Barts & The London Dental School
Interview Tips & Insight
Congratulations to all applicants who were successful in reaching the interview stage for Barts and The London Dental School! It is no easy feat and is a testament to the level of hard work and commitment undertaken thus far-the objective of this article is to elucidate key points regarding the interview process and format itself and hopefully share insight to some useful preparatory measures that can help in strengthening an applicant’s performance at interview stage, so as to do justice to an already strong application.
Interview Structure, Format and Setup
Barts and The London is one of the few dental schools to adopt a traditional, panel interview structure and whilst the objectives of the interview process remain the same as a multiple mini interview (namely to assess and evaluate a candidate’s eligibility based on their characteristics, attributes and a rudimentary understanding of what is required of a member of the dental profession), the overall approach and tonality of the panel structure is more conversational, therefore warranting slightly different preparation strategies.
The panel itself normally consists of 3 to 4 panellists (comprised of two staff members, which can be either senior academic faculty/lecturers or a member of clinical teaching staff/clinical tutors, an existing dental student and in some cases, a lay person or mediator to ensure objectivity, non discrimination and standardisation of the interview process).
Based on the composition of the panel, the types of questions asked usually tend to relate to the panellists’ respective roles for example the clinical staff will often lead the line of questioning regarding what qualities applicants find to be of importance for a dentist or interesting observations during work experience; the academic faculty will normally lead the questioning regarding recent developments in the dental field and theory based questions and the dental student will often lead the questioning regarding extra-curricular activities and how applicants believe they can contribute towards enriching the overall university experience for both themselves and the wider student body.
Preparation Strategies for Panel Interviews
a) Aide memoires in lieu of memorisation - Applicants should aim to create a series of points they feel comfortable to discuss and to expand upon if follow up questions are asked.
b) Use of student forums to research previous student interview experiences - prior research in this manner can allow applicants to familiarise themselves with the sequence of expected questions in a panel interview-often, one question will lead on from the next and there is more scope to use responses given by the applicant as a springboard to the succeeding question.
c) Practice of sequential, related questioning - in light of the above, it is advisable that applicants recognise areas that they feel comfortable and uncomfortable discussing and identify topics they can and cannot expand on during their preparation-avoid mentioning the latter if unable to offer follow up. As pedestrian as it may sound, routine engagement in stimulating, mindful question led conversation in itself with peers, family members and teachers is a very useful strategy for applicants to familiarise themselves with basic skills of active listening and reaction.
d) Active reflection of personal limitations and self-awareness - this refers to one’s capacity to lead a conversation in a certain direction as well as sustain the rhetoric or dialogue which is imperative in a panel style interview and such immediate contemporaneous critical analysis and reflection is also a skill set that is demanded of dental professionals.
e) Familiarity with the objectives of the interview - Barts and the London define the principle purpose of the interview stage of assessment as a means to evaluate the applicant’s aptitude in the following:
- Motivation and realistic approach to dentistry as a career
- Show initiative, resilience and maturity
- Work well as part of a team
- Be well organised and demonstrate problem solving abilities
- Likely contribution to university life
- Communicate effectively in a wide range of situations
Therefore, over the course of questioning, each of the above variables will be considered both directly and indirectly. During interview preparation, candidates can consider how their personal statement, work experience, intra curricular and extra curricular profile lends itself best towards fulfilling the aforementioned criteria and incorporate this personal introspective process into the responses given, hence augmenting the overall profundity of their answers.
f) Extrapolating Potential Questions from the personal statement - whilst the personal statement is not considered in the pre-interview assessment, nor does it contribute to scoring during the interview process, its primary objective is to support the applicant at the time of interview. It may be of some value for applicants to consider the key points mentioned in their personal statement along with possible follow up questions (for example, how certain voluntary or extra-curricular activities allow for team building skills or certain leadership roles lend themselves towards developing a sense of maturity and professionalism) and then consider how these attributes may be of value in the context of Dentistry (such as in a primary care setting, the dentist is the lead clinician but also needs to work well with the dental nurse, the practice manager, the reception staff and often, involve their patients in the team process to an extent as well so as to elevate the overall standard of care offered).
Although the overall process of interview can seem overwhelming at times, most panellists are very experienced and their aim is not to make the process more intimidating-they are aware that applicants are very nervous and do their best to allow for the applicant to feel at ease so as to permit their best performance on the day. Hopefully, the strategies discussed in this article can place applicants in better stead when understanding and preparing for a panel style interview.
For further tips, techniques and past practice questions – review the Dentistry Interview Question Bank
Authored by: Pooja Patel BDS, King’s College London Dental Institute (2011-2016)