How to Apply to Medical School: Standard and Graduate Entry 

Last updated: 8/2/2023

Thinking about a career in medicine? 

There are many routes available to you and each has benefits and drawbacks. Whichever route you choose, there are many steps to take before applying. In ‘How to get into medical school’ we take a broad overview, this article focuses on the application basics you need to know.

Applying for medicine: the basics

You can apply after school or after university: 

Direct Entry Medicine is generally for school leavers, or those who leave school and take a gap year. However, graduates frequently apply for these courses too.

Graduate Entry Medicine is for those with a first degree in any other subject. This doesn’t necessarily need to be a science-based subject.

Studying medicine abroad is an option at any stage. The grade requirements and costs can be significantly lower, depending on the country. 

Learn about studying medicine in:

A student on a university campus

How many universities can you apply to for medicine?

Every applicant is limited to applying to four medical schools and one non-medicine course through UCAS.

Timeline to apply for Direct Entry Medicine

Timeline to apply for Direct Entry Medicine in the UK

A student's experience with Direct Entry Medicine

Oliver – Plymouth University

‘I started my preparation during my GCSEs and chose science-heavy subjects. Then I volunteered for 2 weeks at a summer school for disabled children between my GCSE and AS years. Although I didn’t start doing anything specific for medical school until after my AS exams, doing the work experience so early reduced some pressure.’

When to apply for Graduate Entry Medicine (GEM)

You should submit your graduate application one academic year before you want to begin your studies. UCAS accepts applications between 1 September and 16 October.

There is a lot more variation in the application timeline for GEM, with many students taking their time to get the GAMSAT and all the application requirements together after university.

That being said, you can choose the take the GAMSAT in Year 2 of university, as it is valid for 2 years. That way you can retake in Year 3, if needed.

Learn more about Graduate Entry Medicine.

A Graduate Entry Medicine (GEM) student

How to apply for medicine through UCAS

The University College Admissions System (UCAS), is the national service for application to higher education in the UK. 

To apply for a course at a higher education establishment, you first need to register. You can do so anytime over the summer, right up until early October. Once you are registered you can begin to follow the steps to completing your application.

These steps are:

  1. Work towards your academic requirements (GCSE/A-levels or university degree)
  2. Sit admissions tests (UCAT, BMAT or GAMSAT)
  3. Gain and reflect upon work experiences
  4. Write a personal statement
  5. Obtain school reference
  6. Apply through UCAS
  7. Prepare for and attend an interview
  8. Achieve the requirements of your conditional offer
  9. Accept your offer and complete your enrolment 

How to beat medical application stress

Bethan – Hull York Medical School

‘Applying to medical school isn’t a stress-free process; it is difficult to know where is best to apply, whether you are good enough and what to expect at interview. Try to keep calm and remain confident by equipping yourself with as much information as possible and by planning well ahead of deadlines. It can be a nerve-wracking time but thousands of students like you succeed in the process every year.’

Frequently asked questions in applying to medical school


1. Can you apply for medicine through clearing?

It will likely not be possible to study Medicine through Clearing in 2021.

Alternatives include:

2. How many people apply for medicine?

The Medical Schools Council reported that a record number of students have applied for undergraduate medicine for 2021 entry - 28,690. With ~9,500 medical school places on offer, only 1 of 3 applicants were successful.

For graduate medicine, the application to place ratio can vary considerably, for example the University of Warwick has a ratio of around 8:1 whereas Queen Mary University of London has a ratio of 34:1.

3. Can I do medicine with a BTEC in applied science?

Some Medical schools do accept BTECs for Gateway courses, these include:

  • Bristol
  • Hull York
  • Keele

Some schools require you to take A Level Chemistry along with a BTEC in Applied Science. Check each university’s website for specific details.

4. Can you apply for medicine through UCAS extra?

UCAS Extra is designed for those who don’t receive any offers or who don’t want to accept their offers.

Certain medical schools have places available through UCAS extra. This depends on how many students achieve their predicted grades. Due to the number of applicants for medicine recently, the chances are slim but not impossible.

UCAS Extra opens on 25 February, and closes on 4 July. 

5. Can you apply for undergraduate medicine with a degree?

Yes, graduates can apply to standard-entry medical courses - normally lasting 5 years. This is dependent on meeting all the requirements of the university in question, such as UCAT or BMAT score, work experience, degree classification, etc. 

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