UK Medical School Admissions Advice | Top Universities

UK Medical School Admissions Advice

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Laura Bridgestock

Updated Sep 26, 2016



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This article is sponsored by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

While all university applications require a significant amount of time and effort, medical school admissions are known for being particularly rigorous and competitive. The application process can be even more daunting if you’re intending to study medicine outside of your home country. You’ll need to check your academic qualifications are accepted, perhaps sit a language proficiency test or other exam, and be prepared to travel to attend a face-to-face interview.

But fear not! Help is at hand. Dr Rosie Kakkar, senior lecturer and admissions tutor for the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) program at the University of Central Lancashire, shares her top 10 pieces of advice for those applying to UK medical schools.

1. Check the entry criteria 

The first step, Dr Kakkar says, is to visit the websites of the UK medical schools you’re interested in, and check through the admission requirements. These will typically include academic qualifications, proof of language proficiency (such as the IELTS), references, a personal statement, work experience and a UKCAT (UK Clinical Aptitude Test) score.

As an international applicant, you’ll need to ensure your academic qualifications are accepted. UCLan provides country-specific guidelines to make this easy, but if in any doubt, contact the admissions office. As work experience is such an important factor in medical school admissions, there may also be guidelines to help you ensure you meet expectations. For the MBBS at UCLan, you need to have spent at least two weeks’ working or job shadowing in a medical setting, or have completed at least six months’ community voluntary work.

If you find you’ve missed the deadline to take the UKCAT before applying, don’t panic; it may be possible to take the test after submitting your application.

2. Start your application early – and be meticulous!

For your own peace of mind and to give yourself plenty of time to fulfil all the criteria, start your medical school applications as soon as possible, and check them thoroughly before submitting. Paying careful attention to the guidelines provided is important for all university applications, to ensure you make a good first impression and to prevent delays in your application being assessed. If possible, ask a friend, family member or teacher to proofread documents such as the personal statement before you click “send”.

3. Use your personal statement wisely 

An important part of your application is the personal statement; this is essentially a short essay in which to outline your achievements, ambitions and reasons for applying. The statement has a limited length (4,000 characters), so it’s important to use this space wisely. The UCAS site offers resources to help, and UCLan also offers guidelines specifically focused on writing a personal statement for medical school admissions.

You should show your understanding of the medical profession; highlight relevant work or voluntary experience; demonstrate your ability to work in a team; show good communication and presentation skills; and highlight extracurricular activities and achievements. Try to include evidence to support your claims, such as awards you’ve received, challenges you’ve overcome, or projects you’ve helped to organize.

4. Make sure you have an academic reference

You may be asked to submit one or more references (similar to letters of recommendation) to support your application. Here, Dr Kakkar says, it’s essential to ensure at least one of your referees is a former teacher or academic supervisor, even if you’ve taken some time out of education. Additional references could come from people you’ve worked with in a professional or voluntary context, but an academic referee is a must.

5. Ensure your references and personal statement match up

Dr Kakkar notes that admissions tutors will be more impressed by applications in which the personal statement and references are well-matched. References should reinforce and validate claims you’ve made in the personal statement, providing evidence and examples of your commitment to studying medicine, reliability and perseverance, good communication and team-working skills, ability to empathize and readiness to help others, and your intellectual potential. If there are any mitigating circumstances which may have affected your academic performance, this should also be mentioned.

To ensure your referee covers all the necessary points, show her/him a copy of your personal statement and any guidelines provided by the UK medical schools you’re applying to.

6. Be prepared to travel for an interview 

If you meet all the eligibility criteria, and your personal statement and references impress the admissions panel, it’s likely that you’ll be invited to attend an interview. While some UK medical schools offer opportunities for international students to be interviewed in other countries, it’s usual to be asked to travel to the UK campus of the institution. Dr Kakkar explains that this ensures the assessment is conducted consistently, and adds that it’s a good opportunity for prospective students to explore the campus, meet course tutors, and ask any remaining questions.

7. Get ready for a different kind of admissions interview

For UK medical school admissions, it’s now standard practice to assess candidates using the “Multiple Mini Interview” (MMI) format. This means there are around 10 different stations, which candidates go through in sequence, each designed to assess a particular attribute or skill and each led by a different interviewer. Dr Kakkar says this approach is much more targeted than a traditional panel-style interview, and leads to a more balanced overall assessment of each candidate. She adds that the aim is not to identify applicants who are likely to be good doctors, but rather those who possess the attributes needed to be good medical student.

8. Show you know about the course and the school 

While it’s difficult to prepare for this kind of admissions interview, you can make a good impression by showing you’ve done some research on the course and the medical school in question. Try to demonstrate your understanding of any distinctive features of the school’s ethos, approach to teaching, facilities and student community. Explain what attracted you to apply to study here, and why you believe the program is a good match for your own interests, learning style and aspirations.

9. Do some research on the UK health system 

Demonstrating some knowledge of the UK General Medical Council (GMC) and National Health Service (NHS) may also help you to make a favorable impression, showing further evidence of your commitment and enthusiasm. Even if you don’t intend to practice medicine in the UK, this is the system you’ll be trained within if you study at a UK medical school, so some background knowledge will also be advantageous once your studies commence.

10. Convey your passion and commitment to the field 

Finally, Dr Kakkar emphasizes the importance of conveying your commitment to the field and your motivations for studying medicine – both within your initial application and during the interview. This, she says, is what really makes candidates stand out. Think about what first inspired you to consider a medical career, how you’ve already demonstrated your commitment to pursuing this pathway, and what future ambitions are likely to keep you going through all the years of study and training yet to come.

For further information on medicine at UCLan, call +44 (0)1772 895024 or email [email protected]

This article was originally published in November 2014. It was updated in February 2016.

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