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For those who are studying medicine/doctors already, need a bit of insight..

Hi guys,

I have always aspired to be a doctor since young. I didn't take school too seriously but never failed anything either (considering I didn't revise and didn't focus much I'm quite surprised), although my grades were average

I'm in my early mid twenties now, and I feel like life is flying through like a breeze. I don't want to be doing unskilled jobs all my life like I am currently and was thinking of maybe going back into medicine.

I need to re-do my Maths and English GCSE's again (looking for an A-B grade atleast, I got C). Then in 2023 I will apply for a UCAT and do an access to medicine course, and try and apply for medical university in that time for a 2024 entry.

The issue is, I have doubt about my own academic capabilities. I struggle thinking of the top of my head, for example I struggle to do mental maths methodically, so I'm not the quickest thinker. I also seem to have a very easy burn out, i.e I cannot work long periods of time, not to mention I have an awful memory at times. I also have to relearn sciences so that I'm not totally alien to the access course in 2023 which seems like a huge burden

To be fair I haven't tested myself to the fullest, yet I have doubt in myself, I'm not looking for a soft approach like dont worry you can do it!! What I'm looking for is a realistic answer, how would someone like me fare in medical school?

I've met pre-med students and stuff, they seem self assured and confident in their own abilities, plus they have a clear and organised method to life, I do not.. I would like some advice if possible.
Hey there, thanks for posting a question in the Medicine forum. :biggrin:

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thank you
Original post by unknown9472
Hi guys,

I have always aspired to be a doctor since young. I didn't take school too seriously but never failed anything either (considering I didn't revise and didn't focus much I'm quite surprised), although my grades were average

I'm in my early mid twenties now, and I feel like life is flying through like a breeze. I don't want to be doing unskilled jobs all my life like I am currently and was thinking of maybe going back into medicine.

I need to re-do my Maths and English GCSE's again (looking for an A-B grade atleast, I got C). Then in 2023 I will apply for a UCAT and do an access to medicine course, and try and apply for medical university in that time for a 2024 entry.

The issue is, I have doubt about my own academic capabilities. I struggle thinking of the top of my head, for example I struggle to do mental maths methodically, so I'm not the quickest thinker. I also seem to have a very easy burn out, i.e I cannot work long periods of time, not to mention I have an awful memory at times. I also have to relearn sciences so that I'm not totally alien to the access course in 2023 which seems like a huge burden

To be fair I haven't tested myself to the fullest, yet I have doubt in myself, I'm not looking for a soft approach like dont worry you can do it!! What I'm looking for is a realistic answer, how would someone like me fare in medical school?

I've met pre-med students and stuff, they seem self assured and confident in their own abilities, plus they have a clear and organised method to life, I do not.. I would like some advice if possible.

What school leaver medicine applicants are like is immaterial. I imagine thinking on your feet is part of the job but I doubt ability to do mental maths represents much in that regard? Memory is something to bear in mind because you will need to be taking unseen exams throughout your medical career (not just in medical school but also after) so to a point that plays in, although in the day to day work I gather there are lots of resources to refer to if you are unsure (NICE guidelines etc) which you would probably be encouraged to use (not to mention I'm sure no medic remembers every bit of trivia introduced in a medical degree at the drop of a hat, at least after a few years actually working as a medic...).

Being prone to burnout however may well be something to think about carefully - by all accounts medicine is a long slog, and the training doesn't stop when you get the degree. A lot of medics are experiencing burnout in the NHS (and in the private sector too even...) now so do consider if the actual training process through which you'd go after getting the degree is right for you. Some specialties may be better than others sooner or later in that scheme, but inevitably you will need to probably work a lot of long shifts, night shifts, challenging rotas etc, which combined with other factors does seem to make medicine the perfect storm for burning people out. Which is not to say not to do it but just, be aware of that - and make sure you are fully certain of that choice (as opposed to e.g. other roles in healthcare which may have less of that, although I gather it's really just the state of the NHS in general for everyone...).

In terms of actually applying, you only need to retake English and Maths GCSE if they don't meet the minimum grade requirements for the unis you are applying to - so check that first. It may be unnecessary. Also note that not all medical schools accept all Access to Medicine courses by all providers so you should check with the medical schools you may wish to apply to that they will accept the one you are looking at specifically, before starting it. Beyond that note that work experience and your reflections on it will be important - I think the above post links to some helpful guidance on that.

For the access course, they are normally designed for those returning to study after a break so I imagine they will be set up to support you in learning those topics from scratch (albeit I gather they're also pretty intensive so you need to keep up with the pacing of the course all the same). It's not like you need to self study all of the A-level sciences beforehand (that would defeat the purpose), although there might be some basic GCSE topics worth familiarising yourself with again (which the access course might be able to give you guidance on once accepted to it).
Original post by artful_lounger
What school leaver medicine applicants are like is immaterial. I imagine thinking on your feet is part of the job but I doubt ability to do mental maths represents much in that regard? Memory is something to bear in mind because you will need to be taking unseen exams throughout your medical career (not just in medical school but also after) so to a point that plays in, although in the day to day work I gather there are lots of resources to refer to if you are unsure (NICE guidelines etc) which you would probably be encouraged to use (not to mention I'm sure no medic remembers every bit of trivia introduced in a medical degree at the drop of a hat, at least after a few years actually working as a medic...).

Being prone to burnout however may well be something to think about carefully - by all accounts medicine is a long slog, and the training doesn't stop when you get the degree. A lot of medics are experiencing burnout in the NHS (and in the private sector too even...) now so do consider if the actual training process through which you'd go after getting the degree is right for you. Some specialties may be better than others sooner or later in that scheme, but inevitably you will need to probably work a lot of long shifts, night shifts, challenging rotas etc, which combined with other factors does seem to make medicine the perfect storm for burning people out. Which is not to say not to do it but just, be aware of that - and make sure you are fully certain of that choice (as opposed to e.g. other roles in healthcare which may have less of that, although I gather it's really just the state of the NHS in general for everyone...).

In terms of actually applying, you only need to retake English and Maths GCSE if they don't meet the minimum grade requirements for the unis you are applying to - so check that first. It may be unnecessary. Also note that not all medical schools accept all Access to Medicine courses by all providers so you should check with the medical schools you may wish to apply to that they will accept the one you are looking at specifically, before starting it. Beyond that note that work experience and your reflections on it will be important - I think the above post links to some helpful guidance on that.

For the access course, they are normally designed for those returning to study after a break so I imagine they will be set up to support you in learning those topics from scratch (albeit I gather they're also pretty intensive so you need to keep up with the pacing of the course all the same). It's not like you need to self study all of the A-level sciences beforehand (that would defeat the purpose), although there might be some basic GCSE topics worth familiarising yourself with again (which the access course might be able to give you guidance on once accepted to it).


Thanks for the insight, I'll keep you comments on board!
Original post by unknown9472
Hi guys,

I have always aspired to be a doctor since young. I didn't take school too seriously but never failed anything either (considering I didn't revise and didn't focus much I'm quite surprised), although my grades were average

I'm in my early mid twenties now, and I feel like life is flying through like a breeze. I don't want to be doing unskilled jobs all my life like I am currently and was thinking of maybe going back into medicine.

I need to re-do my Maths and English GCSE's again (looking for an A-B grade atleast, I got C). Then in 2023 I will apply for a UCAT and do an access to medicine course, and try and apply for medical university in that time for a 2024 entry.

The issue is, I have doubt about my own academic capabilities. I struggle thinking of the top of my head, for example I struggle to do mental maths methodically, so I'm not the quickest thinker. I also seem to have a very easy burn out, i.e I cannot work long periods of time, not to mention I have an awful memory at times. I also have to relearn sciences so that I'm not totally alien to the access course in 2023 which seems like a huge burden

To be fair I haven't tested myself to the fullest, yet I have doubt in myself, I'm not looking for a soft approach like dont worry you can do it!! What I'm looking for is a realistic answer, how would someone like me fare in medical school?

I've met pre-med students and stuff, they seem self assured and confident in their own abilities, plus they have a clear and organised method to life, I do not.. I would like some advice if possible.


It's probably a bit premature to be doubting your academic abilities because, as you've said, it sounds like you've not really tested them to their full extent in many years.

Studying is a skill like anything else and it's natural to experience a steep learning curve at first if it's something you've not spent that much time on before.

If you can get the required GCSE grades, do well in the UCAT, and complete your access course then you're in as good a position as anyone else. It doesn't matter what happened before.

How would someone like you fare at medical school? Well if you've got into medical school that is an excellent sign that you're going to complete the course. Even if you don't get an offer, that is more likely to be due to other factors like competition rather than lack of academic capability on your part.
Hi there,
As other commenters have suggested, some of the skills you've listed there are pretty inconsequential to a career in medicine. Mental maths has little to no part in the capability of a doctor, as does how long they can study for- if they know the material, they know it.

I think a bigger part that will be more telling is your ability to understand the sciences. I found A Level Biology to be the most similar experience to studying medicine, as it required effort and organisation to understand the various concepts, as well as the concepts themselves being closely linked to some of the things I have studied.

As others have said, it's wise to continue on your current path, as there is no harm in having better GCSEs regardless of what you decide to do with them. It's also useful to keep an open mind regarding this career choice- medicine, while brilliant, absolutely isn't for everyone, and it's important to be cognizant of that before committing to a course that takes at least half a decade to complete.

I hope this helps- please let me know if I can provide any more information for you:smile:

John C
Y5 UEA Med Student
Medic Mind
Thank you all !

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