Is Medicine the right path for you?
If you’re already thinking about applying, then you’re probably fairly sure that medicine is a good choice for you. That’s really great, and we hope you continue to be further inspired throughout the application process.
Being a doctor is a really amazing career path and means you get to make a big difference to people’s lives. Medical School by itself will be the best time of your life, as you get to have the university experience whilst learning about something you’re really passionate about and becoming more confident as you go.
We’re sure that, as a prospective medical student, you have a deep love of science and want to combine this with working with people. Medicine is a fantastic way of combining these two things and means you can start to apply the scientific principles you’ve learnt into a clinical environment and see real results. It’s exceptionally rewarding and no other career can offer quite the same experience.
However, before applying, you need to think long and hard about whether this is the right option for you. Medicine is a highly rewarding career but it doesn’t come without its negatives. As a junior doctor, the shifts are long and the pay isn’t great, and medical school is a lot of work (amongst the fun).
Before you apply and commit at least the next 5 years of your life to this, you need to be absolutely sure that it’s right for you. Some of the key qualities of a good doctor are resilience, determination and strength. Helping patients is incredibly rewarding, but things don’t always have a happy ending and it takes a great deal of strength to get through the hard times.
When you write your personal statement, a key thing to include is that you understand and are willing to rise to the reality of what being a doctor is like. Medicine admissions tutors need to know that you’re not under the impression that Medicine is all fun and games!
Overall, if you’re already at this stage and wanting to apply for medical school, then you’re probably pretty sure medicine is the career path you want to follow. Just make sure you’re ready for the ups as well as the downs!
Which GCSEs do I need for a medical application?
GCSE results are a key part of your application for medical school. Every medical school will specify their specific GCSE requirements on their websites, so it’s useful to check these before you choose which ones to apply to.
The main subjects that you need to have achieved good grades in at GCSE are Maths, English and the three Sciences. The minimum requirements for most medical schools in the UK are at least 7 GCSEs at grade 7 or above (equivalent to grade A in the old GCSE marking scheme).
However, the more competitive medical schools will set higher grade requirements, meaning if you’re aiming to apply to Oxford you’ll need to do as well as you can in your GCSEs, as their average applicants will have all 9s with a few 8 grades.
Additionally, different universities will place different weighting on your GCSEs in their entry requirements. Again, the extent to which they use them for selecting candidates for interview will be available on their website, or to compare all entry requirements for every UK medical school, take a look here.
The main message is to just do as well as you can in your GCSEs, the better you do, the more of a boost it’ll give your medical school application!
A level subject choices and results
The A-level requirements for each medical school will again be listed on the medical school’s website, much like with GCSEs. The two subjects it’s pretty essential to study at A level are Biology and Chemistry. These are the subjects required by nearly all medical schools, so make life easier for yourself by studying them both!
The main subject that you absolutely have to take for A level is Chemistry. This is because a lot of the underlying scientific principles of Medicine stem from chemical processes, and having a sound understanding of how these work is essential to pass the first few years of Medical School.
When it comes to your other A level choices, the other subject that is pretty much essential is Biology. You need to take this for obvious reasons, and you’re likely to already have a basic understanding of some medical topics from your A level course. Only a handful of universities don’t ask for Biology at A-level, but if they don’t they’ll ask for another science, such as Physics, or Maths.
I personally didn’t decide to study Medicine until the end of Year 12 and hadn’t taken Biology for A level, meaning I had to cram AS Biology into my final year at school whilst also trying to balance writing my university application and doing my A levels!
From personal experience I would really recommend not doing this, as it makes life a whole lot more stressful. It meant that the offer from my top choice was AAA with an additional A in Biology AS, which put even more pressure on my end of year exams in Year 13.
The other A level and AS subject choice is generally up to you, but the most common choices you’ll find in medical applicants are Maths and Physics. Again, some Medical Schools will specify something like ‘Biology and Chemistry with one other of Mathematics/Physics etc.’ But if this isn’t specified, the possibilities are endless. I’ve had friends at Medical School who have done A levels in Spanish, Religion and Psychology!
After you’ve chosen your A level subjects, sent off your application and (hopefully!) received an offer for Medical School, your A level results are the last determining factor for whether you’ll get an offer or not. At this point, you’ll have gone through the whole application process from writing your Personal Statement, to having your interviews and getting an offer. The last thing you want is to fall at the last hurdle!
The A level grade requirements will be available from each medical school and are generally AAA (or up to A*A*A for some such as Oxbridge). There is usually a bit of flexibility depending on your academic background, as they want Medical School to be accessible for everyone regardless of what school they went to. For a comprehensive list of the A level entry requirements for every UK Medical School, take a look here.
Careers Paths that stem from medicine
The obvious career path to follow after you finish Medical School is to apply for a job as a Junior Doctor. Medicine has such a wide range of specialties to choose from, and it’s very unlikely that you won’t like at least one. By the end of medical school, you’re more likely to have a long list of specialties you really enjoy and want to do more of!
A career as a doctor can lead you to work in a hospital, in a GP practice or out in the community, but also provides so many other exciting options. You may decide, after a few years, that clinical practice isn’t for you and want to do something different.
Luckily there are loads of other exciting career paths you can go down should you decide that clinical medicine isn’t the one for you.
Research is a really popular career path that follows a degree in Medicine. It’s even possible to combine research with your clinical practice, by following the Academic Foundation Pathway when you become a Junior Doctor (don’t worry about this yet – you’ve got plenty of time to learn about it all once you’re in Medical School).
Research is an interesting and rewarding career path to follow, and you’ll often be making a big difference to the Medical Field. There will be plenty of opportunities throughout Medical School for you to get involved with research projects, so if you think that this might be something you’re interested in, go for them!
The MedTech industry is an up-and-coming field that is likely to have a huge impact on the healthcare sector. As technology develops, its role in healthcare becomes increasingly important. Specialties such as general surgery have been revolutionised by robots and AI, and if you ask any Doctor, they’ll tell you how important technology will be in the future.
If you’ve got an engineer-y brain as well as a medical one, biomedical engineering and tech may be the pathway for you! There are loads of Medical start-ups emerging everywhere, and lots of universities have societies to do with medical technology, so get involved if it interests you.
Another interesting career path to follow is the medico-legal route. This involves jobs like clinical negligence (i.e. suing doctors for not doing their jobs properly!), being an expert witness for court cases, and working with the Coroner.
Personally, I find this aspect of medicine absolutely fascinating! During Medical School, you’ll be given teaching on Medical Ethics and Law. If you find this particularly interesting, then you will have the opportunity to undertake specialist modules and even an intercalated degree in this subject.
Other jobs you can do after finishing Medical School are things like Management Consultancy. This is a corporate job and will be in a very different environment to a hospital. The job of a management consultant is to identify good and bad things about a company and advise them how to improve, whilst coming up with ideas to help them do it. It may seem very different to clinical practice, but the whole idea is based around diagnosing a problem and treating it accordingly!
Generally, the skills you acquire from a Medicine degree will help you with almost any other career. These are called transferable skills, and as long as you can talk about how they would enable you to do the job, they’re valuable. A Medical degree is an amazing one to have and will be a valuable asset to your CV no matter what field you eventually go in to.
UCAS Guide for Medical Application
There’s a number of things you need to consider before sending your UCAS application.
Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as simply as meeting the entry requirements for the course. But don’t worry, we’ll go through all the necessary details to consider to make sure you apply strategically to medical school!
Everyone knows that getting an offer for Medical School is a competitive business, and not everyone will get in first try. Only about 13% of applicants get in each year, and some medical schools have as many as 12 applicants per place.
If you want to get an offer, you need to make sure you fulfil all of the admissions requirements before you apply, so that you’re not rejected outright for not meeting any of them.
The main thing to think about when choosing which Medical Schools to apply to, is to choose those with entry requirements that play to your strengths. For example, if you’ve got all A* or Grade 9 at GCSE, apply to places that put more emphasis on GCSE results in their admissions process.
Additionally, if you do really well in the UCAT, apply to universities that value this more. Most Medical School websites will have a small section on their applicant to offer ratio, so it’s useful to have a look at this too!
The UCAS deadline each year is 15th October. This deadline only applies to Oxbridge, Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary applicants, all other courses have a deadline later on in January.
This early date is to allow the admissions process to begin with enough time for interviews, as these take months every year. Other deadlines to be aware of are registration, and test date deadlines for the UCAT and BMAT, which can be found here and here. Don’t ruin your application just because you didn’t submit something on time!
Number of Medical School Choices
You get 4 Medical School choices in total. You also get one other choice that cannot be used for a Medical Course. Most applicants will apply for a 5th course in Biomedical Science, or something similar.
Financial Cost of Applying To Medical School
There are a few costs involved with your application. Initially, it costs around £25 to send your application off through the UCAS system. As well as this, you’ll also have to pay to sit the admissions tests (UCAT and BMAT). The UCAT costs £75 to sit if you’re in the UK and £120 if you’re from outside the UK. The BMAT is slightly more accessible. It costs £59 as long as you are a UK or EU student, and £89 if you’re from outside the EU.
However, universities understand that these prices can really put people off applying. If you are struggling financially, you can apply for financial assistance and get bursaries for these exams, as well as for the UCAS fee. The details for the UCAT can be found here.
The Process of Applying Through UCAS
UCAS is a service used by every university in the UK to manage their applications for each cohort. It’s a really easy to use service and means that most of the stress of applying is sorted for you.
Generally, you just have to input your personal details (name, DOB, address etc), as well as your current and predicted grades for both GCSE and A Level. You then copy in your personal statement and as long as it fits the character requirements, you’re all set. After you’ve officially submitted your application, UCAS will send you an email if anything is updated or if you’ve got an offer.
This can be a really tense time and if you’re like me, means that you won’t stop refreshing your emails for months! The UCAS website is really helpful and has all the information you need to know about how their service works, so have a look through it before you apply!
Components of the medical School application
Your personal statement is submitted along with your grades in your initial UCAS application and is often the first thing Admissions Tutors will see. It covers around one page of A4 (usually about 500 words) and aims to sell you to the university as a student they want to have.
Many applicants have similar academic profiles, so having a glowing personal statement can really help to set you apart from other applicants. The aim of your personal statement is to tell the Admissions Tutor why you want to study Medicine, what has inspired you and what you know about the field.
Your personal statement is really important for demonstrating what work experience you’ve done, which shows enthusiasm for medicine and willingness to learn about it as a career.
The University Clinical Aptitude Test, or UCAT, is the main admissions test in the application process. Up until 2019 it was called the UKCAT, so if you’re wondering, it’s the same thing. This test is used by nearly all UK medical and dentistry schools and aims to test your mental aptitude through a series of questions.
The test is done digitally in an independent test centre and lasts for 2 hours. You sit the test sometime between July and the end of September before submitting your full application in October, and the results are sent to the universities for you.
There are five sections in the test: verbal reasoning, decision making, quantitative reasoning, abstract reasoning and situational judgement. At the end of the test, you get a score between 1200 and 3600. You’ll get a copy of your score (both the total and your score for each section), and it’s useful to use this to guide which Medical Schools you apply for.
A quick note on this – although it’s not ideal to not do as well in the UCAT as you’d like, you can tailor your Medical School choices to ensure you still have a good chance of success.
The Biomedical Admissions Test, or BMAT, is the other admissions test for Medical School. Initially this was only used for applicants applying to Oxbridge, but as places in Medical School have become more competitive, many other universities have now added this to their admissions criteria.
Each university will only ask for either the UCAT or BMAT, not both. There are now 8 UK Medical Schools that use the BMAT as part of their admissions process, and they are;
- University of Cambridge
- University of Oxford Medical School
- Imperial College London
- University College London
- Leeds’ School of Medicine
- Brighton & Sussex Medical School
- Keele University (only for overseas applicants)
- Lancaster University
The aim of the BMAT is to assess your critical thinking and problem-solving ability, as well as your academic knowledge. It is split into 3 sections, the first being critical thinking and problem solving, the second being academic questions on science and maths, and the third being an essay.
The BMAT is scored from 1-9 and the result is sent directly to the universities. Each university uses the BMAT slightly differently in their admissions process, generally it adds in another factor for admissions tutors to consider when deciding whether to invite students for interview.
The BMAT has two exam dates per year, one in September and one in November. In the September cycle, you’ll know your result before sending off your application (though only a week or two before the deadline), whereas if you sit the exam in the November cycle you won’t know the result before applying. This is something to bear in mind when choosing when to sit it.
The interview is the make-or-break stage of the application process. Being invited for interview means that on paper, you’re an ideal student and someone the university is interested in giving an offer to. Your interview is your chance to really show how amazing you are and get across how passionate you are about medicine in person.
The interview stage is often the most nerve wracking as students are often not used to it, but with practise, you will build confidence and get to know your answers for the most commonly asked questions.
Interviews can either be in the format of a panel interview, where two or three people from the university ask you questions, or as a multiple mini interview (MMI). The type of interview will vary between different universities, and it’s likely that you’ll end up doing at least one of each. Each university will specify what style of interviewing they use on their website.
For my medical school interviews, I had one MMI, one panel and a final one-on-one interview. Each had its strengths and benefits, but I definitely found the MMI the most enjoyable and fun!
The key for doing well at interview is knowing your personal statement back to front, having basic answers prepared for the most commonly asked questions, and to just believe in yourself when you get there!
Confidence at interview is a really important thing to have, and it will make you seem much more enthusiastic to the interview panel.
|Exam Type||Aptitude Test||Aptitude, academic knowledge, essay writing|
|Number Of Sections||Five:|
• Verbal Reasoning
• Decision Making
• Quantitative Reasoning
• Situational Judgement
• Thinking Skills
• Scientific Knowledge & Application
|Total Time||2 hours||2hours|
|Test Date||Anytime between 1st July and 1st October||Only on selected test dates (September and November)|
|Required By||University of Aberdeen|
Anglia Ruskin University
University of Birmingham
University of Bristol
University of Dundee
University of East Anglia
University of Edinburgh
University of Exeter
University of Glasgow
Hull York Medical School
Kent and Medway Medical School
King’s College London
University of Leicester
University of Liverpool
University of Manchester
University of Newcastle
University of Nottingham
Queen Mary, UoL
Queen’s University Belfast
University of Sheffield
University of Southampton
University of St Andrews
St George’s, UoL
University of Sunderland
University of Warwick
|Brighton and Sussex Medical School
University of Cambridge
Imperial College London
University of Oxford
University College London
|Scoring Systems||300-900 per section|
|1-9 (sections 1 & 2)
Band A-E (section 3)
|Results||Released immediately||Released on specific dates (3 weeks after the test date)|
Timeline of key dates 2021
The key dates for both UCAT and BMAT can be found in the tables below. However, keep in mind that due to the current climate these are not set in stone and might change in the future. As such, make sure you keep checking this page regularly – we will update the page if the dates change.
|2th June||Registration for UCAT opens.|
|26th July||UCAT testing begins|
|22nd September||UCAT registration and booking closes|
|29th September||Last UCAT testing|
|15th October||UCAS DEADLINE|
|December 2020 - April 2021||Interviews and offers made|
|1st September||Registration for BMAT (November sitting) opens|
|5th September||BMAT September sitting|
|25th September||BMAT Results|
|1st October||Registration for BMAT (November sitting) closes|
|15th October||UCAS Deadline|
|3th November||BMAT November sitting|
|27th November||BMAT Results|
|December 2020 - April 2021||Interviews and offers made|
Medicine Entry Requirements
General Entry Requirements
Each Medical School will have a website which goes through all the entry requirements. It’s important to note that these are different for every Medical School.
A full pdf of the entry requirements for all UK medical schools can be found here. It’s common to need at least 7 A/9 grades at GCSE, and at least 3 As at A level, unless you’re given a contextual offer.
Most Medical Schools will require that you’ve achieved an A in GCSE English and Maths, as well as having studied Biology and Chemistry at A level, often with one other of Maths or Physics. A typical university grade offer will be AAA, with some a little higher (A*AA). Other requirements are the UCAT and sometimes the BMAT (but as I’ve mentioned before, this is only for a select few Medical Schools).
Often, universities will strongly suggest work experience in the medical field, which you can let them know about in your personal statement. While it’s not completely essential, having work experience strengthens your application significantly.
Specific Entry Requirements
It’s important to note that some UK Medical Schools have entry requirements that are specific to them.
Medical Work Experience
Work experience is an important part of the admissions process and demonstrates your interest and enthusiasm for medicine to the Admissions Team. It is often listed under the entry requirements for every university, although it is not always essential as Medical Schools understand it can sometimes be difficult to acquire.
Work experience is important as it allows you to see and understand what working as a doctor is really like and whether you will enjoy it or not. If you end up going to Medical School, over half of your time will be spent learning in the clinical environment and from there you’ll spend the rest of your career working in it, so you really need to understand what you’re getting yourself into!
There are 2 main places that work experience is typically undertaken, GP surgeries and hospitals. These both provide very different clinical experiences and are amazing to talk about both in your personal statement and at interview.
Most prospective medical students will have at least both of these, but your experiences in these places will vary greatly meaning it’s very unlikely that someone will talk about it in the same way you will.
The main thing to know about doing work experience is that Medical Schools aren’t bothered as much about how much time you spent there or exactly what you did, they care about whether you can reflect on it and take away key messages about being a doctor.
Your personal statement is a really good way of demonstrating to the Admissions Team that you’ve really engaged and understood what being a doctor is like. Whilst you’re on your work experience placements, it’s good to take a notebook and write bullet points of key things you observe, especially during doctor-patient interactions.
When you go home, have a look back over them and think about what was good or bad about them and the key messages you took from the day.
Things I wish I'd known for my university application
I wish I’d properly researched and understood the key parts of the course, as well as the differences in the way that they’re taught at different institutions.
At interview, I was asked about this several times and didn’t really know what I was talking about. I was also asked specifically what aspect of the course I was most excited about, which is difficult to answer when you haven’t done much research about it.
Tailor your medical school choices based on your strengths.
Apply to places where you’ll stand out the most based on their admissions criteria. As I hadn’t done too well on the UCAT and didn’t have biology A level, I had to be really careful when choosing medical schools to make sure I wasn’t rejected outright.
The amount of work experience you do doesn’t matter as much as what you learn from it.
As I decided to apply so late, I was really pushed for time when trying to get a decent amount of work experience. I found this really stressful as getting work experience isn’t the easiest thing to organise anyway! I was lucky that I learnt a lot from the small amount of work experience I did, and was able to discuss this in depth both in my personal statement and at interview.
The medical school really wants you to succeed at the interview.
Sometimes interviews can feel like they’ve gone really badly, and you may feel like you’ve been ‘caught out’ by some of the questions. One of the first things my cohort got told when we got to medical school was that the university really wanted us to be there, and that every single person had their own unique and special qualities that made us stand out. I wish I’d known this at interview as it would’ve taken a bit more pressure off!
At the end of the day, you’ll all become doctors!
It really doesn’t matter which medical school you end up going to and it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get your first choice.
This is a really important point to remember, and one that should stay with you throughout the entirety of the application process. You may not get into your first or even second choice, but at the end of the day one offer is better than none! It’s way more important that you become a doctor at the end of it and follow your passion!
Thanks for reading! I hope this article has given you a good overview about the medical application process and how to do well out of it. Medical School is an amazing experience and once you’re there you’re bound to love every second of it (like I have!).