How to succeed at PBL (Problem Based Learning) MMI Stations

Problem-based learning (PBL) is used by many medical schools as a teaching style. However, PBL stations are used even if the university is not strictly a PBL institution. Sometimes it is used exclusively; sometimes it is used in conjunction with other teaching methods, such as an integrated course. PBL offers advantages that suit the learning styles of some students.

Last Updated: 11th February 2019

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Problem based learned (PBL) is used by many medical schools as a style of teaching. PBL stations, however, are used even if the university isn’t strictly a PBL institution!

This is sometimes used exclusively; sometimes it’s used alongside other teaching methods such as an integrated course. PBL offers benefits which work with some students’ learning styles. PBL is generally student centred. Students learn in context of realistic problems and situations, along with working in teams.

Although some medical schools are exclusively PBL, any medical school with an MMI style interview has the potential for a PBL station. In these PBL stations, you may be put into a team/group and be given a scenario to work through and create learning objectives. In case you’d like to know the clear differences between medical school teaching styles, here’s a quick table to summarize 3 of them.

Source: Health Careers NHS UK:

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At university, you would ordinarily go away and research the scenario, set learning objectives, then come back together as a group to discuss your findings.

In an interview format, you don’t have the benefit of time for research but you should engage with the scenario with all the residual information you have at hand.

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Tips on nailing a PBL MMI station

  • Don’t speak over anyone

One of the main reasons to have a PBL station at an MMI interview is to see how candidates work in a group setting. You need to highlight your team working and listening skills. Once there’s a break in conversation you should make your argument/point in context with what has already been said.

Image result for group interview

  • Think deeply over the scenario

The scenario will have been carefully selected to evaluate the candidates. Think in-depth about; what the scenario represents; what problems it brings to light; why it was chosen? Considering all angles of the scenario will help you better formulate a learning point or solution. Again, listen to what your group has to say and understand their perspective of the scenario.

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  • Use all the knowledge you have available

The scenarios offered will often touch on multiple disciplines and areas of knowledge. If there’s something you happen to have extra knowledge on, make use of that knowledge and share it with your group! A key element of PBL learning is sharing information with your peers. This will be looked upon favourably by interviewers as you’d be a valuable member of that group.

  • Encourage others to speak

Ordinarily, PBL scenarios begin by setting a chairman and a scribe who takes notes of the session. This may not be formally set in an interview setting, so everyone can take up the role of chair if they feel up the task. As the goal of a PBL scenario is to consolidate everyone’s information, it’s important that everyone has their say. If you can politely encourage someone to speak and share their knowledge, the entire group benefits from this. This also demonstrates good leadership qualities to the interviewers.

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  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions

It’s unlikely that you’ll know the ins and outs of everything regarding the PBL scenario. In this case – ask the question on your mind! It’s likely that other people are having the same thought and would benefit from the question being answered. If no-one knows the answer, then it’s another learning objective to take note of from the PBL scenario.

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Above all, the most important tip we can give you is just to ENGAGE.

If you deep-dive into the scenario and work through it from all possible angles, you are guaranteed to come out having learnt something new and, hopefully, showcased some of your skills as a potential candidate.

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