The coronavirus pandemic has brought about a lot of change in the last several months. As premed students know, the pandemic has affected medical school admissions this year as well. From MCAT cancellations to a shorter test to the application deadline being extended, premed students have had to adjust their expectations and timing.
One of the most recent changes is a virtual interview platform. The Video Interview Tool for Admissions, or VITA, was released by the Association of American Medical Colleges, also known as AAMC. It’s a way for med school applicants to provide virtual interview responses to various schools given anticipated restrictions on in-person interviews due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
What Is the VITA Interview?
The in-person interview is a very significant part of the medical school admissions process. However, due to COVID-19 and the need for social distancing, medical schools generally have not firmed up plans for whether in-person interviews will take place this year.
So to help account for this and to still allow medical schools to get a sense of an applicant’s communication style, the AAMC developed VITA.
Similar to traditional med school interviews, when you apply to med school you will receive from schools utilizing VITA an invitation to complete the interview. You will log in to the VITA platform, where you will receive six question prompts, each with one minute to review and reflect on the question followed by three minutes to record an answer.
Once you’ve been exposed to a question, you won’t be able to pause the interview until the response time for that question has elapsed. You do not get to record an answer to a question more than once but may take an untimed break between questions. You may take the interview only one time.
There is no cost to you to do the interview.
What Does the VITA Interview Ask?
As with any in-person interview for med school, the VITA interview attempts to evaluate you on the core competencies required for med school. It will be used to evaluate your social skills, cultural competence, teamwork, reliability and dependability, and resilience and adaptability.
The questions designed to measure these qualities are from three distinct categories: your journey toward med school, past behavior and hypothetical situations.
The VITA interview consists of questions from each category. Although information about the categories is available in advance, you will not know the specific questions until you take the actual VITA interview.
How Should an Applicant Prepare for the VITA Interview?
The most important aspect of preparation should be to practice. Since you know the question categories, practice delivering responses to questions that fall in that category. For example, in regards to your journey to medical school, practice common questions such as, “Why have you decided to become a physician?” and “Describe your path to medical school?”
Practicing questions will give you the chance to think through several scenarios similar to one you may encounter in the actual VITA interview.
In addition to practicing your responses, practice timing them and recording yourself.
For the actual interview, find a quiet place to record it and set aside time where you will not be disturbed. Similar to an in-person interview, dress professionally, have a professional background, maintain good eye contact, use appropriate mannerisms and deliver professional answers.
The interview is one-directional, meaning no one will be asking you the questions and you will be speaking to the camera. You will be unable to review your video responses during or after the interview.
How Important Is the VITA Interview?
More than 40 U.S. allopathic schools currently have opted to use VITA in their evaluation of applicants. How much VITA factors into the overall evaluation varies by school, but since you have only one chance to take it and it is sent to all participating schools, then great preparation should be taken to do well.
Most med schools likely will still require an additional live interview, either performed virtually or in-person.
The medical school admissions cycle has become a whirlwind for applicants, with many uncertainties and changes already and likely more changes coming. The VITA interview is another important step in applying to medical school, and applicants should prepare and take it seriously.
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What to Know About the AAMC Virtual Interview Tool originally appeared on usnews.com
Correction 08/11/20: A previous version of the article used the wrong acronym for the Association of American Medical Colleges.