• Bella Rawson

Veterinary Medicine Interview Questions

First of all, if you're searching for interview questions, that probably means a congratulations is in order! Getting an interview is incredibly difficult, and you've already done 75% of the work for getting in!

I'm always cautious when giving candidates information about interviews, because it's important not to see it as needing to give an exact answer to every question. What is more important is that you have an awareness of what the interviewers may want to see from you, and what skills they want demonstrated. If you have a reasonable idea of what they might be expecting from you, you can then craft answers on the spot that are memorable, useful, and perfectly tailored to what you are being asked. In fact, giving a rehearsed answer often looks incredibly bad to interviewers, and they're less likely to make offers of places.

Below, are examples of common questions and how you might go about answering them. If you want more, the Association of Veterinary Students lists some example questions here.

Otherwise, I hope the following examples are of use, and as always, if you want help with interview practice, have questions for me, or just want to generally chat about vet school, get in contact!

1) "Tell me about something you saw on work experience"

Probably the most common one encountered, this question is framed to allow a discussion of your work experience, and what you gained from it. In light of the pandemic, focusing on QUALITY of work experience, not QUANTITY has become the focus of most vet schools (most significantly illustrated by the drop in work experience requirements at Liverpool University in current years. When I was applying, they wanted 10 weeks!)

In reality, the interviewer doesn't really care what you say. They'll ask you a follow up question encouraging you to reflect on what you learned. For example, you might say you watched a vet euthanise an animal, or that you witnessed routine vaccination. You could highlight that this taught you the importance of empathy in end of life care, and how vets have to be concerned with public health, as well as individual health of the animal - if you really wanted to, you could lead this into One Health!

The interviewer might then ask you why it's important that vets are so focused on public health, or what a vet's responsibility is when it comes to recommending euthanasia to animal owners. You don't have to necessarily know the answer to this follow up question, but you'll be expected to make a reasonable inference. You might also want to consider reflecting back on why these skills are important in day one competencies. If you don't know what these are, click the link - they're really important!

2) X-ray questions

Whilst not necessarily a guarantee, particularly in the world of Zoom interviews, presenting a candidate with a picture of an xray has been a good exercise to assess basic anatomy skills. Now, before you panic - no vet school expects you to know ANY anatomy before applying (I knew basically nothing).

What they're looking for in this question, is to see how much extra research you've done, and if you've been exposed to xrays on work experience. They may present you with two comparative xrays, or one where there is a noticeable problem, or even one that is totally normal. You may then be asked to describe what you see, or if you think the image is normal.

What this question is mostly looking at is your ability to infer, make reasonable assumptions, and establish what, if anything, you've learned on work experience. If absolutely should not be something you worry about (they may not even ask you it!), but if you've never seen a veterinary xray in your life before, I have a section on my website talking you through some basic ones.

3) Role play scenario questions

It's not unheard of for you to be presented with a role play scenario when interviewing. These might consist of telling a client difficult news, advising a younger student on their vet school application, or speaking with a student having difficulty in school, and being expected to advise them.

These questions are looking for multiple attributes - empathy, logical thinking, reasoning, communication skills, selflessness, and awareness of the veterinary industry. You should approach these questions as if the interviewer is actually someone coming to you for advice (it is a role play after all) and suspend the disbelief of 'I can't believe I'm doing this'. You might be presented with a relatively easy question on the surface of it (e.g. "Advise this student on their vet school application") but it will be made increasingly difficult by introducing confounding factors (e.g. they don't have the correct subjects or grades).

Always approach these things with logic and reasoning. They won't ask you anything that you can't have a reasonable stab at showing, and be conscious that they're probably not really looking at WHAT you say, but HOW you say it. Think of what skills they're probably trying to get you to show, and figure out a way to display these best.

4) "What do you see here?"/"What do you think is wrong?"

Along the same lines as the xray question, you may be presented with an image, bone, wet specimen, or anything the interviewer wants to give you. They may then ask you to describe it, make a guess at what animal it's from, what might be wrong with it, and why it looks the way it does.

They're not necessarily looking for you to get it right. That being said, they won't show you anything that is incredibly difficult. You might be given a cow skull and asked to guess the animal, and then asked why you think that. You should try to justify your reasoning by relating what you see back to the science as much as possible. E.g. if given a skull and you guess cow, you may justify this with 'it has eyes on the side, indicating a prey animal. It doesn't have obvious canine teeth, indicating a herbivore. It's mandible curves up, indicating a more side to side motion of eating.' You could be totally wrong (horse and cow skulls look strikingly similar) but you see where I'm going with this.

In recent years, some candidates have been asked to describe graphs or patterns. The same principle applies - pick out the most obvious stuff first! E.g. if you're given the graph on the right, you may point out that the peak of CJD occurs later than BSE. Then consider why that might be - are the two related? If so, could you guess how they're related?

(Image credit: Nature, Watson, N., Brandel, JP., Green, A. et al. The importance of ongoing international surveillance for Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease. Nat Rev Neurol 17, 362–379 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41582-021-00488-7)

5) More sciency based questions (Cambridge only)

If you're interviewing at Cambridge, ensure you know your A-Level content inside and out. Questions will be based on mostly first year content, and you'll be asked to build up your answer from first principles, usually from an A-Level basis.

For example, this is acyclovir, an antiviral drug often used in the treatment of cold sores. How do you think it works? (Look under the drop down for a model answer).

Model Answer

Look at the structure. See the double ring? What does it look like to you?

1) nucleic acids typically have this double ring structure, but this o

ne is missing a key component: there's no 3' end

2) remember, when DNA is copied it is copied from the 5' to 3' end, with bases added to the OH

3) if the OH is missing, that would imply that further replication cannot occur

4) therefore, one of the ways acyclovir functions is by acting as a chain terminator. It competes with other bases to be incorporated into the copying genome, and preventing further bases being added

5) this halts viral replication

6) Ethical scenarios - "What would you do if..."

In similar fashion to the role playing scenario, you may be presented with a question that encourages you to respond based on your own ethics and morals. Although technically presented as 'there's no right answer', there absolutely is a right answer to these questions. For example, if you're asked what you would do if you saw a colleague arrive to work drunk, don't say 'nothing, it's not my problem' or (even worse) 'I'd join them!'

These questions ask you to consider what morals and ethics a vet should have, and why these attributes are important for you to possess. For example, honesty and being able to admit your limits are important for owning up to mistakes, learning, prioritising patient safety, and seeking the best care for your patients.

There may also be an element of seeing how much you know about the law. Performing surgery whilst intoxicated is a big no no, and will be an offence under a variety of acts. Make sure you know the basics of the following acts as a minimum:

  1. The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966

  2. The Animal Welfare Act 2006

7) "I see you read [x], tell me about it."

This one's relatively easy to understand. Make sure you've read what you say you've read, and be prepared to expand, critically analyse, explain and discuss what you understood and took from the book/article/post etc.

8) "Why do you want to be a vet?"

This is not a very common question anymore, as it doesn't really tell you very much. But in a conversational interview setting, more likely to occur with a panel based interview (Cambridge, Nottingham etc), this could be a good 'introductory' question to make you feel at ease.

Your reasoning isn't going to be very intensely scrutinished, and this is more about settling you in, but make sure you have reason in mind! Answering with 'because I love animals' or 'I want to make a difference in the world' is likely to raise a few eyebrows.

It doesn't have to be anything ground breaking (if you discovered you wanted to be a vet on a class trip to Madagascar, well, good for you. But if you're like me and decided you wanted to pursue it as a career after work experience in the vet practice up the road, that's perfectly fine!) Just make sure you're able to give a reasonable justification for your application, and that you illustrate you understand there is more to being a vet than being a nice human being who wants to cuddle animals all day (you will be sorely disappointed if this is your reasoning for choosing this career).

9) Instructions test

A common way of assessing your communication abilities, this question focuses primarily on whether you can talk someone through a series of basic steps, whilst they deliberately make things difficult for you. You may be asked to talk someone through building a lego model, how to tie a shoelace, how to fry an egg, or anything similar. It doesn't matter what the scenario is, what matters is that you demonstrate you can communicate clearly, with specific instructions, and that you can keep calm and pleasant in the face of the interviewer being deliberately annoying and doing things contrary to your instructions.

My one pro tip for this kind of question is to break down your instructions into more steps than you think you need. For example - 'make two loops that look like bunny ears' could become 'make a single loop and pinch it at the bottom with one hand. It should look like a rabbit ear and have enough slack that it waggles in the air if moved'.

Overexplaining is your friend here!

10) "Tell me about something vet related you've read recently"

This question is interested in whether or not you keep up to date with the recent issues in the veterinary industry. They want to see you have a grasp of the most pressing issues affecting the profession, and whether you've made an attempt to understand them.

You don't have to be reading journal articles, but keeping an alert on your phone for BBC science articles or notifications that alert you to updates about the staffing crisis, vaccine hesistancy, or any other issue that takes your fancy is a useful start. You don't have to know everything, it's just about showing a general awareness.

11) "What is a profession and does veterinary medicine qualify?"

Finally, ensure you know what a profession actually is, and how veterinary medicine fits this category. This type of question is more about assessing what you understand about the industry and whether you've been exposed to the idea of veterinary as a vocation. It's a fairly closed ended question, so you'll likely receive follow ups asking about para-professions and the wider veterinary team, but having this basic knowledge will allow you to at least answer one question with relative confidence!


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!