Stride through the SVI

Samuel Southgate, MSIV, University of Connecticut School of Medicine

For fourth year medical students, it is the season to secure those SLOEs and perfect that personal statement as the ERAS residency application portal opens. One task that is unique to applicants for emergency medicine (EM) residency spots is the Standardized Video Interview (SVI). 

What is the SVI?

The SVI is a required hurdle for all students applying to EM in 2019. It’s an online, one-way interview in which you must record a video response to six written questions that are presented on-screen. You have 30 seconds to read and reflect upon each question and then three minutes to respond. Unlimited breaks are permitted between questions.

When should I take it?

Before July 16, 2019 at 11.59pm Eastern Time. This is the official deadline. The ERAS 2020 portal opened earlier this month. Once you indicate your interest in EM via ERAS, you should receive an email within 24 hours with an invitation to complete the SVI. 

Where should I take it?

The SVI can be taken anywhere that the online module can be accessed. Data from 2018 shows that three-quarters of students took the test at home and that location had no effect on their SVI score. So just find somewhere quiet, distraction-free and comfortable. 

How much does it cost?

Thankfully, there is no cost incurred by taking the SVI in 2019.

What kind of questions are on the SVI?

The SVI aims to test two Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) competencies: “Interpersonal and Communication Skills” and “Knowledge of Professional Behaviors.” Questions may be behavioral - asking you to describe prior experiences that relate to these competencies - or situational - asking you to describe what you would do in a hypothetical situation. Many of these read like classic job interview questions. For example, from the official AAMC Guide: “Describe a time when you noticed a mistake or an error that had been made. What was the situation? What actions did you take? What was the outcome?”

How is the SVI scored?

Each of your six answers is scored by a different AAMC-trained rater; a human resource professional rather than a physician. They use a 5-point rating scale that runs from 1 (rudimentary) to 5 (exemplary), meaning your total score for the SVI will be between 6 and 30.

How should I interpret my SVI score?

This is a difficult question since the SVI is so new, having been piloted only in the 2016. AAMC data from 2018 shows that the mean score was 18.8 out of 30 with a standard deviation of 2.9 on a normal distribution. However, only 54% of program directors used SVI scores last year and 71% said SVI scores were not important in deciding whom to invite for in-person interviews. It seems safe to say that landing somewhere in the middle of that bell curve will be just fine.

How should I prepare for the SVI?

The good news is that preparation beyond a couple of hours does not seem to be necessary, at least according to data gathered on the cohort who took the SVI in 2017. The AAMC does have a helpful list of practical tips for SVI applicants. They suggest identifying ahead of time some experiences that you could discuss in the context of professionalism and communication skills, practising talking about those experiences, and also getting familiar with the SVI technology. A specific tip here is to practice look into the camera lens rather than your own image, which can be awfully distracting on screen.

What other resources are available?

Here are some of the most useful guides and resources for preparation: