Getting Into Medical School...
Medicine is probably one of the most fulfilling; personally rewarding and secure careers open to students who have interests in the biological and chemical sciences. It is also a career that carries with it incredibly daunting responsibilities. As a result Medical Schools in the UK receive a very large number of applications each year that far exceeds the number of places available.
This demand for Medical School means that entry standards to Medicine are set very high and even top grades will not necessarily guarantee you a place. It is a fact that many medical students who could potentially become good doctors are not able to gain a place at Medical School. In addition medical courses are by their very nature long (up to six years), academically intensive and physically demanding. Medical students have to study and work when their contemporaries are relaxing; examinations and course tests come thick and fast during the course and all this means that you should only consider applying for Medicine if you are prepared to accept the challenges that it involves. However, if you still want to apply for Medicine then you must be very determined and ready to face discouragement and disappointment at times.
The first challenge is getting into Medical School. Applications for Medicine have to be prepared very carefully and this where Education Advisers can give you an edge. Our consultants have all been involved in senior positions in teaching hospitals, Universities and schools, some of them as Admissions Tutors, and therefore they are able to offer a service that is unrivalled in helping students with their Medical School applications.
UK Medical Schools
There are 32 Medical Schools in the UK that are located all around the country. A full list of Medical Schools can be found at the end of this section. In the UK the General Medical Council (GMC) regulates the quality assurance of medical degrees, but it also has a wider role in that it sets the standard for medical education that is respected worldwide and accepted in most countries, as well as defining the professional behaviour expected of medical students.
Usually medical courses that lead to the basic qualification of Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MB ChB or MB BS) last five years. If you take an intercalated degree (when you study a specialism), the course is six years. After graduating you are required to complete two years in hospitals, called Foundation training (F1 and F2). European regulations (Directive 93/16) stipulate that medical students must be given 5,500 hours of study or six years of basic education.
During their course students are given grounding in the basic medical sciences and how they apply in medical practice. In addition, there is the opportunity of studying a relevant science subject in depth towards a BSc degree. This is the intercalated year that is usually between the second and third years of the five year course. In some medical schools this option is an integral part of the course and all students are required to take a BSc.
Applying to Medical School
Once you have made the decision to apply to Medical School you then have to choose where you want to study. It is generally recognised that UK Medical Schools are listed among the best institutions in the world which does not make the task of choosing where to apply any easier. There are also other considerations common to all students applying to University.
- What is the location of the Medical School?
- What type of accommodation does the University provide?
- Is there a thriving Students Union and a good number of student societies and clubs?
- How good are the local hospitals where you will undertake clinical practice?
- Take a look at reviews written by ex-students to get some uncensored feedback.
Students applying will need to have a range of GCSE or equivalent passes with very good grades, especially in science-based subjects. For most Medical Schools this means that you will need grade A*/A in Maths, and dual or single science subjects.
Chemistry is the most important subject and you must offer it at A Level and usually two other science subjects. Some Universities will accept only two A Level sciences, but bear in mind that this will limit your choice of institution. Most places require a grade A in the sciences and at least a B in any other acceptable subject you are taking. However, as competition for places has increased Medical Schools are increasingly asking for A grades in each subject and some ask for one or more A* passes. Make sure you look carefully at the entrance requirement because in addition you may need specific subjects and grades at GCSE Level (or its equivalent). It is rare that a retake student is offered a place, unless there are compelling and exceptional circumstances.
If you have a good A Level profile, but are short of science subjects you might consider taking a Foundation course. These take six years to complete and Universities that offer Foundation courses include Manchester, Sheffield, University College, London, Bristol and Cardiff.
Selectors will look closely at your reference and Personal Statement to determine whether you have the right personal qualities to make a good doctor. We are not able to do anything about your reference, but at Education Advisers our consultants will help you plan your Personal Statement to ensure that you demonstrate a commitment and interest in medicine and that you have also had some worthwhile work experience.
Increasingly Universities take into consideration the results of aptitude tests. We will advise you whether or not you need to register for one of these. The two most common aptitude tests are UKCAT (UK Clinical Aptitude Test) and BMAT (the Biomedical Admissions Test). These tests are designed to examine your aptitude for a medical degree, not your academic ability. Our consultants ensure that students become familiar with the type and style of questioning by providing sample papers and going through them with candidates. If a student does have to take one of these tests, failure to score adequately will lead to a rejected application.
All Medical Schools interview the candidates to whom they might offer a place. As a student it is your opportunity to convince the selectors that you are a suitable candidate. For their part the selectors will want to discover whether you are really committed to a career in Medicine and are aware of the demands of the course. You need to have clear reasons for wanting to study Medicine as well as knowing about recent developments and issues in the subject. You also need to show enthusiasm and confidence when speaking to the interviewers.
There is no doubt that an interview at a Medical School is demanding and it requires you to think quickly. You will need to defend your point of view, however, if it seems appropriate you must be prepared to admit that you do not know the answer to a question. At the end of the interview do not be surprised if you have no idea how well you have performed. It can be very difficult to know what the questioner is expecting to hear and questions will rarely have a right or wrong answer. It is also unlikely you will be able to know whether or not you will be offered a place.
The number of places available at Medical Schools to candidates from outside of the European Union is restricted by the UK government. As a rough guide it is about 7-8% of the total intake per year. This means that competition for places is even greater for these candidates. If you are an overseas student applying for UK Medical School you will, if selected, be interviewed, and you might be expected to travel to the UK for this.
Choosing a Medical School in the UK
All UK Medical Schools have very high standards, both in their teaching and research and just visiting their websites will not tell you much more about which you should apply to. It is probably best to look at the specialist courses that each Medical School offers, although do bear in mind that if you want to practice as a doctor then the only courses that allow you to do this are those entitled ‘Medicine’.
There are of course other considerations that have to be taken into account when you are considering your application, such as what is the location of the Medical School and are there good transport links? What is the standard of student accommodation and is there a flourishing student life, with a good range of societies to choose from? If local hospitals are used by the university it is a good idea to find out what they are like. It can also be very useful to look at the feedback from ex-students.
Full List of Current UK University Medical Schools
University of Aberdeen School of Medicine
Barts & the London School of Medicine & Dentistry
University of Birmingham School of Medicine
Brighton & Sussex Medical School
University of Bristol Faculty of Medicine
Cambridge University School of Clinical Medicine
Cardiff University School of Medicine
Dundee University Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Nursing
University of Edinburgh Faculty of Medicine
Glasgow University Faculty of Medicine
Hull York Medical School
Imperial College London School of Medicine
Keele University School of Medicine
King’s College London School of Medicine
University of Leeds School of Medicine
University of Leicester Medical School
Liverpool University Faculty of Health & Life Sciences
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (Postgraduate)
University of Manchester Faculty of Medical & Human Sciences
University of Newcastle Medical School
University of Nottingham Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences
University of Oxford
Peninsula Medical School
Queen’s University Belfast, Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences
University of Sheffield School of Medicine
University of Southampton School of Medicine
St Andrews University Faculty of Medical Sciences
St George’s, University of London
Swansea University School of Medicine
University College London Medical School
University of East Anglia
University of Warwick Medical School