Only about 25% of applicants succeed in getting into medical school in the UK. This means that competition is very stiff.
Potential students need to make sure that it is the best choice for themselves and then work hard to make themselves stand out from other applicants.
Medical school itself takes five to six years to complete. This is followed by an internship. If you decide to specialize, this can take up to additional eight years of study.
Some accelerated graduate programs can reduce this time but regardless the process of becoming a doctor takes commitment and a lot of time studying.
Table of Contents
- Before You Make the Commitment to Become a Doctor
- Competition for Medical School
- Finding the Best Medical School for You
- Requirements for Medical School
- Importance of Volunteerism Experience on Medical School Applications
- The Value of Medical Work Experience on a Medical School Application
- Entrance Testing: The UCAT
- Additional Things the UCAT Tests for
- Entrance Testing: The BMAT
- Considering a Specialty? There are Many Options
- Defining Relevant Extracurricular Activities for Applications to Medical School
- Preparing Your Personal Statement
- Get Ready for Your Interview for Medical School
- Helpful Techniques for the Interview
- Is It Important to Go Straight to Medical School After University?
- Age and Applications to Medical School: Young People
- Age and Applications to Medical School: Mid-Career Change
- Age and Applications to Medical School: Over 50
- The Length of Schooling for Physicians
Before You Make the Commitment to Become a Doctor
There are many considerations that go into deciding to pursue a medical degree. There is a lot of time studying and the expense of tuition.
Schools and expenses are only part of it, though. While doctors need to be able to access and treat a patient’s disease, they also need to be empathetic and caring.
Some people who are interested in pursuing medical degrees are drawn to the science of medicine.
That is needed in today’s physicians but being able to work closely with people is a must. This is something that medical schools look for in potential student applications.
Competition for Medical School
The path to getting into medical school is highly competitive. In part, this is because around 24,000 individuals apply for the 7,000 seats in schools.
Currently, there are 42 medical schools operating in the UK. Five new medical schools are slated to open to increase, by 2025, the number of trained doctors including the University of Kent, Anglia Ruskin University, University of Lincoln, Edge Hill University, University of Nottingham, and University of Sunderland.
Finding the Best Medical School for You
Even with the fierce competition to get into a medical school, prospective students need to research the schools they are interested in.
This can include their rankings, particular teaching styles, and even location. As a doctor’s education is a long process, you want to be happy where you are and with the quality of instruction you are receiving.
Requirements for Medical School
While each school may have slightly different requirements, expect to apply to approximately four schools.
In broad terms, you’ll need a high score for the UCAT/BMAT exam and exemplary science knowledge at GCSE and A Levels.
Medical schools will also look at work experience, volunteer and extracurricular activities, as well as your personal statement.
Importance of Volunteerism Experience on Medical School Applications
Volunteerism is an important part of the medical school application process. It demonstrates an attitude of caring and empathy, but it also provides some much-needed work experience.
During the interview portion of the application process, you can highlight the skills you developed during a volunteer assignment.
This gives your application an extra boost.
The Value of Medical Work Experience on a Medical School Application
If you want to pursue a career as a physician, the first hurdle is getting into medical school. One thing that medical schools look for in applicants is real-world relevant medical experience and exposure to clinical settings.
This can be obtained by working with physicians or those working in hospitals and clinics through volunteer opportunities or internships.
Entrance Testing: The UCAT
The University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) covers more than knowledge. It tests reasoning and analytical skills. In essence, your ability to think and learn.
The exam begins with 44 questions that determine your verbal reasoning through being able to critically assess written materials.
This section takes 21 minutes.
The next section is focused on decision-making skills. Through 29 questions, respondents are forced to make clear, correct decisions even when the situation is complicated.
This section takes 31 minutes.
Additional Things the UCAT Tests for
The next section takes 24 minutes and has questions that assess quantitative reasoning skills. This section tests an individual’s ability to evaluate numbers and value-based information.
This section has 24 questions.
Abstract reasoning skills are the focus of the next section. Through 55 questions, a person’s thinking style is assessed through convergent and divergent thought methods.
This section takes 13 minutes.
The last section has questions that addressed a person’s situational judgment. These 69 questions look at a person’s about to reason and make decisions in real situations.
This section last 26 minutes.
Entrance Testing: The BMAT
The BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) is another test that prospective medical students need to take. This exam begins with a problem-solving section and questions that assess critical thinking skills.
This section takes an hour and has 32 questions.
The next section assesses a person’s knowledge of the sciences such as biology, physics, and chemistry.
Some math questions are included in the 27 questions. This section takes 30 minutes to complete.
The third section focuses on an individual’s writing skills. Each participant has 30 minutes to write an essay.
This is an opportunity for a person to demonstrate not only their writing skills but their critical thinking skills and life experiences.
Considering a Specialty? There are Many Options
If you are considering a specialty after medical school, there are many areas that you can pursue based on your interests.
As you progress through medical school, your preferences for a specialty may become clearer to you.
Specialties range from anesthesia to oncology and radiology. Perhaps emergency medicine or intensive care is a better fit.
Others may be drawn to gynecology and obstetrics, as well as pediatric care or even pediatric oncology.
Other directions to consider are public health, psychiatry, and community sexual and reproductive health.
Some focus on occupational medicine or ophthalmology. Some physicians are drawn to pathology or surgery.
Everyone has different interests.
Defining Relevant Extracurricular Activities for Applications to Medical School
Medical schools are looking for individuals that are well-rounded. However, you want to think strategically when demonstrating your skills, life experiences, and community involvement.
For each skill or experience consider how it related to or can enhance your work as a potential medical student.
While your activities may not all be related to the medical field, holding leadership positions in clubs or teams is something that medical schools are looking for.
Also, community volunteerism demonstrates a commitment to servicing others. If you’ve participated in science fairs or competitions, the medical school will want to know.
Preparing Your Personal Statement
Your 4,000-word personal statement is your opportunity to demonstrate your thinking, experience, and plans for the future.
That sounds like a big undertaking, but it is also an opportunity. Writing this essay requires thought and organization so that you can communicate your thoughts clearly.
There are several things to avoid when writing the essay. While your examples may include family experiences, avoid hyperbole and flowery language.
Through examples, demonstrate empathy and caring for others.
Perhaps the most important point to stress is your passion and motivation for work as a physician.
This is an opportunity to show how your interests, group or club involvements, and skills make you the perfect candidate for medical school.
Lastly, avoid wordiness and clichés so that your thoughts are communicated clearly.
Get Ready for Your Interview for Medical School
The objective of the medical school interview is to see how well potential students do under pressure.
Driven by unanticipated questions, responses are measured by noting coping skills in a stressful environment.
That’s why preparation for the interview is very important.
Helpful Techniques for the Interview
There are several techniques to approach this type of interview. They allow respondents to use their problem-solving skills and logical thinking.
Two common ones are P.E.E. and S.T.A.R.
P.E.E. stands for point, evidence, and explanation. This approach allows you to respond to a question by making a point, providing evidence to support it, and following through with an explanation or analysis.
This can be a helpful way to structure any response in a stressful situation.
The S.T.A.R. technique stands for situation, task, action, and result. The goal is to show problem-solving, so a typical question may be ‘tell me about a time when you had a problem and how you resolved it.
Using S.T.A.R., you can structure the response clearly to answer the question.
Is It Important to Go Straight to Medical School After University?
This is a common question, and the answer is no. To put yourself in a better position for acceptance to medical school, some students pursue a graduate entry medical program first.
This gives you time to improve grades, entrance exam scores, and work on the personal statement and interview portion of the admissions process.
Some people feel that they are not ready for medical school straight out of university and take time to broaden their knowledge and skills in other areas.
This is perfectly acceptable given the competition for admission to medical school. You can also consider broadening your work experience by working with nonprofits and organizations providing medical care in other countries.
Age and Applications to Medical School: Young People
Often potential students who are under 18 will not be considered for medical school. This is because there are so few placements available.
It may be better to focus on educational coursework that will support a future entry into medical school.
Age and Applications to Medical School: Mid-Career Change
It is not too late to begin a new career in medicine. In fact, the experiences and knowledge you bring can serve to support your new pursuits.
Those attending medical school are a diverse group where your skills and experiences can be used to broaden the learning experience for everyone.
Age and Applications to Medical School: Over 50
While the Medical Schools Council does not limit the age of medical school applicants, there are some considerations to keep in mind.
Many physicians in the UK retire at 59. While this shouldn’t stop anyone from pursuing medical school if they want to, the timeframe that they would be able to practice following school is much more limited.
The Length of Schooling for Physicians
The answer depends on the specialty that someone decides to pursue. In some cases, it could take 15 years to be a trained specialist.
Most who graduate with a four to six-year degree go to work as junior doctors. This allows them to earn income while still honing their skills.
Medical school is not an unobtainable goal. It is very competitive, though. Simply having great grades is not enough.
Volunteerism, work experience, and extracurricular activities are ways to help your application stand out from the others.
The other pieces are the personal statement and preparing for the interview. These are areas for a great deal of thought and hard work will pay off.
Lastly, if you decide to take some time to explore other areas before heading to medical school, that’s fine.
Additional educational opportunities and life experiences will make you a better candidate. It may also give you time to more clearly see the path ahead for you as a future physician.