Medicine applications further reading

(don't feel you have to go out and buy all these, they're just suggestions):

Learning Medicine: How to become and remain a good doctor

[1] (Peter Richards, Cambridge University Press)


Getting Into Medical School

[2] (Simon Horner, Trotman)


Vas876 - This book is quite a good starting point, it contains some information about the basic structure of the medicine application process. It can be used as a foundation for future research. But if you can get an old copy (2008,2009,2010) from the library just to read once, they hardly change year to year (just the entry requirements of the unis change the content of the book is mostly the same)

So you want to be a doctor?

[3] (Adrian Blundell, BMJ Books)


Vertigo.0012 : This is quite a good book, covering topics from the application process to careers once you finish medical school. Whilst a lot of the stuff early on in the book about applying could easily be found elsewhere, the later chapters about life at medical school are actually rather interesting and there is a fair bit of detail. There is a substantial chapter on writing a personal statement, and covers things like gap years, intercalated degrees, the medical elective and career paths of a medic. It is very well written (by the people who run Premed at Imperial College London if anyone's bothered :) ) and includes personal accounts at the end of each chapter. In conclusion, this is definitely worth a look if you're applying for medical school.

Kidneyjean: I would definitely recommend this- it provides a complete overview of the application process, and gives you a helpful summary of a doctor's career path post-graduation. There are also in-depth fact files on every medical school in the country (though for the edition I bought, some of the application statistics were out of date). I used it primarily to figure out where I wanted to apply; you can compare the different course types/campus types/intercalation options etc. very easily.

So You Want To Be A Brain Surgeon?: A Medical Careers Guide

[4] (Stephen Saunders, Oxford University Press, Information about medical specialites and training paths)


Vertigo.0012 : Covers all of the careers (or at least most of them) open to a medic, from the usual - GP, surgeon and so on - to the more obscure, like doctor of a cruise ship and expedition medics. The beginning covers career routes, specialty training, membership exams and applying for jobs after med school. It also describes other careers related to but away from clinical medicine, and leaving medicine entirely. Later, the book provides around 200 pages detailing specific careers. Each is covered on a double page spread, with the left giving information in detail and the right providing small factoids. This is another well written book, but is perhaps more for those already at medical school rather than applicants. Saying that, it can't hurt to have an insight into things like the training pathways and it will open your eyes to the variety of jobs open to medical graduates.

The Essential Guide to becoming a doctor

[5] (Adrian Blundell)

UKCAT books

Some recommended books for preparing for the UKCAT:

Passing the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) and BMAT'

[6] (Taylor, Hutton and Hutton, Learning Matters Ltd)


Vertigo.0012 : The book is split into three parts - applying to medicine, the UKCAT, and the BMAT. I didn't apply to a BMAT uni so I'll leave that to someone more qualified to explain. The first part is pretty self explanatory; bits on personal statements, picking a uni and so on, stuff that could easily be found elsewhere. The UKCAT bit isn't really outstanding; it describes each subtest, then gives a couple of worked questions and ends with a few do-it-yourself examples. There isn't a mock exam and I found that the questions in the book were rarely indicative of the actual thing. Saying that, a bit of extra practise is in no way a bad thing, but there are other books out there which will do a better job than this one.

Get into Medical School - 600 UKCAT Practice Questions

[7] (Olivier Picard, Laetitia Tighlit, Sami Tighlit, and David Phillips, ISC Medical)


If you are looking to buy a UKCAT book, make sure it's this one. The first 10 pages outline the test for you in a simple, easy to read manner. It is then broken down into 5 chapters - 1 for each sub-section of the UKCAT, then a mock exam at the end. At the beginning of each chapter the individual sections are explained to you, followed by many practice questions. At the back of the book you will find the answers along with explanations. The only downside is the mark scheme of the mock exam; it allocates points for each correct answer, starting from 0, when in fact the lowest score one can get in the exam is 300. But overall a key book for practice.

What makes the strength of the book is that it is the only one that actually provides complete explanations and sometimes even suggests different ways of working out the answer depending on your way of thinking about a problem. In my opinion this is by far the most comprehensive and complete UKCAT preparation book.

Vas876 - Hands down the best book for UKCAT preparation, by miles! It has the most practise questions and the best explanations of how to approach the questions.

I think probably the best book for UKCAT prep. I found the strategies very useful (and, generally, worked in the real thing). The quantitative section is '*much*' harder in the book, compared to the real thing. Yet, this is definitely advantageous, as the real quantitative section seems relatively easy in comparison. From my experience, I found that the decision analysis in the actual ukcat exam, was harder than the questions in the book. The mock is very good, and my advise would be to do all the questions under timed conditions!

ccm.blake95 - I actually didn't find this really helpful at all. The introduction pages to each section and to the test as a whole are fantastic, but the practice questions don't make you think in the right way at all. I found Quantitative Reasoning questions *much* harder in this book, and the Abstract Reasoning just had completely different styles of questions. I know a lot of people love this book, but I hated it by the end. I thought I was going to fail completely, so rescheduled my test, bought a different book (UKCAT For Dummies), and with that book increased my score by 1200 points. This book actually put me backwards in my practise.


How to Master the UKCAT

[8] (Mike Byron and Jim Clayden, Kogan Page Ltd.)


One major downside of this book is that there are quite a few errors in the book, including some sentences in the verbal reasoning section which don't make sense. There are a lot of questions which don't follow the format of the UKCAT and over 100 questions on the 5th subtest which is not actually used for selection. Finally, the explanations in some parts of the book are either flawed or too sparse. In some cases, the answer page gives an answer which was not in the options to choose from in the first place.

BMAT books

The books that have been recommended for studying for the BMAT.

The BMAT Course Intensive Preparation Guide

[9] Unfortunately, this book is only available to those who attend The BMAT Course, however it is one of the most 'exam-focused books' with detailed explanations for the BMAT past papers, tips for each of the sections and essay plans for common section 3 topics. They also have their own mock examinations with worked answers, however the main appeal is definitely the worked explanations for the past papers. They offer a sample on their website [10].

Preparing for the BMAT

[11] (The Official Guide to the BioMedical Admissions Test)


This is a perfect resource to get a sample of questions on the BMAT. Not only this but it also provides explanations on the adjacent pages as to how the answer is got. This is particularly useful for Section 1 where it explains the reasoning and logic behind how to get the answers. It also provides sample essays and of how to present your essay for Section 3. This on top of BMAT questions on the BMAT website should allow for sufficient preperation for the BMAT.

Get into Medical School - 400Qs for the BMAT

[12] (Lydia Campbell, Olivier Picard, ISC Medical)


With over 400 BMAT practice questions and explanations, and substantial input from official BMAT examiners and past BMAT candidates, this book constitutes an ideal preparation tool for the BMAT in 2011 (2012 entry), helping candidates save time, retain focus and optimise their score. It offers a substantial amount of material to practice all three sections of the BMAT and helps candidates familiarise themselves with the various styles of questions they may encounter at the exam and all the potential traps that can be laid by the examiners. The overwhelming range of exercises that it contains will enable all BMAT candidates to refine and optimise their technique to answer questions under strict time constraints. This book replicates the breadth and depth of the different types of questions that can be asked in the live BMAT test and the spectrum of difficulties that it covers (from normal to stretching), which makes it an ideal preparation tool for all those who want to achieve a high score and maximise their chances of getting into the medical school or veterinary school of their choice.

Interview books

A book that some people have found helpful in preparing for interviews

Medical School Interviews

[13] (George Lee and Oliver Picard, ISC Medical)


A perfect book to use to practice your interview technique, filled with tips and examples of how to make yourself shine at interview. Over 150 questions are analysed which cover a vast range of subjects, varying from 'why medicine?' to 'what would you do if a colleague wasn't pulling his weight?'. One disadvantage is that it is by far the most popular preparation book, and you will not be the only person on the day that has read it. Do not learn all its answers and examples off by heart (the interviewers will have heard them hundreds of times before!) - instead take their technique and apply it to your own situation. This book helped me immensely for my interview and I thoroughly recommend it.

Lots of good examples even if it is insanely overpriced!

I would call it bloody good value and an essential for any medical student wanting to up his or her game.

Succeed in Your Medical School Interview

[14] (Christopher See, Kogan Page)

Some other books

These are a good read and can give you a bit of an insight into what medicine is like as a career:

Trust Me, I'm a (Junior) Doctor

[15] (Max Pemberton, Hodder Paperbacks)


Vertigo.0012 : In my opinion, quite possibly the best book ever written. If you are applying for medicine (and even if not), read this book - it will open your eyes to the life of a foundation year one doctor. The blurb says that it "reads like Scrubs: the blog" and this is certainly true - the writing flows from page to page with incredible wit. I cannot recommend it enough - a harrowing, humorous account of what it'll be like as a brand new doctor.

Where Does it Hurt?: What the Junior Doctor Did Next

[16] (Max Pemberton, Hodder & Stoughton)


Vertigo.0012 : Follows on from the first book, as the Jnr Dr goes on to work as part of a drug outreach programme, dealing mostly with homeless people. Another superb book from the junior doctor, describing an area of medicine that few know about. While less relevant to applicants, if you enjoyed the first book then you'll enjoy this one too.

In Stitches: The Highs and Lows of Life as an AandE Doctor

[17] (Nick Edwards, The Friday Project Ltd)


Vertigo.0012 : An entertaining read from a practising emergency doctor. Gives an amusing insight into the working life of an A and E department, complete with the patients that come with it. Very much like "Trust Me, I'm a Junior Doctor". Also provides a glimpse into how the NHS works, which is no bad thing! One thing I would mention, as is mentioned in the book, is to take what is written with a pinch of salt - the author only writes "when angry" as stress relief, so much of the book is very negative! There are also good days in A and E....some times.

The House of God

[18] (Samuel Shem, Black Swan)


I think it was more enjoyable to read than actually useful. If you were planning on applying to America it would be useful, as the book is about one medical student's time as an intern. Also if you watch and enjoy scrubs, you will definitely see some similarities between the book and the show, (two friends, sleeping with nurses, the "mentor" figure etc.) apparently the show actually has some basing in the book. During my work experience I asked one of the doctors if he'd read it, and if it was at all realistic. He said it was generally hyperbolic, but the general message- that all you'll be doing is treating old people who never die and for whom your treatment does next to nothing, whilst you'll have to live through young people dieing all the time. The book is sort of a black comedy, essentially discussing how depressing it is to be doctor, but in a pretty funny way. So if you want a humorous, interesting but not exactly useful read then go for it.

Suckers: How alternative medicine makes fools of us all

[19] (Rose Shapiro, Vintage)


A rather strong account highlighting the lack of proof or scientific grounding for many alternative practices, showing some of the dangers of the use of these and a very pro-evidence based medicine argument. A very interesting and eye-opening read, and I would certainly recommend it to any aspiring medic.

The Private Life of the Brain

[20] (Susan Greenfield, Penguin)


Some very interesting concepts on the way that we think, and how conciousness is built up and even altered, written from a Neuroscience perspective and is certainly accessible for the lay reader. Sometimes a little heavily conceptual, but perservere and you'll certainly enjoy discovering many things about the mind and what happens within it from a highly innovative perspective.


Cancer Ward

[21] (Aleksandr Isaevich Solzhenitsyn, Vintage)


A true classic, and something of a must-read for medics and pretty much any body else with an interest in Literature. Set in the time of the Soviet Union, Solzhenitsyn's novel has many parallels with the soviet union and is a strong attack against it. Also an emotional journey following patients suffering cancer's of all types and stages, and a real personal insight into the terminally ill. It's also interesting to compare the hospital wards of yesteryear with medical advances of today. Beautifully written and something you'll remember.

Blood, Sweat and Tea: Real Life Adventures in an Inner-city Ambulance

[22] (Tom Reynolds, The Friday Project Ltd)


A collection of blog posts from a Ambulance paramedic/EMT whose witty and often cynical take on random events during the course of working life offer a real insight into the world of emergency care. Quite useful for understanding the process a patient may go through to get to an A&E ward and it shows the importance of other roles within the healthcare sector.


Bad Science

[23] (Ben Goldacre, Harper Pernnial)


Vertigo.0012 : Written by a practising doctor, this is a book about all you need to know on pseudo-science: the branch of often ridiculous science claiming to be "normal" science. The author debunks many claims in this book including homeopathy, false trials, and Gillian McKeith. It also covers how the media use science in news and other publications. The book is written humorously and in such a way that it avoids any complex scientific theory - it is very much a popular science book. Highly recommended to anyone with any interest in scientific matters.


Already a classic of the popular science genre, this book is a must read. Dr Ben Goldacre launches a passionate (and extremely well informed) attack on the "Bad Science" which pollutes todays media. He rips apart everything from complementary therapies and homeopathy to the more polished lies of the Big Pharma, all with a wonderful lucidity and wit which makes the book a real pleasure to read. The book can be shocking at times and will definitely make you a more astute reader of science reporting. The book should be read by all applicants but is particularly useful for Oxbridge hopefuls.

The Discovery of the Germ

[24] (John Waller, Icon Books Ltd)


I found it really useful and a decent read at the same time. It's about, surprisingly, the discovery of the germ. But it goes into alot of detail about the development of vaccines, the start of sterilisation techniques in hospitals (Semmelweis) and alot of detail on Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch as they were engaged in their races to find new diseases and vaccines for the diseases (Koch's postulates and Pasteur's flasks). It is also written in a way that engages you, it's like a story, you want to find out what was discovered next, what disease had a vaccine created for it etc. There's also quite alot on the abolition of the Spontaneous Generation theories. I managed to read it twice, once quite a while before any of my interviews, then again before my first interview, and both times I was just as interested which is a testament to how well the book is written. So a must read for anyone interested in the creation of modern medicine (and therefore pretty much every applicant!)

The Emperor of All Maladies

[25] (Siddhartha Mukherjee, Fourth Estate)


A large book with very heavy reading and sometimes confusingly complex chronology, The Emperor of All Maladies - self described as "a biography of cancer" - is nevertheless designed for reading by laymen. Running the history of the development of many of today's most-used cancer treatments in parallel with the author's own experiences as an oncologist, this book explores the multifaceted history one of modern-day society's leading killers, going into extraordinary detail while remaining accessible and eloquently human in style. Topics range from a focus on several of Mukherjee's own patients to the exploits and innovations of individuals such as Sidney Farber and William Stewart Halsted, describing each aspect of oncology's history in turn. The book is long and the content jumps very quickly between topics, but the accessibility of language, range and depth of focus and gripping writing style - sometimes reading more like an epic than a book about medicine - The Emperor of All Maladies is an ideal choice for a would-be medic as a gateway to more complex medical ideas in a still layman-friendly manner. I was recommended it by a neurologist I was shadowing whose career focused on a distinctly non-oncological aspect of neurology, so I do believe respect for it as a book runs deep in the medical world far beyond its cancer origins; a very impressive piece of literature, assumedly, especially to bring up in a personal statement or an interview.


[26] (Prof. Allyson Pollock)


Although quite dry, this book is extremely interesting and the one that most shaped my understanding of the NHS. The book examines how the NHS has gradually become more and more politicalised and privatised since it's inception in 1948. Pollock applies remorseless logic to provide an almost irresistible argument about how rotten the core of the NHS actually is. A must read in my eyes - I found myself bringing it up numerous times in interview.

Confessions of a GP: A Year of Life, Death and Earwax

[27] (Benjamin Daniels, The Friday Project)


An interesting book that can be funny at times. Writing doesn't seem to come as naturally to this author as Max Pemberton, and the book doesn't read too well; missing commas and full stops and patient name changes halfway through paragraphs can get annoying. However, it is still a fascinating insight to a life of a GP, and presents you with the moral and ethical dilemmas faced by the NHS and today's doctors.

Useful Websites and Online Blogs

Useful Websites and Online Blogs

Disclaimer: The following websites are not moderated by thestudentroom and due to the nature of medicine they may contain some images or scenarios that users may find distressing.

If you feel distressed by the content of the websites then if you let a member of the moderation team know via the Ask A Moderator forum then the website/blog will be reviewed and the link may be removed.
Anyone found deliberately linking to excessively graphic or disturbing content may face action from the moderation team and could find themselves banned from the site.
A prize-winning website that contains mini video clips and concise notes for medical ethics topics that can be asked about in interview situations.

If you are interested in the level of detail that medical students learn, then look here. Comprising of 5-6 differenet medical school's notes all condensed together, useful for Oxbridge science interviews.

A selection of blogs that have been recommended by members of the forum:


Some medical applicants provide their perspectives as well as help with interview preparation: