6th August 14
One of our blog posts from way back in 2012 that always generates a lot of questions, is the ” Want to be a Doctor?” post. Many of you have written in with a number of really good questions, so we thought it would be a good idea to gather them all together and answer as many as we could.
So here we go:
1. What A Levels should I take?
Easily the most popular question, so let’s start here. Most Medical Schools around the country require to have at least three A grades at A Level. We say ‘at least’ because it is not unusual for applicants to have four. Medicine is rooted firmly in the sciences so a combination of two or three of the traditional science subjects Biology, Chemistry and Physics is necessary. Chemistry is nearly always a mandatory subject. Maths and Further Maths are also highly recommended.
It’s not just great grades at A Levels that will help you out either, medical universities also like their students to have good GCSEs. Students with a healthy number of A*s and As in subjects like English Language, Maths and the sciences are preferred. If you haven’t got fantastic GCSEs, don’t panic, you’ll just have to work harder at A Level and do some more medical related extra-curricular activities to impress.
2. What are the BMAT and UKCAT?
These are both extra admissions tests that some universities require you to take before they will grant you a place at their institutions. Let’s look at each separately.
The BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) is a subject-specific admissions test that students applying for medical degrees sit. It is a two hour written exam consisting of three sections – Aptitude and Skills, Scientific Knowledge and Applications, and a writing task. You cannot do a lot of revision for it as it tests skills and knowledge that applicants should already have. Have a look here for more details.
The UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) is used by universities as part of the selection process to help them choose the best students from the high level of applicants they get each year. Once again, it’s very hard to revise for this test as it assesses a wide range of mental abilities and behavioural attributes which are thought to be vital for people entering the medical profession. While you can’t study for it per se, it is advised that you have a look at some past papers to get a feeling what you are going to be coming up against. You can find out more and some past papers on the UKCAT website.
3. Which universities require the MBAT / UKCAT?
This list changes every year. You should contact any universities you are applying for an find out if they require you take the tests.
4. There is a deadline for applying for a medical degree isn’t there?
Yes there is. This year it is October 15 2014. This is much earlier than non-medicine courses, so get your skates on. UCAS have a list of all available medical degree available in the UK, as well as their minimum entry requirements. You should also look at their website and visit the websites of any universities you are planning to apply to for more details. Each will have different entry requirements, and there are too many to list here, you’re going to have find out for yourself
5. A lot of my friends are getting work experience, do I need to?
It’s not mandatory to have some work experience, but it is a good idea to get as much as you can, for a few good reasons. Firstly, by getting some work experience under your belt, you will know if medicine is the right choice for you. A lot of people do medicine because they excel at science at school, only to find that being a doctor is not really for them. A medical degree is long, expensive and a lot of hard work, and it is not just about science, it is about people. Secondly, some work experience is a great thing to put on your personal statement. It will give you something to talk about at your interview as well. Medicine requires dedication, initiative, hard work, perseverance, integrity and care for others, and an applicant who has had some work experience is halfway to showing a university they have what it takes to go all the way.
6. How do I go about getting some, do I just call up?
Yes, often that’s the best way of going about it, especially if you are applying to a hospital or a big surgery. Ask for the Human Resources department. If you are contacting a smaller organisation you should ask for the Manager. You shouldn’t be too proud about accepting position either. Work experience is very rare in the medical profession, so if you are offered something and it is not quite what you were expecting, be careful before rejecting it.
7. How important is my personal statement?
A personal statement for a student applying to do medicine is probably more important than a lot of other subjects. Competition for places is fierce, so you will need to stand out from the crowd a bit. You need to try and be as imaginative as possible, all the while staying focussed on the goal of getting your place. Start writing your personal statement early, this will give you a chance to hone it to perfection. You will need to talk about why you want to study medicine, what inspires you, what work experience you have, what you plan to do, and why you want to study at their university.
Because so many of you asked about this, we are going to do a post about writing a personal statement for medicine.
Watch this space!
8. Are there any books I can read to prepare me for a Medical Degree?
Yes. Loads. Here’s some to get you started:
Getting into Medical School – Simon Horner