Places to study at medical schools in the UK are highly sought after, by both domestic and international students, and require a great degree of commitment from prospective applicants. Understanding just what medical school involves can really help you decide whether it’s right for you and, once you’re sure it is, give you the very best chance of securing a place at the school of your choice. You can also download our Applying to Medical school guide as a PDF.
Jump to sections:
- What are the best Universities for Medicine in the UK?
- Does it matter which Medical School you go to?
- How hard is it to get into Medical School in the UK?
- What are the GCSE and A Level requirements to study medicine?
- How do I choose a medical school?
- How do I prepare an effective personal statement?
- What are the UCAT and BMAT?
- How important is work experience?
- Medical school interviews
In our latest Keystone Insights video, Ed Richardson (our Director of Education) and Harriet Blomefield (Keystone's Education Consultant) discuss the BMAT and UCAT.
Does it matter which Medical School you go to?
There are two different ways to think about this.
One perspective is that broadly speaking, it doesn’t matter which UK medical school you go to - they are all highly rated and will all qualify you to pursue a career in medicine.
The other perspective is that there’s a range of factors that will make different medical schools more or less of a good fit with you and your future career ambitions. Medical schools teach medicine differently, ranging from ‘Traditional’ courses, which split into pre-clinical and clinical sections, through to ‘Integrated’ courses where clinical work is part of the course from the beginning. There are also Case-Based Learning (CBL), and Problem-Based Learning courses (PBL). You may find some of these different approaches more appealing and likely to suit your learning needs than others, so understanding which medical schools use which approach is a vital step.
How hard is it to get into Medical School in the UK?
The short answer is it’s hard!
There were just under 24,000 applications for places to study at medical school in the UK in 2020, of which just over 5,000 were from international students. For context, there are around 6,700 places available at medical schools in the UK, guaranteeing a high level of competition from very well qualified candidates for each and every place.
What are the GCSE and A Level requirements to study medicine?
GCSE English and Maths are normally required, as are Science subjects like Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. At A Level the subjects required vary between medical schools, but Biology and Chemistry are often required, with Physics, Maths, and Further Maths also key for many Schools. In terms of the grades required for these subjects, the minimum requirements are normally extremely high, with straight A-grades or equivalent being the typical benchmark.
How do I choose a medical school?
As mentioned above, student testimonials, open days, and online research are great ways to whittle down to a shortlist of medical schools that match your requirements. Given the stiff competition for places, it’s not wise to set your sights on only one School - so you should decide on a shortlist of four that suit your needs (the maximum number of medical schools you are allowed to apply to via UCAS).
How do I prepare an effective personal statement?
Your personal statement is a key tool for signalling your commitment to and suitability for a place at a UK medical school. You should ideally look to draw on a broad range of work experience undertaken in advance of applying, to illustrate what you have learned about the medical profession and your own motivations for wanting to enter it. A personal statement is a good chance to differentiate yourself in advance of what are sure to be challenging application interviews. On the topic of interviews, remember that these can vary enormously between medical schools, with some involving multiple interviews or even group interviews - so use your personal statement to give your interviewers some pointers on the kinds of question they may wish to ask to fully understand your personality and potential.
Remember, you’re only able to submit the same personal statement for all of your five allocated applications via UCAS, of which only four can be to medical schools, so your personal statement should also be suitable for whichever course you select for your fifth application!
What are the UCAT and BMAT?
The University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) is used by a wide range of UK, Australian, and New Zealand medical schools as part of their admissions process for Medicine and Dentistry courses. The UCAT has sections on Quantitative Reasoning, Abstract Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, Decision Making, and Situational Judgment, all of which are designed to assess the aptitude of a candidate to succeed in studying Medicine or Dentistry, rather than their academic capabilities. The tests are taken in Pearson Vue centres, with no materials allowed to be brought into the test centres by the candidates, and tests take place in the summer each year.
The BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) is an alternate exam used for the same purposes by Oxford, Cambridge, Brighton, Imperial, Lancaster, Leeds, Manchester, Keele and UCL, as well as by Nanyang Technological University in Singapore and other universities in Europe and Asia. Developed by Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing, the BMAT is a 2 hour examination consisting of the following sections: Aptitude and Skills, Scientific Knowledge and Applications, and a Writing Task. Tests take place in February, May, late August/early September, and late October/early November.
Keystone has a range of specialist tutors who can assist students approaching university aptitude tests for medical school and help you prepare for the UCAT and BMAT tests via online or in-person tuition.
How important is work experience?
Relevant work experience is an essential part of demonstrating your suitability to study Medicine. It’s proof of your commitment to and passion for the subject, as well as being evidence that you have some awareness of the challenges involved in putting medical knowledge into practice. The understanding you gain from your work experience helps to differentiate you from other, equally well-qualified students.
There are plenty of different options available for gaining work experience, and you should look to undertake a wide range of placements to help ensure you gain a broad understanding of medicine in different contexts. You could shadow a General Practitioner or another medical professional - but there are also other ways to gain valuable experience. You could work in a retirement home or hospice, and see what medical care is like for older or terminally ill patients. You could work in a pharmacy, and gain a better understanding of their role. Healthcare is a varied area of activity, and understanding how medical knowledge is applied across a range of different settings will stand you in good stead.
Medical school interviews
Medical school interviews vary a great deal from school to school. In general there are three types of interview:
‘traditional’ interviews, with a single interviewer or panel who will assess your suitability
group interviews, where in addition to the ‘traditional’ interview above, you will be asked to discuss a specific topic with a group of fellow applicants
multiple mini interviews, where you will undertake a series of shorter interviews or scenarios assessing you on a particular quality or attribute.
It’s important to read up on the particular approach taken by the schools you have applied to, and to prepare accordingly!