So, you want to enter the weird and wonderful world of medicine? Fantastic! As the NHS faces the greatest workforce crisis in history, we urgently need more talented, empathetic and committed individuals like yourself to enter the healthcare field.
However, as you probably already know, getting into medicine is no mean feat. As The Guardian reports, 2022 was the hardest year “in living memory” to enter UK medical school.
The last two years saw a record number of people applying to study medicine — 29,710 applicants for 2022 entry with an average acceptance rate of 16%.
However, don’t let this put you off. Medicine may be ferociously difficult to get into, but the low acceptance rate can often be attributed to poor preparation and not understanding what the process will involve prior to application.
From creating a stellar personal statement and acing your admissions test to impressing your interviewer, we have produced a foolproof guide to help you get through the application process.
Table of Contents
1. Perfect your personal statement
Your personal statement will be the very first impression that you provide to potential medical schools. It is an essential window into your skills, experiences, and objectives, as well as your aptitude for a career in medicine.
What should I include?
There’s no sugarcoating it: writing a personal statement for medical school is challenging. An outstanding statement requires more than just a great opening; you’ll need to convey your genuine enthusiasm for the field of medicine, your understanding of the subject, and your well-defined career goals.
You must also weave in the personal attributes that make you an ideal candidate to study medicine. According to the Medical Schools Council, these include a variety of characteristics, including:
Resilience and the ability to deal with difficult situations
Effective communication, including reading, writing, listening and speaking
Empathy and the ability to care for others
Insight into your own health
How do I stand out?
Before you start writing, think about your skills, experiences, and what makes you unique. Then, when you are ready to put pen to paper, keep in mind that the cardinal rule is to show, not tell.
Explain what it was about your school placement, volunteer work, or other experiences that made you interested in medicine, and provide evidence to support your statements.
If you’re feeling the pressure to create a killer application, don’t panic, for there is a lot of help out there.
You could opt to undertake a writing workshop as many prospective students do, but you can save time and money by enrolling in a bundle course that addresses all aspects of the application process.
6med, for example, offers a variety of medical school application courses throughout the academic year that target the personal statement and every other part of the process, from the admission test to the interview.
These are run by highly experienced medics and offer students a “guaranteed place at medical school” or their money back.
2. Ace your admissions test
The next hurdle in the process of applying for medical school is to take an admissions test. As a prospective undergraduate, this will be either the UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test) or the BMAT (BioMedical Admissions Test).
What test do I need to take?
You need to consider the schools you intend to apply to when deciding which exam to take. There are currently 34 UK universities that use the UCAT, however, others, like Oxbridge, Brighton and Sussex, and University College London, utilise the BMAT instead.
How should I prepare?
In order to succeed on the UCAT, you will need to carefully manage your time. While this is true for all admission tests, the UCAT is considered the hardest, most time-pressured of the lot. The most effective approach to preparation is to use the official practice tests that are available. This will help you get used to the strict time limitations you’ll be working under and give you experience in focusing for two hours without taking a break.
There are some similarities between the UCAT and the BMAT, however, on the whole, the BMAT requires a greater depth of real-world academic knowledge and problem-solving abilities.
Like with the UCAT, you should take advantage of the numerous past papers available to help you prepare. Use these to get a feel for the test’s structure, the kinds of questions you can expect, and the knowledge and abilities you’ll need to succeed.
Do I have to take an admissions test?
Not sure if you’re test-ready? Don’t worry, there are other important parameters in a medical application. Medical schools analyse the UCAT, academic achievement, personal statements, references, and interviews in different ways.
If you get a low mark (610 or under) on the UCAT, some schools are more likely to accept you than others, including Cardiff, Keele, Queen’s University Belfast, Sunderland, and Plymouth.
Furthermore, two medical schools, The University of Buckingham and The University of Central Lancashire do not require either testing format to apply.
3. Turn your interview into an offer
As you may be aware, there are two types of medical interviews: organised ‘panel’ interviews and Multiple Mini Interviews (MMIs).
However, only a handful of institutions (notably Barts, Glasgow and Oxbridge) continue to employ the former technique — most medical schools prefer to just use MMIs in the admissions process.
What are the types of medical school interviews?
Candidates will be evaluated in a panel interview based on their behaviour, traits, and values to see if they match those wanted in a medical practitioner.
You must be able to approach many types of questions with relative ease, including those requiring specific medical knowledge, ethical dilemmas, professional judgement, motivation for medicine, and work experience.
Multiple Mini Interviews
MMIs consist of several different ‘stations’, which range from standard interview-style questions to realistic role-playing exercises.
Formats will vary considerably from school to school, therefore you should contact your selected university for more information on what type to expect before your interview.
How can I prepare for an interview?
Firstly, be aware that, whichever type of interview you undertake, most questions and scenarios will not have a single ‘correct’ response.
This is because medical interviewers often pose questions geared to assess your ability to understand and communicate the various aspects of a situation.
However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t be ready — far from it.
Firstly, we recommend researching common questions and coming up with answers for each. You should then work on verbally articulating your responses and converting lengthy written responses into coherent speech.
You should also be prepared to answer questions not just about your personal statement, work experience, and skills and attributes, but also about medical ethics and current events involving the NHS.
So there you have it, how to apply and (hopefully) gain entry into medical school. We wish you the very best of luck with your application and all your future endeavours.