Cardiff Medical School Review

Let's talk about The Cardiff University School of Medicine, its history, campus, subjects, faculties and much more information you should consider before making your decision! Have a look around!

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Welcome to our UK Medical School Review series. In this series, we work with current students to produce an in-depth overview of each UK Medical School, covering what it is like to study there, how the course looks and what you need to get in.

Today, we are focussing on Cardiff Medical School, the only Welsh member of the Russell Group of UK research-intensive universities. Mariam, a 2nd year Cardiff Medic, will share her experiences and insights as a current student throughout.

Let’s start with an overview of Cardiff Medical School…

Overview Of Cardiff Medical School

Cardiff Medical School History

In 1893 the Departments of Anatomy, Physiology and Pharmacology were established at the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire which is now known as Cardiff University. These were the beginning of Cardiff Medical School. Later departments were added in 1910, and it become both a clinical and pre-clinical Medical School in 1921. Since then, it has grown, now hosting over 1000 Undergraduates, 1100 Postgraduates and 500 academic staff.

Cardiff offers 3 pathways into Medicine: the 5-year Undergraduate programme, the 4-year Undergraduate programme in North Wales and the 4-year Graduate entry programme. All 3 lead to a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery degree (MBBCh).

Cardiff Medical School

cardiff city wales

Notable Alumni

The Medical School has produced several notable alumni including: Annapoorna Kini, a cardiologist who has performed more coronary interventions annually than any other woman in the U.S; Archie Cochrane, pioneer of the scientific method in Medicine; Thomas Lewis, pioneer of Electrocardiography; Sir Clement Price Thomas, surgeon for George VI; Raman Viswanathan, pioneer of Chest Medicine in India and two Nobel Laureates as part of the staff, Sir Martin Evans and Robert Huber.

Why did you choose to study at Cardiff?

“After visiting Cardiff on the open day I was amazed at the course, facilities and what the city offered. What really sold me was how it appealed to my style of learning by having a blend of lectures and case-based discussions. You get the best of both worlds because you can learn and bounce ideas off your coursemates in a supportive environment whilst also having the safety of lectures, providing all the content so you do not miss anything.

I found the idea of case-based learning interesting and fun with patient scenarios which you discuss and learn from, making you feel like a doctor by trying to work out a diagnosis. As a city, Cardiff is filled with parks, history and culture, combined with being one the cheapest cities to live as a student.”

What is the best thing and worst thing about your Medical School?

“The best thing about the University is their emphasis on making people actual doctors, not textbook doctors. I also like their emphasis on having lives outside of Medicine, allowing hobbies and days off for extra-curricular regional or national competitions. From Year 1, it’s great that you get to see patients and work on your communication so that you are prepared when you come to clinical placement in Year 3.

The worst thing about Cardiff would be that you can get a lot of unexpected downpours. It can be a very wet city and you get used to remembering to take your umbrella everywhere with you!”

University Rankings

The following link will take you to the Complete University Guide Medicine League Table. Here, you can see that the University of Cardiff Medical School takes 15th position with an overall score of 98%:

The table also highlights 100% graduate prospects for Cardiff Medics so there’s little to worry about once you graduate!

Rankings will, of course, differ between other tables; the Guardian includes different aspects to the Complete University Guide. When making your own decision on which table to look at, think about what you place more importance on, such as spending per student or career prospects. Keep in mind that all Medical Schools are highly ranked with excellent ratings across the board.

Fees And Financial Support

Yearly tuition fees for home students on all courses is £9,000 (currently Welsh tuition fees for home students are capped at £9,000). For international students, the cost is £36,700. Tuition fee loans are offered to all UK students by the Government and cover the course fees in full. Fees do not have to be paid upfront. 

Whether you are a home or international student, Cardiff offers several scholarships, bursaries and financial support for individuals who meet the criteria. They also have a Student Funding and Advice Team who are available for help should you require it.

What are the living costs like?

“Cardiff is the most affordable city in the UK to attend University, according to the Student Living Index. Here is the breakdown per month: accommodation – £300 + £50 bills (some of the cheapest accommodation in the UK), groceries – £100 (Lidl is very close to the student accommodation), clothes and shoes – £20, average spent on alcohol – £40/£50, travel – the majority of Cardiff is easily walkable.

There is a great nextbike scheme, which is free for students and can get you anywhere in the city with the many cycle stations and cycle routes. If you do need to catch a bus, it will be about £0.80 for a student single. University fees are also cheaper in Wales compared to England!”

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What Is Studying Like?

Pre-clinical teaching focuses on preparing students for learning in higher education and applying knowledge to a clinical scenario. The primary teaching style is Case-based Learning (CBL) with each unit of study consisting of a series of patient cases. For these, students will be in small groups and supported by an academic facilitator. 

Teaching is also delivered through lectures, clinical skills sessions and the virtual learning environment. Students at Cardiff have the opportunity to learn their anatomy through the unique experience of whole-body cadaveric dissection. Up to 75% of the course can be taught in Welsh.

Clinical years are where students will build upon earlier learning, applying it to a clinical environment and taking an active role in clinical teams. This will take place in hospitals and GP surgeries throughout Wales. Placement learning will continue to be complemented by learning in Cardiff revisiting core principles with added pathophysiology, diagnostic methods, management and treatments, all to prepare you for being a Doctor.

Cardiff at night

Degree Content

The programme is divided into 3 phases: Phase 1 (Years 1 and 2), Phase 2 (Years 3 and 4) and Phase 3 (Year 5). The curriculum is non-modular and spiralling – what you learn will be built upon in future years.

Student Selected Components (SSCs) supplement learning in each year. Students can choose or develop their own projects in a particular field of interest, including those outside the realm of traditional medicine, to enhance research skills and depth of knowledge.

Between Years 3 and 4 or 4 and 5, an intercalated degree is offered in multiple health-related disciplines. These can be undertaken in other Higher Education Institutes outside of Cardiff.

To complete the degree and prepare students for their Foundation posts, students can conduct an Elective and visit medical settings anywhere in the UK or internationally in Final Year.

Below is a summary of the curriculum across the 5 years:

Summary of the curriculum:
Year 1:
  • 12-week introduction, covering the basics: Anatomy, Biochemistry, Physiology, Cell and molecular biology, Immunology, Microbiology, Pathology Anatomy, Fundamental communication, clinical skills and professionalism.

  • Short clinical experience days, in hospitals and GP practices

  • Clinical scenarios – linking the basic sciences to common clinical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and obesity.

Year 2: 
  • Clinical scenarios – 11 cases.

  • Community Clinical Learning programme – builds on CBL, task oriented learning collecting a portfolio of clinical learning experience, includes Rural Health Day.

  • Address medical problems from first principles and develop your scientific reasoning skills.

  • Small group sessions will be supported by lectures and seminars.

  • One day a week seeing patients with similar conditions in local hospitals, general practices and other community based services around South East Wales.

  • Whilst on placement you will be working alongside other healthcare professionals.

  • Study of the biomedical and clinical sciences will continue, such as: anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, pathology and microbiology.

  • Social and ethical aspects of clinical practice.

  • 4 student selected components or projects on a range of topics from the clinical to the non-medical.

  • The Second Professional Examination, completed by the end of the second year. 

Year 3:
  • Three 8-10 week placements, in hospitals and general practices across Wales

  • Follow patient ‘pathways’ through your placements

  • Work as part of a clinical team: undertake your share of the on-call duties, learn the essentials of excellent clinical care, understand the investigation, management and treatment of common disease

  • Fundamentals of good medical practice and the science needed as a competent doctor, and having expert teaching on pathology, therapeutics, social sciences and ethics

  • Applied Clinical Sciences taught all year in Cardiff

  • All year SSC

Year 4:
  • Three 8-10 week placements, in hospitals and general practices across Wales

  • Focus on Chronic Disease but also explore the specific medical needs of: Children, Women and the Family and Clinical Neuroscience and Psychological Medicine patients

  • 8-week SSC

Year 5: 
  • Integration with clinical teams and responsibility for patient care will increase

  • This final year of study, focuses on preparing you for your role as a doctor

  • Assessment and management of acute and chronic clinical presentations, with increasing responsibility throughout the year

  • Two 8-week clinical placements, one hospital based and the other community based, where you will be expected to contribute to patient care under supervision

  • Learning will be predominantly based in the workplace, with sessions in the simulation centre and small group sessions

  • These placements will be followed by an 8-10 week student elective of your choice,

  • Four 2-week core learning blocks that will address important aspects of a medical career. These Cardiff-based activities, themed “Preparing for Practice”, “Changing Practice”, “Science in Practice” and “Practise for Practice”.

  • The Harmonisation Programme will culminate, allowing you to work as part of the clinical team by directly managing patients under the supervision of the hospital teams.

This course was developed as part of Cardiff’s commitment to widening access to Medicine. It provides students to undertake their medical degree in North Wales.

Students on the traditional 5-year Undergraduate programme can transfer to Year 2 of the North Wales programme through successful completion of their 1st year.

Similarly split into 3 phases, the course covers clinical scenarios, also taught mainly through CBL, and clinical placements across North Wales, in a more condensed version.

The course is also supplemented by SSCs.

The Graduate course is also a more condensed version of the traditional 5-year Undergraduate course for Graduates with previous degrees, offered to widen access to Medicine.

The degree is only for graduates of Dentistry or those on Cardiff’s recognised feeder streams graduating with one of the following degrees:

  • BSc (Hons) Medical Pharmacology Degree School of Medicine Cardiff University (B210)
  • BSc (Hons) Biomedical Sciences Degree School of Biosciences Cardiff University (BC97)
  • BMedSci Degree from the University of Bangor (B100)
  • BSc (Hons) Medical Sciences Degree from the University of South Wales (B901)

What Makes Cardiff Medical School Unique?

What makes your Medical School unique?

“Cardiff offers a unique course structure from its teaching style, spiral curriculum, early patient contact and full-body dissection. The C21 curriculum covers the systems of the body in forms of 2-week long cases with fun and interactive scenarios. For example, in cardiology, you may get a scenario on chest pain, where you then explore anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology. This really helps to piece all the information together in a fun way that makes sense by appreciating the biological, psychological and social aspects of a patient’s case. The spiral curriculum means that you will revisit the content again to consolidate your knowledge, so don’t worry if you forget things, you will come back to it!

Cardiff also has really early patient contact from first year. You get to work on your communication skills and see the conditions you are learning about beyond the textbook in real life. There is also a full-body dissection which is rare for a Medical School and is an amazing opportunity to truly appreciate anatomy and learn it in a hands-on way!”

Cardiff Medicine Selection Process

Stage 1: applicants are screened against academic criteria.

Stage 2: applicants who reach the minimum academic threshold are awarded points for GCSE and A-Level results (higher level is worth more points). They are then ranked and a cut-off point is determined.

Stage 3: those who pass the cut-off point are considered for interview on non-academic requirements including UCAT/GAMSAT and personal statement.

Stage 4: applicants are invited for interview.

Stage 5: interview results and overall application are considered and offers made.

Cardiff Medical School Entry Requirements

ExamUndergraduate Medicine Course
A-levelsAAA including Biology and Chemistry
IBoverall score of 36 points with 19 at Higher Level. Must include grade 6 in Biology and Chemistry

The 4-year Undergraduate Course in North Wales has the same criteria as the 5-year Undergraduate Course.

ExamGraduate Medicine Course
Degree2:1 in one of the recognised feeder streams or graduate of Dentistry
A-levelsBBC/ABC including Biology and Chemistry
GCSEs8 GCSEs include grade B/6 in GCSE Maths, Biology and Chemistry

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What To Include In A Personal Statement

Cardiff does include the personal statement as part of their evaluation into which applicants, that have reached the academic cut-off score, should be invited for interview. You also may be asked questions about it in your interview and therefore, it is important you know it inside out and be candid!

They believe your personal statement should show your insight into a career in Medicine and how you have the skills to fit it – the skills and abilities required to be a Doctor. Evidence of experience and reflection in a caring environment, of personal responsibility, of a balanced approach to life and of self-directed learning is critical.

Emphasise you are more than just your textbooks by expressing your hobbies and interests outside of Medicine.

Cardiff Medical School Admissions Tests

UCAT

Students applying for the Undergraduate Courses must sit the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT), whilst Graduates must sit the Graduate Australian Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT) for the Graduate Course.

Cardiff University generally does not place emphasis on the UCAT as part of their selection process. There is no minimum threshold score however UCAT/GAMSAT scores may be used as part of the selection process.

The BMAT is not required.

Interviewing at Cardiff

MMI Interview Style

Cardiff uses the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) format for their interviews, which are a series of 9 9-minute stations that applicants rotate around in turn. They typically take place in January and February.

The MMIs help determine if you can think on your feet, have thought about issues important to the medical profession, can critically appraise information and communicate ideas effectively. They will also explore your personal qualities that will be important for future career progression.

Example station themes include: motivation for Medicine, Work Experience, Communication and Role Play, Personality and Skills, NHS Hot Topics, Data Interpretation, Medical Ethics and Personal Statements.

Cardiff Interview Questions and Scenarios 

  • Why is teamwork important in all job sectors?

  • What are the main challenges the NHS faces?

  • How would you manage an emergency in a busy A&E department?

  • What did you learn from your work experience?

  • How will pollution affect the health of patients and healthcare overall?

  • What subjects, other than science, does a Doctor need to be proficient in?

What Is Life Like Outside Of Studying?

Outside of study time, what do most people get up to?

“Cardiff has a huge array of activities to keep you busy. Apart from going for a night out in town with your housemates and friends, the city also offers many local restaurants and bars to explore. Cardiff is filled with parks and rivers that are a perfect spot for a picnic, walk or cycle. Cardiff Bay is a great day out, there’s water sports and ice-cream on summer days to enjoy the view. There’s also the famous rugby stadium which hosts many games, along with the Cardiff football stadium.

The University offers tonnes of societies and clubs for whatever sport or hobby you feel like doing, especially during freshers it is a good idea to try out as many as you can! In town, there is the famous Cardiff Castle which hosts a view tower where you can see the whole of Cardiff whilst enjoying famous welsh cakes. There’s paintballing, escape rooms, ninja warrior, trampoline parks and all sorts to get up to. The famous mountains in Brecon and Pen-y-Fan are a short bus ride for those of you who are more adventurous!”

What is the Cardiff accommodation like?

“There are about 10 different locations for student accommodation around Cardiff. The main student accommodation called Talybont, can either be Taly North, South, Court and Gate. This main accommodation is a 20-minute walk from the medical campus or about a 5-minute cycle, but most students will opt to walk it together. You usually get put in flats with random accommodation with 8 students from different courses. You can have mixed or single-sex living such as Aberconway Hall, which gives female-only accommodation.

The University accommodates for different needs such as quiet or family living and those with different abilities. The majority of the accommodation will have ensuites although some have shared bathrooms, however, you can choose which you prefer as you get to select. Make sure you check the website and apply for accommodation early!”

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Cardiff Medical School Contact

Telephone: +44 (0)29 2068 8113

Email: [email protected]

Postal address:
School of Medicine,
University Hospital of Wales Main Building,
Heath Park,
Cardiff,
CF14 4XN

Final Advice For Studying At Cardiff

What advice would you give to a first-year student starting at your Medical School?

“Starting University is a big learning curve for everyone, so just really work on making friends, getting to know the city and having bonding time with your new flatmates. Try to not spend time alone in your room and put yourself out there even if you do feel nervous. Everyone is likely feeling the same and making friends will help with the homesickness! The University offers many ‘Give it a go’ sessions where you can try out many new sports or hobbies for free such as fencing, Bollywood dancing or whatever you fancy! Join all the fun-sounding medical societies you think you might be interested in from the freshers fair.

Take every opportunity offered to you in the course and try to experiment with what style of learning suits you in lectures and tutorials to find a good technique when it comes to exams at the start of the year. I also recommend the Lidl bakery they do some awesome cinnamon buns!”

Check out our other UK Medical School Reviews:

Cardiff Medical School is an exceptional place to study, and we’ll help you get there.

The 6med Complete Bundle puts all of our bundles together. You’ll get a place on five of our Crash Courses, Personal Statement re-drafts, mock interviews, Personal Statement, BMAT, UCAT and Interview Online Courses, access to BMAT & UCAT.Ninja™, BMAT essay marking and all of our critically acclaimed workbooks as e-books. To find out more, click the button below. This massive bundle is quite literally all you need for your Medicine application…

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By Phoebe Baker 

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