This is the time to start planning for getting into Medical School
Applications to get into Medical School open in a couple of months’ time. Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Medicine are amongst most competitive degree programmes to get into. It is therefore crucial that you are thoroughly prepared for your application to stand out from the crowd. Most medical school admission tutors look out for several things, some of which are listed below. But before we go into detail, we encourage people to fully consider some of the unique features of the profession.
Is Medical School really for you
Medicine, Dentistry or Veterinary Medicine are not for everyone – you need to have a genuine passion for the profession to thrive and fully enjoy it. Don’t go into it for the wrong reasons, the journey is quite long and not easy at all. It could be for you if you can answer ‘Yes’ to most of the following questions:
- Do you like working in busy and challenging environments, where you have to make bold life-impacting decisions, and having responsibility for people’s lives?
- Would you associate yourself with any of the following: ‘Empathy’; ‘Making a difference to people’s lives’; ‘Passion for patients’
- Are you hard-working?
- Are you clever?
- Are you good at remembering lots of information?
- Can you put up with studying for long hours?
- Are you bothered with working long hours?
- Can you live with working strange shift patterns, including night shifts?
- Would you cope with earning loads of money, especially if you progress to Consultant level?
Get your grades
Most medical schools require three top grades:
A-level: AAA including chemistry and one other science, such as maths, physics biology or psychology.
International Baccalaureate: 37 points including chemistry and another science subject.
Scottish Highers: S5: AAAAA/AAAABB or S6 ABB.
Most medical schools expect A Level / Scottish Higher / IBAC Chemistry plus another Science subject / Maths. Some require both Biology and Chemistry and others may even require three Sciences (Chemistry, Physics, Biology or Maths).
Those struggling to meet these entry requirements, may want to consider doing the six-year course ‘Medicine with a Foundation Year or Pre-clinical Year’. You may want to consider enrolling on a related course such Biomedical Sciences or Biochemistry then transfer to Medicine after the first year if you achieve high grades. Alternatively, you could first finish the degree then enter through the Graduate Entry route.
Admissions Test Preparation
Make sure you are thoroughly prepared and have done extensive practice/mock tests on a computer for the Admissions tests which are required by the majority of the medical schools in the UK.
The University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) is a computerised exam that test key skills such as communication, spatial awareness, quantitative reasoning and numeracy. It usually covers five key areas; verbal reasoning, abstract reasoning, quantitative reasoning, decision making and situational judgement. The exam is usually sat between July and October. The majority of medical schools use UKCAT. You get your results straight after the test, so can use the test results to tailor your personal statement and to see which medical schools are more likely to accept you.
The BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) is common with some top medical schools such as Oxford, Cambridge, UCL and Imperial College. The test covers 3 main sections; problem-solving, scientific knowledge and essay writing. Registration opens in July and the exam is usually sat between September and October.
The Situational Judgement Test for Admission to Clinical Education (SJTace) is mainly used for entry to the Scottish Graduate Entry Medical Programme (ScotGEM), in particular; the University of Dundee and the University of St Andrews.
The Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT) is primarily used for the Graduate Entry Medicine courses and for a few selected Standard Entry Medicine courses where the applicant is a graduate. As with the UKCAT, an applicant must register for and sit the GAMSAT before making the UCAS application. Registration is in August while the test is sat in September.
Preparation and practice websites include:
- Cambridge Admissions Testing Service (https://www.admissionstesting.org/)
- Kaplan Test Prep (https://www.kaptest.co.uk/)
- MedEntry (https://www.medentry.co.uk/)
- The Medic Portal (https://www.themedicportal.com/)
- UniAdmissions (https://www.uniadmissions.co.uk/)
- 6Med (https://6med.co.uk/)
- BMA (https://www.bma.org.uk/)
- GMC (https://www.gmc-uk.org/)
Ace your UCAS Personal Statement
It is crucial that you first visit your chosen medical school’s admissions website to make sure you know precisely what they want you to include in your UCAS application personal statement. Keep it as relevant as possible, showcasing your medical mentality, patient care and reference to your work experience.
Key things to demonstrate in your personal statement:
- Your motives and inspiration for choosing medicine
- What explorations, volunteering, work experience and extra-curricular activities have you done.
- Reflect well on your experiences to demonstrate transferrable skills, capabilities and attributes that make you a suitable candidate.
In your application make sure you link possible transferable skills from any extracurricular activities (sports, clubs, societies, orchestra, voluntary/charitable activities). Highlight skills such as leadership, teamworking, interpersonal communication, collaboration and innovation that come with your participation.
Demonstrate extensive study and wider reading
- Keep up-to-date with medical current affairs, the medical profession and NHS news
- Extensively read the General Medical Council’s ‘Good medical practice’ (https://www.gmc-uk.org/ethical-guidance/ethical-guidance-for-doctors/good-medical-practice)
- Regularly read The Doctor Magazine and BMJ (British Medical Journal) news (https://www.bma.org.uk/news/the-doctor and https://www.gmc-uk.org/)
- Have a sound understanding of confidentiality
and the four pillars of medical ethics:
- Autonomy: respecting patient’s choice
- Beneficence: doing what is in the best interests of the patient
- Non-maleficence: doing no harm
- Justice: doing what’s best for society as a whole
- Familiarise with other key ethical medical topics such as euthanasia, abortion, patients’ rights, privatisation, informed consent, gender issues, and conflict of interest
- Knowledge of high profile diseases (such as coronavirus, AIDS, MMR, SARS, MRSA, H5N1, cancer).
- Other signs of passion for medicine include watching medical television programmes, knowing the different specialities in medicine as well as reading books and periodicals on health related subjects.
Medical placement or work experience
Prior to submitting your application, try and get some form of medical placement or work experience. This could be at your local hospital, GP practice, medical centre, medical laboratory, Ambulance service unit, medical research centre, primary health centre or nursing care home.
In your application, reflect on and give examples of your personal experiences, learning outcomes and key skills expected from a medical doctor, such as empathy, communication skills, patient interactions and the importance of focusing on the patient.
To get a real good feel of what it’s like working in the medical field, shadow doctor, nurse or any other relevant medical professional. The broader your e work experience the more attractive your application.
Prepare for the interview
Prepare for the interview
Use the Medical School’s website to find out more about the style of the interview. Whether it is a panel interview or a Multiple Mini Interview (MMI), do a lot of research on what to expect for that particular interview and the types of questions.
Prepare some good quality and original responses to help you on the day. Prepare some solid answers to justify why you chose that medical school and degree programme. Showcase your knowledge of the profession by having a clear understanding of the different progressions up to Consultant level and what particular pathway you are likely to take. Research about the medical school’s attached hospital, its speciality and its performance.
Prepare for the interview
Use the Medical School’s website to find out more about the style of the interview. Whether it is a panel interview or a Multiple Mini Interview (MMI), do a lot of research on what to expect for that particular interview and the types of questions. Prepare some good quality and original responses to help you on the day. Prepare some solid answers to justify why you chose that medical school and degree programme. Showcase your knowledge of the profession by having a clear understanding of the different progressions up to Consultant level and what particular pathway you are likely to take. Research about the medical school’s attached hospital, its speciality and its performance.
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