Considering applying for Medicine after you graduate from your undergraduate degree? Give yourself the best chance possible and start thinking now! In this blog post our Careers Consultant, Jean Harris, gives her top tips on how to be successful.
To maximise your chances of success know your stuff before applying. Competition is even fiercer for graduates entering medicine than for undergraduates. Fewer places mean that the applicant per place ratio varies from 10:1 to 60:1 (Medical School Application Guide). Work on the following questions:
Why do you want to be a doctor? Is medicine really for you? Do you really know what’s involved?
The rewards are clear –saving lives, kudos, high salary etc. but it also involves long and expensive training, workload stress, pressure, long working hours, high demands from patients and managers, limited resources…. Still want to try for medicine?
Can you afford the training?
Mixed news here. Some financial support is available, but further loans/expenditure is required. Check out the information funding section in the Student Room.
Which courses are for you?
Courses vary in length from shortened four year courses to a five or six year degree. Entrance requirements vary; some require a scientific degree, others don’t. Some have a minimum entrance requirement of a 2:1 others accept lower classifications. The teaching styles of the courses vary. Some have more emphasis on earlier patient contact. Check the individual courses out to see which suit you best. The Medical School Application Guide is a helpful starting place. Make sure you check out each course’s own website.
What do you have to demonstrate to admissions tutors?
- Academic ability. You must be on-track for the minimum degree classification required by your uni choices. (The minimum may not be sufficient). Most courses require you to take an additional test. This may be the:
– United Kingdom Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT)
– BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT)
– Graduate Australian Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT)
Check out each of your courses to see which (if any) test is required. Check out the test in detail for procedures e.g. opening and closing dates, the length the result is valid e.g. UKCAT must be taken in each application cycle. The Student Room has a helpful overview of the tests and the minimum requirements of each course.
Prepare yourself, know what to expect ahead of the test. There are lots of on-line resources and books available as well as preparatory courses. Recent students have found the Medify on-line course helpful for UKCAT preparation.
- Evidence of your knowledge of the profession and current issues.
You will have to convince admissions tutors you have a clear understanding of what it is like to work as a doctor (good and bad aspects) and what makes a good doctor. You will also need to show that you know about and have a genuine interest in medical issues both clinical and political/economical.
- Evidence of your skills/aptitude for medicine.
The BMA (Becoming A Doctor Entry in 2014) lists the core attributes of doctors as;
Competence, Caring, Responsibility, Integrity, Compassion, Advocacy, Confidentiality, Commitment, Spirit of enquiry.
There are other ‘hidden’ attributes required within these core attributes e.g. communication skills, team working, social awareness. Check out the courses you are interested in to see if any attributes are particularly emphasised and/or others looked for.
What counts as evidence?
You must be able to show that you have had experiences which demonstrate your knowledge of and aptitudes for medicine. You could draw on;
- Work experience. Paid or un-paid.
- Voluntary work.
- Academic experience.
In each case the more relevant to health care the experience is, the better it is. The duration of an experience can be helpful e.g. volunteering in a home for the elderly for a few hours a week over an extended period shows commitment. What really matters is that you identify what you have learnt from each experience and how that supports your wish to be a doctor.
Any gaps in your evidence? Work on getting them plugged as soon as possible, ideally ahead of beginning the application process. Keep a log to record what you have learnt from your experiences, compile a file of articles about medical news stories and issues you spot in the media e.g. BMJ (British Medical Journal), BBC Health News
How do you apply?
Check out the UCAS application process (graduate entry onto an undergraduate course). Applications for medicine courses must be received at UCAS by 15th October in the year preceding entry. A maximum of 4 medicine courses can be applied for. These may be a mixture of shortened and standard length courses. Given the competitive nature of graduate entry it is worth considering at least one application to a non-graduate entry course. Check your chosen university’s application process; some will automatically consider you if you are unsuccessful at graduate entry.
- The personal statement
Some universities place more emphasis on the personal statement than others. Each gives guidance about what they are looking for. Check out each of the courses you wish to apply for. Here are some sources of advice about what to include and how to write it;
UCAS – general advice
Getting into Medicine: Top tips for Medicine applicants on writing a UCAS personal statement – our blog post on how to write a winning personal statement
Medical Interviews – advice about content, language, layout and tone
The Medical School Application Guide – looks at what is needed and gives an example of a good statement
Studential – gives some examples, comments and an indication of which applicants subsequently got interviews.
Check them out but you must then write a statement which is personal and unique to you. It must address the qualities and skills looked for by the courses you have chosen.
- The interview
Most universities will interview applicants before offering a place. Check out each university’s approach; some have a traditional panel format, some a Multi Mini Interview format. Check out our previous blog post, or The Medical School Application Guide for an overview.
Look out for blogs on medicine personal statements, interview preparation and what to do if your application is unsuccessful.