Medical school application process
Hi, I’m Argha and I’m currently a final year medical student at King’s College London. As I approach the end of my university life, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on all the positive experiences I’ve had throughout medical school.
It has been a real honour to be able to study a subject I’m so passionate about in the centre of London amidst one of the most vibrant and diverse communities I have ever been a part of. Having said this, I can only remember the numerous hurdles I had to go through to secure an offer and the stress of the application process back when I was in school.
My aim in this blog post will be to aid those of you who are considering a career in medicine and to make the whole journey in getting to university as transparent as possible.
High predicted grades and a strong academic track record would help build the backbone of your application. A good method to achieve this is to speak with your teachers to see where you are academically. This will give an indication of your areas of relative subject weakness and allow you to hone your efforts into improving these areas. Performing well in your homework over a sustained period of time as well as your examinations may also play a big role in determining your predicted grades. For this reason, it is important to show to your teachers that you are proactive and committed to your academic goals throughout the year and backing this up with results.
Work experience is integral to understanding whether
medicine is really for you. This will give you a sense of what the job involves
on a day-to-day basis, and whether medicine is the right career choice for you.
Examples of this can include shadowing in a hospital or GP practice, but may
also involve working in other areas of healthcare as well to show diversity and
appreciation of the other healthcare professions, reinforcing your ambition to
study medicine having considered the alternatives. It is not so much the
quantity of experience that is important, but rather the quality of it. In
other words, you should spend more time reflecting on what you gained from doing
your work experience and how this influenced your decision to pursue this
career choice rather than list everything you have done chronologically.
UCAT (formerly known as UKCAT)
Candidates are also expected to sit an exam known as the UCAT (formerly known as the UKCAT) in the summer of Year 12. The UCAT is an aptitude test used by medical schools to assess your suitability to study medicine and is divided into five sections: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, abstract reasoning, decision making and situational judgement. Further information on the format can be found on the official UCAT website. Some universities may place a greater emphasis on your UCAT score than others, and so it is essential to take this into account and play to your strengths when applying to universities as you will find out your result before submitting your UCAS application.
Medical personal statement
All candidates are required to submit a ‘medical personal statement’ as part of their application to medical school. This is undertaken via UCAS, which is the centralised UK organisation that oversees the application process to British universities. This personal statement is critical as it can help you stand out from the crowd. Here, you should highlight your main reason why you wish to study medicine and reflect on your work experience to provide anecdotal evidence of your desire. It is also useful to include your academic achievements, books you have read, extra-curricular activities and your hobbies and interests outside of medicine. In essence, your personal statement should paint the best possible picture of yourself, increasing your chances of being called to interview.
Some universities will require you to sit an exam called the BMAT. The BMAT is another aptitude test that focuses more on your ability to apply scientific and mathematical knowledge as well as problem-solving, critical thinking and written communication skills. Further details of the format and the universities that require it can be found on the official BMAT website . As with the UCAT, the key to doing well in this is to familiarise yourself with the types of questions you may be asked and to practise as much as possible with the help of books and online resources.
If your application is favourable in the eyes of the admissions tutors, you will be invited to interview. This may be a traditional panel interview where a small team of people (the panel) ask probing questions for around 15-20 minutes, or it could be the more recent MMI format where you rotate between different stations each lasting 5-10 minutes. The format you get will depend on the university you apply to, and it is important to prepare appropriately. To gain better insight for each university, it may help to speak to students in the previous cohort or to attend one of the open days for more information. I read the Medical School Interviews book and arranged mock interviews with colleagues I’d met on work experience placements to help build my confidence. Again, practice is critical.
Once all these hurdles have been surpassed and, you are lucky enough to have secured an offer, congratulations! The next step is to pass your exams and meet your offer. Assuming you achieve this, you will then embark on an exciting journey that will no doubt change your life, as it did mine.
Studying medicine at university has been a real privilege for me, and I hope that this blog post will help some of you to begin that journey as I draw mine to a close in the forthcoming year. Dream big, work hard and anything is possible in life if you put your mind to it.
Our teaching company Osler's Room (oslersroom.com) provide experience through video streaming doctors and can give you some insight if you want to get started. It is always best however to arrange work experience in real hospitals yourself.
If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, I have my website – The Dattabase – where I post motivational blogs on personal development and life mastery. Feel free to check it out!
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