Medical and Dental University Admissions: Parents' Guide



Do you want to help your child get into medical or dental school?

It can be hard to know who to turn to for advice when it comes to university admissions, especially as the process is so complex.

In this article, we offer an overview of the application processes, so you can learn what's required and assist as much as possible.

Graphic showing a male medic carrying out a health check-up

How competitive are medicine and dentistry?

Medicine and dentistry are highly competitive courses. Here are the 2020 statistics: 

Medicine applicants: 84,380

Acceptances: 10,625

Acceptance ratio: 1/8

Dentistry applicants: 12,220

Acceptances: ~1330

Acceptance ratio: 1/9

How does the application process work?

UCAT and BMAT lllustration

The application process has many stages. 

Step 1: admissions tests

There are two main tests required: the UCAT and the BMAT. Your child doesn’t need to do both, but doing both can increase their options for medical or dental schools.

Take a look at Medify’s UCAT Online Course to find out what's involved in acing the UCAT. 2 in 3 UCAT test takers use Medify already, as we are the established choice for medical entry preparation.

Step 2: UCAS application

UCAS logo

Students can apply to up to five courses, but only four can be medicine or dentistry. Your child’s fifth choice of university can be for anything except medicine or dentistry. 

Their UCAT and BMAT scores will be submitted to universities by the exam boards. Once the UCAS application has been received, the admissions tutors use a range of criteria to decide whether to offer an interview.  

After interviews, the university will decide on offers. Some only consider interview scores, whereas others use some or all of the UCAT, along with the interview score to decide.

Find out which medical schools require the UCAT and how they make their decisions.

What are the important deadlines for medicine and dentistry?

The UCAS application needs to be submitted by 15 October in year 13. This deadline is earlier than for most other courses because of the number of applications. 

The school or college will write a reference, and for this reason there may be an earlier internal deadline. If your child fails to meet this internal deadline, then the school or college may not be able to send the application in time.

Interviews tend to take place between November and March, and most universities will send out their decision by the end of March. 

What is included in the UCAS form?

Look at the UCAS website and think about each of these sections ahead of time to help strengthen your child's application:

Infographic for UCAT form sections

What is the UCAT?

The UCAT (University Clinical Admissions Test) is an admissions test required by the majority of UK medical and dental schools. 

It is a computer-based, multiple choice test taken over two hours that assesses the cognitive skills required to be a healthcare professional. 

Read the 40 top questions about the UCAT

What is the BMAT?

The BMAT (BioMedical Admissions Test) is a two-hour exam that’s designed to test scientific knowledge and critical thinking skills. It’s used by a handful of medical and dental schools in the admissions process. 

We answer the top BMAT questions

How can I support my child to prepare for the UCAT and BMAT?

The UCAT and BMAT form important aspects of the application process. There are a lot of ways to offer support to your child and help them succeed:

Book the test early

The sooner the test is booked, the sooner preparation can start. 

Booking the test early also means a choice of dates and exam centres. 

Find out about the test

Bookmark the following articles to help with preparation:

  1. How to get into medical school 
  2. UCAT preparation tips
  3. Largest UCAT question bank
  4. UCAT practice questions
  5. BMAT specification

Help find UCAT practice questions  

For a lot of students, the biggest challenge in preparing for the UCAT is a shortage of practice questions. The official UCAT site only has a limited number of questions, which students will get through in no time. 

Medify’s UCAT Online Course has over 20,000 questions and 24 mock exams, making it the largest UCAT question bank in the world. It also provides 24 full mock exams, 40+ mini-mock exams, 50+ hours of video tutorials, and performance feedback, starting from just £15.

Plus, we've upgraded our UCAT mock exams 13-24 and revised our practice question bank to enrich your child's preparation journey.

Discuss progress

Have conversations about how their exam preparation is going to help them reflect on how to improve. 

Learning a little about the exam’s sections yourself can help with this.

Quiz them on their scientific knowledge

Having frequent quick quizzes will help improve your child’s scientific knowledge. This is important in preparation for Section 2 of the BMAT and will give them a way to revise aside from just books and laptops.

Create revision plans together

Doing this together will help ensure an organised plan. Having a second opinion means that they will be able to see what’s realistically possible in the time available. 

Be supportive

The UCAT and BMAT are high-pressure experiences. The admissions tests are supposed to be challenging and there may be points when it feels too hard. Your child may feel burnt out, overly stressed, or disheartened with exam results (even after sitting practice exams).

Be willing to listen to your child's concerns and be supportive, encouraging them to keep going even when they feel like they’re not improving. You can also signpost them to useful resources, such as our guide on mastering your UCAT mindset.

Graphic showing a girl studying and feeling stressed with a large number of books

How can I help with the personal statement?

The personal statement is where students show the admissions tutors who they are. 

Encourage your child to start early, ideally in the summer after year 12. This gives them enough time to write their statement and have it reviewed multiple times. 

When they’ve written the first draft, encourage them to share it with their teachers. This allows for feedback and improvement. You could also read the personal statement yourself and see if you have any suggestions for improvement. 

When reading, use the list below as a checklist to see if everything is covered:

  • Does it explain why they want to study medicine or dentistry?
  • Is work experience mentioned? Do they say what they learned from it?
  • Have they expanded on the skills which make them suitable for the course, with examples?
  • Do they clearly explain why the skills and qualities they evidence prove they can make a good doctor or dentist?

If you don’t have experience in the healthcare industry or with writing personal statements, it can be hard to give the best feedback. 

Medify offers a Personal Statement Online Course with in-depth tutorials, guidance from admissions experts, and over 100 personal statement examples for just £20.

How can I help my child prepare for medical and dental school interviews?

Interviews can be a stressful and challenging experience for a lot of students, so it’s important that your child feels supported throughout their journey. Here are some ways you can offer support:

Stay up to date on current affairs together

Current affairs forms an important part of interview prep. Watching or reading the news together can make this part fun.

Be an interviewer 

Try simulating an interview. This will help them get comfortable with topics and interview technique.

Go through stress management techniques

It’s normal to be nervous or panicked on the day. Take time to prepare ways to manage your child’s nerves.

Have proper preparation material

Medify’s Interviews Online Course provides everything your child needs to excel in their medical school interview.

They can prepare at their own pace with in-depth tutorials, authentic example video responses from real students, and an extensive Knowledge Bank.

Are overseas work placements necessary?

Work experience is important when applying to medicine and dentistry. It shows admissions tutors that applicants have a realistic understanding of the career. It's also a chance to develop and observe some of the skills required to be a good doctor or dentist. 

There is no requirement to undertake overseas work placements, and not doing them won’t be a disadvantage. Medical schools want to see solid reflection on previous experiences as well as what was learned. The local GP can teach students as much as a hospital in Tanzania. 

How expensive are medical and dental degrees?

Admissions tests

The UCAT: £75

The UCAS application: £26 per submission

BMAT: £49

A five year degree

Tuition fees: £9250 a year (total: £46,250 over five years). 

Accommodation: average £147 a week (outside of London), £36,750 for 5five years (in 2018-19).

Utilities: around £50 a month, £3000 for five years.

Living costs: around £340 a month, £17,000 for five years.

Textbooks: This can vary based on university. Some universities have online copies of textbooks and your child can choose what textbooks they want to buy. They can cost anywhere from £20 to £200.

Overall cost of studying medicine or dentistry: Over £100,000. However, there is funding support available from the government and you can also search for scholarships on each university's website.

What financial support is available and how can the loans be paid back?

Student finance is available. 

If you are in need of a grant, the system can be complex. The Grant Fairy app can help you find most of the options in one place. Many universities provide scholarships or bursaries for those with lower household incomes.

1. Tuition fees loan

Tuition fees are covered by a loan from the government, which must be paid back once your child starts earning over a certain amount. This covers £9250 of any tuition per year and is paid directly to the university.

2. Maintenance loan

A maintenance loan for basic living expenses is also available. The amount is variable based upon your household income and other factors.  The maximum for students not in London and not living at home, for example, is £12,382 (in 2021-2022).

Only 50% of the maximum amount is guaranteed. The lower your household income, the more maintenance loan your child receives. You can calculate roughly how much you would get using this calculator on the government website.

3. Is it realistically possible to pay back the maintenance loan?

Repayment is required upon earning over £2274 a month (£27,295). 

Newly qualified dentists earn around £33,000 a year. Repayments are calculated as 9% of what is earned over the threshold. For a second-year doctor, the figure is £28,000.

If we take £33,000 a year, for example, it equates to around £2750 gross per month. This is £476 over the threshold. 9% of £476 is £43 to repay per month.

4. Admissions test bursaries

Your child could also be eligible for a UCAT bursary or a BMAT bursary to pay for the admissions test.

Each centre has its own criteria for eligibility, so be sure to check them out.

How do I know if a university is good?

Medicine and dentistry are professionally regulated courses, so all courses have the same core curriculum. 

Universities will vary in the way they deliver this teaching and in the extracurricular support they offer. 

Note that getting into any medical or dental school is a massive achievement due to the level of competition, however, it still makes sense to choose a school which suits your child’s learning style and preferences. 

Learn how to choose a medical school 

What if my child doesn't get accepted? 

There are many routes into medicine and dentistry. 

It’s possible to:

  • Take a gap year and apply again the next year
  • Do another degree and then apply for graduate entry medicine or dentistry
  • Apply abroad
Read about 'Plan B' options

I’ve never been to university – will this have a negative impact? 

In a word: ‘no’. 

In fact, it could improve things. 

A lot of universities have widening participation programmes. A common criterion is that none of the applicant’s parents have been to university, or that the applicant is the first person in the family to go to university. Other criteria for widening participation programmes include further socioeconomic or educational disadvantages. 

Eligibility criteria vary from university to university, but across the board, successful completion of these programmes generally means students are eligible for a lower offer threshold or a fast track to interview. 

What are the chances of getting accepted? 

There’s no way to guarantee success, but having a strong UCAT or BMAT score, an excellent personal statement and a lot of interview preparation will certainly help. 

What’s next after receiving an offer? 

Congratulations! It’s a proud moment! Once your child receives decisions from all their universities, they can choose a firm choice and an insurance choice

After this, it’s about focusing on their A-levels to get the grades required. 

Graphic showing an aspiring medical student writing in a notebook with a pen


Medical and dental school are increasingly competitive, but by learning about the admissions process at the same time, you can help them achieve this goal.

While it is a serious financial commitment, the loans and grants available from the government and universities help to manage costs, and repayments don’t start until your child earns a suitable salary.

If you have any questions about getting into medical school, check out our blog and Admissions Guide.

Best of luck!

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