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Medical student exhausted after writing UCAT exam

UCAT done? Time to rest?

Yes, but unfortunately no!

The medical school application process can be a tiring one and can feel quite overwhelming to undertake. At Future Doc we make this easier through guiding you through the various stages and personalising your preparation to your strengths and weaknesses.

Here are a few things you can begin to get on with after finishing your UCAT exam:

  1. If you didn’t do as well as hoped at the UCAT there are still a few things you can start to consider. Firstly, compile a list of universities with foundation or gateway programmes that may have lowered requirements for UCAT. Our Future Doc programmes can help with this, as our tutors have in-depth knowledge of how to apply tactically with your score. Our recent blog article covers in depth which medical schools will still consider lower UCAT scores, which can be a good source to look into. It is also worth considering whether you have any widening participation or other eligibility criteria for certain specific foundation year programmes. Furthermore, you can consider resetting and taking the BMAT examination. This opens up another 8 possibilities with regards to medical schools you can apply to, and as a different examination may play to your strengths more than the UCAT.

  2. Get working on your personal statement - or as of 2023, question-specific answers. Whilst it may feel like a long time, it truly flies during application season so making a head start on this content as soon as possible can be a good move. If you haven’t already, start drafting and if you have, start perfecting. Remember to use the GMC’s core values and attributes document, linking each activity you talk about with skills and reflection, rather than being descriptive. Also try to always link your points back to why this is important for a good doctor, or how it would make you a good doctor. On our Future Doc tutoring programmes you receive consistent tailored feedback from your tutor on your writing and how to improve it to ensure you secure an interview. It is very important to ‘interview-proof’ your personal statement - since personal statements or question answers will predominantly be used at interview it is important to know your content well, be able to expand on various anecdotes and experiences, and to demonstrate an understanding of why your experiences have made you the best candidate for that medical school place.

  3. If you are applying to a mix of universities which requires you to also be taking the BMAT - start to prepare! Unfortunately you will be going from one exam to another. Studying for the BMAT will be a very different undertaking to the UCAT examination. Whilst the UCAT is designed to test pure ‘aptitude’ the BMAT also looks to test knowledge in some foundational areas for medicine. To achieve a competitive BMAT score 4-6 weeks of revision is recommended. Beginning with reading the test specification can be a good start to gain an overview of the examination, followed by revising section 1 similar to how you studied for the UCAT but using the official revision guide on the BMAT website to study for section 2. It is also key to use the official practice materials and papers to identify and work on weaker areas. For the essay section it is good to practice coming up with points for various titles and considering what you would write - it is important here to give a balanced perspective and a firm conclusion. Similar to the UCAT ensure you are practicing to appropriate timings for each section.

  4. Start thinking about tactical applications. You will know your UCAT result as soon as you take the test, and can use previous years cutoffs and scores to see roughly where you fall in terms of percentile. Through this you can get a good idea of where you can or cannot apply to with your score. Creating a spreadsheet and being organised with this can help your application - writing up the requirements of the different universities you are considering, their strengths and weaknesses, how well your scores and grades fit their requirements and your chances of getting in. Since the UK system only allows you to apply to 4 medical schools, it is important to be quite careful with maximising your chances with these. Understanding which universities you have the best chances of getting into is key and support from Future Doc tutors can be really helpful here. Within the 4 choices it can be helpful to structure similar to the American college application - no more than 1 that is a ‘reach’ to get into with your statistics, 2 which match your grades and UCAT, and 1 which is a ‘safety’ or where you have an easier shot at getting in.

  5. Annotate your question answers - start to think about what kind of anecdotes you can use from your work experience if asked at interview and start to think about how exactly you will structure your answers if asked an ethics question. Whilst it may seem premature, creating mind-maps of your experiences and anecdotes and linking them to skills to talk about can really help your progress during interview season. Try to see which points they could pick out from your answers or statement, and how you could answer those. Highlighting important areas within your answers which align with specific skills or qualities that the specific medical schools are looking for can help you to almost predict which areas they are more likely to focus on at interview if your answers are used. The entry requirements pages for different medical schools will often state different skills or qualities that they are particularly looking for in successful candidates.

  6. Keep up to date with medical news and affairs. Now that the UCAT is over you can start incorporating reading medical and scientific current affairs in preparation for the rest of the application cycle. Try to do this on a weekly basis, carving out a little time to browse over what has been happening, but also thinking critically and formulating your own opinions about it. Current affairs are a common area to be asked about and an easy one to be prepared to tackle, by thinking about the pros and cons of various ethical issues, considering a balanced perspective and aiming to reach a conclusion after some research. Thinking critically about the articles you read, analysing why they may or may not be biased or if the information is correct, what sources they are using, and more can help develop your mindset for critical reasoning and lateral thinking, as well as providing a foundation for practicing evidence-based medicine.

  7. Finally and most importantly - keep working hard at school/uni! If you get a conditional offer this will stand you in good stead to meet it which is the last hurdle to getting to medical school and on your way to becoming a doctor. Focusing on your A-level grades, or if a graduate applicant on securing an appropriate degree classification, will be the very last hurdle in the pathway to applying to and entering medical school successfully. It can be difficult to start revising for exams only after your interviews finish as this can be all the way up to April of your application year. This is why it is best to start structuring your revision from the very start, and build in time for the medical school application processes that you need to do - crucially this also builds much-needed time management skills which will be extremely helpful to have whilst at medical school and beyond.

Whilst it is important to take a breather and celebrate finishing this all-important exam, it can also be useful to use the time to make a head-start on getting things ready for the next stages of the process - and you can find more about this on our Future Doc website and blogs.

Written by Catherine Dominic