Hi, I’m Aabha. I graduated from high school last year, and I’m in my gap year. I applied to Nottingham, Birmingham, Liverpool, and King’s College London through UCAS, and I applied to UCLan outside of UCAS. I studied in the CBSE curriculum. My subjects were physics, chemistry, biology, maths, and English. My average was 94.4, with a 94 in chemistry, and 91 in biology. My UCAT score was 2870. I did not take BMAT. I have had interviews with 4 universities out of the 5 that I applied to, and earlier this month, I got my first offer from Birmingham.
I started going to brighter prep in grade 11, and they have been very helpful. At the time I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do medicine or not, and last year I decided to take a gap year. I also decided to study medicine. I had help from brighter prep from deciding which unis to apply to, to my statement. They helped with basically everything.
Your medical application will consist of your secondary exam grades, predicted or achieved grades, your personal statement, a reference letter, your UCAT score, and your personal details. Your UCAT score will be sent to the universities you applied automatically. In the UK, most of the medical school applications are done through UCAS. UCAS is the university application portal. You can apply to 5 courses in total, but only 4 of them can be medicine. The deadline for submitting your medicine application is 15th October. By this date, your entire application should be ready. Based on your previous grades, your predicted grades, and your UCAT score, you should decide which universities you want to apply to. All unis have entry requirements, and you have to meet them to be considered. This is why applying strategically is important. Many universities require certain subjects, like biology and chemistry. Usually, the entry requirements are AAA at A levels, but some places can have higher entry requirements. You can only be given an offer after an interview.
You will also have to have some extracurricular activities and work experience. Extracurricular are important because the university needs to know you have hobbies outside of studying, and you should have learned some soft skills through these activities. You can write about these in your personal statement. Your extracurricular don’t have to be extraordinary, they just should have taught you something. I wrote about arts, sports, and events at school. I related each of these to something I learned that would be helpful as a doctor. Work experience is good because you should look at medicine from many perspectives, and not just an idealized one. When it comes to work experience, while shadowing doctors, and clinical experience is great, if you can’t get clinical experience, non-clinical work experience is also beneficial. Since it can be difficult to find clinical work experience during a pandemic, you can try online doctor shadowing. When you are shadowing doctors, you could take a notebook with you and take notes of patient-doctor interactions, so you don’t forget about them. These interactions are things you can write about in your personal statement or talk about in your interviews.
Next, let’s talk about your personal statement. It’s an essay you write to tell the universities why you should be accepted. Here, you will talk about your extracurricular, work experience, and personal experiences. You will have to be able to link these to why you are good for medicine, or what you learned from the situation. For example, you could talk about how you saw doctors working with a multidisciplinary team during surgery, and you could talk about how important teamwork is. That adds a lot more to your personal statement than writing a list of all the surgeries you witnessed. You can start your statement whenever you want, but you have to have someone read it and edit it. I remember my personal statement had about 14 drafts, and I had a lot of trouble cutting down on words. But I had an editor look through my personal statement and cut out all the irrelevant information. Then I rewrote my personal statement, and I had my final draft.
UCAT and BMAT are 2 different entrance exams for medicine. Some people choose to do only UCAT or only BMAT, but some might choose to take both. Deciding whether to take the BMAT and/or the UCAT depends on which university you want to apply to, whether you want to take the risk of applying to universities that require BMAT before you know how you did in the test, and also on whether you will be able to balance preparation for high school and preparation for these entrance tests. Most universities require UCAT, and a select few require BMAT. SO, if you take only the UCAT, you have more options available than if you take only the BMAT. Another advantage of taking the UCAT over BMAT is that you will get to know your score before you send your application, so you’ll be able to make a strategic decision. You find out about your BMAT score only after you submit your application. UCAT is only online, but the BMAT is a pen-and-paper test. Last year, the BMAT took place online, but it is usually not an online test. Some reasons why someone may choose to take the BMAT could be because you will be able to apply to some very competitive schools, and also because some universities require international students to take the BMAT. BMAT is a test that puts a lower emphasis on aptitude-based questions. You can also take both UCAT and BMAT. I chose to take only UCAT because I wasn’t planning on applying to any of the BMAT universities, either because my qualifications were not accepted, or also because I find out my score long after you submit your application. You can prepare for these entrance tests using free or paid resources. I personally used the mgs interview course. It had a huge bank of questions and topics that could come up in an interview. You could also use the medic portal, which is a really good resource for both ucat and interview preparation.
You may also have to take IELTS, an English language test. Some unis won’t require you to take IELTS if you did well in your English finals.
Choosing which universities you apply to is very important. This is because while you may not be given an offer or an invitation to an interview at one school, another might have accepted you. Now, how do you choose which unis you should apply to? You have to take into consideration whether you meet the entry requirements for that university, you should look at whether they put a huge emphasis on your UCAT score or your secondary education grades. If you have a relatively low UCAT score, but really good grades, you will have a greater chance of being given an interview at a university that prioritizes grades over UCAT. You should also choose medical schools based on personal preference, location, how the course is taught, tuition fees, and other factors that are relevant to you. Choosing to apply to many universities with entry requirements you don’t meet will only result in an unsuccessful application.
A strategic application will dramatically increase your chances of getting an interview, and also getting into med school. Some people with below-average UCAT scores have been able to get into medical school by applying strategically.
Interview season is usually from the end of November till March. Some units allow you to choose when you want to take the interview, but some don’t. There are different types of interviews. Most universities use MMI (multiple mini interviews), but some can be panel interviews or Oxbridge interviews. For last year’s application cycle, all my interviews were online. In an MMI, you are asked different questions at different stations, and you usually have a different interviewer at each station. In a panel interview, you are asked questions by a group of people, usually 2 or 3. Panel interviews can be discussion-based. The third type of interview is Oxbridge interviews. They only take place at Oxford and Cambridge, and the interview aims to see how you react to new situations. I knew that I would find interviews a bit hard because public speaking is kind of scary. So I did a lot of speaking practice and recorded myself speaking and answering questions. I then looked through these videos and gave myself criticism. One thing you should know is that if your interview is online, videos tend to drain energy, so if you’re being very subtle with your expressions, it’ll just look like you aren’t very interested. You also should have a list of different examples you could talk about, for different characteristics, like teamwork, communication, and empathy. You should have a huge question bank. Some people use the ISC medical interviews book, but you don’t need to buy it because there are many free resources. My best interview performance was when I was least stressed, so try to relax before your interviews. After your interviews, you have to wait for a reply. This period, in my opinion, is the most stressful.
Then, you get a reply. Either you are given an offer, or your application was unsuccessful. If your application is unsuccessful, they might still offer you some other courses. Offers can be conditional if you haven’t completed high school, or unconditional if you already have achieved grades. If you have a conditional offer, you will be asked to achieve certain grades, sometimes for certain subjects. After you get all your replies, you choose 2 unis. One will be your first choice, usually with a higher conditional offer, and one that is your 2nd choice, that you could go to if you don’t meet your firm choice’s requirements, but you do meet your insurance choice’s requirements
Some people could get unconditional offers if they have already achieved their grades. If you accept an unconditional offer, you don’t get to choose an insurance choice.
Good luck with your application and don’t stress too much about it.
To summarize, your medical application should be submitted to UCAS by the 15th of October, interview season is around the end of November till march, but usually ends before the march. You will receive all your offers by the end of March, but some unis might push that deadline to May. You can only choose a firm choice (first choice uni) and an insurance choice (2nd choice uni) after you get all your replies.
Good luck with your application and don’t stress too much about it.