Back to All Articles

How to Answer Ethical Questions in NUS/NTU Med School Interviews

How to tackle ethical scenarios in your Med interview


Mar 06, 2024

Interview Guide for Medical School Applicants: How to Answer Ethics Questions in the MMI

This guide is designed to help you to prepare and excel when faced with ethical questions in interviews for medical schools like the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU). 

We’ll break down what these questions are all about, provide tips and methods for answering them, and even offer model responses to some commonly asked ethical dilemmas. By the end of this guide, you’ll have a toolkit to tackle these thought-provoking and critical questions with confidence and precision.


Understanding Medical Ethical Questions

Before you begin crafting your perfect ethical response, it’s essential to understand what these questions are designed to assess. They’re not a simple measure of your ethical standards but rather an exploration of your capacity for ethical reasoning in the highly nuanced scenarios of real-life medical practice.

Common Themes and Scenarios: Expect to be presented with scenarios such as end-of-life care, patient confidentiality, and resource allocation. You may also encounter questions about professional ethics, including the duty to report a colleague or conflict of interest.


Why Ethical Decision-Making Matters in Medicine: It’s crucial for patient care, medical research integrity, and the reputation of the profession as a whole. In high-pressure, high-stakes environments, doctors must be able to make ethical choices efficiently and effectively.


How to Prepare for Ethics Questions 

While current events and personal beliefs certainly play a role in ethical decision-making, your preparation should involve a deeper study of principles that have stood the test of time in medical ethics.


1) Do your research: researching medical ethics principles

Start with an overview of the four pillars of medical ethics – autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice. These four pillars can guide you in your responses.


2) Put your knowledge to practice

Use case studies and practice questions to test your ethical reasoning. When you come across dilemmas, immerse yourself in them, and walk through the decision-making process. Can you articulate the principles at stake and defend the actions you would take?


Tips for Answering Ethics Questions in Medical Interviews

Navigating ethical scenarios can be daunting, but with a structured approach, your responses can be clear, thorough, and memorable.

Structuring Responses

  1. Begin by outlining the scenario
  2. Then clearly state the ethical conflict it presents. 
  3. Follow this with a discussion of possible courses of action, the implications of each, and ultimately the choice you would make, supported by relevant ethical principles.

Showing Empathy and Ethical Awareness: Beyond the intellectual exercise, ethical questioning illuminates your capacity for empathy and your grasp of the greater ethical landscape. Your response should not only be rooted in the principles but should also demonstrate a recognition of the human impact of the dilemma.


Quick Summary of How to Structure Your Response 

  • Structuring Responses:
      • Outline the scenario.
      • Clearly state the ethical conflict.
      • Discuss possible courses of action.
      • Explain the implications of each action.
      • Make your choice supported by relevant ethical principles.
  • Providing Real-Life Examples:
      • Use personal experiences or current news.
      • Reference situations in healthcare ethics.
      • Highlight consequences of ethical adherence or failure.
  • Showing Empathy and Ethical Awareness:
    • Consider the human impact.
    • Demonstrate empathy.
    • Connect responses to real-world implications.

Sample Ethics Questions and Model Answers

We’ll provide you with responses to a few practical ethical scenarios, allowing you to see our approach in action and to get a sense of how to apply these strategies to other questions.

Ethical Scenario 1 – Withholding Information:

You are a junior physician who has discovered an error in a senior colleague's patient notes. The error could negatively impact the patient's treatment. Do you correct the mistake, potentially implicating your colleague, or do you remain silent?


Model Response: "I appreciate the gravity of this situation, given that it involves the well-being of a patient and the professional reputation of a colleague. My primary concern as a physician is for the patient's health and ensuring they receive accurate care.


But before I take any action or correct the mistake myself, I would like to gather more information. I want to make sure that the error is actually an error and not a careless misstep or misidentification on my part—especially since it’s a senior colleague. I would find an opportunity to speak to my senior colleague in a private setting and clarify the error. If there is in fact an error, was it perhaps a small error that does not have an impact in the patient’s treatment? Or is it a larger scale error that would negatively impact the patient's treatment? 


In both cases, it's really important that we take care to find out more about the error—and I believe the right thing to do, in this case, is to correct the error, but this decision is not without consideration. It's important to approach my senior colleague with care, understanding that medical errors can happen, and our priority should be rectifying them for patient safety."


Ethical Scenario 2 – Research and Patient Care:

You have the opportunity to participate in a cutting-edge clinical trial that seeks to improve treatment methods for a deadly disease. The demands of the research will likely impact your time and energy for your regular patient caseload. What is your priority?


Model Response: "This dilemma resonates deeply with the principle of 'beneficence,' where participation in the trial could lead to substantial benefits for a broader patient population. However, I acknowledge my duty to my current patients and the principle of 'non-maleficence.' I would carefully consider the impact on my existing patients and attempt to balance my role as a practitioner with my involvement in the trial. Open communication with my team would be integral to ensuring patient care is not compromised."

The model response effectively addresses the ethical scenario by:

  • Acknowledging the gravity of the situation involving patient well-being and professional reputation.
  • Prioritising patient health and safety by choosing to correct the error.
  • Demonstrating empathy and understanding towards the senior colleague while upholding patient care as the primary concern.
  • Emphasising the importance of approaching the senior colleague with care and rectifying errors for the sake of patient safety.
  • Highlighting the complexity of the decision-making process and the need for sensitivity in handling medical errors.

In the second scenario, the model response succeeds by:

  • Considering the ethical principles of 'beneficence' and 'non-maleficence' in weighing the decision.
  • Recognising the potential benefits of participating in the clinical trial for a broader patient population.
  • Acknowledging the impact on existing patients and the responsibility to maintain quality care.
  • Demonstrating a willingness to balance professional obligations with research involvement.
  • Stressing the importance of open communication within the healthcare team to ensure patient care remains a priority.


It’s not a matter of simply choosing right from wrong – it’s understanding and navigating the complexities of the medical world with empathy, ethical awareness, and a deep-rooted understanding of the principles that guide the field.


By preparing thoughtfully and pragmatically for ethics questions, you set the stage for a compelling interview that showcases not only your knowledge but also your readiness to take on the mantle of a medical professional. Want more interview tips? Download our Medicine admissions guide. 


Founded in 1999 to provide comprehensive standardised test preparation and admissions coaching for students embarking on their university education.


Subscribe to our newsletter

stay ahead of the game with the latest trends, tips, and news on university admissions and scholarships.

Latest Articles

How to Write the

How to Write the "Why This College?" Essay

This conversation delves into the world of medicine, with doctors sharing their personal experiences, the challenges they face, and any reg...

Read More!
Work, Life and Everything In Between: Lawyers Share Their Journey

Work, Life and Everything In Between: Lawyers Share Their Jo...

Four lawyers shared their experiences and insights on navigating the legal profession, emphasizing the importance of preparation, critical ...

Read More!
What does a day in the life of a doctor look like? (UK vs. Singapore)

What does a day in the life of a doctor look like? (UK vs. S...

This conversation delves into the world of medicine, with doctors sharing their personal experiences, the challenges they face, and any reg...

Read More!