Everything You Need to Know About a Group Interview


PA programs are more often using group sessions as a component of the PA school interview. Group interviews allow for examination of more candidates in fewer sessions. This efficiency is important given the increasing number of qualified applicants. 


There are several other incentives for including a group interview for PA programs. Group interviews enable a program to observe how applicants interact with both faculty and their peers. It allows for comparison candidates side by side. By using this format, programs can more thoroughly test interviewees' social skills and maturity. 


For PA school candidates, on the other hand, the group interview can seem rather intimidating. Walking in knowing that you are being compared to others in the room or at your table can make you quickly lose confidence. 


It is easy to fall into the trap of feeling like your peers' experience or answers are better than yours. But, if you know what to expect from a group interview, you can use the format to your advantage.


In this post, you'll learn everything you need to know about a group interview for PA school. Understanding what to expect will help you keep your cool during your interview, allowing your personality to shine.


1. Group interview Q&A style

Most PA school group interviews follow a traditional interview format. Typically, a panel of 2-3 interviewers asks questions of 3-4 candidates. All candidates will have a chance to respond to each question.


What to Know About PA School Group InterviewslBe a Physician Assistant

The questions asked during a group interview are less varied than in a solo interview. Group interview questions are usually traditional ("Why do you want to be a PA?") or behavioral ("Tell me about a time when you..."). These types of questions focus on your experience, motivation, and opinions. 


Situational and ethical questions are rarely asked during a group interview. You should still prepare for these styles of questions for any solo interview, but you are unlikely to get them in a group setting. 


The group interview is a setting that you may encounter questions on "hot topics" in the PA world. You do not need to know all the ins and outs of proposed bills or current legislation. But, you should familiarize with the general topics so that you are not caught off guard. Right now, these are optimal team practice (OTP), full practice authority and responsibility (FPAR), and health care reform. [You can familiarize yourself with the current topics through AAPA. https://news-center.aapa.org]


Keys for navigating the group interview Q&A session

  • Listen carefully to the question posed. Try not think about your answer until the question is complete. Concentrating on the entire question will ensure that you do not miss a vital element.

  • Vary the order of your responses. Take turns answering first, middle, and last in the group. You do not want to be the first to dive into every question, nor do you want to sit on your heels.

  • Speaking of your peers, treat them as future classmates. There are enough spots in the program for everyone in your interview group. If you stop thinking about them as competition, you will be more comfortable during the session.

  • Listen (attentively) to the answers of the other interviewees. Listening can be hard to do as you compose your own answer in your head, but this interview style is also assessing your interpersonal skills. Show that you value the input and experiences of others by hearing what they say.

  • Learn and use the names of your fellow candidates. These future classmates have at least some similar experiences or viewpoints. How great would your answer sound if you could say, "I agree with Sam..."? This approach shows you have been listening to and value what your peers have to say, highlighting your communication skills.

  • Respond to others when appropriate. If someone says that their hobby is hang gliding, feel free to say "that's pretty cool." Because a) it is, and b) it makes the interview conversational. Everyone will be more comfortable in a conversational interview. When you support your future classmates, they will support you too.


2. Group interview discussion format

You may encounter a discussion format as part of a group interview at several programs. In this type of interview, you are presented with an article or a topic for discussion.


Some of the current PA "hot topics" pop up with this style of a group session, so be sure to brief yourself in advance.


A discussion format is as much about interaction as it is about your ideas. You can succeed in a group discussion by being respectful of the opinions of others and approaching it as a conversation. 


The keys to performing well in a group discussion overlap quite a bit with a traditional Q&A group interview. 


Keys to navigating a group interview discussion

  • Listen to your future classmates. Avoid rehearsing your response in your head and engage in what others are saying.

  • Refer to their thoughts and ideas in your answer. Mentioning what has already been said by other candidates shows you are listening and value their input.

  • Use the names of your future classmates when possible when referencing what already has been said.

  • Inject new ideas into the conversation. Go beyond the subject at hand and compare it to a similar issue if you can. Relating a topic to something else can show your deeper understanding of the issue.


3. Group interview activity

Another type of group interview session may involve completing an activity. This may include building a physical structure, creating a plan for a theoretical problem, or role playing a scenario.


The task may be like an awkward team-building activity you have done at work or during college orientation. But, the good news is everyone feels equally uneasy, and it doesn't usually last very long. 


Keys to trudging through a group interview activity

  • Listen to the ideas of others and consider everyone's input.

  • It can feel awkward, but make an effort to contribute your thoughts and ideas. It's important that you put some ideas into the ring even if you feel everyone else's ideas are better than yours.

  • Once the group decides on plan or solution, help to put the plan into action (even if it's not your plan).

  • Remember to use group members' names when you can. Support them, and they will support you.

Getting comfortable with the format will help you to know what to expect in a group interview. While it may seem intimidating at first, you can use a group session to your advantage. 


A group interview is the only interview where you are with people who are in the same boat as you. They understand your apprehension and are also wondering if they'll make the cut. 


Show these future classmates encouragement during your group sessions. You'll find your nervousness wane and confidence grow with the support they give back. 

Want to master your technique for group interviews? What about one-on-one or MMI style? Don't let the overwhelm of a PA school interview impact your performance. 


Learn how to develop answers and exhibit your most important attributes through my Mock PA school interview services. Get personalized, individual guidance that will allow you to enter your most important interview with confidence.