Medical application myth busting



There are many myths floating around about medical admissions, which are frequently asked about in the medicine forum. A number of the most common myths have been gathered together for quick reference, along with the facts of each.

Subject and Grade Myths


1. You must have maths to study medicine.
2. You need to have done Physics A Level.
3. You have to do Biology at A Level.
4. Doing all sciences at A Level gives you an advantage.
5. You need more than 3 A Levels.
6. You need to do Chemistry to A2.
7. That you can't apply to Oxford unless you have all As at AS.

have a look at this for the facts on which A levels are needed where.

8. You need 10A*s to study medicine.

GCSE requirements can be found here.

9. Having amazing grades means you should definitely get an offer.

- Loads of people have amazing grades but medicine is not just about the grades - it's about the person as well, so people with less good grades can make equally good if not better doctors.

10. You can't resit modules.

- Most medical schools don't mind if you resit individual modules during years 12 and 13 as long as you complete the A levels within 2 years.

11. If you don't get AAA at A level, you need to do a degree and try for graduate entry.

There are universities which will accept resit students (though some require you to have applied to them before and the majority need evidence of extenuating circumstances).

12. You need to have done a science degree to get into graduate medicine.

- Some courses require a science degree but there a fair number of others that will accept any degree.

13. You need to have a 1st to stand a chance of getting into graduate medicine.

- Most places ask for a 2:1 rather than a 1st.

14. Studying 3 sciences and maths is bad, because it makes it look like you lack versatility.

- Whilst UCL and Peninsula acknowledge they give a small amount of preference to those with a contrasting subject, this preference is very small, and no other university has any preference either way. I cannot stress enough, there is NO disadvantage to doing the 3 sciences and maths, so don't study a contrasting subject just because you feel you have to.

Work Experience and Personal Statement Myths


1. Quantity of work experience is better than quality (or quantity=quality).

- The reverse is in fact more true - it's about what you have learned from your work experience rather than how many weeks you've done.

2. That all the companies charging extortionate rates for interview/PS help must be good, otherwise they wouldn't charge so much.

- There are plenty of free resources out there for PS and interview help which are as good, if not better than the companies that charge you.

3. You have to go on MedSim/Medlink to get into medicine.
4. MedSim/Medlink will count as suitable work experience.

- Medsim/Medlink is definitely not required and doesn't give you a good enough idea about whether medicine is right for you to count as work experience.

5. Work experience has to be of a medical nature.
6. You need to shadow a doctor to get in.

- Universities understand that this sort of work experience is not accessible to all and make allowances for this. Volunteer work and work in a healthcare environment can be just as useful and you can learn a lot from it as well.

7. Listing obscure diseases in your PS sounds good.

- There's not much point talking about what diseases you learnt about during work experience as the aim of medical school is to teach you medicine. Listing obscure diseases also opens you up to awkward questioning at interview if you don't know enough about the diseases.

8. You need to do a sport/play an instrument at a high level.

- Not everyone who does these things will get an offer and equally, many people who haven't done these things will get an offer. The aim is to show you haven't spent all your time studying and that you are a well rounded student with life outside studying.

9. You have to have wanted to be a doctor since you were born.

- Definitely not needed - many medical students come to medicine through other degrees and from doing other things in their life where they haven't been focussed on wanting to do medicine for many years.

Myths about the Universities


1. There are medical universities that can be used as back ups.

- No medical school is particularly easy to get into so just apply to the ones you would be completely happy studying at for 5/6 years. You can "apply smart" however by using your strengths and ensuring you meet all the basic requirements. For example, if you have 8A*s+, Birmingham would be a 'safer' option than others though still not guarantees!

2. Any university is better than another for medicine e.g. Oxbridge is THE best.
3. The prestige of the university matters in medicine.

- All medical schools are regulated by the GMC and are required to meet certain standards - this means that none are particularly "better" than others. Choose the university that uses the teaching style that best suits you as this has a big impact on your happiness while studying.

4. Everyone who applies for universities like Oxbridge, UCL and Imperial are only doing it for the prestige.

- People have their own reasons for applying to specific places, it may be location, it may be how the course is taught, or in some cases it may be the name – however, you can't assume everyone has the same reasons for applying somewhere.

5. The universities talk to each other so that most applicants will only get one offer if successful.

- In the past, universities could see which other places you applied to, but now they have no way of knowing, and don't find out where you've got other decisions from. Admissions tutors are usually far too busy sorting through the masses of applicants to their university to be discussing individual candidates with other universities.

6. Southampton don't interview ever.

- They may interview for BM6 (6 yr course), borderline students, international students and mature non-graduates for the BM5 course.

7. There is a supplementary Oxford form and that Oxford will see your UMS grades.

- The supplementary form was abolished as from the 2009 admissions cycle and Oxford will not see your UMS.

8. Oxbridge are rubbish and turn out social rejects who know lots of science but can't talk to patients.

- There are 3 clinical years for you to practise talking to patients. Every university will inevitably turn out some social rejects.

9. People on PBL courses never get any lectures or seminars and have to do all the work themselves.

- Most (if not all) PBL courses have supporting lectures/seminars/tutorials to aid learning - you're not left on your own to learn everything

Applicant Tests and Interviews Myths


1. UKCAT does not need preparation/needs months of preparation.

- Some people find practising the questions and familiarising themselves with the format of the test to be extremely useful. However, the test is designed to be one where everyone is on an equal footing (ie. people who can afford help should be at no advantage to those who can't) and it is very difficult to revise specifically for it. However, having said that, everyone does prepare for it so not preparing would leave you disadvantaged.

2. You have to have taken all 3 sciences at A level to be any good at BMAT.

- the questions are set at GCSE science level (They state GCSE Level, however it does require greater understanding). Whilst having taken 3 sciences, maths and further maths is not a prerequisite to doing well on the BMAT, not having done these subjects might require extra reading over the summer, particularly for physics type questions which are often set above GCSE level. Similarly, the essay may require some more extra reading of newspapers and articles and practise if an essay subject is not done at A level.

3. You don't need to prepare for interviews.

- Considering the kind of people you are competing against, it would be rather silly to not prepare. You should do it, even if just a little to give yourself the best possible chance! When preparing, try not to over prepare as answers may then sound rehearsed.

4. That spending hours preparing for every question in an interview is better than being yourself and displaying your opinions.

- Some preparation is very helpful for interviews - thinking about the questions you may be asked and how you might answer them. However, over-preparation may be recognised and being yourself is more important than memorising the 'correct' answers to questions. More information on interviews can be found here and here.

5. It's a good idea to ask an in-depth question about an interviewers specialist area in a vain attempt to appear interested.

- This could very easily backfire on you and show how little you know about the specific topic you're asking about. Of course, the interviewer's specialist area happens to be an area of your interest, the fact that he/she is a specalist in that area should not put you off talking about it.

6. GAMSAT is impossible.

- Well obviously it isn't impossible if some people manage to do well in it. It is, however, supposed to be different to exams you may have done previously and for people used to finishing tests early and getting very high marks this may come as a rude shock.

General Medicine Myths


Doctors are well paid from the start.

-Not for a long time. Consultants and GPs do get well paid but in general, they work very hard for it. Make sure money isn't the overriding factor to why you're going into medicine.

Other Myths


1. Applying a couple of days before the UCAS deadline puts you at a disadvantage/Applying as early as possible means you have an advantage.

- In most cases, universities won't look at any forms until after the deadline. However, some universities such as Birmingham will, and hence, sending in your UCAS form early does put you at an advantage for some universities. This is especially true as Birmingham was initially interviewing those with 7A*s but later on in the cycle, upped the requirement to 8 A*s. I would recommend sending in your UCAS form as early as possible.

2. Your teachers/tutors know all about the medical applications process i.e. everything they say is accurate.

- A lot of tutors only have a handful of students applying for medicine each year and the information they may have can be out-of-date or just plain incorrect.

3. You should never have any doubts about your ability or your desire to do medicine whilst you're applying. 

-Having a moment of doubt/cold feet is perfectly normal. It's not something that you can go into lightly, so it's okay to worry a little.

4. If you don't get the grades the first time round, GEP is the way to go.

- In order to apply for GEP, you need to complete a degree first and get at least a 2:i (for most medical schools). This is not an easy route to take as you'll be doing a subject that you're not necessarily passionate about, and it can be difficult to motivate yourself in this situation. Don't forget that you can usually only get student loans for your first degree, so going the GEP route is also very expensive and by the time you complete the first degree, tuition fees may have risen a long way.