Top tips for writing a personal statement

  1. 4000 characters and 47 lines (roughly 600 words) to convince admission tutors that you are the right candidate to offer an interview.
  2. Write down any experiences you have in a notebook during your work experience, shadowing or volunteering. You can use this as a basis for your reflections for your personal statement.
  3. Your first paragraph should be about your personal reasons and justifications for doing medicine. The admissions tutor should be able to answer to themselves the question: “Why does this student want to study medicine?”
  4. Personal experiences of health services might be valuable, don’t be scared to mention a stressful time you or a family member experienced if it is relevant and poignant to your desire to study medicine.
  5. Think carefully about what you include. Don’t mention patient names and don’t divulge personal patient information – confidentiality stands.
  6. Your opening and closing paragraphs need to be punchy, exciting and eye-catching – consider how you can capture the reader’s attention and make yourself memorable. A concise, mature and well-thought out introduction that is an effective statement or summary of your motivations is most likely to impress.
  7. Be positive and optimistic without being naïve, avoid negative statements unless you can use them to develop a positive idea or motivation or to discuss a beneficial change you aspire to work towards.
  8. Avoid clichés! Think about how realistic any sweeping statements are – did you really always want to be a doctor since the age of four? Don’t use generic or exaggerative statements, as they will not be looked upon favourably by the panel and may show a less well thought out application. Quotes can be powerful but may have been used hundreds of times before so think very carefully about using one.
  9. The meat of your Personal Statement should demonstrate what you understand a career in medicine to be, that it is a caring profession, and demonstrate your suitability to practice medicine.
  10. Use your reflections of work experiences, volunteering experiences, extra-curricular activities and academic achievements to demonstrate good skills and attributes.
  11. What is a memorable and significant experience? One that is easier to write about. Remember that reflection is recalling how you felt, not just what happened. You should be able to draw constructive conclusions from that example experience.
  12. There is no need to use 3 different examples to demonstrate how good you are at teamworking (i.e. playing rugby, playing football and playing cricket). However you can use your rugby to demonstrate team-working, playing cricket to demonstrate your leadership skills and playing football to demonstrate your organisational abilities. Ideally you should use more than just sport examples if you can to showcase a range of your skills and abilities!
  13. Your last paragraph is your conclusion and should contain a brief summary of your personal statement by summarising why you are suitable to study medicine, what insights you have as well as mention your motivations for studying medicine.
  14. Any scientific information you write should be carefully checked to make sure it is fully accurate and up to date. You don’t want to be caught out by not double checking your facts.
  15. Don’t be too abstract. An inspirational quote or story may have an impact but balance this against solid substantial statements that can be backed up. This may be easier said than done, so spend time making sure that you have a balance between being unique and interesting, whilst giving enough time to share robust facts about what you have done or achieved.
  16. Try to allocate appropriate space to various components of the statement- a few lines for each of your personal motivation, your attributes, your skills, your extra-curricular activities etc.
  17. Demonstrate that you are a critical thinker. As a medical student you won’t just need to be an information sponge, but importantly someone who considers and questions information and searches for their own answers to uncertainties. Having some flexibility of thought and a questioning mind are valuable attributes.
  18. Specific skills and attributes that tutors want to see demonstrated include some of the following:

Communication e.g. Drama, Theatre, working with children or disabled people, foreign languages, teaching, presentations
Organisational ability – Paid employment, leadership role, organisational role
Motivation – EPQs, work experiences
Empathy – Volunteering,charity work, carer
Responsibility – Part-time jobs, school leadership role, baby-sitting
Team working ability – Sports teams, orchestra, Duke of Edinburgh
Social and cultural awareness – extracurricular outlets, foreign languages, school trips

For more information and help, see our Personal Statement online Course

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