How to pass a vet school interview
The vast majority of Veterinary Medicine applicants will be interviewed. An invitation to interview is a positive indication that a Vet School has seen a lot that they like about your application; the interview is a good opportunity to expand on the points that you have already made and to tell admissions tutors some more about your suitability for the course. This article aims to answer these questions:
There are two typical interview styles and your university will inform you about their preferred approach when they invite you so you know what to expect. The first is the image that springs to mind when describing ‘an interview’: a panel of between one and three people asking questions of a candidate. The second format is considered to be a more modern approach of putting candidates through their paces: a Multiple Mini Interview (MMI). If you are asked to participate in an MMI, you can expect a series of ‘stations’, each designed to assess a different ability before students move on to a different station and interviewer. The tests that students will experience at each station vary: some might present an ethical dilemma and ask a student to discuss this; another might be a practical test of manual dexterity, such as bending a piece of wire into a certain shape; a third might ask a student to perform some mathematical modelling similar to the drug dosage calculations that would be required of a vet. Students will typically only spend a few minutes at each station.
In a panel interview, a likely opener will be a question about your reasons for choosing veterinary medicine or about why you have applied to that particular university. Admissions tutors will often lead with something quite predictable to break the ice while a student is still settling into the unfamiliar environment; however you should still take this question very seriously. The fact that you have had the opportunity to prepare an answer means that you must deliver something thoughtful and well-reasoned. Make sure that you practice your answer to this question, ideally in front of a few different people to get their feedback on whether you are coming across as you want to.
Although there is not a definitive list of questions that students will be asked on a panel interview, there are a few topics that are likely to come up. Aside from your motivation about being a vet, admissions tutors want to make sure that you have the ability. This might be assessed through them asking about your A level studies, what you have done to pursue your academic interests outside of the classroom or discussing your EPQ if you mention one in your application. Interviewers will also be looking to learn more about your work experience – it is very likely you will discuss this. Remember that your interviewer already knows what it is like in a veterinary surgery or on a farm; they do not want to hear an overly descriptive account of the processes and procedures you witnessed. What they are very interested in, on the other hand, is your reaction to that experience. They want to know what you saw that you found particularly thought-provoking, what you learned, what you were surprised by, what you enjoyed, what you were upset by – and why. Current affairs or politics are likely to be mentioned in one way or another as your interviewers want to know that you have a genuine interest in the field, demonstrated by the fact that you are well-informed on topical issues.
Most students will never have experienced such a formal interview situation prior to their first university interview. One of the best ways to prepare is to familiarise yourself with what to expect: this will help you to focus on the interview itself without the additional distraction of trying to acclimatise. In order to do this, read the letter from the university carefully and take note of all the details about your interview so you can picture what it will be like. Then, arrange for a practice. Some schools and colleges will organise these for students so take advantage of this if you can. There are also external companies offering mock interviews which is something that you might want to explore. Alternatively you could create your own ‘interview’ scenario with family or friends. If you do the latter it is important to take it seriously and not just get the giggles or fall ‘out of role’ in order to get the most out of the experience. Have them pre-prepare questions and grill you for half an hour, giving you some constructive criticism at the end. Make sure your volunteers don’t shy away from asking you difficult questions or pressing you to expand on a point you have made: the harder they are on you, the more you will learn from the experience.
Question-answering: confidence and technique
Practising your question-answering is very important and you can do this with others or alone. Search for a list of frequently asked questions in a Vet Med interview and try to answer them. Do this aloud and if possible record yourself, then listen back to what you have said to see how you come across. You need to speak clearly and fluently; often when we are nervous we speak quickly and our points are not clear or are ‘lost’ in an unnecessarily verbose response or among ‘fillers’ (noises we make when we are thinking: er; um, like). When you play back your responses, listen carefully to whether any of these things apply to you and make a conscious effort to overcome them next time you are practising. It is not easy to change the way that we speak but if you take your time, concentrate and persevere you will improve.
Knowing that you have prepared will help you to feel more confident, which will come across to an interviewer. It also means that when you are inevitably asked a question that you did not expect, you will have the tools to thoughtfully approach it and give a fulsome and articulate response rather than panicking and not performing to the best of your ability.
Question-answering: subject knowledge
Another aspect of preparation is actually being able to answer the questions! For this, you will need to keep abreast of relevant current affairs. Read a good-quality newspaper and keep cuttings (or website bookmarks/print outs) of anything relevant to jog your memory later down the line. There is a section of BBC News dedicated to science and the environment that is worth keeping your eye on and you can also find out more from the British Veterinary Association. If you do see an item reported, find out Defra’s response for the government’s official stance. If there is something relevant to the veterinary industry currently in the news, or that has been in the news in the recent past, it is very likely that this will be discussed at interview. The other serious candidates will be aware of this news item and will be able to debate it so it is vital that you can, too.
Another sphere of knowledge that it is important to be confident in discussing are your A level studies. You might be asked what you are doing at school, what you like/dislike about your subjects or whether you have done any additional reading (ideally you will have done). Many schools have subscriptions to publications such as the New Scientist; flick through these in the library and note down anything that interests you. You might also be asked something more practical at interview, such as to perform a calculation about the concentration of medication to prescribe to an animal so be ready for this also (GCSE-level Maths knowledge will do, seeing as the subject prerequisites for Vet Med are Biology and Chemistry). Make sure you revise what you have done at school as part of your preparation for interview.
Attending an interview will inevitably be a daunting experience. Hopefully, with some hard work and careful preparation you will be able to turn this into a positive and impress university admissions tutors to win a coveted vet school place.
For more information, watch our video on Getting into Veterinary School: