Top Tips to Prepare for a Veterinary Medicine Interview
Updated: Dec 1, 2022
Firstly, congratulations! Getting an invite to interview at any vet school in the UK is a huge achievement, and you should be incredibly proud of yourself.
The work that goes into the application can be exhausting, and I know from my experience many years ago (god I feel so old) that getting the interview feels like sweet relief and confirmation that maybe, just maybe, all the extra hours getting work experience might just be worth it in the end.
We're about a week away from Cambridge vet med interviews, and many other schools (Liverpool, Edinburgh, and Glasgow to name but a few) are beginning to send out invites too. It's that time of year when the blog is flooded with questions of 'have you got any tips on how to prepare?' and I love answering these questions, because yes, I do!
As always, if you have any questions at all (no matter how 'silly' you may think they are, I promise you they're not) get in touch through the Contact Page! But, hopefully, this quick summary will give you a good idea of what to expect, and what you can be doing across the next couple of weeks.
1) Get. Off. The. Student. Room
Let's kick off with a jokey piece of advice, that I do actually think is really important to tell you. TSR, if you have the fortune of having no clue what this platform is, is every university's worst nightmare.
It's a forum where students can go and talk about anything to do with student life, and meet like-minded people from across the country. Seems harmless enough, right? But these people have descended into creating tables, extended threads, and application 'gurus' who went to these universities fifty years ago and spout 'advice' like it's gospel when they really have no more of a clue than you or me. (I like to think I'm a little more knowledgeable though given I'm actually here and have done it all within the past 10 years).
Why do I know this? Well, I spent every spare minute of my time in that place in 2019 during application season. It's infuriating - they update every minute when somebody gets an offer or an interview invite, and they 'track' who is getting them, attempting to work out if there's a pattern or rhyme or reason to how universities are contacting you. SPOILER ALERT: I now help organise the interviews at my college, and I can tell you for certain this is not how it works. Departments do not have time to be coming up with convoluted plans on how to release offers. They just do it, manually, one at a time. Obsessing over it is a complete waste of your time, and means nothing.
STAY FAR AWAY. (also, sometimes exam questions or interview questions get shared, which can put you in a difficult place if you're found to have accessed them - because, oh yes, universities KNOW when you do this. They're not stupid - they have a veterinary degree, you do not.)
2) Re-read notes you made on your work experience and think about your reflections
A really common veterinary interview question runs along the lines of 'tell me about something interesting you saw on your work experience.' For starters, there's a really great model answer to that question here.
However, because it's so common you might want to know why vet schools ask it. The primary reason is to ensure you have the capacity to reflect on what you've learned and the importance of it within the veterinary industry. For example, if you saw a difficult euthanasia, you could comment on how it showed you the importance of empathetic client communication and emotional intelligence within the industry. Or, if you saw a calving, you may want to comment on why vets are important in the farming industry, and how it showed you the importance of quick intervention in saving lives.
WARNING: this type of question is not a look-at-all-the-amazing-things-I've-done question. The interviewers don't care if you single handedly castrated a tiger in India or helped type notes in a consultation in Swansea. What they do care about, is what you gained from the experience, and how it fostered your interest in applying to study vet med. So when you're going back over your work experience notes, try and highlight experiences where you really gained something from your time, and think about how it inspired your love for veterinary and why it is important within the industry.
This is also a good time to re-read your personal statement and any books you may have claimed to have read. It's unlikely interviewers will get specific about what you've written in your personal statement (they have hundreds, if not into the thousands, to read, and they simply don't have the ability to ask individual-focused questions) but there's always the odd one who might. So, you know, break out Bad Science by Ben Goldacre or So You Want To Be A Vet? by Neil Patton and make sure you know what you're talking about.
3) If you've never done an interview before, try getting your parents/a teacher/a friend to give you a mock interview.
You may have never had an interview before, I certainly didn't prior to going to vet school (despite having been a lifeguard for three years prior, but that just proves it's not what you know it's who you know in that type of job) and it can be helpful to get a feel for what an interview scenario may be like.
Ask a parent, friend, or teacher to take a few minutes (often 20-30 max) and ask you some questions. If they need help, I have a list of veterinary interview questions that they can use. Just try and make sure you haven't seen the material before hand, so it's truly representative of a novel interview scenario.
They don't have to know exactly how it all works, although it is helpful if they have some idea, you just need a chance to get used to a very different type of environment. No 'mock' interview is going to be truly representative of what an actual vet school interview is like, for the simple reason that they change every year and no one knows what the questions will be. What is helpful to prospective vet students is understanding what it feels like to be in an interview and coming up with answers to novel questions on the spot.
If all else fails, I also offer free help with applications, including giving 'mock' interviews (although I do need to note that these are more about getting you used to how interviews work, as opposed to actual content).
4) Make sure you have a general understanding of 'current affairs' in the industry
Great ways to do this include following blogs, news articles, Instagram accounts, and relevant veterinary websites. BBC News app is how I chose to do this in the run up to my interviews because they have a fab 'My News' section which you can tailor to include veterinary profession news stories and animal welfare stuff. The app is free, available around the world, and that is basically all I did (and follow a few Insta accounts, linked below). They don't expect you to know all of the issues and everything about the profession, but having a realistic idea of the career you're entering is something they assess at interview, and it can be helpful to link your answers back to current 'goings on' in the profession to show you're aware of this.
If you haven't been doing this over a long period and are now thinking 'crap, I've got 6 days to go and I know nothing' don't panic! Just know something. As of November 2022, great topics to understand/have an awareness of are: Alabama Rot, the staffing shortage, vaccine hesitancy, mental health (Not One More Vet, or NOMV), and breeding clinics. Also noteworthy (but a little more niche), is the current discourse surrounding protecting the title of veterinary nurse (shockingly, this is not a protected title and anybody can say they are a veterinary nurse with no repercussions), how and why we award fellowship in the profession, and anesthesia choices in certain domestic species.
Resource suggestions here:
Nottingham Vet School (show real life cases)
So you want to be a vet? - Neil Patton
Animals, Ethics, and Us - Madeleine Campbell
5) Take a breath, remember it is literally impossible to prepare for these interviews, give yourself a break and RELAX
So, firstly, I know if I'd read this advice when I was applying I would've just said 'HA, you suck, of course I'm going to still stress' so I know this advice is about to fall on deaf ears. BUT, please seriously consider this all too true fact: these interviews are designed so that you cannot prepare for them very well. They want honest answers from candidates, not rehearsed stuff that was probably written by your mum. So the questions are often weird and whacky and impossible to know in advance.
Yes, there's a few predictable ones. But mostly, questions are new each year and they don't ask the same thing twice. Or, if they do, they'll put a different spin on it. So all these posts telling you to 'know your personal statement inside and out, pay X company for 10 hours of mock interview sessions or know the answer to 100 different questions' are, to be perfectly frank, bollocks. Use caution when reading them, and remember half of them will probably be trying to sell you their 'course'. I promise you, you can still get into vet school without paying someone £500 - I did it without these so called interview courses, and this morning I tripped over my shoes on the way to lectures because I'd forgotten to tie the laces. Yes, truly.
They let us idiots in too. Don't waste your money.
The best thing you can genuinely do for your own sanity, and the interviewer's, is to go and have a cup of tea, look over your work experience notes, and watch the TV. Or read a book. Or do literally anything else to do with admissions prep. You're about to embark on five years of intense study - remember it is ok to not have the answer to every single question they could possible ask you.
6) And, just because I'm feeling cheeky, some final tips:
put the directions into your SatNav the night before
get up early
EAT BREAKFAST (they're long days)
take someone with you (my nan and grandad shipped me around the country and were angels when I cried after every single interview)
stick post it notes with your favourite memories of work experience around your room or questions you think you want to try and answer (this helps more than you think it will)
get enough sleep the night before - I did one hung over, and whilst I got an offer, that really wasn't my smartest move ever!
However you think your interviews have gone/will go, know that I'm wishing you THE VERY BEST OF LUCK! I know you'll smash it, and if you don't get any offers this year, do think very seriously about reapplying. It's often less stress to apply when you already have your exam results!
Vetty love xxx
I hope this was helpful and informative, and as always if you have further questions you can email me or book a Zoom call with me where I'll answer any questions you may have, for less than the price of a cup of coffee
If you have any information you think would be useful to include in this guide, or you notice anything missing, please drop me a message using the contact form at the bottom of this page.
And finally, want five FREE secrets to making an AWESOME vet school application? Click here to get the guide!