This post is one of the core features of my blog. It is one of the main reasons why I initially wanted to create dorkydentalstudent and the aim was for it to be a super useful resource for any prospective dental students.
I’ve made it thorough, so I will start by introducing this post with the warning that it is LONG.
In this blog post I want to focus on the interview stage of dental school applications; talking about how to prepare, what to expect, how to handle the nerves on interview day, post-interview self-assessment and general tips.
Of course there’s so much great info online about interviews in general and there’s also a load of good stuff specific for dental interviews so I’d like to start by stressing that these are my own thoughts and tips for how to prepare for dental school interviews.
I hope this is helpful for anyone preparing for upcoming interviews at dental schools in the UK mainly, but I guess much of this will be universal so could be somewhat useful to applicants in other countries too.
What I believe to be the best approach is to seek out and review multiple sources of information, then assimilate it all. So yes… that may mean you end up reading the same things a few different times, just written by someone different in a slightly different way, but that way you will be assured that you are reading about what is useful for you to know regarding dental school interviews, and it hopefully will also mean it sticks with you! 🙂
Having said that, you have to remember to always be true to yourself and remember to present your genuine self in interview as opposed to someone you think the interviewers want you to be. The interview will be your opportunity to let them know who YOU are as a person.
WHY BOTHER READING THIS?!
Before I get into it all properly I also wanted to try and justify to you reading this why I feel like I am qualified to be able to write such a post, and why I think it is worth a read.
Firstly, I will keep this as real as possible, offering what I think are helpful pieces of advice, things worth considering during your own interview prep and of course injecting some of my personality into it so it doesn’t read so boringly like a lot of the online sources I came across felt.
Secondly, I am fairly experienced when it comes to interviews, having been through many myself starting with roles at school, then for part-time jobs I took on whilst at university the first time (I studied biomedical science first). After graduating I worked in London for a couple of years and during that period before securing work I went to countless interviews for various different jobs (I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do then). And of course the 4 dental school interviews I had. From all these experiences I was fortunate to be successful at most, being offered the position.
Thirdly, I learnt a lot about interviews through my professional employment from before I started at dental school. I spent time in two different jobs which I briefly mention below:
- After I graduated from Imperial College in 2013, I worked for a few months in the City of London as a recruitment consultant primarily within investment banking. Ultimately that line of work was not what I enjoyed or wanted to be doing with my working life, and fortunately I realised that very soon into my employment so I quit. But in those few months I learnt so much about so many things, but what I want to highlight for the purpose of this blog post is: that one of the main parts of my job was to prepare candidates for interview to help them be successful.
- Then after I quit that job as a headhunter, I secured a much better suited position for me which I stayed in for 12 months; working in the pharmaceutical industry as a market research executive and as part of that job I had to analyse interviews, interview respondents myself and also help to prepare interview scripts.
So by now I’ve probably bored most people who started reading this post away, but for those still reading – thank you 🙂
GETTING INVITED TO INTERVIEW
When applying, you are allowed to choose four dental schools. I chose three undergraduate (5 year courses): Barts and The London, Bristol, Cardiff and one graduate-entry (4 year course): Kings College London.
Most UK dental schools will send out their interview invitations to all selected candidates starting from mid-December and they can be known to send out invites anytime from then till around early March.
DISCLAIMER: I can’t be sure of this…just theorising here
- Most of dental schools send invites to the strongest applicants first
- i.e. the applicants they believe are best suited
- The sooner you finalise your UCAS application and submit it online, the sooner the universities receive your application and be able to review it, so you are more likely to hear back from them about an interview early
- So because of this, if you can I would suggest that before 15th September, you take the UCKAT and have already decided which four schools you want to send you application to
- If they like you as a candidate after you’ve had the interview, they will get int touch to inform you that they are offering you a place before two weeks post-interview date, which they usually promise is the latest you will hear back
- If they are unsure about whether to offer you a place or not, they will consider you as a ‘maybe’ meaning that they will wait until other applicants have been interviewed thereby allowing them to make a considered decision about whether they will offer you a place
- So they may not have invited you initially, but after they’ve interviewed a certain number of students they might feel the need to invite more students in who were initially uninvited
What you should always remember is that if you’ve been invited to interview, it means they have reviewed you academically, read through your personal statement – and they like you! 🙂
Many other university courses don’t require an interview, they simply offer places to candidates based on their application on paper. But dentistry is different because it is so important to be the right kind of person who has the potential to become a great dentist.
On paper something might seem perfect, but in reality could be very different. A terrible example is when you read the description of a meal which details the dish itself – it might sound like it would be a delicious meal, but in reality it could look and taste awful. This is the same with an applicant for dental school; on paper you might seem to be an ideal candidate but only during the interview will they be able to establish whether you are in fact a good dental applicant or not.
THE STUDENT ROOM (TSR) – USEFUL or USELESS?
Admittedly, I think my beliefs about the dental interviews may have been influenced at least in part by what I read by scrolling through page after page of threads on The Student Room (TSR). Whether they like to admit it or not, I reckon most people at dental school with me did also read through threads on TSR.
Don’t get me wrong, I think TSR can be a really helpful resource for applicants, whether they actively contribute and post messages on threads or do what I think most people, myself included do, which is to passively use TSR as a reference to make us feel comforted about our own applications.
Using TSR can be great, but it can be harmful so I have listed a few bits of advice for you about it:
- Don’t over rely on it
- Don’t believe everything you read – some people are trolls, some people deliberaltely want to mislead others, some people post incorrect information and there are lots of other individuals who for whatever reason post random, useless, unhelpful things
- Read the right thread – make sure it is the most up to date thread for the year you are applying in (it’s easy to be caught up in a thread that’s a few years old)
- Don’t post a message unless it will benefit others on the thread or if you have a burning question you want to ask
- Don’t stress about posts that other people make, especially those when people state their academic grades, supposed UKCAT scores
- Remember not everyone gets invited to interview in the same batch, at the same time; so if others are posting saying they have had invitations for interview, but you haven’t, do not stress
Each dental school will consider your application differently, placing more or less emphasis on certain aspects of your application:
- Personal statement – especially looking at your details regarding work experience
- UKCAT score
- Academic results (GSCE and AS-Levels for school leavers A-levels for gap year applicants and first undergraduate degree score for those applying to study dentistry as their second degree – like me!)
So yeah, they like you! Well, on paper anyway… Next you’ve got to get them to like you in person :p
FINDING OUT IF YOU’VE BEEN INVITED TO INTERVIEW
Typically you will find out that you’ve been invited to interview by:
- A Letter in the Post
- An Email
- UCAS update
Getting invited to interview at any dental school in the UK is highly competitive so the first thing you should do when you read the good news is to congratulate yourself and share the news with your friends and family.
I remember receiving the emails with my invitations to interview, what a great feeling! I got an invite whilst sat on a packed commuter train one evening heading home from work, another when having dinner on the sofa with the TV on, and the other two when I was sat at my desk at work so couldn’t get too excited for them in the office… otherwise my manager would have asked why I was acting so chirpy and I didn’t want to tell people I was working with that I was planning on leaving to do dentistry until it was official that I had offers.
Once you’ve submitted your application on UCAS I would say it’s best for you to not constantly think about when you will finally hear from the universities and just continue with your life. There’s a saying that goes: “A watched pot never boil some”, which applies here. Don’t be one of those people who logs in to their UCAS every 1 hour! Instead, try to keep your frequency of UCAS logins to twice a week: Wednesday and Friday’s are what I would suggest. It’s unlikely for the dental schools to update UCAS over the weekend, so a midweek check and end of working week check (Friday) are good time points each week as these are moments when an update is most likely to have been received by.
PREPARING FOR THE INTERVIEW(S)
It probably wont be one of the main factors you consider when deciding which dental schools to choose but I’d say that once you have made that decision and submitted your UCAS application, it’s a good time to then begin to think about the interviews – even before you hear back about if you’ve been invited.
The reason why I think it’s a good idea to think about the interviews early is, as I hope you already have at least some knowledge of is that each university has a different style for how they interview their applicants. And knowing about this is important to bear in mind when going about your interview prep.
A quick Google search will help you confirm the style of interview for each dental school and since its that easy I don’t want to definitively state the style for each university in this post, as they may change and I don’t want to give you the wrong info.
So once you’ve let the good news of interview invitations sink in and you’ve confirmed the interview styles, its time to get ready for them and I cant stress how important it is to prepare! Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
And preparing for any interview, dentistry related or otherwise, many aspects are the same, so if you have never had one, its definitely worth going about preparing for your first the right way and you can just continue your approach for any future interviews.
Because being successful at the interview to get into dental school is only the beginning. There will inevitably be more interviews down the line, the next major set of interviews will come when you graduate from dental school 4/5/6 years later as you’ll need to interview again to get your first as a dentist! And probably a few more times after that. But let’s rewind and just focus on the interview to get into dental school.
Of course you may also have other interviews in between then, perhaps for part time jobs. All the more reason to prep good…and that way you’re in a good place with some confidence that you can go for any interview any time and give it a decent crack.
Interviewing itself is a skill; it’s something you can become good at through preparation and better at through experience.
THE INTERVIEWER’S KEY SCORING CRITERIA
- Reasons for Your Choice of Dental School
- Motivation to Study Dentistry
- Express an genuine interest and desire to be a dentist
- Awareness of Dental Issues
- Knowledge of basic dental terms
- Basic Awareness of the Different Dental Specialties
- Communication Skills
- Eye contact
- Listening to the Questions
- Engaging Conversation
- Personal Qualities
- Dedication + Ambition
- Emotional Intelligence/Empathy
- Academic ability
- Good grades
The best way to organise yourself is to breakdown the prep:
- General Preparation for Dental Interviews
- Dental School-Specific Preparation
Most of the preparation will be universal/general, meaning that it will be the same for any dental school but you will also have to spend some time making additional prep specific to the dental schools you are interviewing at, depending on what their style is and what uni-specific info you can gather from the Internet.
(1) GENERAL INTERVIEW PREPARATION
There are some questions you should be confident with as they are classic questions you could be asked at any dental school.
So what I’d suggest is that you think about each one, and decide roughly what things you’d include when discussing your answer.
You can expect some fairly straightforward questions, like:
- “Tell me about yourself.”
- “Why dentistry?”
- “What are a few key skills dentists should possess?”
- “And can you give us examples of instances that exemplify when you’ve demonstrated these qualities?”
- “How many teeth does a typical adult have?”
- “What is dental caries?”
- “Do you know any of the dental specialties?”
- Periodontics/Endodontics/Pedodontics/Orthodontics/Oral Surgery etc
- Why did you choose dentistry over medicine?
- “If we asked some of your close friends to tell us what some the best things about you are and some of your bad qualities, what would they tell us?”
Questions about your Personal Statement:
They can also ask you questions directly related to anything you might have written on your personal statement. For this reason, be sure to re-familiarise yourself with everything you wrote about just before the interview – especially because it is likely to be a long time after you wrote it that your interview takes place, so you might have forgotten some things.
From your PS, you can expect them to ask about anything you’ve written:
- Your Work Experiences
- Can you tell us about any difficult patients the dentist encountered?
- Can you tell us about an interesting patient case you saw the dentist treat?
- How did you go about arranging your work experience?
- Extracurricular activities:
- Sports Teams
- Duke of Edinburgh
- Musical Instruments
- Artistic Hobbies
- Positions of Responsibility (Head boy/girl, school prefect etc)
- Family members in dentistry?
- Part-time job – tell us about it? What did you learn from it?
- Gap Year – talk about what you learned from it
Gap Year Student?
If you went on a Gap Year, you should definitely write about it in your personal statement. But as with all the details in your PS, it has to be relevant, and add value that in some way relates back to dentistry and why you are a good applicant.
You can pretty much guarantee that interviewers will ask you about your Gap Year based on what you’ve written about it in your PS. Why? Because not many applicants have taken a gap year, so it sets you apart and from an interviewer’s perspective, its a refreshing change from them asking the usual questions to every single interviewee.
So you can plan ahead and think what questions they may ask, so you can think about the answer you may give.
For example, they could ask an open ended question to say: “Tell us about your gap year.” Or they might be more specific and ask something like: “Tell us what you have learnt from your gap year experiences and how it will make you a better dental student/dentist.”
WATCH THIS – Gap Yah
You can also of course expect to be asked a few questions related to some aspects of dentistry, some of which you can prepare for by doing some brief reading online but don’t stress overly as you aren’t expected to be able to discuss in great detail any dental topics. The interviewers know that you are young and not yet a dental student nor a dental professional! They simply want to get an idea of how much you do know and even if you don’t have prior knowledge at least try to answer the question as best you can. After all that’s the best you can do.
The topics that interviewers like to ask about include:
- THE FLUORIDE DEBATE
What is this all about? Well in short, there are suggestions that there should be a tiny amount of fluoride added to our water supplies.
Why Fluoride? Hopefully all of you brush your teeth, and if so I’m sure you’ve noticed that the key ingredient in pretty much all toothpastes is a small amount of fluoride (up to 1500 ppm). Fluoride is a key element that can help to strengthen our enamel, which is the outer later of our teeth. This is helpful against dental caries.
But, fluoride is a very toxic element for the human body that can potentially have seriously damaging effects.
One american study showed that there is as much, if not more dental decay in fluoridated communities as there is in non-fluoridated areas, but the dental costs are higher in fluoridated communities due to dental fluorosis. Drinking fluoridated water may delay decay, but it does not prevent it- The best prevention for decay is good oral hygiene!
Fluoride is more toxic than lead and like lead in minute doses, accumulates in and can be damaging to brain/mind development of children, producing abnormal behavior in animals and reducing IQ in humans, especially in conjunction with deficiencies of key nutrients such as calcium, iodine and vitamins.
This debate can get quite messy if you start to consider the ethical issues so as a dental school applicant I’d say just have enough of an understanding of it and remember an argument for and against water fluoridation just in case it comes up in your interview.
- The Royal College of Physician’s Enquiry into Water Fluoridation
- Be aware of the ethical considerations associated with this debate
- The British Fluoridation Society’s website
- Here’s a Systematic Review on Water Fluoridation that was published in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) in 2000
- Here’s a more recent Cochrane review of Water Fluoridation for the Prevention of Dental Caries that is worth a read!
- THE AMALGAM DEBATE
What is amalgam? In brief, it is a a combination of mercury and a silver-tin alloy. It has been used as a restorative material, especially as a filling material in posterior teeth (molars) for many years. But more recently, it has been used less and less because of the associated risks to health.
I’m currently in the second year and have only just had the amalgam lectures so don’t worry – you will definitely not be expected to have extensive knowledge of amalgam for the interview. But it is worth at least having a basic understanding of amalgam since it divides opinions on whether or not it still has a place in dentistry.
Amalgam is still the best, most cost effective option for some posterior restorations. But the mercury in amalgam is a very toxic material so in 2013, at the Minamata Convention, delegates agreed to a phase-down of the use of dental fillings that use dental amalgam.
There are safer alternatives to amalgam that can be used in its place, such as composite (white filling material) and Glass Ionomer Cements (GICs), which have advantages over amalgam, but the reason why I dont think amalgam won’t be phased out completely is that it has its own advantages: eg. it lasts a LONG time.
I think for the purposes of the interview that’s enough information, but if you want to read more then just do a cheeky Google search. And I’ve added some links below:
- The Minamata Convention
- BDA: What Do I Need to Know about Amalgam
- Managing the Phasing Down of Amalgam (BDJ, 2013)
- Why do you think so many dentists have to stress about lawsuits
- THE SUGAR TAX
You might have heard about this new tax recently.
The Sugar Tax was introduced earlier this year (2016) in the new budget that the chancellor of the exchequer released.
It hasn’t come as a surprise to many since it has been a topic of debate for a number of years now. The tax is primarily aimed at drinks with high-sugar content: fizzy drinks (eg. Coca Cola) and fruit juices.
There are a number of key drivers for this new tax, primarily it is to help combat childhood/teenage obesity. So many people consume lots of sugary drinks on a regular basis so by imposing a tax, it might not do much to put people of buying and consuming these products but at least it will allow the government to obtain money from the tax that can then be used to help address the issue from different angles.
This is very relevant also to dentistry, because one of the key requirements for dental caries is the presence of sugar (a carbohydrate) source in the mouth.
- Public Health Info on Sugar, BDA
- The UK Sugar Tax – A Healthy Start? (BDJ, 2016)
- Sugar Tax: For or Against? – Dentistry.co.uk
- Sugar Tax Info – BBC
- THE NEW NHS CONTRACTS
For about 10 years now, there has been huge efforts made to reassess and change the way that dentists are paid, the key driver for change is to make treatment more patient centric
The new contract is structured to reward dentists for the continuity and quality of care of treatment provided to patients, as opposed to the current system where dentists are rewarded based on the number of treatments carried out.
The aim of the new contract is to:
- Improve the quality of patient care
- Increase access to NHS dental services
- Improve the oral health of patients, especially of children
There has been a pilot scheme running for a number of years now in a relatively small but significant proportion of dental practices to test the new contract to ensure t is designed properly.
Ultimately, when the new contract has been tried, tested and proved to be a beneficial and effective new system then it will replace the current contracts.
It is definitely worth doing some research into this to understand what the situation is, what the old contracts were like, why they aren’t ideal and therefore being replaced because by the time you qualify as a dentist things will almost certainly be different to how they currently are.
- Here’s a BDA video on the ‘old’ system that is currently in place
- Problem’s with the Current Contracts
If you get asked about any of the above then they are testing you! Do your best to answer the question and try not to talk too much, especially not if you are just rambling.
Its probably also worth doing some research into any specific kind of dentistry, just in case they ask you to tell them about a dental specialty. You could for example research endodontics (root canal treatments) so you have an idea of what an RCT is, why it needs to be done to teeth, what are the risks associated with it etc.
You can always finish your answer with a phrase like: “And that’s all I really know to tell you about ….. – I’m sure I will learn about it in more detail when I hopefully start my dental studies.”
There is a lot of ethics in dentistry, and it is a favourite type of question to come up in at least one of your interviews. These commonly relate to professionalism, confidentiality but can be related to drug abuse, infectious diseases etc.
I’ll be honest, these are challenging, and not the type of question that you can do a whole lot of preparation for. The point of ethics in any regard is that there is never really a single correct answer, otherwise it wouldn’t be up for debate. So just do your best to formulate a response to whatever the topic they ask you about it.
Think about it from a number of different angles. If you get asked an ethical question, it will probably take at least 3-5 minutes of the interview if not more as they will first hear your initial response and perhaps open it to a little discussion.
There are 3 duties of care dentists must follow as stated by the GDC Principles:
- Do Good, Do No Harm
- Respect Autonomy
- Act Fairly and Justly
Go on Google, and search for dental ethics – there are lots of websites that will provide you with some classical dentistry related ethical scenarios.
Alternatively, if you are really interested – there is one great book I’d recommend: Dental Ethics at the Chair-side by Ozark and Sokol. I bought it from Amazon (but not until I was halfway through my first year at dental school, so please don’t go and buy it just for interviews!).
Again, don’t stress about a potential ethical question too much. It will probably be a very simple ethical scenario with a fairly obvious thought process.
If they are really mean (very unlikely!), they could ask you to offer any ethical scenario associated with dentistry – in which case it will mean you will have had to prepare by doing some brief online research, or try and come up with a scenario for them on the spot. I highly doubt this will ever be the case but I just thought it could be when writing this so thought I’d include it as a possibility.
*Interview Tip*: Directing the Discussion to a Certain Topic/Point
A great interview technique that you can try to use if you see an opportunity to is to guide the discussion in a direction that suits you. This will have to be done subtly and if you do it right they might not even notice or even mind it. What I mean by this is that if you begin answering a question they have asked you, as part of your answer you can introduce something new to the discussion if it relates to the question’s answer. This will allow you to bring up something you want to highlight to the interviewers that they may not have been aware of had you not brought it up spontaneously yourself. Hopefully I’ve explained this technique well enough so you understand what I mean, but to give an example:
Let’s say they ask you to talk about the skills a dentist should possess.
You can answer by listing a few of the obvious skills such as approachability, good hand-eye coordination, a strong scientific background, excellent communication skills, patience, good leadership etc etc. And what you can do is then link this to then discuss your own skills that correspond with those a dentist has. So you could say you were the captain of your rugby team = leadership, you won an fine art scholarship = hand-eye coordination, you volunteered as an English teacher in a third world country….whatever is appropriate and true to your experiences. Alternatively, you could then link these skills in to discussing how you witnessed a dentist showcase many of these skills during your week-long work experience placement with an orthodontist.
So you see what I mean: you begin by directly answering the question they asked and then link it in with other points that are interconnected. This will not only help elongate your answer, it will also allow you to tell the interviewers what you want them to know about you and it truly will impress them.
But like I mentioned, this is should happen organically and only do so if you see an opportunity to. Otherwise if you just say something completely unrelated to what they asked you about, they’ll think you aren’t listening.
“Do you have any questions for Us?”
This is a question they could well ask you! If you’ve prepared properly and thoroughly, then you should be expecting this to pop up at least in one of your interviews. And you should have thought about some good questions to ask them.
This is another window of opportunity for you within the interview to show them your genuine interest in dentistry – don’t let it pass you by, ask a good, thought-provoking question and listen to their answer!
From the interviewer’s point of view, this is a nice and easy way for them to wrap up the interview. So it might come at the end of the interview, but not necessarily.
A good interview should flow like a conversation at times, so don’t hesitate to ask a question if you have one at a relevant time doing the interview despite not being prompted to ask one.
From your point of view, hearing them ask you this should be a good thing. Not only does it suggest immediately to you in your mind that finally, the interview is coming to an end. But it also turns the tables and allow you one last opportunity to impress them.
There are two things that you should definitely NOT do if this is asked:
- Never say “No” – they will be wanting/expecting you to ask a question. If you say no, it’s the last word you will probably say to them before the interview concludes,, not a great way to finish if you ask me. Not only that, it will make you forgettable. And it also suggests a certain arrogance about you in that you don’t have any questions to ask, which some might consider to mean you know everything you need to already.
- Don’t ask a silly question, but when I use the word ‘silly’ I mean it a specific way. Because in general, there are no silly questions. Yes, I realise the huge contradiction I just made there… Think about the question, and think what their answer to it might likely be. Then think whether they will be impressed by you asking it or whether they would have expected you to know the answer to it already.
If its a panel interview and you are sat across from more than one interviewer, when you ask your question to them make sure you give them all a bit of eye contact. As opposed to not giving any eye-contact at all (which is the worst thing to do) or to ask the question to a single individual and forget the rest by giving only one interviewer eye-contact.
I remember one question I asked in my interview at Barts and The London was: “If whilst on the five year course a student begins to really start liking a specific dental specialty, lets say endodontics, is there any scope for the student to invest more of their training into that particular specialty?” I’d like to think it was a good question, and the interviewers certainly seemed to think so. It demonstrated my interest in dentistry as a career as well as reminding them that I am aware there are different dental specialties.
Don’t forget, when they answer your question, listen to it, look interested in their response (or at least pretend try to).
Then thank them – at which stage the interview will probably come to a conclusion.
(2) Dental-School Specific Prep
Go Visit The University!
As an undergraduate dental student, you will be spending at least 5 years at the university you have chosen, so it’s important for you that you like the city and the university.
Different dental schools may have different ways of teaching the course, so it is important to do your research and establish how each dental school teaches. Some incorporate lots of PBL/SBL (problem/scenario based learning), some have more clinical teaching than other schools, some have very early clinical teaching whilst other schools leave the clinical stuff till a bit later, and each school will have different ways of examining students which you might have a preference for.
Order a free paper copy of the university’s prospectus or download an e-version online. All universities produce a new prospectus booklet every year, within which there is plenty of great information about the university as a whole, each course specifically and they also have a section dedicated to the city itself. Make sure you spend some time looking through it to help you make your decision about the university and the course, but also to give you some ammunition to use when answering questions.
All universities advertise a few opportunities for you to go an visit at open days, and the dental schools usually have specific open day opportunities to allow you to get a feel for the facilities they offer. I would definitely recommend you go and visit the places you are applying to, as it will help you decide for sure if it’s somewhere you can see yourself living and studying for 5 years. This is also going to be useful come the interview, for a few reasons. Firstly, it will mean you are familiar with the place so you don’t have to stress on the day of interview about where you need to go etc, and also it should help dispel some nerves you’ll have on interview day. Who knows, you may even have met a few people at the open days and got talking to them only to then see them again at the interview, so you’ll have made a friend who can keep you company on interview day.
“Why [insert university name here]?”
Everyone will have their own reasons for choosing a certain dental school, they are all great and not much differentiates one from the other in terms of the dentistry they teach you. Everyone comes out as a qualified dentist.
So think about your own reasons and be able to communicate these in interview
Remember to always try and keep your answer related to the dental school in some form.
If you did, mention in interview that you went to an open day and liked what you saw – and were impressed by the dental school facilities and encouraged by talking with current dental students
For example, Barts and The London is situated in East London, and serves the borough of Tower Hamlets which has an interesting and diverse demographic with a significant Bangladeshi population. This would be something to mention for an interview at Barts. And I’m sure there are unique aspects associated with some of the other dental schools worth being aware of to be able to mention if appropriate in your interview.
This is a question you can expect to come up so it’s a great one to prepare for. But be careful not to memorise a monologue – it will be obvious to the interviewers that you are reciting a pre-prepared answer. Don’t do it: it will prevent you from properly engaging with the interviewers and is likely to go wrong if nerves get the better of you causing you to panic as you forgot what you wanted to say exactly.
Other reasons you can mention could include:
- Do you live near to the city?
- Do you have friends also hoping to be at the university?
- Did your older siblings/parents study there?
- What is it about the city that you like?
- What is near the city and why is that a factor? (eg. near national parks if you like trekking)
- What is it about the university you like?
- What is it about the way the course is taught that you like?
- Do you like the fact that it is a relatively small/large dental school. And why is that?
There’s no right or wrong answer – just be true to yourself and give your honest answer 🙂
All UK dental schools except Leeds will train you to qualify with a BDS (Bachelor of Dental Surgery). At Leeds dental school, students qualify as a MAster and Bachelor of Dental Surgery.
There’s no real difference with the MChD/BChD at Leeds, but something to be aware of if applying to Leeds as they will want to know that you know this detail!
There are many different names for the classic panel style interview. It basically describes the style of interview where you will be sat across from your interviewer(s) and there will be a back and forth of questions and answers.
This has been the traditional interview format for years and years, but is gradually being used less and less, especially for dental school interviews. The more modern MMI format of interviewing is gradually becoming the preferred style.
MULTIPLE MINI INTERVIEWS (MMIs)
As the name suggests, MMIs are a number of back to back short interviews that each have a different focus.
I found my experiences of MMI really fun at Bristol and Cardiff, and both were very similar. But I also experienced the MMI style at King College except it was very different to the MMIs I had at Bristol/Cardiff, so don’t assume it’s always the same!
At Bristol and Cardiff there were ~12 stations with a couple of rest stops where you just chill for 5 minutes. At Kings, there were only ~5 stations, and none involved any physical activity in the form of a role play/hand-eye coordination test – the Kings MMI stations were intense and the interviewers all seemed very serious!
The MMI format keeps things interesting and allows you multiple unique opportunities to impress them.
It’s going to be slightly different for each dental school, but the general principle is that you will spend ~5 minutes in each situation either answering a question or carrying out a given task
It’s done all at once with one applicant per station and when the bell rings after the allocated time you finish and move directly onto the next station.
I don’t want to get too specific about the MMIs as I can only base it on my experiences from three of the dental schools and I have no idea what it is like at the others who use MMI. Plus, I’m sure there are other sources of info online where you can find out more about it all.
The MMIs will be a be varied, and likely to include:
- I had an ethical question at all three MMI style interviews I had so it’s almost an inevitability that one will come up
- See the section above – it could be any of these questions
- I got asked at Cardiff: “How would you be able to fit a Giraffe into a fridge?”
Role Play Situation
- Testing your communication skills
- They will usually give you a pen+paper along with a couple of questions to answer with or without the need to use a calculator
Hand-Eye Coordination Tests
- Threading a piece of string through the eye of a needle
- Bending a metal wire into a certain shape
- Constructing a specific design with mini building blocks
One bit of advice for any stations where you have to do something manual to test hand-eye coordination, the interviewer will likely also be asking you questions or just generally trying to make conversation with you whilst your busy. Try to keep engaged with them as they are also testing to see how you can multi-task and maintain conversation whilst working with your hands – this is a key skill dentists will need! As a dentist you will need to maintain communication with your dental nurse whilst operating as well as talking to your patient and anyone who may accompany them to appointments.
The great thing about the MMI format is that even if you mess up at one or two stations but do well at the rest, you still stand a great chance of being offered a place.
I will write a separate post soon which will focus on MMI style interviews for dental schools and I will include lots of example stations and discuss the best approach to a few of them.
GENERAL ADVICE FOR THE INTERVIEW(S)
- Get an Early Night the day before
You don’t want to look or feel tired at the interview.
Being well rested will help you look alert, interested and more importantly help you answer any questions with a clear mind.
- Don’t Talk Too Much
It can easily start to happen without you realising, especially if you’re feeling nervous. Try not to over share.
If you get asked a specific question, before you start talking just think about your answer for a brief moment before you go ahead and start talking. Keep the answer relevant to the question you were asked, if you start to go off on a tangent and tell them details that weren’t related to the question, not only will they be able to tell you’re incredibly nervous, but they will feel like you’re communication skills are poor, because a key requirement for good communication is listening!
Padding your answers or waffling is not going to help – you might think they want you to keep going but they don’t. Be confident you’ve answered the question sufficiently and then stop, smile and wait for them to ask you another question.
- Eat your Breakfast
I don’t know about you but I can’t function when I’m hungry…worse still, sometimes I get ‘hangry’ – the last feeling you want in an interview situation
Eat whatever you usually have so there’s no risk of you feeling off. So if you usually have porridge, have porridge. If you usually have Nutella on toast, have that etc etc
If nerves get the better of you on the morning of the interview you might feel like you have no appetite, but trust me, it’s best to eat something still!
And of course, don’t forget to properly brush your teeth – not only is this important for any interview but especially important as your interviewing to be a dentist!
- Shower and Deodorant
If I ever skip my morning shower, I feel disgusting and probably don’t smell the best. Definitely get a shower in, if you’re a bath person then have a bath. And slap on some deodorant, but try to avoid using a strong smelling perfume/cologne.
- Arrive Early
It’s better to be early and wait around for 20 minutes than to be 20 minutes late!
Being late leaves a terrible first impression and if you are having to rush in then you might start sweating and will probably get more nervous than you need to be!
If its a city you’re unfamiliar with, make sure you’ve planned your journey’s route the day before.
- Don’t Spend the Day with Mum/Dad
If you go with a family member, don’t spend your time with them – once you get to the dental school and your mum/dad has given you one last hug and wished you all the luck in the world, get them to leave you and go wait in a coffee shop nearby or to explore the city.
If you’re a school leaver, university is likely to be your first experience as an independent young adult – why not start being independent at the interview
You should take the opportunity at the interview to talk to other people there and make some friends. You’ll be spending 5 years with some of these people
If you get to know some people at the interviews, it will mean that when you are successful and eventually are in your first week at dental school you’ll see some familiar faces and there’s your first friend sorted 🙂
- Dress Smart
This goes without saying but you have to look smart and professional at interview.
Guys in a clean dark-coloured suit ( black, grey, navy) with a plain shirt (white ideally), tie and smart polished shoes.
I saw a lad at interview with scruffy hair, a loose tie, wrinkled shirt and dirty converse on. Even if he was an incredible candidate on paper and was super charming and confident in the interview, his appearance was definitely something that the interviewers would have noticed in a negative light.
Same goes for girls, but as a bloke I don’t think I can give proper advice on how to dress, but you can figure it out I’m sure 🙂 Wear a suit or a skirt and jacket?
And if you have a lucky pair of underwear or some lucky socks/cuff links…wear them! 🙂
- Pack Light
Don’t take too much along to the interview
If you are travelling with a parent then leave things with them
A small handbag for girls and perhaps a small backpack for guys is more than enough
If it’s raining, as it usually is when UK dental schools do their interviews you might need a rain jacket/umbrella
Double check the letter/email you got sent – sometimes they want to you brings specific things to the interview (passport, evidence of achieved academic grades, National Insurance number etc)
- Take a Bottle of Water
I don’t know about you but I get a dry mouth when I get nervous
Take a water bottle into the interview – it also gives you a few seconds to think if you get asked a tough question. Before you dive in with an answer just say “excuse me, and unscrew the bottle top and take a small sip” – it gives you that crucial extra second to gather your thoughts and formulate an answer
- Don’t Worry about the “Perfect Handshake”
Of all the important things to worry about for the interviews, the handshake should not be one of them. Practice it a few times with friends, family and ask them to tell you how it is. But don’t let it consume too much of your time.
If on the day of the interview, nerves are causing your palms to get a little clammy/sweaty – just before you go to shake the interviewer’s hand, wipe it on the side of your trousers/skirt or on the fabric of a chair you might be sat on. Apart from that, remember to compliment a handshake with some eye contact and a little smile.
Since the handshake moment of your interview will be right at the start, it’s also a good time for you to introduce yourself to the interviewer. This sounds a little silly, and most of the time they will already know your name – you have to remember that they are meeting and interviewing multiple candidates a day, probably also on consecutive days. For that reason, it is a good thing for you to say something like: “Hi, nice to meet you, I’m [YOUR NAME]”.
Let them initiate the handshake, don’t offer your hand to them before they do so for you. This is a minor point, but in terms of body language it is a dominance thing, so let them be the ones to want to you to shake their hand and not the other way around.
The handshake will probably only happen at the start of the interview – at the end, it will probably not happen again. Finish off a positive note by saying something like: “Thanks for your time, it was nice meeting you.”
- Don’t take props to impress the interviewer – unless they mention it’s ok!
Lots of applicants take things to the interviews with them hoping to shown them to interviewers in a bid to impress. Things I have heard of that get taken include: art work, origami, extracted teeth that they have filled whilst at work experience etc.
Be careful if thinking about doing this, many interviewers don’t want to see applicants show them things, so it can backfire and negatively affect your interview. However, it could be a good thing and positively impact your interview, so if an opportunity during your interview arises then suggest showing it to them. For example, if talking about the skills a dentist should have you say one is manual dexterity, you could then suggest to show them an example of your own manual dexterity skills.
But if you don’t want to bring something and carry it around on the interview day,you could just take pictures and have them on your smart phone. This would save you the hassle of carrying things with you that might not be useful to you.
A friend of mine too a model of a ship that he had constructed and painted to interview and carried it around with him in a box – he did get a chance to show it to the interviewers, who were impressed and he did get an offer!
Read the email about your interview invitation properly, sometimes they specifically mention you are not allowed to bring anything!
- Don’t Get Too Comfortable in the Seat during Interview
After the initial formalities of the introduction; the handshake(s), smile and eye-contact it’s time to sit down and start the interview.
You shouldn’t sit too deep in the seat and get overly comfortable, this posture translates as negative body-language – suggesting you are either over-confident or just don’t care that much.
The ideal posture is to sit, upright, slightly forward (but keep your back in contact with the backrest) – this active posture allows you to properly engage with the interviewers during conversation and shows them that you are interested. Of course you when assuming this posture whilst seated, you should feel comfortable and it might be worth trying it at home, and you could even ask a friend/family member to look at you and ask them if it looks natural (you don’t want to look awkward in the chair at interview).
Other Sources of Info:
Here are some links to other blogs or websites that I think are great to read through, many of them I used myself back when I was preparing to interview
I really enjoyed my four interviews, especially the two MMI style interview days I had at Bristol and Cardiff. Try to relax, be yourself and enjoy the experience.
When it’s done it’s done, don’t stress yourself about things you said or didn’t say too much. Having said that, try to learn from each experience and make mental notes on what you can do better/differently at the next interview – especially important if you have been invited to multiple interviews.
Detailed Notes on my own 2015 interviews available on request:
I interviewed at:
- Barts and The London
So if you have an interview at any of those four schools and want to know what the experience was like for me just drop me an email. I have prepared some comprehensive notes on each interview I had and would be happy to email the document to you directly! But I don’t want to share that with everyone here on my blog.
Also, things change year on year of course so if my experiences from 2015 interviews won’t necessarily be 100% similar in following years.
But I’ve shared them with some people already who had interviews at those same schools and they all found the info to be super useful and they all got offers too! 🙂
I hope this was helpful and interesting to read – but bear with me please because writing doesn’t come as naturally to me as it does to some people.
If you have any thoughts or questions you want to ask me then I will do my very best to try and get back to you ASAP.
Sorry it is such a long post, I tried to break it up with some pictures 🙂
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