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Medicine entry requirements – five key things to know

Getting a place to study medicine is tough. Here we find out more about the entry requirements, how to ace your personal statement and what to expect from an interview...

There are steps you can take to give yourself the best chance of successfully bagging a place on a Medicine degree. It all boils down to five key issues...

1. Grades and subjects

Firstly, your GCSE grades matter when you're applying for a degree in medicine. The admissions department will assess how you did in key GCSEs such as English, maths and sciences (double science or the single sciences).

For your A-levels, you'll typically need to have taken chemistry and biology as two of your three subjcts. Some places will also ask for a third science subject while others might welcome a contrasting subject these are things like English, history or a language.

Check each university website carefully including the FAQs and admissions policy documents to see what qualifications and grades they're asking for – don't waste a choice if they don't match up.

2. Tests

Almost all medical schools require you to take a pre-admissions test: either Bmat or, more commonly, Ucat.  TIP: Aim to have done the Ucat by mid-September as you receive your score immediately and that will enable you to decide, tactically, if you should apply for more Ucat institutions or go for one or two Bmat universities. Remember: each medical school uses the test scores for Bmat or Ucat in slightly different ways.

3. Work experience

Most medical schools will look at your relevant work experience as part of your personal statement, although the type of experience they require will vary depending on the individual institution.  

As a general rule, they will likely expect you to have gained an understanding of what a career in a caring profession involves. You can get such experience, either paid or voluntary, in a range of healthcare settings – as well as seeing if you can get work experience with a GP or at an NHS hospital, other ideas you could consider include working in a care home, working with young children or gaining a first aid qualification and using this in a practical setting. 

The main thing is to ensure you reflect on what you learnt from your experience in your medicine Ucas personal statement.

4. Personal statement

This is where you need to demonstrate your suitability for the course and try to stand out from the crowd. How medical schools use personal statements (and references) also varies considerably. For the majority, it remains an important element in your application so make sure you get it right. 
  • Write about any care-related experiences and what you learnt from them.
  • Reflect on your reading / research about current medical or ethical issues (look at the BBC website, newspapers, BMJ website and so on for inspiration).
  • Outline experiences which have involved teamwork, creativity, leadership, responsibility, problem solving etc and again say what you learnt about yourself and how you demonstrated these qualities.
  • Emphasise your commitment to and interest in medicine and caring for people evidence this through your reading, passion for science and relevant work experiences.
  • Read more: how to write an excellent personal statement in ten steps

5. Interviews

If you receive an interview you need to prepare well for this final challenge. Many interviews are in multiple–mini interview (MMI) style. In these, you face several different 'stations', at which you will face a new scenario or topic, which may only last five minutes. There might be an ethical issue to discuss, a problem to solve, some data to interpret or a real life situation to simulate. You'll be assessed at each station. 

A small number of medical schools still use the more traditional interview but the message regarding your preparation is the same know your personal statement well, read up on current NHS and ethical issues and use student forums, such as the dedicated forums for medicine and medical schools on our sister site The Student Room, and relevant medical school websites to research the kinds of questions or scenarios which come up.

Medicine course structure and teaching style

One final consideration there are significant differences between medical schools in how you are taught and assessed. 

There are six main approaches: traditional, integrated, problem-based learning (PBL), case-based learning (CBL), enquiry-based learning (EBL) and multi or inter-professional learning. Check out which approaches your preferred choices use and consider if this suits the way you enjoy learning.
  • Traditional: with this teaching style, you'll learn the scientific theory first and only move into a clinical setting after a few years. 
  • Integrated: most medical schools now use an inegrated approach, as recommended by the General Medical Council (GMC). An integrated Medicine course will teach scientific knowledge alongside clinical training. Students learn by topic rather than by medical discipline, so for example if you were learning the circulatory system you would cover the anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology and pathology of it at the same time. Teaching methods within an integrated approach can include PBL, CBL and EBL as below, 
  • Problem-based learning: this is a patient-focused approach, with students seeing patients from the outset and working on medical cases in groups. Facilitators play a minimal role in this style of learning but most medical schools in the UK wouldn't take a purely PBL approach, instead using it alongside tutor input, lectures and seminars. 
  • Case-based learning: for CBL, students are put into small groups to work on virtual cases that are designed to stir up discussion around a particular area. 
  • Enquiry-based learning: this is very similar to PBL. Students are asked questions or given particular problems or scenarios to get them thinking, rather than being presented with facts. 
  • Multi or inter-professional learning: in multi-professional learning, two or more professions learn the same topics alongside each other. Inter-professional learning focuses on how professionals work together as well as the actual course content.
  • Read more: our Medicine degree guide reveals what to expect from your studies 

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