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undergrad medicine applicant

So, you've decided to apply for medicine, congratulations on making your first steps towards a greatly fulfilling career! As you probably already know, it has never been more competitive to get into medical school. Future Doc has a whole host of resources to help support your application to ensure you succeed in your efforts – check out our blog for weekly posts!

There are several hoops to jump through during the process of applying to medical school. While most applicants have good grades at both GCSE and A-level this is unfortunately no longer enough to guarantee a place at medical school. This article will outline a few ways in which to make your application stand out from the crowd, at every stage in the application process

  1. Admissions tests! – UCAT, BMAT

Starting off with these pesky admissions tests, high marks here are paramount to securing yourself those all-important interviews where you can truly shine.

As with all aspects of a career in medicine, time management and clever prioritisation of tasks are key here – while the UCAT Is traditionally sat during the summer between year 12 and year 13 without other examinations to worry about in the interim, the BMAT generally sits at the beginning of the new academic year. In most cases you won't need to sit both – universities generally just want one or the other, however sitting both exams can increase your chances of getting a place at medical schools, as it allows you to select your universities from a larger pool.

You generally get your UCAT results back straight away – if you didn't get the score you were hoping for, do not worry! You still have the chance to sit the BMAT a few months down the line.

In terms of numbers, the UCAT normally has an average score of around 2570-2640. Aiming for a higher score of 2800+, as well as at least a Band 2 in the SJT portion of the exam, will give you the best chance of having a competitive score that will almost certainly guarantee you an interview. For the BMAT (which is scored on a scale of 1.0-9.0, 9.0 being the highest), each BMAT university has its own cutoff score, with Oxbridge generally only accepting students with a BMAT of 6.0+, while Imperial and UCL historically have a cut off score of around 4.8. While this is university dependent, successful candidates generally have a score of 6.0 and above!

  1. GCSEs, A-Levels and selecting universities that are right for you.

Once you are past the UCAT and/or BMAT stage, your GCSEs (which you'll already have sat) and A-Level grades come in to play – these are looked at slightly differently in application processes at different universities. It is important to do your research pick out which universities' admissions processes work for you.

For example, some universities don't look at your GCSE results at all, while other universities rely heavily on your personal statement when deciding on whether to select you for interviews.This FutureDoc resource is an excellent guide to help making the process of selecting your universities much easier for you. It's easier to stand out when you already tick all the boxes a university is looking for! You can learn how to play to your strengths by reading our article onHow to Apply Tactically to UK Medical School here.

  1. Work experience, your personal statement, and interviews!

These are the parts of the application process that allow you to display your best qualities outside of scoring systems and your grades! Work experience and volunteering are easily the most important aspect of this phase of the application process, so send out those applications and emails to your GP practices and local hospitals early! The more exposure you have, the more you'll have to say during interviews, which makes your life so much easier! If you're stuck, this up-to-date video is a great resource where Dr Ashley Hilton clearly outlines everything work experience related - watch ithere .

Once you've got the work experience, knowing how to utilise it to get those medical school offers will really make you stand out. There will be situations where you'll see doctors in particularly stressful situations, or where something they've said or done has really stuck with you – make note of these! It's great to have a few reusable stories up your sleeve to pull from when giving examples of experience in your interviews!

Here are a few examples of things that would help you shine in both your personal statement and in your interviews:

  • SHOW INSIGHT - Showing appreciation for what a career in medicine is like through your personal experiences – for example, being able to appreciate the challenges of a career in medicine, and contrast them with the overwhelming positives. A good way to show this would be to say something along the lines of; "my time on work experience in the emergency department clearly illustrated the pressures on the NHS as a whole, and I got a first hand experience of the intense stress felt by many of the doctors during the busiest hours of the work-day. This however was contrasted greatly by the level of job satisfaction it was clear a majority of the HCPs felt, as many of the patients that came in acutely unwell were managed promptly and effectively, and were very grateful to the doctors, nurses and other HCPs for their hard work".
  • DEDICATION - Accessing as much clinical time as possible as a student on work experience is paramount to making you stand out as a medical applicant. Universities are looking for candidates who are both dedicated towards and passionate about a career in medicine, as well as being high academic achievers. The absolute best way to show this is by having something to talk about in both your personal statement and your interview, and having numerous experiences makes your life a bit easier when you get to the interview stage
  • AVOID CLICHES - During both the interview and personal statement stages of the application process, it can be easy to slip into answering important questions with cliches along the lines of 'i've always known I wanted to do medicine', it is always much more beneficial to give your answer to a question like 'Why do you want to do medicine' with an example based on your own lived experiences: e.g. while on work experience in palliative care, I was inspired by some of the doctors on the ward. They did a remarkable job of treating the presenting condition as well as taking a holistic approach to the situation, and taking the time to ease families through difficult conversations surrounding their loved ones' care.
  • Think about finding your niche – this doesn't mean that you must settle on a specific specialty before your medical career even begins. This simply needs to be an aspect of the world of medicine that you care about. Good examples could be ;
    • Education; talk about past tutoring experiences, or how you might want to contribute to medical education while at medical school)
    • Research – talk about research-based projects you may have done already, for example, an EPQ, and then relate this to how you might use these skills in your medical career
  • In your interview - first impressions MATTER - an interviewer will often subconsciously form an opinion on you without you needing to say much. Your general demeanour and level of confidence throughout the interview will go a LONG way. This includes simple factors such as dressing appropriately, sitting up straight, maintaining eye contact, and smiling at your interviewers.

Every stage of the medical school application process certainly has its challenges, specifically the personal statement and interview stages. The FutureDoc programme has plenty of resources to help support candidates at each stage of the process, as well as 1-to-1 mentoring with our Elite Programme! Finally, best of luck with your applications!

Written by Mariam Dean