Everything You Need to Know About the New AAMC Video Interview Tool for Admissions (VITA) — Savvy Pre-Med

By: Savvy Pre-Med Staff

Imagine having to record an 18-minute speech about your qualifications for becoming a physician. Now imagine that speech being sent to all the medical schools you’re applying to, without being able to make any edits or start over.

Sounds pretty terrifying, right? Well, that’s essentially how the new AAMC Video Interview Tool for Admissions (VITA) is going to work… more or less.

Starting in August, applicants will be invited to record a virtual interview – with no audience – that consists of six questions with a maximum of three minutes to respond to each question. You can take breaks of any length between your responses, as long as you meet the schools’ final deadlines.

So, it’s actually an 18-minute speech that is guided by prompts and lets you regroup along the way. Still sounds pretty terrifying. 

We know what you’re thinking – “Hasn’t this cycle already been hard enough with canceled activities, online classes, and postponed MCATs?”

Trust us – we agree. We feel your pain. The VITA offers almost no benefits to the applicants themselves, so…

The VITA actually has a precedent: the Standard Video Interview (SVI), a now defunct tool that was once used in emergency medicine residency admissions.

The SVI worked in almost the same way as the VITA – six questions that tested specific competencies, with a maximum of three minutes to respond to each.

So what happened to the SVI? Well, it turns out that its multi-year pilot resulted in backlash from both applicants and residency programs. These were the major complaints:

  1. Lack of evidence to support the SVI as an assessment tool

  2. Uncertainty around the cost of the program

  3. Student perceptions   

The Emergency Medicine community even wrote an official joint letter to the AAMC to “respectfully oppose further study or use of the SVI.”

The letter was signed by leaders of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine, American College of Emergency Physicians, Council of Residency Directors in Emergency Medicine. and Emergency Medicine Residents’ Association. 

They claimed that the tool was failing to fill a supposed gap in program directors’ ability to assess interpersonal skills and professionalism. In fact, the SVI scores were inconsistent with the scores in these same areas during in-person interviews with Emergency Medicine faculty.

They also raised concerns about the cost of maintaining the interview platform, and the costs for applicants in preparing and delivering their video interviews.

Perhaps most noteworthy was their report on applicants’ perception of the SVI:

“The SVI was intended to benefit applicants by providing them the opportunity to feel holistically reviewed, but only 31% of students agreed that the SVI would help program directors conduct a more holistic evaluation. Additionally, less than one quarter of applicants agreed that the SVI gave them an opportunity to describe their interpersonal and communication skills or knowledge of professional behavior, and only half agreed that they were able to answer SVI questions based upon past experiences.”

So basically, the AAMC is now rebranding this failed assessment tool as the “VITA” and using it on medical school applicants instead.

The AAMC claims the VITA is designed to “help medical schools assess applicants’ pre-professional competencies important for success in medical school.” It could also be seen as a compromise for fewer in-person interviews as a result of COVID-19.

But we believe that the real goal is to replace the CASPer and eventually steal away part or all of the market share on this type of standardized assessment. The AAMC is even piloting its own Situational Judgment Test (SJT) at the moment, too, so they’re working on two fronts. 

Sure, the VITA is free for now, but we imagine that it won’t be free after this cycle, or that the AAMC will find some way to make money off the tool moving forward.

So congrats, medical school applicants – you’re the second round of guinea pigs in a failed experiment!

It’s not good news, by any means, but we want to soften the blow by giving you all the information you need to prepare and succeed on the VITA.

Alright, let’s get into those FAQs!

How does the VITA work?

  • You get an interview invite from a specific school.

  • HireVue sends you a link.

  • You are given a deadline to complete the interview by.

  • After you complete it, the videos immediately become available to schools.

There is NO REGISTRATION, since you’ll be invited through a series of emails. 

Throughout the recorded responses, your face must be visible to ensure it is you who is completing the interview, and your voice must be audible to permit evaluation by the medical schools.

What is the format of the VITA?

  • A three-minute introductory video, then unlimited time for the interviewee agreement, technology check, and optional practice attempt(s).

  • Six questions, with one question dedicated to each of the following competencies: Resilience and Adaptability, Reliability and Dependability, Social Skills, Cultural Competence, Teamwork, and “Applicant’s Journey to Medical School.”

  • Up to 60 seconds to read each question, with 3 minutes to record a video response to each.

  • You may complete all six questions in one sitting, or you may complete any number of questions you choose, as long as all questions are completed by the required medical school deadline. The break between questions may be as long as you choose.

  • An optional 10-minute post-interview survey.

What is tested on the VITA?

  • Resilience and Adaptability

  • Reliability and Dependability

  • Social Skills

  • Cultural Competence

  • Teamwork

  • “Applicant’s Journey to Medical School”

The six questions are designed to assess core competencies and provide information about your journey on the path to medical school. According to the AAMC, there are three types of questions:

Sample: Why did you decide to pursue a career in medicine?

Sample: Imagine you are working in a group project and one of your teammates is not doing their share of the work. What would you do?

Sample: Describe a time when you experienced a conflict with a classmate or a coworker. What did you do? What was the outcome?

What are the dates and timeline of the VITA?

  • Participating medical schools will select applicants they want to invite to complete the AAMC VITA interview on a rolling basis starting in July 2020.

  • HireVue will send AAMC VITA invitation emails to candidates every Thursday from August 2020 through April 30, 2021. 

  • HireVue will send reminder emails between August 2020 and April 2021 until you complete the AAMC VITA interview.

Which schools are requiring the VITA?

We won’t know the full list until mid-July. Schools that plan to use it can tell AAMC at any time, and the results will show up in the MSAR under “Other Assessments.”

Can the VITA be taken multiple times?

The AAMC VITA may only be completed once. If you complete an interview for a school and are later selected by a different school, you will not complete the interview again. Your video responses will be shared with any school that selects you to complete the AAMC VITA.

When do applicants have to complete the VITA by?

The VITA will be open Aug. 6, 2020, (anticipated) through April 30, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. ET. While you will be able to complete the VITA anytime during this window, the AAMC recommends you complete the interview within two weeks of receiving the initial invitation from HireVue.

Additionally, a school may indicate a deadline, so refer to school-specific information regarding deadlines and consequences for missing those deadlines.

Can applicants complete the VITA before being invited by a school?

No, you must be selected by at least one medical school to complete the VITA. Schools will notify the AAMC that you have been selected to complete the VITA, which will initiate the process.

Is the VITA mandatory?

All applicants who are selected to interview with participating medical schools are encouraged to complete the VITA. For school-specific information on consequences of non-completion, contact the specific medical schools that have selected you.

What equipment is needed to complete the VITA?

You can complete the interview using any internet-enabled computer, tablet, or smartphone. Both a video and microphone must be available. 

Can the VITA be retaken due to technological problems?

If you believe that a technology or system issue interfered with your performance, you can submit an AAMC VITA Technology Issue Report Form within 24 hours of the issue. Forms submitted within 24 hours will be given prioritized review. 

How much does the VITA cost?

It’s free (for now). But we’re guessing it won’t be free after this cycle, or that the AAMC will find some way to make money off the tool moving forward.

Is the VITA scored?

It won’t be scored by the AAMC, but the medical schools can choose to score it. The software allows schools to grade each answer on a 1-5 scale, based on whatever criteria they’d like to use.

How will the medical schools evaluate the VITA?

Each medical school will determine how it will incorporate the VITA into its review process. Examples include using the VITA as part of the initial application screening, secondary screening, or as a complement to the traditional interview process.

Who creates the questions for the VITA?

The AAMC, not the medical schools. It’s also interesting to note that the AAMC “owns” the videos you produce.

The AAMC claims that they will be developing multiple versions of the interview, but that they will ensure that the questions target the same competencies and are of similar difficulty.

The current thinking is that the competencies will be presented in the same order for each test, with the “applicant’s journey” question last. 

What are the benefits of the VITA for medical schools?

It’s an additional screening component that they can assess on their own time. It allows them to reduce the number of live interviews and refocus the live interviews on important areas. 

What are the benefits of the VITA for applicants?

None. Okay, maybe it will save you money traveling to schools to interview if you were going to screw up the interview anyway.

Where should applicants record themselves for the VITA?

Somewhere quiet with a good internet connection and no distracting background. 

What should applicants wear while recording the VITA?

We recommend the same formal dress as a traditional in-person interview. 

How will the medical schools receive the VITA?

You do not need to take any extra steps for your videos to be sent to the medical schools that select you to interview. Your completed VITA will be accessible to all participating medical schools to which you applied and that selected you to complete the VITA.

Will an applicant’s VITA be available to other schools?

No, the AAMC will not send your VITA to any medical schools not participating in the VITA or to those that did not select you to complete the VITA.

Can an applicant’s VITA responses be canceled?

Once you submit your video responses, you will not have the option to cancel or void your VITA responses. 

Will applicants be able to see their VITA videos?

No, your VITA videos will only be available to the participating medical schools that selected you to complete the interview.

Can applicants retake the VITA and update videos if they mess up a question?

No, you cannot retake a video unless the AAMC determines there is a problem with the videos.

Does the email invitation from HireVue to complete the VITA have an expiration date?

Yes, the invitation expires after the VITA interview period closes on April 30, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. ET. The link will no longer work after that time. The system may reissue an applicant’s email invitation throughout the cycle, which deactivates their previous email invitation. Use the most recent email invitation to access the VITA.

What happens if a school invites applicants for an interview, but they don’t receive an email from HireVue to take the VITA?

HireVue will issue an invitation to an applicant the Thursday after the medical school selects the applicant. If you receive a medical school notification of selection on a Thursday, you will receive the HireVue invitation the following Thursday. Applicants who don’t receive a HireVue invitation should contact the AAMC directly. 

When should applicants apply for accommodations on the VITA?

Apply for accommodations as soon as possible if you think you will need them. We recommend you apply even before you receive an invitation for the best opportunity to receive an accommodation decision in time to complete the interview.

Can applicants use their MCAT accommodation approval for the VITA?

The process for applying for accommodations on the VITA is simplified if you already hold a current or an expired MCAT approval. You still need to submit a VITA Request for Accommodations Form, but you don’t need to provide documentation unless requested. The AAMC VITA team will use your previous MCAT approval letter and documentation to review your application for VITA accommodations. 

Will the VITA videos be available to medical schools if candidates reapply in the AMCAS 2022 cycle?

Your completed VITA will not be available for use by participating medical schools in future cycles.

How should applicants prepare for the VITA?

You’ll need a specific example for each competency. Ideally, two. Don’t memorize your responses, but you can create skeletons and memorize their bullet points:

Use all your time! Three minutes is a long time, so make sure to time yourself to see how long it takes you to move through each of your examples.

What strategies can applicants use on the VITA?

  • Provide as much detail as possible when responding to questions.

  • Keep responses professional.

  • If a question has multiple parts, be sure to answer each part.

  • If you have not experienced the situation described in a question, you may provide a hypothetical response about what you’d do in that situation.

  • Respond to each question presented. Failure to provide a response may impact how a medical school evaluates your interview.

  • Refer to the AAMC VITA Interview Preparation Guide for more information.

Stay tuned for future blog posts and updates about the VITA. We will be writing posts with tips for virtual interviews, and we’ll be releasing some practice VITAs in the near future!

Have any VITA questions that we missed? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll respond to you personally!

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