How to get into medical school UK - A timeline
Getting into medical school in the UK can be stressful and involves a lot of work, but there is a lot that you can do to prepare beforehand and improve your chances. Dr Jiva, the founder of theMSAG has a success rate of 100% getting students into medical school when meeting the applicant at least a year before the deadline. This is a rough guide, based on our 11 years of experience to give you an overview of the steps required:
This guide focuses on undergraduate admissions, but you can also apply for medicine as a graduate or even after as a career changer.
Year 11 (age 15-16)
Some people might think that this is quite a young age to begin preparation for applying to medical school, but getting a head start will be of great benefit. It’s a good time to consider whether studying medicine is right for you. Think about what life could be like at med school, and whether a career in the health service appeals to you.
Regarding GCSEs, it is important that you work hard to get the top A*/A grades. A few medical schools will have set subjects (eg. UCL) but in general but there are no particular requirements as to what subjects you should take, other than those required by the Government.
Find out whether it is right for you
It might be around this time that you start thinking about careers. If you think a career in medicine is right for you, you should begin sorting out your work experience at a local hospital, GP practice or community organisation. Lots of places won’t accept students until they are age 16 due to legal reasons, so it's worth checking and make sure you apply strategically.
If you are fortunate enough to have family or friends who are in a medical career, contact them. You can ask them about what the role of a doctor entails, or even ask if you can shadow them for a couple of days. The long summer holiday after your GCSE examinations is a great time to start collecting experiences, which you can then put on your personal statement. Make sure these are varied (different specialities as well as different types of healthcare), as it is important to understand the role of the multi-disciplinary team.
Doing work experience and not keeping track of your learning and reflections is one of the most common mistakes made at this stage. Have a little notebook, and at the end of each day, write down what you saw, what did the doctor do, what did the patient feel, did anything surprise you, what did you feel, what did you learn, etc. It only takes 5-10 minutes per day but it makes a great difference and gives you an amazing head start for when you will have to write your personal statement.
Choose your A-level subjects wisely
When choosing your A-level subjects, you should check with the UK University you wish to apply to whether they have any specific requirements. Most UK medical schools require you to sit an A-level in chemistry, and often biology as well. The third subject is usually up to you, so have a think of what you find the most enjoyable. It doesn’t have to be a third science, however, some universities prefer this.
Depending on your school set up you may also need to consider which college you wish to attend for sixth-form. Different schools/colleges will offer different amounts of support for you medical school application which is worth bearing in mind when deciding. There is a large difference between how many students get into medical school from one sixth form to another. Some will offer UCAT courses, interview preparation etc. in-house while others may not have a career adviser that has extensive knowledge on the medical school admission process.
Year 12 (age 16-17)
At the start of the year, it is important that you are focused on the end goal. Work hard for your studies, as the entry requirements are high, ranging from A*A*A to AAA. Think about what is realistic for you. If you do not think you can achieve AAA, then get in touch with us early so we can help you plan your alternative options to get into medical school, including entering a programme in the UK that allows transfer to medicine, preparing for a graduate application or studying medicine abroad.
Think about where you want to go
Different universities run very different courses, particularly in the first few years of the degree. Some give medical students very early clinical exposure, whereas others separate the degree into pre-clinical, which is mainly focused on teaching the core science, then the clinical years where medical students put their scientific knowledge into practice with patient contact.
We have written a few guides on the best universities in the UK, as well as more localised guides for medical schools in London and Scotland. League tables can be a good starting point, but we would also recommend thinking about what features you want a med school to have, and which ones satisfy these best.
Some points to consider:
- Course structure - is it traditional/ integrated or heavily focused on problem-based-learning (PBL)?
- Length of course - is it five or six years? Are there opportunities to intercalate?
- Teaching - is it mainly lecture-based, or is there more self-directed/ group learning?
- Anatomy - does it offer prosection, full-body cadaveric dissection, a mix of the two or even more modern methods using anatomage tables?
- Facilities - how old are the facilities? Do they involve new technology?
- The University - is it a campus or city university? Do they excel in any of your favourite sports?
It's important to consider the application process too. Think about whether the university focuses more on interviews, academics, or admissions exams. Tailor your application to the areas you perform best in.
If you know a current medical student at the UK university of your choice, ask them about the course! If not, don’t worry. Contact us at email@example.com or read our medical school interviews series of blogs. We have a number of students on our team studying at a variety of different med schools, so they can tell you more about it! Check out the university website and read through the prospectuses. Go to open days to find out more information, and you’ll probably find out some tips which you might not have heard otherwise.
Start preparing for the admission exams
There are two main admissions exams that medical schools require: the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) and the Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT). There are similarities between the two, but you should try some questions for each and see which you prefer or are better at.
You will almost certainly have to take the UKCAT, and most of the time, it makes sense to sit the BMAT too. Many applicants feel they can get away with not sitting the BMAT as less schools require it. If you want to apply to Oxbridge or a uni such as Imperial, then of course you need to sit it. But even if none of your top choices are BMAT schools, it may very well be worth sitting it in order to be more strategic in your application as many of the BMAT schools have lower competition ratio.UCAT
The UCAT exam can be taken throughout July to October. There are five sections, each testing a different skill and it is a computer-based test. We would recommend sitting the exam in August, giving you ample time to prepare following completion of year 12. However if closer to the time you still feel unprepared, then as long as you give enough notice, it is possible to change the date of your test to a later date.
For 2019 UCAT registration opens on 1st May and closes 18th September 2019. The last test date is on 2nd October 2019.
The BMAT exam has three sections, one testing problem solving and critical thinking, the second testing scientific knowledge and the third is an essay paper based on an issue of medical/ scientific importance. There are two sittings, one before the UCAS deadline and one after. If you have can and have time to prepare, we would recommend taking the earlier examination, as you can then decide where to apply based on your scores.
For 2019 BMAT registration opens 1st September and closes 1st October 2019. The test will be on 31st October 2019.
Start preparing your personal statement
The UCAS deadline for medical schools is earlier than other applications, on the 15th October each year. This is not long after school starts so it is important that during the summer holiday you ensure you have enough experiences to write about on your personal statement.
If you think there are some areas you are lacking, make arrangements to complete, e.g. obtaining voluntary work or spending a week shadowing in hospital.
The personal statement should be written in the summer between year 12 and year 13. We recommend that you get a first draft together early in the summer and then you can finalise it after having written your UCAT, towards the end of August or up till mid September.
Year 13 (age 17-18)
Year 13 is a busy year, which some students can find stressful. Between school, exams and medical school preparations there's a lot to do, but it's also important to try and stay calm, and keep doing what you enjoy, be that sports, music or something else.
Get your medical school application in early
It doesn’t increase your chances, but getting your application in early means it is one less stress. If you have your BMAT and UCAT scores beforehand, look at which medical schools you're eligible for and of those which suit your criteria.
Ideally, you should choose your applications based on what you like, and where you think you will thrive. However, if there is an area of your application that is less strong (eg. UCAT score or GCSE grades) then think about your likelihood of getting in and whether you should choose another medical school which places a lower weighting on this area.
Our best selling guidebook, which is used by career advisers in 100s of schools in the UK, can definitely help you understand which schools you may have the best chances in. This is the best and cheapest way to make a smart strategic choice in your school selection. If you are still not sure where you chances may be best and you would like personalise help from Dr Jiva, then you can book a session with her and she will go through your application to help you see and recommend where you have the best chances of admission.
Prepare for your interview
Interviews typically occur from November to April, with invites being sent as early as Mid October. Different med schools adopt different interview styles as part of their application process. The main methods are:
- MMI Circuits (Multiple mini interview) - this involves a number of different stations assessing different parts of your personality and skills. These may be role plays, ethical dilemmas, personal statement reviews and testing your motivation for medicine.
- Panel interview - this usually involves you and a few doctors/ academics who will ask questions about your application. The questions can be based around your personal statement, your motivation for studying at the university, ethics and other common medical school interview questions.
Your medical school offers will be sent out by the end of April, and you must submit your choices in May. After this, work hard to meet your offer grades and hopefully the next stage will be to start your medical school in September!
We hope that you have found this post useful and don't hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or need further advice.
Learn more about getting into medical school: