....

 

and that is why ontariostudent and I recommend being spontaneous, relaxed, yourself, and have fun. Look upon it as a fun adventure, thereby lifting the weight off you. In athletics, acting, anything really including when dealing with patients, you cannot have performance anxiety which can only get in the way, you simply act in accordance with your ability and do the needful.

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I have practiced MMI a LOT. I have been involved in putting together mock MMIs with as part of a "pre-med" club for three years, was paid to "MMI tutor" a very nervous but really amazing med candidate, and have gone to several informal MMI "jam sessions". This is my take on practice:

 

You have to. Not preparing is just unreasonable. I have seen even the most smooth, eloquent, masterful public speaker crash and burn in the face of a tough question and an interviewer's poker face. Formulating a plan (and that is a whole other can of worms) in 2 minutes, and then talking for 8 minutes straight -- it is a wierd situation. It's something we don't do everyday. And it takes practice to do well.

 

It is so not about preparing responses. It is about making sure you are relaxed enough to take a situation that feels like a presentation and turn it into a conversation. It is about controlling the shaking, the stammering, the talking too quickly -- the physiological signs of nervousness, even if you aren't feeling psychologically nervous.

 

To me, the most important things you can do to prep for an MMI are:

1. Find a strategy or two that works for you, making sure you are flexible to change tactics or formulate a new plan on the fly if the situation calls for it (I.e., generating 3 main talking points to structure your interview around, etc) -- do not simply ramble!

2. Practice talking for 8 minutes on a topic you don't know anything about. Do this with others (preferably strangers or people you aren't totally comfortable around, so you can get exposed to more nerve-wracking contexts and practice relaxing), AND in front of a mirror. The mirror part is so you can work on your expressions. You may think you're smiling winningly, but it's possible you actually look utterly terrified. Find out and fix it.

 

My last two pieces of advice are:

1. Show, don't tell. Okay, so you can't really "show", but what I mean is -- instead of saying "I would comfort them" or "I would empathize", give examples of what you mean. "I would assure her I understand her situation and if I were in her shoes, I would probably feel the same way."

2. It's good to think outside the box, but make sure you don't miss the box completely. Hopefully you fully understand every scenario you see -- excellent! Now, some people think an outside-the-box answer, something no one has said before, will make them memorable and boost their score. I tend to agree, but advise caution -- if there seems to be an obvious answer, touch on it first before giving your wildly creative off-the-wall answer.

 

Yes, being comfortable and being yourself is very important. But I believe practice helps you display your best self and gives you tools to control panic on interview day.

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just like hanet, i think you'd be a fool to wing the MMI. the whole point of the MMI is to rate you objectively on a finite set of criteria. imagine if you attended the U of C training weekend for MMI interviewers and practiced before your interview. would you do well?

 

the problem is getting the right set of advice. without having been a real MMI interviewer, most of us are just speculating about what the 'correct' approaches are. the fact that we were successful gives us the illusion that we know all the right answers.

 

I'd be careful about who to take advice from. there's a bootlegged pdf floating on the interpipes of an official manual for McMaster MMI interviewers. google that to start.

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just like hanet, i think you'd be a fool to wing the MMI. the whole point of the MMI is to rate you objectively on a finite set of criteria.

 

The core objective of the MMI is to judge you based on personality and ability to cope with a stressful situation. Some people will do well preparing for that; others, including me, find preparation for that sort of situation makes it more stressful, and doesn't help since the purpose of the test is to check for qualities that are already present. It's probably a good idea to review the format so that one knows approximately what to expect, but actively practicing? Experience shows that it's not a vital part of success in MMI.

 

I know I did very well without any practice, and I have friends with all the characteristics who shot themselves in the foot by practicing until they didn't appear genuine. I also know students who benefited from practicing to reduce their jitters, and applicants who went in without preparation and failed.

 

In the end, know yourself. If you don't understand your own learning and behaviour by now, you will probably have troubles anyway... so consider what usually works for you, and go with that.

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The core objective of the MMI is to judge you based on personality and ability to cope with a stressful situation.

 

The ability to deal with stress is just one of the several characteristics needed to be successful. http://www.ucalgary.ca/mdprogram/prospective/admissions/mmi

 

You must be a natural to have done as well as you did. But who knows if your buddies would have done better without any practice. They were likely not MMI naturals and they got bad advice.

 

Obviously I'm not saying 'any' practice will help. It needs to be done correctly.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I really didn't practice much. I had every intention of doing some practice, and I did read over the stuff on the UofC website and a bunch of example MMI questions on the internet and thought a bit about how I would answer them, but I really just kind of ran out of time to practice. I flew home a week before the MMI and spent that week taking care of my sick 2 year old nephew while my mother and sister-in-law were at my SIL's trying to get ready for them to move to Victoria. I joined some MMI prep email group, but every time we started talking about a question people would just start fighting over what the "right" answer was and that was annoying so I quit reading it. And at no point did I actually stand in front of a mirror or anything and try to talk for 8 minutes or get another person and have them practice interviewing me or anything like that. My point here isn't to try to say that you shouldn't practice for the MMI, but just that you shouldn't stress out if you haven't been able to practice as much as you or other people think you should. I really think the most important things you can do to get ready for the MMI (or a job interview, or the MCAT, or the GRE, or your thesis defense, or anything else like that) are to try to be calm so you can present your ideas clearly and to get 8 hours of sleep the night before.

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I really didn't practice much. I had every intention of doing some practice, and I did read over the stuff on the UofC website and a bunch of example MMI questions on the internet and thought a bit about how I would answer them, but I really just kind of ran out of time to practice. I flew home a week before the MMI and spent that week taking care of my sick 2 year old nephew while my mother and sister-in-law were at my SIL's trying to get ready for them to move to Victoria. I joined some MMI prep email group, but every time we started talking about a question people would just start fighting over what the "right" answer was and that was annoying so I quit reading it. And at no point did I actually stand in front of a mirror or anything and try to talk for 8 minutes or get another person and have them practice interviewing me or anything like that. My point here isn't to try to say that you shouldn't practice for the MMI, but just that you shouldn't stress out if you haven't been able to practice as much as you or other people think you should. I really think the most important things you can do to get ready for the MMI (or a job interview, or the MCAT, or the GRE, or your thesis defense, or anything else like that) are to try to be calm so you can present your ideas clearly and to get 8 hours of sleep the night before.

 

pfft, but you're totally cool and any interviewer would be a dork not to realise that after meeting you. OUTLIER.

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