The field guide to dental school interview styles

We already know you’re qualified. We don’t want to ask you about your interests in dentistry or your academic achievements. Today, we want to test your critical thinking and communication skills.

That’s right. More dental schools are using new interview styles, not only to get to know you better, but also to test your ability to make ethical and informed decisions. Every school is unique in how they conduct the interview, so know what to expect for the different interview styles and don’t be caught off guard.

Most dental schools conduct their interview in one of these three styles, or a combination of them:

  1. One-on-one
  2. Multi-mini Interview (MMI)
  3. Group Exercise

Within all three styles, interviews can be “open” or “closed” file formats. Open meaning the interviewer had access to your file prior to the interview, and closed meaning they are blind to your file.

Here’s what to expect for each interview style:

  1. One-on-one – Traditionally, this style has one interviewer questioning one candidate. Sometimes, the interviews are conducted with a panel of two or three interviewers for each candidate. This format is normally conversational and exploratory, sprinkled with the common interview questions of, “tell me about yourself” or “what attracted you to our school?
  2. Multi-mini interview (MMI) – Each candidate will rotate between six stations. At each station, candidates are given two minutes to read a prompt. After reading and considering the prompt and any related questions, the candidate enters the interview room and is given around seven minutes in the interview room. Prompts are usually ethical questions related to patient confidentiality and cultural competence. MMI interviews are not conversational and move very quickly.
  3. Group Exercise – The interviewer will give a scenario or question to three or more candidates and will assess the group dynamic. Some of the questions may be associated with hypothetical situations while others may be task-oriented. Normally, the group exercise is followed up with a shorter traditional one-on-one interview.

There are many variations to each style, and some dental schools may include unique exercises like a writing prompt or video interview. Each interview style will require preparation, so be sure to find out what format each dental school uses and prepare for the right one.

If the school does not tell you, contact the admissions office directly and ask for the general format or a summary of the interview day. Don’t be afraid to connect with the current dental students to gain first-hand insight. The interview is the last piece of the puzzle, so be sure to give it all you have!

ASDA offers many resources for your dental school interview preparation, including: interview tips and articles written by dental students. What helped you prepare for your dental school interview? Tell us below in the comments.

~Lynn Doan, ASDA Pre-Dental Advisory Committee 2015 – 2016

Don’t forget! Predentals who join ASDA during Predental Week will be eligible for prizes, including an Apple iPad mini, $250 Best Buy gift card and $100 Amazon gift card.


2016 Predental Week is sponsored by:


Lynn Doan

Lynn Doan is currently working as a Project Coordinator for diverse oral health initiatives in Colorado. She is passionate about health equity and personalized greeting cards. Lynn will start dental school at the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine Fall of 2016.

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