The Medicine Work Experience wiki article explains a lot more in depth about work experience.
It's important to make sure you get some relevant work experience before making an application to medicine. Your application won't be considered without it. However, the point of it isn't simply to make your statement look good; while on work experience it's important to seriously consider whether medicine is for you or not.
You should make sure you gain a range of experience which can be emphasised in your Personal Statement. It is not just medically-related work experience which is of use; any experience in a caring role will be useful.
Work experience is important for a number of reasons. Work experience in a medically-related field such as in a hospital or GP may take the form of shadowing a GP or consultant or working with the nursing team. This experience should allow you to gain experience of medicine. You may want to seek work experience in this area if you are unsure about pursuing a medical degree. Work experience in other caring environments such as a nursing home, care home or hospice is important because it gives you the opportunity to develop and show the caring side of your personality. Work experience should give you the opportunity to develop skills such as communication and humility, which are important qualities for a doctor.
Try to gain as much work experience as you can in a range of different places. It's often good to try to gain experience of both primary and secondary care. Make sure you emphasise in your personal statement what you gained from this experience and how you think it translates to a medical degree.
Other experiences can be really valuable as well. Things like mentoring younger students in your school or captaining a sports team all demonstrate valuable skills important to a good doctor. Don't be disheartened if you can't get experience in a healthcare environment, make sure you emphasise the caring experience and other skills in your personal statement.
Tips for getting Work Experience
- Contact as many places as you can, as early as you can.
- Don't just concentrate on medical positions, consider other caring roles.
- If you're having difficulty going through general channels, consider contacting doctors directly via their secretaries to see if you can arrange places that way. Or alternatively, write to doctors personally. You could go onto the website of your local NHS hospital, usually there is a list of the consultants that work there, and then write to them explaining why you want to do medicine and a good overview about why they should consider giving you work experience.
- Write to the Human Resources Departments of your local hospitals as well as every GP in your local area. Follow up with a phone call. The Practice Manager at a GP's is often a good person to speak to.
- If your school/college has career advisers, get in touch with them as they may have access to a database of placements to which you can apply through them.
- Remember that experiences such as volunteering on a ward making tea and coffee can often lead to shadowing experience. You're meeting doctors all the time, just ask them if you can follow them around for a day/half a day and ask them to suggest a suitable date.
- If you really can't find experience with doctors, try to see if you can gain experience with allied health professionals such as physiotherapists, speech and language therapists, nurses, midwives, radiographers etc. This is a great idea as you get to see the wide range of professionals that doctors have to work with in a team.
- Some extensive experience can be gained by shadowing doctors abroad - consider www.gapmedics.com as an option in this case.
- It can also be valuable to do some voluntary work. This can include a wide variety of things however, the most popular form of voluntary work is generally in hospices. These offer medical students a chance to work with patients and can help improve their credentials for a job in Medicine. Another popular option amongst medics-to-be is working in kids clubs. These offer a different type of view on patients in the form of younger kids, aged between 5 and 18. A less popular but nonetheless great type of voluntary work can also be found in charities. Charity shops welcome volunteers to come and work whenever they can and this voluntary work is ranked highly in student and job selections.
During your Work Experience
- Make sure you get an idea of what it's actually like to be a doctor. What's it like? Will you enjoy it? What's good about their job? What are the negative aspects?
- Make the most of your work experience – talk to the doctors, get to see as many things as possible! Get the most out of it as you can – it will give you loads to talk about in your interview.
- Keep a work experience diary, as it might help you when you come to write your PS - record what you saw and your reactions, this will help you when it comes to interviews too.
- Try to obtain proof from wherever you get your work experience (dates, times, signed etc) as some universities do now require this!
The deadline for Medicine UCAS Applications for entry in 2014 is the 15th October 2013.
Each university's requirements can be found on their website, a summary can also be found here.
Which A Levels should I take if I want to apply for Medicine?
- A summary table showing the current requirements of each university can be found here.
- A good combination is Biology, Chemistry and two other rigorous subjects at AS, and three or more of these at A2. All Cambridge colleges say they want more at least three sciences to at least AS Level, but apart from that there is no need to take Physics or Maths if you don't enjoy them. An arts subject as a third A Level can provide a contrast, but apart from UCL, doing a contrasting subject doesn't put you at an advantage. A combination of all sciences is just as good as one with a contrasting subject. You don't necessarily need Biology AS/A Level as long as you meet the subject requirements of the universities you're applying to, although you might be at a disadvantage once you start the course and you should be prepared to be questioned about your decision not to take it at interview. Lack of Chemistry AS/A Level will be more of a problem and will seriously limit your choice of medical schools. Be careful when taking a combination of Maths with Further Maths or Biology with PE because some universities feel that they shouldn't count as two distinctive subjects due to overlap of the course content - this could be a problem if a university requires you to have, say, three A Levels and a fourth distinctive AS. Also, remember that you need to enjoy your subjects to do well in them so don't feel pressurised into taking a subject you hate just because it might be seen as slightly more respected (provided it's traditional and you also fill the requirements in terms of science A Levels and overlapping subjects). However if you're worried there's no harm in sending a quick email to admissions just to make sure.
- What if my AS grades are not what I expected?
- Don't panic, many medical schools are not particularly interested in your AS grades, if anything lower than expected grades should serve as a warning of what might happen if you don't work harder in the future. You should worry more about what you can do to improve your grades than what a medical school will think of them. Consider the possibilities of resitting modules or perhaps even remarks if you think there has been a mistake. So whether your AS Grades are AAAA or CCCD, don't let it dent your ambitions.
- But won't I be rejected with 'bad' grades?
- Not necessarily, your predicted grades are far more important than your actual AS grades. You should make sure you know what your predicted grades are, try asking your teachers. These predicted grades could be the difference between you getting an offer and not getting an offer; therefore it is important that they are as good as possible. Make sure your teachers are aware of the grades you require, you may be able to haggle with them, however don't attempt to make them lie. If all else fails consider arranging a meeting with a departmental senior, involve your parents if you need to. Remember, it could make the difference between being a doctor and not being a doctor. Bear in mind, however, that there is no point having AAA predictions if you are not capable of meeting them as this will only create disappointment later on.
- If you would like your personal statement reviewed in confidence by the TSR team of advisers, post in Ask A PS Helper. Only our team of advisers, yourself and the TSR moderators will be able to view it.
Your personal statement is your first chance for admissions tutors to get to know you. Your personal statement must be no more than 47 lines long (47 lines in Word does not mean 47 lines on the form!) or no more than 4000 characters, whichever limit is reached first will apply. In these 47 lines you must sell yourself to university admissions tutors as much as possible. Remember they will be reading hundreds and hundreds of medicine personal statements, make yours stand out from the crowd if you can! Make sure your PS is focused entirely on you medicine application, even if you're applying for another, non-medicine, course too.
- What should I include in my Personal Statement?
- Reasons for choosing medicine
- It may be obvious to you why you wish to study medicine but you must explain concisely to the admissions tutor your reasons for choosing medicine. Why do you want to be a doctor? There isn't a right or wrong answer to this question, each person has their own reasons. Focus on why you want to be a doctor right now, even if you've wanted this since you were small - nobody's interested in what you thought as a child.
The admissions tutors are interested in caring experience, which may or may not be medically related. This could be anything from shadowing a GP to working weekends in a care home. Include how you got involved in such work, how long you have been doing it, how much time you spent doing it and most importantly, what you have gained from it.
- How you have researched into a career in medicine
Have you attended lectures or courses about medicine in order to further your insight? Perhaps you spoke to doctors during your work experience? Maybe you've read some books by or about doctors. Whatever you've done to find out about medicine, reflect on what it taught you here.
Medicine isn't all about work work work. Exceptional academic students don't necessarily make the best doctors, as you must be able to communicate and empathise with patients. Tell the tutors what you do in your spare time, why you do it, if you've achieved any outside recognition and why your hobbies and interests might be relevant to a medical career. What skills do you gain from your activities that might be useful?
- Areas of responsibility including paid employment
Being a doctor requires a great deal of responsibility and paid employment is a good way of showing you are responsible. It may also help your communication skills.
- Conclusion about why you should be picked
Finish on a positive note, if a tutor hasn't already made a decision, the final sentence is your last chance to sway them either way so make it perfect. Don't address them directly or introduce any new topics at this stage - a conclusion should sum up what has already been said.
My personal statement is too long, help!
- Cut out the waffle.
- Cut out things which are not relevant such as names of hospitals.
- Remember it's a Personal statement.
- Ask your referee to mention things which won't fit in your PS.
- Use shorter phrases where possible (eg 'school's prize' instead of 'prize from my school').
- If you're unsure, get a PS Help reviewer to look at it in the Ask A TSR PS Helper forum.
Hints and Tips
- Read, re-read and read again your personal statement! However many drafts it takes, make it perfect. Read it aloud to pick up on errors more easily.
- Get someone else to check your personal statement for any spelling or grammar mistakes that would instantly make a bad impression.
- Make the start of your personal statement interesting - this is the first thing the admissions tutor will read so grab their attention.
- Don't leave it till the last minute! Late applications won't be considered at all.
- Don't use lists on your personal statement, continuous prose is much better.
- Use paragraphs and maintain structure to your personal statement.
- Don't lie on your personal statement, be prepared to be questioned on everything which you put in it.
- Read the university websites regularly as some universities publish documents that say what they want to see in your personal statement – if they ask for specific things, you must include them – otherwise there is no point in applying there. It is also useful to look at the interview section as if you can incorporate the qualities they want to see demonstrated at interview into your personal statement you stand a better chance of getting the interview in the first place.
- If you do an unusual extra curricular activity, put it in - it will get you talking at interview!
Note that the deadline for registering for medical entrance exams is BEFORE the UCAS application deadline.
UKCAT - the separate wiki page on the UKCAT.
- Used by
- Aberdeen (5 year); Brighton and Sussex (5 year); Bristol (5 year and Gateway course, from 2017 entry); Cardiff (5 year and Pre-med); Dundee (5 year and Pre-med); Durham; East Anglia (5 year and Pre-med); Edinburgh (5 year); Exeter (5 year - if A-Levels are older than 2 years, you must take GAMSAT); Glasgow (5 year); Hull York (5 year); Keele (5 year); KCL (5 year, Pre-med and GEP); Leeds (5 year); Leicester (5 year and GEP); Manchester (5 year and Pre-med); Newcastle (5 year and GEP); Nottingham (5 year); Oxford (GEP); Plymouth (5 year - if A-Levels are older than 2 years, you must take GAMSAT); Barts and The London (5 year and GEP); Queen's University Belfast (5 year); Sheffield (5 year and Pre-med); Southampton (5 year and GEP); St Andrews (3 year (+3 year)); St George’s (5 year); Warwick (GEP).
- Key Dates for 2014 entry
- Registration can be done from 1 May 2013 until 20th September 2013.
- Exam dates from 1st July 2013 until 4th October 2013. The last date for booking a test is 2nd October 2013.
- If you wish to apply for a bursary to cover the cost of the test, you must submit your evidence by 20th September 2013.
- Exam format
- The UKCAT is an onscreen test consisting of five sub-tests: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, abstract reasoning, decision analysis and a situational judgement test. Each of the sub-tests is in a multiple-choice format and separately timed.
- Exam duration
- Approximately 2 hours.
- Exam cost
- The UKCAT fee is £65 to sit the test at a UK or EU test centre before 31st August 2013 (£80 between 1st September and 4th October 2013), or £100 to sit the test outside the EU. Bursaries are available, see here.
- Look at the answer sheet for the practice test on the UKCAT website and compare them to the questions - e.g. If you look at abstract reasoning, it is easier to see which set the shapes belong to if you know what you looking for.
- Revise percentages and ratios (These crop up in the practice so are likely to be on the real thing!).
- Remember the calculator.
- The 600Q book is highly recommended by many TSR users.
- Several people also speak highly of the BlackStone Tutors, Kaplan and Medify courses, but these cost money.
- Most applicants spend 2-3 weeks preparing for this test. However, of course this depends on how focussed your revision style is.
- Your score
- You will be given separate numerical scores for the first four subtests somewhere on the scale of 300 to 900. How they calculate your score is a bit of a mystery but it's to do with where you lie on the normal curve in comparison to everyone else who sat the test, so the average score is 600. The SJT section is scored separately, with your result given as a Band (1-4), where 1 is exceptional and 4 is low performance. Universities will use your score in different ways, usually as one factor in interview selection. Some universities have cut-offs so it's worth checking before you apply. This is the first year that the SJT component has been used, so it is not known how universities will interpret this data.
- Used by
- Cambridge (6 year and GEP); Imperial (6 year), UCL (6 year) and Oxford (6 year).
- Please note that it is not essential for applicants to the Cambridge Graduate Course to sit the BMAT, although applicants could use a successful result as part of their pre-medical requirements.
- Deadlines for 2015 entry
- 'Enter for the BMAT from 1st September 2014 until 15th October 2014. If you require a modified paper, your last entry date is 30th September 2014. Late fees apply if you register after 1st October 2014.
- 'The test takes place on 5th November 2014. This date is non-negotiable and is the only test date for this entry cycle.
- 'Results are released on the 26th November 2014.
- Exam format
- The exam consists of three sections:
- Section 1: Aptitude and Skills (60 minutes multiple choice);
- Section 2: Scientific Knowledge and Application (30 minutes multiple choice);
- Section 3: Writing Task (30 minutes).
- Exam duration
- 2 hours.
- Exam cost
- Before 1st October 2014: UK/EU candidate: £44, International candidate: £74
- Before 15th October 2014: UK/EU candidate: £75.50, International candidate: £105.50
- If you wish to query the result of your test, the fee is £32.
- Preparation and Exam Tips
- Section 1: Many of the multiple choice questions in this section are similar to those found in the multiple choice section of the Critical Thinking A-level. If you can, get hold of some past questions or have a look at a book on Critical Thinking to help familiarise yourself with the exam and how to approach the questions. Tailored BMAT courses eg. BlackStone Tutors or Kaplan are also a good source of additional questions, which tend to be similar to the questions that come up in the exam.
- Section 2: This tests scientific knowledge up to GCSE Double Award level - however, bear in mind that it may include topics that were not in your syllabus, but in those from other exam boards, so it might be worth going through a revision guide covering several boards (CGP do some useful guides). Looking at past versions of this exam (such as on the BMAT website or at UCL's LAPT site, click on Exercise Menu) may help you as the questions are different from GCSE in that they are designed to 'stretch' your GCSE knowledge. It is very difficult to finish this part of the exam in the time limit.
- Section 3: You have half an hour to write a one-page essay so make sure you take time to plan it out properly - have a practice beforehand from the past paper on the BMAT website to see how you could best divide up your time. It is also worth having a search on the internet for essay titles, lots can be found on forums. There is no need to do all of them but having a few under your belt will give you confidence. Also most medics tend to be doing the sciences and so haven't written an essay since GCSE. In this case a bit of practice is invaluable to get your style back!
- Essay Titles:
- "Our zeal to make things work better will not be our anthem: it will be our epitaph." What do you think is meant by this statement? Give examples supporting and disproving the statement.
- "Medicine is an art form rather than a scientific discipline." Do you agree with this statement? In what ways could medicine be considered an art form, and in what ways could it be considered a scientific discipline?
- 'Stop moaning! The pain is there to help you!' What does this statement imply? Give examples that illustrate how pain can be beneficial and others that illustrate the opposite. How can you explain the differences in the function of pain?
- 'A cost to an individual can be justified by a benefit to the group.' Do you agree with this hypothesis? Outline an argument in support of and in opposition to this statement. What factors influence the rights of an individual over that of a group?
- "In the scientific world, advancements can only be made if mistakes are allowed to happen." Explain what you think is meant by this statement. Can scientific advancements be made without mistakes being made first? What do you think determines whether a scientific outcome is a mistake or advancement?
- "The main benefit of patient consent is that it relieves doctors of blame for bad decisions." Write a unified essay in which you address the following: Explain the argument underlying this statement. What are conventionally regarded as the benefits of patient consent? Give an example of a situation in which a patient's consent would be meaningful, and another in which it would not. How should clinical decisions be made?
- "Higher education and greater numbers - that is a contradiction in terms." Write a unified essay in which you address the following: Expand the argument underlying this assertion. What do you understand by 'higher education'? Is it qualitatively different from other types of education? Present an argument that it is, in fact, possible to provide higher education for the majority of the population.
- Used by
- Keele (GEP); Nottingham (GEP); Plymouth & Exeter (5 year course, if your A-Levels were sat more than 2 years ago); St George's (GEP); University of Wales, Swansea (GEP), Liverpool (GEP).
- 'Deadlines for 2014 entry
- Registration is open between 3 June 2013 and 9 August 2013.
- 'Late registration is available until the 19th August 2013, at an additional cost.
- 'Testing date is 18 September 2013.
- 'Results will be released in late November 2013.
- Exam format
- The test is divided into three sections designed to assess performance in the areas of:
- 'Reasoning in Humanities and Social Sciences' (multiple choice format);
- 'Written Communication' (essays);
- 'Reasoning in Biological and Physical Sciences' (multiple choice format).
- Problem solving is a major focus of the test.
- Exam duration
- 5.5 hours.
- Exam cost
- £228 (plus £60 surcharge for late registration).
- Exam Information
- Have a think about the likely questions: ‘Why do you want to study medicine?’, ‘Why do you want to come to this university?’ etc. and make sure you have answers - try not to over rehearse though.
- A lot of people find it useful to have at least one Mock Interview before the real thing - so try and fit one in. Science and careers teachers can be useful for this or may be able to point you in the direction of someone who is good.
- Read the prospectus; it will tell you the distinguishing course features, and what to expect at interview.
- Check what kind of interview you'll be having - many universities have done away with traditional panel interviews in favour of MMI's (Mini Multiple Interviews).
- Make sure you can talk a little about a couple of medicine-related news articles you've read recently. The BBC News Health Section is invaluable for this, it is well worth setting it to be your homepage and checking it every day.
During your Interview
- Be yourself – enthusiastic and passionate about medicine!
- Try not to let nerves make you go silent! – Breathe!
- If you get stuck on a question think of your work experience, and a newspaper/magazine article you have read recently - use these to make up an answer.
- Give your answers a structure and back up your answer with evidence - practise making three points in answer to every question.
- On ethical questions, show you have considered all the different sides of the story.
- Try not to fidget, but DO make eye contact. Smile.
- Enjoy it – it can be fun, honestly!
Sample Interview Questions
- Why Medicine? / Why this university?
- Why should we make you an offer?
- Why not nursing/biomedical science/another career?
- What did you do on your work experience? / Can you tell me about a patient who stood out to you on your work experience? / What surprised you most on your work experience?
- What would you change about the NHS? / How would you cut down waiting lists?
- What do you think about the current issues in the NHS?
- What do you think are the ideal qualities for a good doctor? How do you display them?
- I see you do music/sport/volunteering. How do you find time to do that and all your other work?
- How do you relax? / What's your favourite (artist, musician, sport)?
- I see you do xxx subject. Why did you decide to do that? / How could (subject) help in a medical career?
- How are doctors under pressure? / How would you cope with that pressure?
- What do you do at the weekend?
- Have you read any articles about Medicine/advances in Medicine recently? Tell me about it/them.
- Ethical questions.
Many universities will ask, as part of an offer, that you are vaccinated against certain diseases. It would be a good idea to collect an up-to-date vaccination history. Your GP will be able to help you with this but may charge you (if you say you're a prospective medical student there is a good chance they'll sort it out for free). You will probably have had most of the vaccinations as a child but if not your GP should be arrange a vaccination or booster. Universities may ask for different vaccinations so you should check, but commonly it will be diseases such as Hepatitis B, measles, mumps, rubella, tuberculosis, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, meningitis and haemophilus influenza B. If you have grown up in the UK, you will likely have had all of these except Hep B and TB (unless you are over a certain age).
This vaccine consists of at least 3 doses. You take the first dose, then another dose one month later, followed by a third dose 5 months later. The whole process takes at least 6 months, so you should begin early. You must have a test to make sure the vaccine has worked and that you are immune. You will need to book an appointment at your GP for the vaccination, and you should also be aware that some GPs may charge for the vaccination so please check beforehand. The Occupational Health department of your medical school may arrange your vaccinations for free. There is a short-course that takes only 2 months, but this does not confer the same level of immunity long term. Some people require a fourth dose to reach the necessary immunity level, and everyone will require 5-yearly boosters.