Cracking the MD-PhD Interview: 15 Common Questions and How to Answer Them

Applying for an MD-PhD program is a significant step in your medical career. It requires a unique combination of medical knowledge and research expertise. Once you have submitted your application, the next step is the interview. The MD-PhD interview is designed to assess your suitability for the program and determine if you have the necessary skills and commitment to succeed. To help you prepare, we have compiled a list of 15 common interview questions that you are likely to encounter, along with tips on how to answer them effectively.

Why do you want to pursue an MD-PhD?

One of the most important questions you will be asked is why you want to pursue an MD-PhD program. This question is designed to assess your motivation and passion for both medicine and research. When answering this question, it is essential to convey your genuine interest in the field and explain how the combination of medicine and research aligns with your long-term goals. Be specific about the experiences that have led you to this decision and how they have shaped your career aspirations.

Tell us about your research experience.

Research experience is a critical component of an MD-PhD program. Interviewers will want to know about your research background, including the projects you have worked on, the techniques you have used, and any publications or presentations you have made. When answering this question, be sure to highlight your contributions to the projects, the skills you have gained, and how your research experience has influenced your decision to pursue an MD-PhD.

How do you plan to balance your medical and research responsibilities?

One of the challenges of an MD-PhD program is balancing the demands of both medicine and research. Interviewers will want to know how you plan to manage this balance and ensure that you are successful in both domains. When answering this question, emphasize your organizational and time management skills. Discuss how you plan to prioritize tasks, collaborate with colleagues, and seek support when needed. It is also helpful to mention any strategies you have used in the past to balance multiple responsibilities.

What specific research area are you interested in?

As an MD-PhD student, you will have the opportunity to conduct research in a specific area of interest. Interviewers will want to know what area of research you are passionate about and how it aligns with the program’s offerings. When answering this question, be specific about the research area you are interested in and why it excites you. Discuss any previous experiences or coursework that have influenced your interest in this area and how you plan to contribute to the field.

How do you handle failure or setbacks?

In any medical or research career, setbacks and failures are inevitable. Interviewers want to assess how you handle these challenges and whether you have the resilience to overcome them. When answering this question, be honest about a specific setback you have experienced and how you managed it. Discuss the lessons you learned from the experience and how it has made you a stronger candidate for the program.

How do you approach collaboration and teamwork?

Collaboration and teamwork are essential skills for both medicine and research. Interviewers want to know how you approach working with others and whether you can effectively contribute to a team. When answering this question, highlight your experiences working in a team setting, such as research projects or group assignments. Discuss how you have contributed to the team’s success and how you have resolved conflicts or challenges that arise in a collaborative environment.

What qualities do you possess that make you a good fit for an MD-PhD program?

Interviewers want to assess your self-awareness and whether you possess the qualities necessary to succeed in an MD-PhD program. When answering this question, highlight the qualities that make you a good fit for the program, such as your curiosity, perseverance, critical thinking skills, and ability to work independently. Back up your claims with specific examples from your experiences and explain how these qualities will contribute to your success in the program.

How do you stay informed about advances in medicine and research?

As a future physician-scientist, it is essential to stay informed about the latest advances in medicine and research. Interviewers want to know how you stay updated in the field and whether you have a genuine interest in learning. When answering this question, discuss the resources you use to stay informed, such as scientific journals, conferences, or online platforms. Highlight any specific topics or areas of interest that you are particularly passionate about.

Tell us about a time when you had to make a difficult ethical decision.

Medical and research careers often involve complex ethical dilemmas. Interviewers want to assess your ability to navigate these situations and make sound ethical decisions. When answering this question, provide a specific example of a difficult ethical decision you have faced and how you approached it. Discuss the ethical principles or guidelines that guided your decision-making process and explain the outcome of your decision.

Do you have any questions for us?

At the end of the interview, you will have the opportunity to ask questions to the interviewers. This is an important opportunity to demonstrate your genuine interest in the program and gather additional information. Prepare a list of thoughtful questions that show your engagement and curiosity about the program, such as asking about research opportunities, mentorship, or the curriculum. Avoid asking questions that can be easily answered by reviewing the program’s website.

Additional Tips for Success

Preparing for an MD-PhD interview can be daunting, but with the right approach, you can increase your chances of success. Here are some additional tips to help you ace your interview:

  • Research the program: Familiarize yourself with the program’s curriculum, faculty, and research opportunities. This will demonstrate your genuine interest and help you ask insightful questions during the interview.
  • Practice your answers: Anticipate the interview questions and practice your answers beforehand. This will help you articulate your thoughts clearly and confidently during the interview.
  • Be yourself: While it is important to prepare and present yourself professionally, remember to be authentic and let your passion for medicine and research shine through.
  • Follow up: Send a thank-you email or note to the interviewers after the interview to express your gratitude and reiterate your interest in the program.
  • Stay positive: Even if the interview feels challenging or you stumble on a question, stay positive and maintain your composure. Interviewers understand that interviews can be nerve-wracking and will appreciate your resilience.
  • Seek feedback: If you are not accepted into the program, don’t be discouraged. Reach out to the interviewers or program coordinators for feedback on your interview performance. This feedback can be valuable for future applications or interviews.


The MD-PhD interview is a crucial step in the application process. By preparing well and answering the common questions effectively, you can leave a lasting impression on the interviewers and increase your chances of being accepted into the program. Remember to showcase your passion for medicine and research, demonstrate your ability to balance multiple responsibilities, and highlight the qualities that make you a good fit for the program. Good luck!

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