Medicine forum guide and faqs

Routes Into Medicine

Is there more than one route into medicine?

There are various access points into studying medicine at university: the majority of medical students enter medical school immediately after completing A-Levels or equivalent (school leavers), however there are courses specially designed for graduates and foundation courses for those with inappropriate qualifications. Read on to find out more.

What is the standard entry route for school leavers?

The vast majority of medical students start the course after immediately finishing further education. Courses for school leavers last between five and six years (depending on intercalation). Generally, unless otherwise stated, all advice on the Medicine Wiki applies to this standard entry route into medicine.

What are Foundation and Widening Access to Medicine Courses?

Foundation and Widening Access courses are aimed at providing a route into medicine for those who wouldn't normally be able to get into medical school. This can be through reducing the entrance requirements for those who come from particular backgrounds or by allowing entrance to those who took the wrong subjects at A level.

More information about the universities offering these courses can be found here: Medical School Foundation and Widening Access to Medicine Programs

How does Graduate Entry Medicine work?

Graduates can apply to 4, 5 or 6 year courses for medicine. The 4 year course is a shortened degree which was initially aimed at those with science or healthcare degrees, but now some courses require neither science degrees, nor science A levels, allowing a wider range of applicants to the course. Many who apply for medicine as graduates choose to apply to a range of 4 and 5 year courses due to the competitiveness of entry.

A guide to Graduate Entry Medicine can be found here: Graduate Entry Medicine - a guide. And you can talk to current graduate entry students and applicants in their society thread: here.

Can I Apply whilst on a different course?

Many people decide that they wish to change to study medicine whilst part way through another degree course, or choose to start on another degree after getting rejected from previous applications to medical school. In April 2010, one of the medicine forum regulars contacted all the medical schools to ask for their views on these applicants, the results of which may be seen here: Applying for Medicine Whilst on a Different Course. The information here may be out of date so make sure you double check with any universities you are interested on before trying to go through this route.

Which courses allow you to transfer to medicine?

There are courses at university where you can apply to transfer from the first year of a degree to the second year of medical school. While this is an option and does work for some people, these transfers are usually only for a very small number of applicants and are very competitive so if you start on one of these courses, you need to be prepared to finish it if you are unsuccessful at transferring. Some of those courses allowing this sort of transfer may be seen here.


Entry Requirements

What subjects do I need to take?

At GCSE you should aim to take a breadth of academic subjects. The subjects which are most important for medical school are Biology, Chemistry, Physics (or the Double Science award), Mathematics and English Language.

At AS Level you should aim to take Chemistry, Biology and two other academic subjects. You do not need Mathematics to study medicine. Further Maths is usually not counted as an additional qualification alongside Mathematics. It is not advisable to study more than the standard four subjects as this will put strain on your ability to study effectively, and there is currently absolutely no benefit in having studied more.

At A2 Level you should aim to drop one subject at AS, and carry on three. You should continue Chemistry, Biology and one other academic subject. Again, you do not need Mathematics to study medicine. There is no need for the third A2 to be in a science subject, however certain medical schools do have a requirement for three sciences. A significant proportion of medical schools accept a third non-science A2. A small minority of medical schools give a slight preference to applicants who have studied a third, contrasting (non-science) subject at A2. Do not study more than the standard three A2 - you will put strain on yourself and this may cause you to drop a grade and thus miss your medicine offer. There is no advantage to studying more than the standard three.

You can discuss what subjects to take on the TSR Medicine forum "What should I take?" thread, click here for more information.

What A Level grades do I need?

For standard entry medicine A-Level grades required vary between A*AAa and AAB. Medical schools are quickly moving to AAA being the standard offer.

For more information, read the Medical School A-Level Requirements page.

Are my GCSE grades are good enough? Do I need lots of A*'s?

Not all medical schools require lots of A* grades. Requirements vary between 5 C's and 9 A*'s. Having a high proportion of A*/A grades however will make it much easier to gain a place, however it needs to be noted that having A*'s at GCSE is not a prerequisite to study medicine.

For more information, read the Medical School GCSE Requirements page.

What about the grades required for Scottish applicants?

Information on the entry requirements for Scottish students can be found here. Remember to double check with the individual universities you are interested in before applying though as the information may be out of date.

What subjects and grade do I need if I'm taking IB?

Medical school IB requirements for 2011 entry can be found in this wiki page. These may change for 2012 entry so keep an eye out on the university websites.

Can I apply if I'm resitting/retaking modules?

Retaking individual modules within the standard 2-years of study is generally seen to be absolutely fine. However, individual medical school policies differ and may change year on year, so if you're unsure please contact the medical school you are considering and they will give you their up-to-date, official stance on the matter.

Resitting the year - i.e. taking more than 2 years to study for an A-Level - is generally frowned upon and unless an applicant has severe extenuating circumstances.

For more information, read the Medical School Resit Policies page.

How about for those with international qualifications?


Am I good enough, though?

For all your general questions regarding whether you are good enough for medicine, please use the The Ultimate 'Am I Good Enough For Medicine' Angst Thread in the main TSR medicine forum.


Admission Tests

What's the UKCAT?

The UKCAT stands for the United Kingdom Clinical Aptitude Test and is an admissions test used by the majority of medical schools. The test is sat between 5 July and 7 October and should be taken by applicants who are planning to apply to medical school in the same year. The test takes about two hours and tests mental aptitude and ability and is not a test of knowledge. It is not possible to revise for the exam, however it is perfectly possible to practice. It is made up of four sections which each test different things: Quantitative Reasoning, Abstract Reasoning, Decision Analysis and Verbal Reasoning. Each section is scored between 500 and 900, which leads to an overall UKCAT average score of between 500 and 900. The majority of applicants will score between 600 and 700, with approximately 620 being the average.

For more information, read the UKCAT page. There is also a discussion thread for all things UKCAT here.

How do medical schools use it?

The UKCAT is used differently by different medical schools. Some medical schools hardly use the test at all, some medical schools look at the average score and some medical schools look at each individual sub-section score. Broadly, medical schools can either: 1) not use it for any significant part of their admissions procedure, 2) look at the average/sub-section score as part of an applicant's overall application or 3) rank applicants using their UKCAT score, and invite the top x% to interview.

For more information, read the How is it used?page.

What's the BMAT?

BMAT stands for Biomedical Admissions Test and is used by a small minority of medical schools for entry on to their programmes. It aims to predict the suitability of candidates for a career in medicine. It is sat by all candidates at the same time on the 2nd November, which is after the deadline for UCAS applications. Results are released 23rd November. Unlike the UKCAT, it is a pen-and-paper test consisting of three sections: Aptitude and Skills, Scientific Knowledge and Application and Writing Task. It takes approximately two hours, and each section is marked separately. Again, dissimilar to the UKCAT it is a test of scientific knowledge so can be revised for.

For more information, read the BMAT page.

What's GAMSAT?

GAMSAT is the admissions test required for graduate entry to Keele, Swansea, St George's and Derby 4 year courses and for some applicants to Peninsula 5 year course. It's a 6 hour long test that covers: Reasoning in Humanities and Social Sciences, Written Communication and Reasoning in Biological and Physical Sciences.

For more information, read the Graduate Entry Medicine - a guide or go to the GAMSATwebsite.


Work Experience and Voluntary Work

What is the difference between Work Experience and Voluntary Work?

The broad difference between these two requirements are that Work Experience is 'watching', while 'Voluntary Work' is doing. Work Experience usually refers to the shadowing of a doctor in a hospital or a GP in their practice. It allows the applicant to see first-hand what the job of a doctor is, and also how the doctor works with patients, with colleagues and how they deal with the common problems presented to medical professionals. On the other hand, Voluntary Work is not watching somebody else simply do their job but instead to get "hands on" with patients - either be it at a hospital, old people's home or a hospice. Through this hands-on experience, the applicant can begin to understand the importance of certain soft skills - for example: caring, communication, and empathy.

Why is it important to have both types?

The applicant needs to not only understand what a doctor does and the soft skills they use but also to be able to apply these skills themselves in a caring situation. It means nothing if an applicant knows that doctors need to be caring, yet they don't have any hands-on experience of being caring. Equally, how could an applicant know that doctors are caring without first having the shadowing work to fine this out?

What Work Experience do I need? Do I have enough work experience?

Work Experience can be broadly split into: hospital doctor shadowing and GP shadowing. It is important to have at least one of these in order to understand what is required of a doctor. It is useful to have both, as it allows comparisons to be made between primary and secondary care, however it is not compulsory. Many applicants find it difficult to find work experience.

When considering the length of time you are shadowing a doctor, it is important to realise that it really is quality over quantity. Usually a minimum of one week in either a GP or hospital setting, shadowing, is enough to begin to understand the role of a doctor.

For more information, read the Medicine Work Experience page.

What Voluntary Work do I need? Do I have enough voluntary work?

Voluntary Work can be many things - but it can be defined by the applicant being in a caring situation, giving up their own time, in order to improve the quality of life of somebody else. The common areas of volunteering are on a hospital ward (note: this is different to shadowing), in a hospice or a care home. It is important because it allows the applicant to develop their own soft skills - their communication, empathy, and caring in a way which is not possible by just following a doctor around.

Medical schools like to see evidence of a long-term, regular commitment to volunteering. Unlike shadowing work experience, one week in a hospice will not allow you to even begin to develop your soft skills - the important skills required of a doctor. Aim for months of regular volunteering - for example, one night a week after school.

For more information, read the Volunteeringpage.

Where can I find Work Experience/Voluntary Work in X place?

For Work Experience, try sending letters to and calling your local hospitals and GP practices.

For Voluntary Work, try sending letters to your local hospital's voluntary department, hospices and old people's homes.

For more information, read the Work Experience Directory page.

Discussion about work experience and voluntary work can be found on the forum in this thread.


Personal Statements

What do I need to include in my personal statement?

Basically, you need to demonstrate to admissions tutors that you are interested in studying medicine, that you have a good understanding of the course and career you're applying for, and that you have the necessary skills and abilities to succeed on the course and in a future career as a doctor. Practically, by applying to medicine you are applying to the medical profession and the admission tutors are choosing potential future colleagues.

For more information, read the Advice for People Writing their Medicine Personal Statements page.

How do I write a personal statement for medicine and something else?

The simple answer is: you don't. In order to get an interview for medical school, your personal statements needs to be 100% focussed on Medicine. A lot of the standard 'back up' courses will be used to having potential medical students apply there so won't be bothered by a medicine focussed statement but if you are applying to a non standard 5th choice, it might be sensible to contact them in advance and find out if they want a personal statement specific to their course e-mailed across.

Where can I find some examples to look at?

The Personal Statement Library has quite a few examples of both successful and unsuccessful statements so have a read through here: Medicine Personal Statements

Can someone read through my statement for me?

Yep, that's what the PS Help Service is for (please don't PM your statement to anyone - it's not worth the hassle when you get accused of plagiarism because they stole bits of your statement). What you need to do is start a thread in this forum after you've got your personal statement to the point where you think you'd be happy submitting it. The team can only guarantee one review so make sure all the pesky spelling and grammar is sorted beforehand and that the statement is about the right length so they can focus on the important bit - the content!


Improving Your Application

Is it worth going on any application courses like Medlink?

Honestly? In a lot of cases, the answer is 'probably not.' Generally speaking, these courses are money making enterprises and a lot of the information provided to delegates is readily available on the internet (e.g. the Medicine Wiki!). However, some people do find them useful and do enjoy them so I will leave you to make up your own mind on that one. As far as them helping your application goes, there isn't usually much point in mentioning them on your personal statement even unless you've not got anything else to show you've done some investigating into what medicine involves. Some of the courses available with reviews from members of the forum can be found here if you would like more information about them: Medicine Application Courses

For more information, read the Medicine Application Courses page.

What books can I read?

Do not read books just to improve your application - you will bore yourself to death and it will add very little to your application if, when asked at interview, you've retained absolutely no information from the book you have forced yourself to read. However, if you are interested, there are lots of interesting pop-science and pop-medicine books that are genuinely funny and informative. The two authors commonly recommended at Max Pemberton and Ben Goldacre.

Do not read textbooks or anything similar. You have plenty of time to do that once you start medical school!

For more information, read the Further Readingpage.

What journals can I read?

There are plenty of medical journals and magazines out there, and even some science journals that may interest medical applicants. The commonly recommended ones include New Scientist and the sBMJ. The former focusses mainly on scientific research, while the latter is the student edition - mainly aimed at medical students - of the British Medical Journal. The sBMJ is available free online, do not buy a subscription to it as the majority of articles will be over the top of an applicant's head.


Where To Apply

What are the differences between the structure of medicine courses?

Broadly speaking, the structure of the medical courses at different medical schools in the UK can be seen on two different scales: The teaching method is one scale - problem based learning (PBL) is one extreme while lecture-based is the other. The "structure" is another - on one end is a clear clinical/pre-clinical divide and on the other end is a completely integrated curriculum.

For more information, including the definitions of PBL and integrated, read the Medicine Course Structure page.

Which universities offer Medicine?

There are 32 medical schools in the UK, with 15 of them offering graduate entry programmes. As of 2008, there are approximately 8000 places per year to study medicine.

For a list of medical schools in the UK, see the Where to study? page.

Where should I apply?

There are lots of factors to consider when deciding on a medical school - ranging from if the applicant wants to dissect, wants to learn through PBL or predominantly-lectures to the part of the country the medical school is in and its nightlife! It is also important to consider applying to medical schools which your qualifications suit - for example, it is not advisable to apply to a GCSE-heavy university when you don't have very good GCSE's.

For more information on potential criteria, read the What to think about? page.

For where to apply to your strengths, read the Applying to Medical School Using Your Strengths page.

Which medical schools are best?

There is no best medical school. There are many reasons for this, including but not limited to the fact that the GMC ensure all medical schools are held at a suitably high minimum standard, the fact that all graduates are practically guaranteed a job and that there is no objective way to measure if a graduate of one medical school is a "better doctor" than that of another.

For more information, read the Which medical school is best? page.

Which medical schools are easier to get into?

The short answer is that no medical school is easier to get into. However, by applying to your particular strengths you can help make it easier for "you" to get a place. For example, if an applicant has a high number of A*'s at GCSE, then it makes sense to apply to medical schools which require a high number of A*'s. If an applicant has a high UCKAT score, it makes sense to apply to medical schools which require a high UKCAT. Equally, try and avoid medical schools which you don't meet the criteria of.

By looking at the various other pages linked here - for example: the GCSE, A-Level and UKCAT requirement pages - you can develop a picture of the medical schools in which "you" stand a good chance at.

Where can I find application ratios for medical schools?

There is a table of application ratios available here.

What are the Pros and Cons of X University?

There is a Pros/Cons list created by current medical students at a whole range of different medical schools here.

Should I apply for a 5th choice? Where should I apply?

The 5th choice is seen as the "back up" - the subject you would study in the likely chance (60% of applicants receive 4 rejections) you are rejected. But consider - would you actually be happy never studying medicine, and instead studying this other subject? It is recommended that if you actually want to study medicine - in the event of you receiving 4 rejections - you take a gap year, improve your application and then reapply. You should not study your 5th option and hope for graduate-entry medicine because this route is significantly more competitive than standard entry medicine.

For more information, read the What to do if you are rejected? page.

Which should I choose as my firm?

If you are in the lucky position of having more than one offer and being in the position to decide between them, then it can be a daunting task. Start with the basics: make a list of the differences between the courses, and study the prospectuses and websites of the respective medical schools hard. Maybe it's a very obvious difference - PBL vs. predominately lecture-based, or more subtle like dissection vs. prosection? List everything out in front of you so it's easier to work with.

That not helped? Make a pros/cons list of each university, and use the pros/cons lists available on TSR. Speak to various medical students at the particular university - they will definitely be quick to point out the positives and negatives in studying there! At the end of the day, it is a very personal choice and you obviously like both universities a lot - that's why you applied there!

Have a look at the How should I choose a medical school? page to give you some ideas.



What can I expect at interview?

Interview styles vary unbelievably between medical schools. From the very traditional, science-based grilling of Oxford to the modern, progressive 'Multi-Mini Interview' (MMI) of St. Georges there is a very large range of questions and approaches, so an applicant can easily become concerned. First things first: the medical school has invited you to interview because they believe you, on paper, would make a brilliant doctor. Interviewers, on the whole, are not trying to make you trip up or embarrass you but instead to help you display the best of your personality.

Read the What should you expect at interview?page for more information.

What should I wear?

You are presenting yourself as a future doctor - as the colleague of your interviewer. You are applying to a profession where thousands of vulnerable people will put their upmost trust in you - dress for it!

For males the safe option is a suit, collared shirt and tie. No ridiculously coloured shirts or ties though - be conservative.

For females it is a little more difficult. Generally speaking, keep it sensible and smart - not too high heels, not too short a skirt and not too low cut a top! A suit can work well if you're comfortable wearing one, otherwise a nice skirt/trousers/top combination can work well.


What to Do if Everything Goes Wrong

What happens if I get 4 rejections?

You need to understand that the vast majority of applicants - in fact, between 55% and 60% - receive 4 rejections pre-interview. Brush yourself off and think clearly about what you want to do with your life. If you have a fifth choice - do you want to go study that? Do you want to try and find a course in clearing? Do you want to take a gap year and reapply? It all boils down to this simple question - do you want to study medicine? If you do, it is recommended you take a gap year and then reapply. If you no longer want to study medicine - find an interesting course in clearing, or take your fifth choice. Do not assume graduate-entry medicine is a "back up" - it is much, much more competitive than standard entry medicine.

What should I do if I miss my grades?

If on results day you opened your results envelope to find that your results weren’t what you had hoped they would be it can be a difficult time. Your first point of call should be contacting your medical school - are you close to a grade boundary, can you get a remark? Maybe if you only missed the grade by a single mark or two your medical school will be lenient. If that does not work out - what are your other options? You could resit, take a gap year and then reapply. Or you could study a different course.

Want to know more about your options? Read the What to do if I miss my offers page.

What can I do on a gap year?

Many applicants who receive 4-rejections choose to take a gap year and reapply, and there is plenty you can do to fill up your time. Maybe you can get a job, earn some money and save it for medical school? Maybe you can go abroad? However, the main thing is you fill the gaps in your medicine application which caused you getting rejected the first time. Contact medical schools and ask for feedback - it can be a life saver. Once that is sorted, then you can begin to enjoy your gap year.

For more information, read the Medicine Gap Years page.

Where can I go to talk to a reapplicant?

There is a large community of reapplicants on TSR. There are usually a couple of threads in the TSR Medicine Forum. Go and check it out!


Life As a Medical Student/Doctor

What grades/subjects/work experience did you have when you applied?

TSR maintains a large database of successful and unsuccessful applications, which include a description of the applicant's grades, UKCAT and work experience. For more information or if you want to look at the profiles, which are listed by medical school, visit the Medics and Applicant Profiles page.

How much are doctors paid?

In the UK, the salary of doctors vary a lot. However, on the whole, they are not as high as the media perpetrates them to be. A foundation year 1 doctor - FY1 - straight out of medical school earns a minimum of £22,523 in 2010.

For more information on the salary of doctors, and how they are calculated, visit the How much does a doctor get paid? page.

Is medicine worth the effort?

Depends who you ask. Some people realise that medicine's not for them for many different reasons. Others love it. A lot of people go through stages where they aren't sure whether medicine is right for them, some of them leave, and others work through it and grow to love it again. When you're applying for medicine, getting in seems like the most important thing in your life and people forget that once they're in, there's a lot of work to be done.

Is medicine hard?

In general, the things you need to learn aren't particularly complex. It's the sheer volume of 'stuff' that you need to learn that makes medicine difficult. There's a lot to remember and it's not just about rote learning, you need to be able to apply the knowledge as well.

What's a normal week like for a medical student?

That will very much depend on which medical school is at and which year the student is in. For more information on the life of a medical student, read the A Week in the Life of a Medical Student page on the TSR Medicine Wiki.

Reflections of a First Year Medical student

What is medicine like at university? Some medical students give their views, read this page for more information.



What immunisations do I need?

Immunisations required, and the times you need to get them, vary between medical schools. However, the minimum required is Hep B however medical schools usually also indicate they require immunisation against diphtheria, MMR, polio, tetanus, rubella and TB.

For more information, visit the Immunisations required for medical school page or contact your medical school.

I've heard this myth about applying for medicine...

You don't need maths for medicine. You don't need to be rich to study medicine. You don't need to have a medical family to study medicine. Surprised? For more common myths dispelled, visit the Medical Application Myth Busting page.

Student finance - NHS bursary

On a standard medicine course as a school leaver, you apply to Student Finance for funding for the first 4 years (tuition fee loan and maintenance loan + any grants you are eligible for). From year 5 onwards, provided you are eligible, NHS Bursary will pay for your tuition fees and any grants, while you will only be able to access a small maintenance loan from Student Finance. With Graduate Entry courses, the NHS Bursary will pay tuition fees from year 2 onwards.

The NHS Bursary is currently under review so this information may change.

Stalking pages

TSR updates so-called 'stalking pages' during the application cycles. This allows applicant during that year, and in the future, to see the dates that applicants are interviewed and given offers to, and other information such as UKCAT score.

For 2010 entry, the stalking page is here.
For 2011 entry, the stalking page is here.

For 2012 entry, the stalking page is here.

Current Students

Resources for Medical Students

Are you a current medical student? TSR updates a Resources for Medical Students page which you might find useful. For more information, check the Medical Student Resources page.

Textbook recommendations

There are hundreds of textbooks around - and probably hundreds on your medical school's reading list. Which are the best? Current medical students on TSR have given their opinions and come up with recommendations for both pre-clinical and clinical textbooks which you might find useful. For more information, visit the Medicine Textbook Recommendations page or you can discuss your recommendations in the Textbook Recommendations discussion thread in the TSR Medicine sub-forum.

Revision notes

Got a medical school exam coming up? Check out some revision notes created by other medical students on TSR. Click here for more information.

Should I intercalate

There are both positives and negatives to intercalating, and in the end, no one can decide for you. A Brief Guide to Intercalated Degrees summarises some of the things you need to consider before undertaking this extra year including finance.

Improving Foundation Program application

At the moment, scoring for the application program works like this: 40 points from your ranking at medical school, 50 points from your answers to 5 white space questions and 10 points from your added extras. It is these added extras which you can work on to try and improve your application (apart from making sure you're top quartile/being good at answering the questions!).

You can gain up to 5 points for having an additional degree (different points for the class of degree, extra for a PhD etc) and the other 5 are for other educational achievements such as publications, national or international presentations and national or international prizes. The majority of school leavers won't gain any of these extra points though so don't worry if you don't get any of these opportunities at medical school.

Please see the Applicants Handbook for more information about applying to the Foundation Program.


Medicine Megathreads and Society Directory

What is a Megathread?

A Megathread is a large thread that condenses all discussion on a particular subject into a single thread in the medicine forum. It is useful as it allows all information on a given subject to be centred together, and for applicants/medical students to find information quickly. Megathreads are also the places to ask questions related to the topic that they are centred on. They can either be general megathreads, which are valid throughout the year and between cycles or entry year-specific megathreads, for example for all applicants sitting the UKCAT for a particular year of entry.

List of Useful General Megathreads

Simple Applicant Questions Megathread
Work Experience and Voluntary Work Megathread
"Am I good enough for medicine?" Megathread
"Where should I apply? Megathread
"What subject should I do?" Megathread
"What subject should I study for GEM?" Megathread
Medicine-related EPQ questions and advice Megathread

List of Useful Entry Year-specific Megathreads

UKCAT 2014 Entry Megathread Part I
UKCAT 2014 Entry Megathread Part II
BMAT 2014 Entry Megathread
Personal Statements 2014 Entry Megathread
Interview Preparation 2014 Entry Megathread

What is a society?

A society in the medicine forum is a thread which is used by a particular group of people to discuss medicine-related things. It is usually considered impolite to post in a society that you are not a part of, or a society that is not relevant to you.

List of society threads

Society for current medical students
Society for current doctors

Other society threads, for instance for current applicants, graduate-entry applicants and reapplicants can be found in the Medicine Community Discussion forum.