Medify's Guide for Teachers, Principals, Careers Advisors and Counsellors

Admissions

3/13/2021

How to help your students get into medical school.

It can be difficult to find the best information to help your students get into medical school. Here are resources to help you guide your students on their path.

Medical school requirements - in a nutshell

A skills-based test that is used by the majority of medical and dental schools in the UK. It takes place in July-September each year. Try our free sample test so you can see what your students are facing.

A knowledge- and skills-based test that is used by some medical and dental schools in the UK, including Oxford and Cambridge medical schools. Sat in September of November each year. Note: Due to COVID-19, the BMAT – September test session will not go ahead in 2021.

Traditional interview with panels, or multiple mini interviews that consist of shorter interviews (~8 minutes) at 6-8 stations.

In a service or caring role in healthcare or related field -  paid or voluntary.

GCSEs (English, maths and sciences at 6 or higher) and A-levels (typically AAA including chemistry/biology).

Need to demonstrate experiences and skills that make a student well-suited for medicine. A maximum of 47 lines of text or 4,000 characters. 

Information about student’s educational or social disadvantages, academic potential, and motivation, commitment and suitability for medicine. A maximum of 47 lines of text or 4,000 characters.

You can also find out about Alternative Entry Routes and Plan B in this article.

Timeline for Applying to Medicine

Medical school application timeline

Throughout the admissions process, teachers should also advise students to find out more about different medical schools through reading and attending open days.

UCAT

What is the UCAT? 

The UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test) is a test that assesses students on skills relevant to medicine/dentistry, and is taken by students when they are about to start their final year A-levels (July to September). 

It is a computer-based exam consisting entirely of multiple-choice questions that test a range of aptitudes:

For more information about this test, including how your students can prepare, read our article on the UCAT.

Which medical schools use the UCAT test? How do they use it?

The UCAT is used by the majority of medical schools in the UK but each medical school is different in the way they use the UCAT scores. 

The list of UCAT requirements will give you the ability to advise students on their best chances of acceptance. 

If the student has a stellar academic record but didn’t do so well in the UCAT, you might advise them to apply for medical schools that have a more generous UCAT score threshold. 

How can I help my students to prepare for the UCAT?

Here are top five ways to get your class ready for the UCAT: 

  1. Introduce the UCAT early, at the beginning of the year. Before your students even start to study, they should begin planning for the UCAT. Make sure they know the test's purpose and how it will be used to determine their medical school application.  
  1. Break the exam down to its sections. The UCAT is made up of five sections and 233 questions and it is important to understand how the UCAT is structured
  1. The UCAT requires a different approach to study. Studying for the UCAT will be different from A-levels because it doesn't require them to memorise facts. Instead, they need to: 
  • Learn the methodology of the sections   
  • Practice with high-quality questions  
  • Understand explanations to learn and improve. 
  1. Get students used to the UCAT testing conditions. Students will need to sit the exam in a Pearson Vue exam centre. Getting students familiar with the UCAT computer exam client gives them a reassuring familiarity during the exam. Medify’s Online UCAT Course is used by 2-in-3 medical and dental applicants studying for the UCAT and is known for its realistic UCAT exam simulation. It also includes a huge bank of over 20,000 questions, 21 unique full mock exams, question walkthroughs, extensive video tutorials, as well as performance feedback. Prices start from as little as £35. We also offer school discounts.
  1. Assess early and often. Give your students some practice tests earlier in the year so they can identify their stronger and weaker areas. This way, they can adjust their schedule to focus on their trouble spots instead of wasting time studying unnecessarily.  

Where can my students find UCAT preparation tips?

We have created an admissions guide, which is designed to walk students through the admissions process, including free UCAT tips and tricks.
In addition to the Online UCAT Course and Live Classes, we also offer free resources on the UCAT, including revision tips, exam information and section-specific advice.

The official UCAT website features free practice tests, tips and candidate advice and is a great place to start

BMAT

What is the BMAT?

The BMAT (BioMedical Admissions Test) is another admissions test that is used by a smaller number of medical schools in the UK. It is different from the UCAT in that it assesses knowledge, as well as aptitude. Usually, it can be taken in September or November, but Oxford Medical School only accepts BMAT’s November sitting. Note: Due to COVID-19, the BMAT – September test session will not go ahead in 2021.

The BMAT is a 2-hour test consisting of three sections:

Section-by-section breakdown of the BMAT

For more information about this test, including how your students can prepare, read our articles on the BMAT.

Which medical schools use the BMAT? How do they use it?

Medical schools requiring the BMAT

Despite only seven medical schools using the BMAT, it is used by a number of prestigious universities, including: Oxford, Cambridge, UCL and Imperial College London.

Furthermore, preparing for both the UCAT and BMAT maximises a student’s chance of securing a place at medical school. In 2021, the UCAT can be sat between 26th July and 22nd September, whereas the BMAT will be sat on 3rd November.

You can advise your students to sit the UCAT at the end of July and to sit the BMAT in November. This allows them to space out the exam revision as much as possible. 

Note that the BMAT Section 1 (Thinking Skills) assesses similar cognitive skills as the Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning sections of the UCAT. Therefore, preparing for the UCAT will be useful for improving the BMAT scores.

BMAT scores are used alongside academic grades for interview invitation.

How can I help my students prepare for the BMAT?

Here are top five ways to help your students with their BMAT: 

  1. Understand the difference between the UCAT and BMAT. The UCAT is sat before the BMAT and it is easy for students to assume that they are similar tests. They need to know that the UCAT tests aptitude whereas the BMAT tests both aptitude and knowledge.
  1. Don’t let GCSEs slip away. Section 2 of the BMAT tests maths and sciences at the GCSE level. Encourage your students to revise their GCSE contents during the holidays before starting A-levels.
  1. Know the syllabus inside-out. Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing (CAAT) provides content specification for the BMAT. There is no point studying topics outside this document.
  1. Section 3 has a word limit. There is a 550 word limit for the essay and students may be penalised for writing longer than this. Advise them to keep this in mind while writing practice essays.
  2. Practise essay planning. If students don’t have enough time to practise writing many BMAT essays, encourage them to at least practise planning the BMAT essay with past paper essay topics.

Where can my students find BMAT preparation tips?

Medify offers free resources for the BMAT. We also offer an Online BMAT Course that features an automatic past paper grader, 2,000+ original practice questions, 15 unique mock exams, section tutorials and essay plans to help students ‘beat the BMAT’.

CAAT provides the official preparation guide and practice papers, which are great resources for students.

Medical School Interview

What does a medical school interview involve?

Medical school interviews usually take place between November to April and generally take the form of a traditional panel interview or multiple mini interviews (MMIs).

The differences between panel interviews and multiple mini interviews

Find out more about what qualities medical schools are looking for in your students.

How can I help my students prepare for their interviews?

Best ways to prepare for medical school interviews

Here are top four ways to help your students prepare for their medical school interview: 

1. Medical knowledge. Students should have a basic understanding of the common diseases and conditions, as well as the Good Medical Practice

2. Stay updated. Encourage students to stay updated with newsworthy items in the fields of medicine, biomedical science and healthcare.

3. Presentation matters. Advise on students’ presentation, including the dress code, eye contact, body language and tone of voice.

4. Mock interviews. Simulate mock interviews with your students. This helps them calm their nerves, get used to the interview style/format, find out their weaknesses and refine their interview techniques. 

Medify has helpful tips on preparing for medical school interviews. We also have an Online Interview Course that provides everything a student needs to know for their medical interviews for only £20. This includes example questions that can be used in mock interviews.

Work Experience

Why is work experience so important for medical school admissions?

Many medical schools require or strongly encourage applicants to have work experience in a healthcare or related field. This is to: 

  • Help students understand what a medical career involves.
  • Reflect on their suitability for medicine.
  • Developing leadership, communication and teamwork skills.

Even when work experience is not a compulsory requirement, students may be asked to draw upon their work experience during a medical school interview. 

Therefore, it is important to encourage your students to reflect on the work experience especially with relevance to medicine, rather than approaching it as a box-ticking exercise.

How can I help my students find work experience?

Work experience may be paid, voluntary, or involve observation. Students can find work experience in:

  • Primary care
  • Hospitals
  • Hospices
  • Care homes
  • Special needs schools

Students often struggle with where to find work experience. You can refer your students to Medify’s free Work Experience App, which shows work experience placements from around the UK.

Medify's Work Experience Map

Any further tips on work experience?

You can find useful tips for your students in our admissions guide.

Students can also gain indirect experience by reading good books written by doctors that depict their real experience.

How to get work experience during COVID-19 times

COVID-19 has made it harder for students to obtain their usual work experience. Here are extra tips to help your students:

  • Brighton and Sussex Medical School offers a virtual work experience course.
  • Observe GP allows students to observe GPs in action (i.e. a virtual shadowing experience).
  • Advise students to contact life science researchers in your local universities for lab assistant or internship opportunities.

Academic Requirements

What subjects and grades are needed for medicine?

For GCSE, medical schools typically require English, maths and sciences with a grade of 6 or higher. However, the exact GCSE varies significantly between the medical schools so it is advisable to refer to the full entry requirements.

At A-level, usually AAA is required including chemistry/biology. 

How can my students balance their commitments?

As you'll have realised by now, there are many different elements to consider for getting into medicine. 

The #1 tip is to prepare early, which helps spread out the different commitments and provides students with more time to focus on their A-level assessments.

Starting preparation early also means students won’t miss out on medical school places due to not selecting the required subjects, or not having certain GCSE grades.

UCAS Personal Statement

What is the application process for medicine?

Students apply for medicine through UCAS. Medicine can only be selected for four of the five choices.

Which medical schools should my student apply for?

Choosing a medical school depends on a number of factors including the location, campus, year size, reputation, research options, finance and course structure.

Choosing a medical school depends on a range of factors, including the location, teaching style, rankings, student to staff ratio, research options and cohort size.

It is worth applying to a ‘dream medical school’ as long as your student meets the minimum requirements, but they should also apply to places that give more realistic chances of admission.

For students that did not do well in the UCAT or the BMAT, two universities (University of Buckingham* and University of Central Lancashire) do not require any admissions test. 

*Buckingham Medical School is considerably more expensive compared to other medical schools.

UCAS medicine personal statement

A personal statement should demonstrate the experiences and skills that make a student well-suited for medicine. 

It is used for interview selection and to provide information for interviewers to base their questions on.

Here are three top tips to help you guide your students on writing their personal statement:

  1. Start early. You should encourage your students to start preparing their personal statements early to give them plenty of time for writing and improvement.
  1. Be succinct. There is a maximum of 47 lines of text or 4,000 characters. Every word has to count
  1. Don’t use generic templates or examples. The personal statement should show specific and personal reflection of their experience and its relevance to medicine. Students should avoid stitching together texts from model examples. 

Use our admissions guide to further help your students:

Proofreading the personal statement

You can proofread your student’s personal statement, but ideally they should also have feedback from medical students or doctors who went through the same process. 

Medify offers a PS Content Check Service based on the scoring system used by medical schools, as well as a Personal Statement Course and Writer to guide your students.

Teacher’s Reference

The teacher’s reference includes information about your student’s educational or social disadvantages, academic potential, motivation, commitment and suitability for medicine, as well as any additional information.

Some medical schools don’t refer to this at all, but others consider them before offering an interview, and sometimes even for final selection.

It is limited to a maximum of 47 lines of text or 4,000 characters.

You also need to remember that your student has the right to request for a copy of your reference under the Data Protection Act 2018.

Special Cases and Plan B

Clearing

If your student did not receive an offer for medicine, getting a place through clearing could be an option. 

The universities which offer clearing differ from year to year, so it is worth checking these universities each year, as students need to act fast to secure a place.

Alternative paths to medicine

Not all of your students will get into medicine, but there are alternative pathways for those who are not ready to give up, including graduate entry medicine and foundation and access courses.

Studying medicine abroad is also an option, including:

Gap year

We offer a free guide for students who are considering a gap year.

Alternative careers in healthcare

If a student is keen to study a healthcare-related course outside medicine, there are several options to choose from, including nursing, physiotherapy, psychology, midwifery and public health.

Widening access to medicine

Medify was established in 2009 with a vision and mission to widen access to medicine by providing affordable products and services to help students. Currently, 2 in 3 medical school applicants use Medify to prepare for the UCAT.

Please email us for any queries on medical school admissions or for information about purchasing Medify UCAT or BMAT access for your students at a discount.

Beyond admissions

Medify also has an excellent set of free resources designed to help students start their first year in medicine.

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