Cheat Sheet

Get into UK Medical School For Dummies

Nervous about applying to medical school? There’s no need! With the right approach and preparation you’ll give yourself a head start of the competition. This Cheat Sheet gives you the key things to know about the application timeline, choosing the right school, writing your personal statement and preparing for entry tests.

The UK Medical School Application Timeline

Every year, around 22,000 people apply to study at UK medical schools. Less than 8,000 are accepted. Getting in requires research, preparation, dedication and good personal insight. This flowchart outlines the application timeline and key tasks involved for those still currently in school:

Medical school application timeline
Medical school application timeline

Deciding Which Medical School Is Right for You

Selecting the medical school that’s right for you can be a difficult decision. All UK medical schools offer an excellent education and well-rounded university experience but they’re not interchangeable. Choosing between them involves deciding what criteria matter to you.

As well as reading their prospectuses carefully, you can get an idea of what medical schools offer by talking to past and present students and visiting universities on their open days. You may want to consider:

  • The location

  • Size

  • Course structure

  • Atmosphere of the institution

  • Other educational, research, and social opportunities on offer

Structuring Your UCAS Personal Statement

Medical schools want candidates with excellent academic records who have realistic views of a career in medicine. They need people who are mature enough to know their own strengths and limitations, and who are willing to work hard to overcome those limitations. This means that you need excellent grades, good predictions for future exams and have enough work experience to convince medical schools that medicine is the right career for you. A good UCAS personal statement should highlight your understanding of medicine and your commitment and suitability to be a doctor.

A good structure to your personal statement allows you to communicate the maximum amount of information to interview shortlisters in the limited space allowed. Here are a few tips to get your started:

  • Introduction (paragraph 1): this only needs to be one single sentence to engage the reader

  • Explain why you want study medicine (also paragraph 1)

  • Commitment to medicine (paragraph 2): this section should be about your work experience and what you’ve learned from it, making you a better candidate

  • Non-academic pursuits (paragraph 3): focus on your interests and hobbies that tie into the skills required to be a medical student and to become a doctor

  • Personal qualities (also paragraph 3): use this section to point out your personal talents that haven’t been mentioned elsewhere

  • Gap year (optional; paragraph 3): if you’re taking a gap year, explain your plans here

  • Conclusion (paragraph): a brief summary of your passion for medicine and why you feel you’re a suitable candidate

Medical School Entry Tests: UKCAT and BMAT

Many medical schools require applicants to sit the UKCAT or BMAT as part of their selection procedures. Familiarity with the kind of questions you’ll face in these tests is crucial to scoring well.

The good news is that you can prepare for the assessments by analysing the tests, and revising questions and answers to increase your chances of a successful outcome. Visit Get into Medical School for find out more about UKCAT and BMAT courses.

Here are a few tips to keep focused and to reduce error rate on test day:

  • Don’t be intimidated by presentations on topics you know nothing about. The testers are looking at how well you can manipulate numerical information, not whether you’re familiar with the topic of the presentation.

  • Don’t overcomplicate the questions. They require the use of fairly basic mathematical operations. If you have to draw on advanced mathematics in your attempts to solve the problem, you’re almost certainly going down the wrong path.

  • Read each question carefully and work steadily to avoid making careless errors. You can easily misinterpret or overlook a vital aspect of the question.

  • Don’t relax too much. This can lead to careless errors in a subtest on which you would otherwise have scored very highly.

  • Don’t spend too much time on a question you can’t solve. Move on to the next question and keep your cool. You aren’t expected to get 100%, so best accept that and use your time to your best advantage.

Fast-Tracking the Medical School Entry Course

An increasing number of graduates want to study medicine. You can opt to apply for the undergraduate medical courses or you can apply for accelerated ‘fast-track’ graduate-entry courses instead. Accelerated courses are typically a year shorter and are correspondingly more intensive.

Both application routes are challenging. Accelerated courses are highly competitive to get onto because the candidate pool is even more driven than school-leaver applicants. Applying for an undergraduate course might seem less competitive but medical schools will need a very good explanation for why an eligible graduate candidate isn’t applying for an accelerated course. You can have some reasonable explanations – for example, not all accelerated courses are open to those without a science-based first degree – but this can be a hard sell.

On balance, if you’re eligible for both options you might as well apply for the accelerated courses. This advice is especially sound if you’re keen to be doctoring (and earning!) as soon as possible.

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