The QBIQ & why they matter
Admission requirements for PA programs are fairly straightforward. These are usually clearly laid out on PA program websites and easily accessible to anyone interested.
Still, prospective PA students often wonder what PA schools are looking for in an applicant. When it comes to the application, you can rely on programs to lay this out for you through their prerequisite requirements.
However, when it comes to the interview, what they are “looking for” may be a bit more disguised.
During a PA school interview, you have the opportunity to demonstrate what isn’t contained in your application. It’s your chance to come alive and show a PA school that you have not only the required experience but also the insight into the profession that would make you an asset to their program.
So, how do you show a school that you would make a great PA in just a short interview? You start by looking at the questions behind the interview question—the QBIQ.
Finding the question behind the PA school interview question
There are no “trick” questions in a PA school interview, but each and every question serves a purpose. Questions are structured for admissions committees to learn more about your understanding of the PA profession, learning style, maturity, problem-solving skills, ability to work with others, and stress management techniques.
Every question asked has multiple layers, some of which are not asked outright but should be incorporated into your answer. You can learn how to see these QBIQs by examining the question itself.
PA school interview question:
QBIQs link the asked question to the skills and characteristics of a PA. A key element of being a PA is the collaborative practice with other members of the medical team.
When asking what you find valuable in others, the real question is do you find the input and contribution of others valuable? This is essential to collaborative practice.
Once you establish how the question relates to being a PA, you can more clearly see what you should cover in your response.
The basic key to all interview questions is to answer honestly and positively. This question is set up for you to compliment others, be sure to keep your response positive. You might immediately think of some negative traits, but you have the ability to control the tone with your delivery.
Instead of “I hate when classmates refuse to share their notes” or “I like when classmates do not keep their notes to themselves”, you can say “I appreciate when classmates are generous with sharing their perspective and notes because I find it helps me see concepts from a different angle.”
It is also crucial to be honest in your answers, even if you think an alternative answer may be better received.
It is fine to admit you learn and study better on your own if that is the truth, but add a positive twist to your answer so that you are sure to answer the QBIQ.
“I value classmates who work well in groups and take time to listen to the ideas and input of the other group members. Typically, I am more of an independent learner, but I have learned a lot about the value of other perspectives and input through group work. When classmates who were naturally good with working with others were in my groups, I felt like the experience was much more valuable.”
This honest answer tells an interviewer more about you and your openness to learning from others. It is an answer that they probably have not heard from hundreds of other interviewees, and it is the most effective way for an admissions committee to learn more about you.
Some may find this particular interview question difficult
If you are a super competitive student, the kind of person who has to do better than the rest of your class on an exam or you are devastated, this question may be very difficult for you. Any answer you come up with may seem contrived and disingenuous.
First, it is helpful to realize that PA school is not usually a competitive environment. Faculty members want everyone to do well and learn what is needed to succeed.
Your classmates will be your future colleagues, so you should want them to know what they are doing just as well as you do. Many PA programs do not have official grades or GPAs.
You will not be more likely to land a job after graduation based on class rank. Crushing your “competition” will not win you any prizes and you will miss out on what you can learn from your peers.
So, if you fall into this category, it will take some mindset adjustment for you to prepare for PA school. For this interview question, think of a situation where you learned something from a peer that was valuable or functioned as a group within a work environment.
Consider your future collaborative, cooperative self and be able to relate your story with what you would find valuable in a PA school classmate.
Practice your QBIQ
Diving deeper into the questions behind the question will help you to gain more confidence during your PA school interview prep.
With a little practice, you will be able to determine the QBIQ and understand how these can transform a decent answer into an excellent answer.
Excellent answers address both the question asked and the QBIQ, demonstrating to PA programs how your skills, experience, and insight relate to you becoming a great PA.
Are you ready for “The Big 3”? Check out the prior post on getting your answers down solid for the 3 most common PA school interview questions.
[There is a great book, QBQ! The Question Behind the Question, that has been out for many years that is all about asking better questions to gain personal accountability. Other than being the inspiration for the QBIQ title, it is also really helpful for those looking to turn around tough situations at work and home.]