Students applying for places at medical schools in the UK need to be aware that a medicine application differs from most UCAS applications in a number of important areas: early deadlines, number of choices, entry tests, competitiveness, interviews, work experience, degrees awarded, funding and costs, course length, personal statement, type of course, intercalation etc.
This is the first in a series of blogs looking at these factors, how they impact on students and the preparation needed to make a competitive application.
In contrast to most applications (which have a deadline for home students of 15 January), medicine applications have to be sent to UCAS by 15 October (along with Dentistry, Veterinary and Oxford and Cambridge applications). This means that medicine applicants must be ahead of the game, be organised and start writing the personal statement early.
Number of UCAS choices
Instead of the normal 5 course choices, medicine applicants are only allowed to apply to 4 medicine places on their UCAS form. The fifth choice can be for a backup course, usually in a related subject. Most students choose to add this insurance choice option – even if they later reject an offer made for this alternative course.
Nearly all medical degrees use an additional admissions test as part of their entry requirements. There are 2 tests for undergraduate medicine courses and applicants can sit either or both, depending on which medical schools they intend to apply to. This is in contrast to the majority of UCAS applications, which do not require additional entry tests.
UCAT – an online test used by 26 Medical Schools. Applicants must register and sit the UCAT before the UCAS application is made, giving details of the scores on the application. This means that students have a good idea of how well they have done in the test before applying and should use this knowledge to influence their choice of medical schools.
BMAT – a ‘paper and pencil’ test used by 5 Medical Schools. Applicants must register for the BMAT before they send off their UCAS application but the actual test is taken after this at the beginning of November. The score is then sent automatically to the relevant medical schools. In other words, students apply not knowing how well they have done and should consider carefully the number of medical schools requiring BMAT that they include in their application.
Competitiveness by numbers of applicants
The number of students applying to UK Medical Schools far exceeds the number of places, with more than 17 UK/EU students and more than 40 international students applying for each undergraduate place at some universities. In contrast to most UK courses (where the number of students that can be admitted to courses is determined by each university), the number of home/EU medical students is set by the UK Government. The number of international students is also regulated, with most UK Medical Schools being allowed to take only a small number (7.5% of the total). However, there have been recent developments of interest to international applicants in that:
The University of Central Lancashire, UCLAN’s MBBS programme only accepts international students.
The majority of places at Aston University’s Medical School are reserved for international fee paying students.
The University of Buckingham’s Medical School has no cap on international student places.
Competitiveness by grades
Entry to Medical School is also highly competitive in terms of grades. Students will need a minimum of 3 A-levels (or equivalent) at grades AAA minimum (with 8 standard entry medicine courses quoting at least 1 A* grade for 2017 entry).
This is different to most subject choices simply because it is not possible to ‘shop’ around for courses that offer a range of entry grades. Applicants will need predicted grades that match or exceed the quoted entry requirements.
Competitiveness by subjects
Many university courses are flexible over the subjects that a student must have already studied whilst at school in order to be accepted onto the course. For medicine this is much more restrictive. The primary subjects that are required are Chemistry and Biology and many prospective medical students take a third or fourth A-level science, either Physics and/or Mathematics. Some Medical Schools have a preference for a contrasting subject e.g., a language, an art or a social science subject so it is therefore important to study the course requirements of each university you wish to apply to.
These are just a few of the basics of a medicine application. Success will depend upon the effort a student is prepared to put into an application, the depth of research and the dedication demonstrated through work experience and volunteering. For individual advice and guidance on your medicine application speak to a member of the UKSO team.