Why lying is bad but spinning is essential for a place at medical school

by     7 Comments    Posted under: Application, Interviews, Personal Statement

spinning interview medical school

Did you just spend your entire work experience making tea for a GP and his receptionist?

Did you spend more time watching YouTube videos last year than developing an amazing medical school CV?

Have you no clear answer for why you dropped A-level physics after 1 month?

Then you need to learn how to spin.

Lying is wrong.

But spinning – making yourself sound more impressive than you think you are – is crucial when it comes to success in getting into medical school. It is a skill that must be developed and honed even beyond med school. All of the most successful doctors are good at spinning.

Remember this guy? Like many other politicians, he gave spinning a bad name by mixing it up with lying and violence.

In this article I will teach you how to spin properly, to give yourself the best chance of a fair hearing and a successful outcome.

Why the need to spin?

Because it is not always in your best interests to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth in all circumstances especially when ‘the jury’ reading your section 10 or listening to your answer at interview is under pressure to find a fault in your application and reject you.

The rules
Firstly you can’t avoid easily verifiable facts.

You can’t make up an UKCAT score or a GCSE grade. Equally you can’t pretend you’re fluent in a language you can’t even pronounce the name of.

Even if you get away with it temporarily it will come back to catch you out and will destroy your integrity without which you can say goodbye to a career in medicine (but perhaps enter a successful career in law or banking).

Secondly you cannot spin your way out of answering a technical or fact based question that you know nothing about. It is always better to admit you simply don’t know.

Thirdly don’t give answers which are very obviously spun and simply make you sound like you’re trying to avoid answering the question properly. That sort of thing is very annoying indeed to an interviewer.


spin your answers

So what should you spin?

There are a number of areas that are ideal for spinning.
These include:

  • Voluntary experience
  • Work experience
  • Reasons for wanting to do medicine
  • Reasons for not achieving in a specific area
  • Outside interests or hobbies

Ready to spin? Here’s how…

Omit facts

Did you get rejected from every other medical school and this is your last chance?
Did you spend a ‘gap year’ doing nothing but ‘chilling out’ or working as a waiter in a restaurant?

Nobody needs to know such stuff and so you don’t need to mention it. Leave it out and talk or write about something that does you a favour. You’re here to sell yourself and not to make a case for the opposition.

Obviously there are some things that are difficult to simply omit, such as years on your CV that are unaccounted for. This is often a problem for graduate entry medicine applicants that may have squandered a few years between degrees or whilst deciding to apply.


This is where you use your judgement to very slightly exaggerate in a very specific and focussed area in order to draw greater attention to an achievement.

For example if you climbed a mountain for charity with other friends or volunteers, you can mention that you ‘led a team of volunteers on an climbing expedition in Kenya and this gave you valuable insights into team dynamics and leadership skills

This opens up a nice talking point provided you can show an understanding of team dynamics and / or leadership.


Expand the focus
That gap year spent in Kenya chilling out with just a day or two spent at a local vaccination clinic?
Focus on that one week. Minimise the rest. Nobody cares about how much scuba diving you did. We want to hear about your insights into a developing healthcare system and working with other volunteers. If you have something intelligent to say it’s all good and we won’t start looking at your  text messages or checking your diary dates. We promise.


Direct blame away from yourself
Did you retake A-levels and lose a year? Did you get zero offers last year and are now re-applying?
Don’t ever say that you were lazy and have now improved your revision schedule! Better to blame personal or family problems that you have managed to overcome successfully. Turn a failure into a lesson in life’s challenges. One word of caution. Never fabricate an excuse. This is all about shifting blame around onto factors that are less likely to make you look like an idiot.

Be confident!
Practice talking about things you only have peripheral knowledge about to friends and family. Now practice doing that with total strangers.

Even if people suspect you’re talking rubbish they will not be able to tell you so, as long as you look comfortable and display enough confidence and charm. If you keep it up long enough who knows, they may even start to believe you!

This is probably the most undervalued skill that almost all medics posess by the time they leave medical school.

In summary, become a spin doctor before you become a real doctor.

In part 2 of this article we’ll go through some real life situations and how spinning can successfully ease you out of difficulty.


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And what do you reckon? Is spinning OK? Should we be openly advocating it? Comments below!


7 Comments + Add Comment

  • Awesome tips.

  • This should be required reading for every medical school applicant. There is much debate about that fine line spinning and fabrication or obfuscation. This draws the line perfectly with a few good examples.

  • How often do you guys actually spot lies?

    • Hi Kelly,

      Every so often we expose one. There are plenty that don’t get fully exposed but make us suspicious. Difficult to know what to do with those

  • Nice work dude.

    Any more examples about how to spin poor work experience would be appreciated

  • Ya, we doctors spin everything and it’s difficult to remember how green we were before we entered the profession.

    Thanks, some excellent tips for my daughter as well as our other young future colleagues!

    • Thanks for the supportive comments.

      I must admit I didn’t know how openly to advocate spinning.

      As you say everyone does it and it’s the only way to compete so it’s time we gave some advice to applicants to let them know how to spin and how to avoid breaking these unwritten rules.