Applying for medical school can feel so nerve wracking... But with planning, you can make it as simple as it can be!
So, what do you need for your application? Well, first, you need to decide where you want to go! There are 32 public medical schools in the UK, but you can only apply to four in each application cycle – so some big choices need to be made here! Honestly, I won’t apply to a school if I didn’t meet their entry requirements. Every school is different - some want the UKCAT, some want the BMAT as the entry exam. Others want A-Level chemistry, others prefer biology. As arduous as it may seem - every school will have detailed information about their entry requirements on their website, so make sure you check that out before applying! I can imagine you probably have questions about the school, their programme, the application process? They should have an email address specifically for the admissions team or at least somebody in the medical school who can answer your questions. A lot of schools have FAQs and thestudentroom.com are good places to ask questions – there’s often answers from people who have applied or go to that school so it can be quite useful. Personally, I preferred asking the school myself if my answer wasn’t on their website to ensure it was the right information.
So once you’ve chosen the schools you want to apply for, you need to write a personal statement and study for the UKCAT/BMAT. The UKCAT is always taken before you apply, but the BMAT is after you apply. So there is a little bit of a gamble when choosing the BMAT over the UKCAT as you won’t know your score before applying. UKCAT scores are given to you straight after the test. The UKCAT is the more popular entrance exam though.
The Personal Statement
The personal statement is your opportunity to sell yourself to the medical school, so don’t be afraid of showcasing your achievements. You need to make yourself STAND OUT! The personal statement is your opportunity to show the school why you want to attend their school, why you want to study medicine, any transferable skills you have, and most importantly your commitment to medicine. Remember that there is a word limit to the personal statement and UCAS won’t let you apply if it’s too long. The year that I was accepted to my school, there were 12 applicants for every place. So not gonna lie, medical school applications are insanely competitive, which is why it’s vital that you tick all of the school’s boxes before you even get to the interview! I recommend buying some of the books in the “Get Into Medical School”series. They have books for preparing for the UKCAT, personal statement, and the interview. They were honestly my bible when applying to med school - they’re simple and have all the info you need and the books themselves aren’t too long!
Most schools in the UK use the UKCAT for entrance into their undergraduate programmes. The UKCAT is an aptitude test similar to the 11+ and school entrance exams. So the UKCAT has 5 parts:
Verbal reasoning is reading based – you will be asked to read various passages of text and answer questions about them. It’s used to assess your ability to retain information and critique text.
Decision making assesses your ability to make decisions and judgements based on a limited amount of information. The information comes in many forms - charts, tables, and diagrams.
Quantitative Reasoning is basically just maths – you get a whiteboard and calculator for it though so don’t worry! I would recommend practising some high school maths techniques for this though!
Abstract Reasoning - this was my least favourite part, but other people preferred it in my year. This section is spotting patterns or relationships in seemingly random assortments of shapes, numbers etc.
Situational Judgement is essentially an ethics round. It assesses your ability to make the correct and most ethical decision based on a fictional scenario, most importantly your understanding of the world around you.
The first four sections are scored out of 900, and the situational judgement section is scored into 4 bands – band 1 is the best, band 4 is the poorest. Most people tend to be placed into bands 1 or 2.
https://www.ukcat.ac.uk is the official website for the UKCAT where you can find out everything about the UKCAT. Most importantly there’s a document about how the med schools used the scores from the last application cycle in the admissions process. This is really important guys - most universities have a cut off score, so if you score lower than this, you may want to reconsider applying to that university as you may not be invited to interview.
The Interview Process
Okay so you’ve done your personal statement, UKCAT, send your application off - it’s time for interviews...
The style of interview depends on the medical school, multiple mini interview (MMI) and panel-style seem to be the most popular. MMI interviews are in my opinion a little bit out there… Schools use these to test some of the skills they believe are inherently essential for a doctor to have alongside a traditional interview. MMI works like a circuit – kind of like in the gym. You go around a number of stations each with a different activity or interview topic. When I applied, I liked MMI in the sense that you don’t have all of your eggs in one basket – if one station went badly, I could forget about it and focus on the next one. But on the other hand, I didn’t always like the activities in some of the stations. Now onto panel interviews – these are your traditional interviews, there will be a number of people in the interview asking you questions about a range of topics such as ‘why medicine?’ to popular medical and healthcare related topics.
What I think is most important for medical school interviews is to just stay calm and be yourself. Interviews are always stressful, and most of the faculty that you meet during interviews are really nice and just want to have a chat with you. In terms of preparation, again there’s a book in the “Get Into Medical School” series for interviews that is really easy to read and that’s what I used. It has a lot of relevant medical topics such as ethics, government, and NHS issues. While it’s important to read about what’s going on in the news, it’s just as important to know exactly what’s in your personal statement – I got quizzed on mine in two interviews! It’s also crucial to be able to defend your reasoning behind applying to medical school and becoming a doctor.
Remember to always have faith yourself and your abilities and hope to reach the stars – corny I know, but key!