How to Get into Medical School UK: 17 Key Questions

Admissions

2021-01-16

Medical School Requirements and Selection Process Explained

Estimated reading time ≈ 7 minutes

Key takeaways:

  • Only around 25% of medicine applicants are successful, learn how to stand out from the crowd.
  • Find out how to ace your interview, wow with your personal statement, and get the score you need in the UCAT/BMAT.
'...there are students would make brilliant doctors but feel in the dark about what they need in order to apply...may never have considered their talent for medicine...Medical schools want to find the best candidates and believe they can come from any background.'
Dr Paul Garrud – Chair of Medical Schools Council Selection Alliance

To get into medical school, you need to meet the academic requirements, take the UCAT or BMAT, prepare a personal statement and sit an interview.

1. How hard is it to get into medical school?

So you’re thinking about becoming a doctor. You vividly imagine helping people and doing a meaningful job, but do you know what the medical path looks like? It’s not a straightforward decision, so we’ve listed some of the key considerations below.

Check the Academic Requirements section for specifics, but you are likely to need AAA grades, as well as building evidence of your dedication to becoming a doctor way before you even apply.

Ask yourself if you have the determination and commitment for many years of intense learning.

2. Do you have the empathy to become a doctor? 

To help you answer this question, we have created an empathy test for medical students.

A doctor’s role is not limited to technical diagnosis and treatment of a disease, but looking after patients’ overall health and well-being in a caring manner.

Medical schools will look for evidence of empathy during your interview and in your personal statement. Don’t be dismayed if you don't think you are a particularly empathetic person. Research has shown that empathy is not a fixed quality, and can be developed.

One of the main distinctions is sympathy vs empathy, make sure you know the difference!

3. How many medical school places are there in the UK?

There aren’t many places at medical schools in the UK, around 7,000 per 24,000 applicants, making it one of the most competitive courses out there.

4. How long is medical school?

After 5-6 years in medical school, you will take an internship, as well as spending up to 8 years in further training depending on your chosen speciality.

This can be reduced to 4 years of study + further training for accelerated graduate programmes.

5. How much does medical school cost in the UK?

The annual tuition fee for medicine is £9,250. This full amount can be covered by the UK government in the form of a tuition fee loan, but this only applies to domestic students.

Buckingham University is the exception to the rule. It is a private medical school that charges £38,000 a year with no government subsidy.

6. How many medical schools are there in the UK?

The medical schools council lists 42 medical schools in the UK.

Five new medical schools will open in the UK in a move designed to ease the shortage of trained medics in the country. The aim to to train enough doctors by 2025.

  • Anglia Ruskin University
  • University of Nottingham
  • University of Lincoln
  • University of Sunderland
  • Edge Hill University
  • University of Kent

7. Are all medical schools the same?

Due to the competitiveness of medical schools, just getting in is a massive achievement.

That being said, if you want to choose the best medical school for you, you will need to consider: location, teaching methods, university rankings, and other factors such as extra-curricular life.

8. How many medical schools should I apply to?

You can choose a maximum of four on your UCAS application, and you have one extra choice to apply for another subject.

Some universities permit you to write a separate personal statement for your fifth choice, but most don't. Because of this, students typically choose science-related subjects.

9. What are the Medical school requirements?

A roadmap outlining preparation for admission to medicine from year 11 to 13.

Each university has its own requirements, but broadly speaking you need to: 

Every aspect of your application process is covered by Medify's application materials. Our team of medical experts has created a platform to take the stress out of the medical application process. You can find everything from personal statement assistance, work placements to UCAT and BMAT e-learning platform.

How important is volunteering for medical school?

Case study: Andrea, University of Aberdeen

‘My choice of science-heavy subjects for my A-levels were driven by my decision to pursue a career in medicine. I volunteered to teach English to child refugees during my AS year and followed it up with work experience on a busy labour ward during the summer holidays between AS and A2.’

Volunteering is great for demonstrating empathy and picking up a range of skills to talk about at interview. Whilst it is not mandatory, like work experience, it can strengthen your application.

10. What are the academic requirements?

Make no mistake, to be a doctor you need to excel academically. One way to achieve academic success is to spend time working on your actual study skills - not just learning the syllabus, but learning how to learn.

Take a deep dive into the specific requirements for medical school.

Sally Pickin, a GP in training, described how she opened her A-level results to discover 3 As and 2 Bs. For some, these would be considered good grades, but for Sally the B grade in Biology meant she had failed to get into Bristol to study medicine. 

Sally went through clearing and studied biomedical science at the University of Sheffield, the closest subject to medicine she could find.

'I felt numb,' she described, saying people described her at university as a 'failed medic'.

This setback was not the end for Sally. She graduated with First Class Honours, which got her a place to study Graduate Entry Medicine at Bristol the following year. 

'I can see that the failure I experienced all those years ago, and the unknown situation it forced me in to, enabled me to build resilience – the kind that is vital to work as a doctor under pressure in our NHS.'

11. Which entrance tests do universities use?

The UCAT and/or BMAT are yet another hurdle to getting into medical school. These exams test more than just academic skills, but are an overall assessment of your suitability for medicine.

The UCAT covers:

Verbal reasoning
Verbal Reasoning
Critically evaluating written material
44 questions in 21 minutes
Decision making
Decision Making
Making appropriate decisions in complex situations
29 questions in 31 minutes
Quantitative Reasoning
Assess and evaluate numerical information
36 questions in 24 minutes
Abstract Reasoning
Using both convergent and divergent thinking styles
55 questions in 13 minutes
Situational Judgement
Testing your reasoning against real-life situations
69 questions in 13 minutes

The BMAT consists of:

BMAT Section 1: Critical thinking and problem solving
Section 1
Critical thinking and problem solving
32 questions in 60 minutes
BMAT Section 2: Biology, chemistry, physics and maths
Section 2
Biology, chemistry, physics and maths 27 questions in 30 minutes
BMAT Section 3: Writing skills
Section 3
Writing skills
One essay in 30 minutes
Our Online UCAT Course and Online BMAT Course have helped 97% of our students improve their grades by exposing them to realistic situations and allowing them to monitor their progress over time.

12. How do you get medical work experience?

Getting exposure to real-life medical situations is necessary for medical school applicants. This can be a major roadblock. You may not have connections in the medical industry and could be left at a disadvantage.

At Medify, we are committed to widening access to medical education, to help you get into medical school regardless of your background or connections. Check out our work experience app to help you get those all-important glimpses into life as a doctor. 

Medify's work experience locator map
You can search for opportunities close to home using our interactive map.

Some universities have specific requirements, so please check with your chosen universities before applying for work experience.

Useful articles on work experience:

13. Which specialty should I choose?

You don’t have to choose just between being a GP in a local surgery, or a surgeon. There are an incredible number of specialties within medicine. Do you have a specific interest in an area of medicine? You don’t need to figure it out now, but perhaps you’re considering one of the following areas of expertise:

  • Anaesthesia
  • Clinical oncology
  • Clinical radiology
  • Community sexual health and reproductive health
  • Emergency medicine
  • General practice
  • Intensive Care Medicine
  • Medicine
  • Obstetrics and gynaecology
  • Occupational medicine
  • Ophthalmology
  • Paediatrics
  • Pathology
  • Psychiatry
  • Public health
  • Surgery

14. Which extracurricular activities for medical school applications?

Being well-rounded isn’t a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have. Good grades are fundamental, but so is showing that you can handle one of the toughest careers out there. When it comes to choosing activities, it’s best to select them strategically. 

The Times Higher Education recommends that you ‘transfer your skills to medicine’. 

What does that mean? 

Not just looking for new medically-relevant skills, but finding out what you’ve done already that will help your application. If your hobbies include working in a team, or communicating with a range of people, these are just the skills universities are looking for. 

What type of activities help get into medical school?

Leadership: Become captain of a team or society

Volunteering: Offer your time to your community

Science: Take part in science-based competitions/societies

15. How do you write your UCAS Medicine Personal Statement?

How long is a personal statement for medical school?

You will need to write a 4,000-word personal statement as part of your UCAS application. We go into serious depth on this topic in our personal statement article, but here are some general tips:

Top 5 Personal Statement Tips

  1. Avoid hyperbole and poetic language. That doesn’t mean you can’t make it personal. Many students frame their applications around family circumstances, for example.
  1. Getting into medical school requires a lot of empathy, make sure you show it…
  1. Intrinsic motivation! That means showing how all your interests, passions and abilities make medicine the obvious choice for you.
  1. Go to our Personal Statement Writer and get it right, first time.
  1. Get to the point and avoid cliches. The introduction should be around 5 lines (again, use the app…).

16. How do you prepare for your Medical School Interview?

One of the major purposes of the interview is to assess your stress response. 

Unexpected questions are to be...expected, as the admissions team wants to see how you cope under this pressure.

It is absolutely essential to come prepared. Various techniques and problem-solving strategies will be required, and your logical thinking will be tested. Ever heard of the P.E.E approach? What about S.T.A.R or I.P.A.R? These are the tools that can make you stand out from the rest.

Find out more about medical school interviews.

17. How do you get your UCAS Reference?

Prepare for your UCAS reference in advance. Here are some of the ways:

  • Get to know your referee
  • Don’t surprise the referee with your request - do it early!
  • Use the reference to account for any weaknesses in your application (such as resitting exams)

Learn everything you need to know about UCAS references for medicine.

18. Summary

  • You need to understand your motivations for pursuing medicine, as these will give you focus on the long journey to become a doctor.
  • Medical school requirements vary from university to university.
  • You need to plan your strategy as early as possible to position yourself well to get into medical school.

Medical School FAQs

How to get into medical school?

There is more than one way to get in. You can apply to study medicine straight after school, at 18 years old, or go for graduate entry medicine after your first degree. Strong grades, a good UCAT/BMAT score, a great personal statement and an interview are all important. You can also consider taking a gap year and applying again, as well as studying medicine overseas.

How hard is it to get into medical school?

The applicants to places ratio is around 1:4. This means medical school admission is extremely competitive. Most students who apply have already got very high grades and have achieved most of the medical school requirements before considering their application.

Should I aim for Graduate Entry Medicine?

If you don’t feel you are ready for a medicine degree after school, broaden your knowledge with another degree, before committing yourself to medicine. You will need top grades in your first degree. Learn more about Graduate Entry Medicine.

How long does it take to become a doctor?

It can take up to 15 years to become a fully trained specialist, depending on your speciality. However, after four to six years of your medical degree, you do start earning an income as a junior doctor.

What age can you start medical school? 

Sometimes, medical schools may not consider applicants who are younger than 18 at the beginning of their medical degree. This is because there may be legal and practical difficulties in arranging placements in the NHS.

However, there is no upper age limit for you to study medicine, according to the Medical Schools Council.

Can I start medical school at 30+? 

A lot of people wonder if it’s too late to start medical school once you’re 30+ and whether they’ll be surrounded by younger applicants and disadvantaged in their career.

If you’re a mature candidate, don’t worry – your age won’t hold you back. In fact, bringing a plethora of experiences can only be beneficial for a field like medicine, where traits like communication and empathy that develop with time are required and celebrated. 

You will not only thrive as a doctor, but also contribute to the diversity of your cohort to enrich the learning experience.

Can I start medical school at 50+?

As for starting medical school at 50+, there’s nothing stopping you from going for your dreams, but you do have to consider some practicalities. Medical doctors retire at an average age of 59 in the UK. Therefore, if you start medical school at 50+ and graduate in your mid-50s, there may not be much time left to complete further training and practise as an established doctor at a full capacity.



Succeed in your Medical School interview. Start today for only £20

Membership will expire on Wed 31 Mar 2022 23:59 UK time

Enroll Now

Helping you prepare. Try Medify BMAT Today

Buy Now

Write your personal statement. Try Medify Today

Buy Now

2 in 3 students prepared for UCAT with Medify. Try Medify Now

Buy Now

2 in 3 students prepared for UCAT with Medify. Try Medify Now

Buy Now

Helping you prepare. Try Medify BMAT Today

Buy Now

Write your personal statement. Try Medify Today

Buy Now

2 in 3 students prepared for UCAT with Medify. Try Medify Now

Buy Now

2 in 3 students prepared for UCAT with Medify. Try Medify Now

Buy Now

2 in 3 students prepared for UCAT with Medify. Try Medify Now

Buy Now

Study medicine in Europe. Try Medlink Students Now

Buy Now