Updated: May 11
Do you want to apply for medical school?
If you’re a student currently considering studying medicine at university, we know how overwhelming the process can seem! So we have put together this handy guide of advice and tips to ensure you have the best chance of successfully securing a place to study medicine at your chosen university.
It’s important you stay up to date on the application process as there have been some changes in recent years to med school entry in the UK that you need to be aware of. Securing a place to study medicine is competitive but by being well prepared and putting together a strong application, you will increase your chance of success! It’s important you consider the following points:
- Is a career in medicine right for you?
- What GCSE’s and A-Levels do you need to get into medicine?
- How to choose the right medical school?
- Gaining Medical work experience
- UCAT and BMAT
- How to write your Personal statement
- Preparing for your interview
Is a career in medicine right for you?
Choosing medicine as a career path is a big decision. Firstly, courses in medicine take substantially longer to complete than typical Bachelors degrees. The common Bachelor of Medicine takes five years to complete. It can even take up to 16 years of training before becoming a doctor. Naturally, your choice of career will affect the time it will take to become fully qualified. There are over 60 specialties to choose from such as surgery, cardiology, dentistry, and more. Universities that offer Medicine are often at the higher end of university rankings, there are currently just 37 medical schools. If you’re currently unsure which profession you would like to pursue, head to MEDICPLAYER where there are various series to watch such as ‘Operating Theatre Live’ (as seen on Dragons Den) to decide which medical field you are most passionate about. Ensure you watch ‘Make Me A…’ where Jamie chats with professionals in various fields from a Podiatrist to a Radiographer!
Medicine is a future-proofed profession; we will always require doctors and so they will always be in demand. It is a well-respected career all over the world, not just in the UK. You may find yourself traveling and work overseas. On top of this, medicine is always evolving so you will continuously be learning and never find yourself bored. A career in medicine can bring so much reward however it’s crucial to establish whether you are ready for the mental and emotional commitment that healthcare brings. This is not going to be a 9-5 working day. You need to be extremely selfless, focused, and ready for a profession that’s all-consuming. We suggest you are 100% certain before you apply for a career in medicine.
What GCSE’s and A-Levels do you need to get into medicine?
Every medical school has different entry requirements however there are some subjects that are a necessity across the board.
As competition is so high for entry into medical school, it’s important you achieve the best grades possible at GCSE & A-Level, they are looking for a strong academic history overall, not just at A-level.
You need to aim for at least x5 A* or A grade GCSEs including Maths and English and at least a Grade B in a science subject. The medical school you are interested in may specify whether this needs to be in Chemistry, Physics, or Biology.
If you’re currently at GCSE level, it’s great you’re looking into Med School at an early stage. Look out for our MED-SOC and Operating Theatre Live events with human anatomist Sam Piri, in your area. MED-SOC is key for aspiring medical and healthcare students, created from 30 years’ experience of guiding students into careers in medicine. MED-SOC offers a hands-on intensively academic insight into medical careers. www.med-soc.co.uk
At A-Level, you will find that at least AAA is required in science subjects such as Biology and Chemistry. Physics and Mathematics are shown as next most useful.
With competition increasing, it’s been noted that 4 A-Levels may be the new benchmark however having 3 A to A* A-Levels including Chemistry and Biology will secure you an interview in most circumstances.
How to choose the right medical school?
80% of students miss out on a place at medical school and so you’re allowed to make 4 choices of medical school on your UCAS application and the 5th choice for a further course just in case. You need to factor in the specifications of each institution, not just to you can apply based on your predicted grades but also your learning style. For example, do you require a high amount of tutor interaction? If so, look for a university that has a low student-to-staff ratio. This can often be found in university ranking tables.
Next, you need to consider the course type most suited to you. Most medical school courses are listed as either Tradition, Integrated or Problem based learning.
Traditional is the most popular course type in the UK. Your first two years will focus on learning in a lecture setting and so will be highly theory-based. You’ll then move on to a clinical setting under the direction of a consultant working in a practical setting. This often suits someone who prefers to have a high level of knowledge prior to being practical studies.
Integrated courses differ slightly as you begin with some clinical work experience from day one. This has become increasingly popular in recent years. Integrated medical courses teach various segments of scientific theory but also allow you to acclimatise to working life. MEDICPLAYER offers a virtual work experience perfect for aspiring medical students to increase your understanding of the clinical workplace before you begin on your medical journey.
Problem Based Learning otherwise known as PBL focuses on smaller group work with focus on education through problem-solving. This is a modern method and not as widely available, a small number of universities offer this course type. PBL teaches similar content as a traditional theory-based method but with detail into hypothetical situations and working in groups of 8 alongside an experienced tutor. This method promotes teamwork and readies you for the multidisciplinary nature of the NHS.
Once you have decided which course type is most suitable for you and complied your shortlist, you need to ensure you’re happy with the location of the university - how far from home is it? Are you comfortable with the distance? In addition, consider the cost of the tuition fees – for example course costs in Scotland are less than in England however this does increase the competition in Scotland. You can maximise your chance of success by looking at the different medical school application rates, interview offer rates, and the number of places available.
Gaining Medical Work Experience
We touched briefly on medical work experience. Not only is this required on your CV for your application to any medical school, it’s also a fantastic way of getting a hands-on feel for whether a career in medicine is the right path for you.
Unfortunately gaining relevant medical work experience can be one of the hardest tasks for an aspiring medical student, not only during the last 12 months due to the pandemic but as hospitals over oversubscribed and simply do not have space. There is also no real system in place for hospitals to manage students on work experience schemes. In addition to this, hospitals are not overly welcoming to allowing students in due to patient confidentiality.
You do still have options. Firstly, MEDICPLAYER offers an online virtual work experience called ‘24HRS ON THE WARD’ allowing you to obtain certificates and gain valuable experience in a hospital environment. Sign up to MEDICPLAYER here: www.medicplayer.com
In addition to this, medical schools recognise how difficult it can be to gain work experience and so you can supplement 24HRS ON THE WARD with other work experience (not in a hospital) that is easier to obtain. Volunteering is always a fantastic way to show your selfless characteristics and these roles are easier to obtain. Look for roles available at care homes, charities, and youth groups.
UCAT AND THE BMAT
These are designed to test various areas of your thinking skills, medical knowledge, and clinical aptitude. They will take place in addition to your A-Levels. They serve as another means of screening the enormous number of applications made to medical schools.
The UCAT is a digital test that focuses on you answering questions of varying difficulty in short spaces of time over topics ranging from Verbal Reasoning to Quantitative Reasoning, to Abstract Reasoning, to Situational Judgement, and so on. The BMAT is a written exam with an emphasis on mathematics, science, and logical thinking.
You have to book your exam prior to university and can only take the exam once. UCAT costs £80 and BMAT’s cost £46 however you may be able to apply to take the test for free depending on your household income.
These exams can be a scary prospect and so to prepare you in the best way possible, we have an entire series called ‘SMASH THE UCAT’ including practice exam questions available on MEDICPLAYER.
Practice makes perfect!
How to write your personal statement
Your personal statement is your opportunity to show your academic skill, work experience, and genuine passion for the medical subjects you love. It supports your application and can help if your exam results are slightly lower than you expected. You are given a 4,000-character limit to show evidence of your motivation, work experience, and why you are the right fit for their learning environment.
The structure of your personal statement is important. Consider the following points in this order:
· Why you want to study medicine.
· An overview of your work experience with your highest achievements first.
· How this impacted your life skills such as your genuine desire to help others.
· Personal interests such as activities that require teamwork and determination or some
personal key challenges you have had to overcome.
· Why you’re suitable for their learning environment E.g you've chosen the institution
because they offer the best combination of educational quality and the most
complementary match for your personal learning style.
You should find this allows you to use the 4000-character limit but don’t worry too much if you’re a couple of lines short. It’s crucial you check your spelling and grammar, have your teachers read over it, and offer feedback. And finally, we recommend you keep your tone upbeat and friendly but ensure it remains formal.
Preparing for your Interview
This may seem like the most frightening part of our application to medical school, but you should be proud of yourself for getting this far!
Ensure you read your interview invitation clearly as it may inform you of the format your interview will take – traditional, Oxbridge, or MMI?
During a Traditional interview, you’ll be asked about your background and goals, why you wish to study medicine, and where your passion began. Prepare by writing down some notes about key moments that occurred during your work experience or school/college life and also significant moments in your personal life.
Oxbridge medical courses are more heavily focused on research. This means that their interviews are far more focused on assessing your cognitive abilities and thinking skills. Expect the interview to start with something like “what makes a good doctor?”.
The MMI approach is a modern method of interviewing in which you face a number of interviewers quite quickly. They will give you a task or ask you questions to assess your interdisciplinary approach to tackling problems.
During any interview, you will likely be asked to elaborate on your personal statement so be prepared. It's important to compose yourself well, speak clearly and remember that anything that displays empathy, warmth, and care is a massive bonus as this is considered very important for those wishing to work in healthcare.
Hopefully, you have found this guide for applying to medical school helpful! The key is to be prepared, ensure you feel comfortable with the process, and feel ready for each stage. Remember, getting a place at medical school is extremely difficult and you are not alone in this. If you have any questions about applying for medical school please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We’re happy to help!
Good luck! THE MED-SOC TEAM