If you have started prepping for a PA school interview, you have undoubtedly struggled with how to answer a practice question or two.
PA school interview questions can cover a broad range of traditional, ethical, personal, and situation questions. But, it's often the most basic questions that can have you second-guessing your answers.
Generally, it's not difficult to come up with solid responses to questions about a particular situation or experience. If someone asks you what you like to do for fun, your mind goes right to your favorite activities and allows you to conjure up a reasonable answer.
But, if someone asks you something a bit less grounded in your experience — like why you want to be a PA — your mind may fail you. Instead of being the source of a reply, your brain may become a vast open space with nothing to cling to.
Why is that?
It's much harder to verbalize your desire for something you have yet to experience. Your greatest weakness and patient care activities are easier to discuss because you've lived through them. They are just stories of what has already happened.
In contrast, when interviewing for PA school, being a PA is still just an idea. It's much harder to answer a question based on what you think a future as a PA may be.
As a result, the answer you create to this question early on in your interview prep might not sound like your own. So, how do you get around that and construct a better answer?
Start by looking at the QBIQ: the question behind the interview question.
Finding the question behind the PA school interview question
Every PA school interview question can allow an interview committee to learn more about you beyond the question they ask.
If you examine each potential question, you can find some additional unasked topics lurking just under the surface. Answering both the posed and unposed questions will make your replies more insightful and remarkably stronger.
Let's break down one of the most common interview questions.
PA school interview question:
Formulating an answer based on the QBIQ
Considering the QBIQ will help to steer you away from overly broad generalizations. Start by thinking about your inspiration to become a PA. How were you initially drawn to medicine? Did you shadow or work alongside a PA? What was it specifically about their work that inspired you?
Talking about a specific inspiration can give you the opportunity to highlight aspects of being a PA that appeal to you. You can use it to show have an understanding of the PA role.
"From a young age, I was always interested in science and in college, that grew to an interest in medicine. Through my shadowing experiences, I saw that PAs could provide excellent autonomous care to patients, work as an integral part of a team, and have the opportunity to work in different areas of medicine throughout their career."
By framing your answer through the lens of someone else's PA experience, it shows that you understand what it's like to be a PA.
Now, we can build upon how it relates to you.
“In my work as a CNA, I have learned that I love working with patients and as part of a care team to deliver care."
And, to complete the answer, we need to show how being a PA corresponds with your goals and differs from other types of medical providers.
"I am interested in a patient-focused career where I can be fully trained in a few years so I can start serving patients sooner. For me, being a PA aligns perfectly with what I am looking for in a medical career.”
When all the components of the QBIQ come together, a complete answer sounds like this:
“From a young age, I was always interested in science, and in college, that grew to an interest in medicine. Through my shadowing experiences, I saw that PAs could provide excellent autonomous care to patients, work as an integral part of a team, and have the opportunity to work in different areas of medicine throughout their career.
In my work as a CNA, I have learned that I love working with patients and as part of a care team to deliver care.
I am interested in a patient-focused career where I can be fully trained in a few years so I can start serving patients sooner. For me, being a PA aligns perfectly with what I am looking for in a medical career."
A great answer to the PA school interview question touches on the questions behind the question. A solid answer is not a simple listing of the characteristics of being a PA—specialty flexibility, teamwork, autonomy, work-life balance.
Your answer should reflect your experience and future goals while demonstrating your understanding of the PA role.
Tread carefully in your response to not discredit other medical professions, even if it's a role you've had. You do not want to refer to your prior experience as "just a CNA." This downplays your previous effort and position. And, more importantly, it may sound as if you believe some team members are more valuable than others. You will need these colleagues when you are a PA, so remember to show respect for all roles.
Your exact answer to this question will be different, but it should reference your personal experience, inspiration, and goals. You can use this same framework to create an answer that is personal to you.
You can also use the QBIQ model to breakdown every PA school interview question. Consider what an interviewer might want to know when they are asking the question. What might they not be asking that you should be answering?
Want help with finding the QBIQ of a PA school interview question that is tripping you up? Post it in the Be a PA Community on Facebook and get quick responses and support from others preparing for PA school.
Missed the prior installment of QBIQ? Read the first breakdown of the question behind the PA school interview question.