This article will navigate you through how to become a doctor, the process of applying to medical school whether you are an undergraduate or a postgraduate.
How to get into Medical School in the UK- Undergraduate:
It is best to check with individual universities for their entry requirements for medicine each year. The Medical Schools Council has an excellent resource for all the universities’ entry requirements, competition ratios, interview methods and more here.
What A Levels/Highers do you need to be a doctor?
Generally, the main subjects that are desirable by most universities at A-level are chemistry and biology accompanied by another A level with many choosing maths or physics. English and maths are needed at minimum level of GCSE.
For Scottish Students, for Highers, two sciences and maths or physics are required. English is needed at a National 5 level (but should be noted that most applicants will have Higher English). Three Advanced Highers or two Advanced Highers and a Higher are required in S6.
Always check the entry requirements for each university before applying to ensure you meet the entry criteria.
What is UCAS?
UCAS is the Universities and Collages Admissions Service. UCAS is centralised across the UK. Those wanting to pursue an undergraduate course must complete the UCAS application form. The UCAS process can be daunting but will be broken down below.
The first step is to decide what UCAS course to apply to. Course deadlines depend on the type of course with main deadlines being in October, January and March. The UCAS medicine deadline is in October.
When registering, applicants will be given a ten-digit UCAS number which is unique to them and will be used in future correspondence. There is no UCAS interview, but some courses will have an interview as part of their application process- medicine is one of those courses.
For any UCAS application help and trouble, the UCAS website help section is linked to here.
Best Universities for Medicine UK:
It is difficult to name which is the best medical school in the UK as the listing may change yearly. It is also important to note, that all graduates, no matter the university, will be matched with a foundation programme depending on points gathered through medical school based on grades and achievements with no extra points based on which university they graduated from.
Therefore, candidates are encouraged to consider different aspects of what each university provides. Things such as mandatory intercalated year, geography, student satisfaction, teaching style (Problem Based Learning-PBL or lecture based) and the division between pre-clinical and clinical years are factors that prospective students should take into account.
How many universities can you apply to?
Candidates can apply to four medical schools with their fifth option reserved for a non-medical degree as back-up. Applicants are encouraged to apply to four to increase their chances of acceptance. The fifth choice on the UCAS form allows a backup in case no offers are made from medical schools.
The fifth choice should be a course with lower entry requirements than medicine. The course can be at one of the universities to which you apply to study medicine.
It is not possible to submit a separate personal statement for your fifth course. This choice can be used in a variety of ways, for some, it can be used as an alternative career avenue.
For others, they may complete the course and apply to medicine as graduates. This article will explore becoming a doctor later in life as a graduate and the considerations that one should take into account.
Medical School Personal Statement:
After fulfilling medical schools’ requirements with subjects and grades, the next step is to write your personal statement. Your personal statement should provide an account of your achievements to date, your motivation to become a doctor, any work experience/volunteering experience and any hobbies and interests you have.
At this point, most will have achieved the entry requirements for medicine so use your personal statement to highlight your individuality and other non-academic hobbies/successes you have had.
Be sure when writing about any work experience/volunteering to not simply list what you have done but explain what you learned from it or how you applied the qualities that you have to the situation at hand.
For example, instead of listing where and what you did/saw on work experience/shadowing, you can talk about how it gave you insight into what being a doctor entails.
Do not tailor your personal statement towards one university as that is likely to put the other ones off.
Medical School Interview:
Following academic screening (where universities check that you meet their academic entry requirements), interviews start to take place. Interviews are often daunting, but it is helpful to view them as an opportunity to show your personality.
The two types of interviews are Multiple Mini Interviews (MMI) and Traditional/Panel Interviews. You should check which type of interview you’re invited to as it will often vary.
Interview prep is crucial to a successful interview. Make sure to be clued up on the four pillars of medicine and how they apply to ethical scenarios, familiarise yourself with the GMC and their role. It is always a good idea to ask if anyone can do a mock interview with you as the more practice you have, the more confident you’ll be.
Do not panic during an interview if you don’t know the answer to something, remember the interviewers know that you are not a doctor yet. Rather, explain that you are not sure, but you will double check after the interview.
The UCAT (sometimes referred to as the UKCAT) is the University Clinical Aptitude Test. It is another academic component of the admission process to medical and dental schools in the UK.
It is a computer-based test with multiple components. Make sure to check what dates the test open and close for each academic year.
Cost of UCAT varies depending on the time you sit the exam with earlier exams being cheaper but can range from £55 to £80. Please check each year as this is subject to change. Bursaries are available for those in need, for the eligibility criteria, please click here.
Some English universities may require candidates to sit the BMAT (Biomedical Admission Test). BMAT costs £59 if within the UK, please check yearly to ensure this has not changed.
There is an option for reimbursement of BMAT cost, please click here for more information.
Tip: Both of these tests are designed to assess different aptitudes and skills in potential applicants so early preparation is key to success. Be sure to check which of the tests you need to sit depending on the universities you have applied to.
Graduate Entry Medicine:
Graduate entry medicine is for those who are postgraduates or those who have decided to change their careers. There are two pathways that allow postgraduates to gain medical qualifications:
Full length medicine course- varies between 5 and 6 years depending on the university.
Graduate entry medicine course- this is an accelerated path to a medical degree as the course is 4 years. Currently, 14 medical schools offer graduate entry courses and 9 out of 14 accept non-science graduates. The Medic Portal has a list of the universities that offer graduate courses and the corresponding number of places.
Some universities such as University of Exeter and University of Liverpool (among others) use the GAMSAT (Graduate Medical School Admissions Test) in their admission test. Please check the admissions process for the universities that you are applying to.
Thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk. 2021. Medicine Subject League Table 2021. [online] Available at: https://www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk/league-tables/rankings/medicine [Accessed 22 April 2021].
Medschools.ac.uk. 2021. Entry requirements | Medical Schools Council. [online] Available at: https://www.medschools.ac.uk/studying-medicine/making-an-application/entry-requirements [Accessed 23 April 2021].
Medicine Answered. 2021. Applying to Medicine: How To Make A 5th UCAS Choice When Applying To Medicine - Medicine Answered. [online] Available at: https://www.medicineanswered.com/how-to-make-a-5th-ucas-choice-when-applying-to-medicine [Accessed 23 April 2021].