Medicine is an extremely competitive degree course, with the UK attracting applicants from across the world. Less than 10% of aspiring doctors are offered a place each year, and with standards rising, it is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate between students. Below we outline the four steps to mastering applications to read medicine at medical school.
Step 1: Preparation
As with most things, preparation is key. The UK has over 30 medical schools, each with their own entry requirements. Some explicitly require minimum GCSE or admission test results, whilst others rely more heavily on the interview. At the point of applying to medical schools, you will know your GCSEs and UKCAT results, so it is essential that your results are cross-referenced with your shortlisted institutions’ requirements. By scouring through university websites and attending the open days of all the universities you intend to apply to, you can gather a rather comprehensive picture of how each medical school weights the components of the application. Utilise this, and apply to medical schools that most highly value your strengths.
Step 2: The Personal Statement
Often students believe that their personal statement needs to be the uniquely interesting document to be successful. This is not the case. The purpose of the medical personal statement is to demonstrate important characteristics that medical schools value in their students. Indeed, the document is usually assessed against a proforma, and given a score. Your personal statement may be an excitingly unique life story, but unless you can demonstrate these traits, it will not likely be successful. So what do medical schools want to see?
- Demonstrate a mature interest in the career. This is best shown with a thoughtful reflection on a work experience opportunity.
- Demonstrate a healthy work-life balance. Highly valued by most institutions and often the most neglected aspect of the personal statement. A few lines on what you do for fun will do more good than you know.
- Demonstrate the core leadership, team-working and communication skills. Extra-curricular activities are a really good way to develop these.
The rest is should be tailored to the medical schools you have applied to. For example, particular universities have academically driven courses, and will value extra-curricular reading or courses you have enrolled to.
Step 3: Medical School Admissions Tests
There are two admission tests in the UK: the UKCAT and the BMAT. It is essential that you prepare for these with past question books, as these are unique exams. The UKCAT is sat before you submit your application, whereas the BMAT is sat afterwards. This should help you determine whether to apply exclusively to UKCAT medical schools, if you have done particularly well, or to apply to at least one BMAT university, perhaps if your UKCAT score is not particularly competitive. Most universities publish their cut-offs scores for the respective exams.
Step 4: Interview
If invited to interview, it is crucial to prepare for the structure of the interview you will be assessed in. Medical schools usually publish this information. Multiple Mini Interviews are increasingly common. Core preparation:
- You must know your personal statement very well and prepare to be questioned on any area of it.
- You should be aware of current developments in medicine, including topical socio-economic issues.
You must know your personal statement very well.
Much like the personal statement, you will usually be assessed against a score sheet, with the same aforementioned purpose. You need to demonstrate a mature, balanced personality that is appropriate for a future doctor.
There is no golden formula for the application process that will guarantee a place at a medical school. However, if you ensure your strengths across the respective fields are the forefront of your application, you can go a long way in maximising your chances of reaching the interview. Good luck!