What is a personal statement?

A vital and often the most challenging part of your application is the writing of your personal statement. Your personal statement must stand out from the crowd and differentiate you in some way from the thousands of other high quality students applying.

Consider what the aims of your personal statement are before you begin writing. You need to demonstrate firstly that you have the attributes to be a great medical student, and secondly the ability to develop into a competent member of the medical profession. This requires not just good personal attributes and good experiences but more importantly an understanding of the reality ahead and a passion to learn more and to develop into the best possible doctor for your patients. It may seem daunting but is also exciting and the chance to really draw together and summarise your motivations. This is the starting point of your journey into a medical career ahead.

It’s about compiling the skills, experiences and achievements over the last few years and relating them to these aims, giving solid evidence and justification to your statements. Try to demonstrate insight from your experiences and your excitement about studying medicine. Maturity is important and you need to show commitment to the challenges of the course and vocation ahead.

Your personal statement can be a maximum of 47 lines and 4000 characters. Whilst not much space to summarise your life so far, use it wisely to give an effective summary of who you are and why you should be invited to interview.

Remember that your personal statement is just that, personal. The admissions panel want to see bright and independent thinkers thus you don’t need to follow any particular template in order to secure success. Invest in explaining the relevance and the value of the skills and activities that you have undertaken and your understanding of what medicine entails.

How is the personal statement used?

The personal statement (PS) serves a few main purposes:

  • Selection for interview: The personal statement is used as part of the assessment process for the application to rank students prior to been selected for interview.
  • Getting to know you: The admissions tutors will want to have a personal insight from you on why you want to become a doctor, and why they should select you. They will see applications from hundreds of people, and the PS is a way for you to stand out.
  • Information for interviewers: The personal statement is an easy target for interviewers for them to base questions about your experiences or activities that you have mentioned.

How is it marked?

Different medical schools will differ in their methods of marking a personal statement. However, markers use a fixed marking criteria to ensure that the applicants are fairly marked, which means that the marking criteria can be predicted.

  • Commitment to medicine: Motivation to study medicine, understanding medicine as a career, work experience
  • Aptitude for medicine: Community activities, leadership qualities, evidence of working in a team, general interests
  • Academic ability: GCSE results, predicted/actual grades, academic distinctions

When should I start?

Unlike the Guinness advert – good things do not always come to those who wait. Preparing a good personal statement takes time and repeated re-drafts. With application for medicine being in October, you should be writing a draft in the summer before year 13 (perhaps after your UKCAT exams). It may take several drafts to refine your statement, and the earlier you start, the more time you have to make improvements.

Personal statements can be hard to write (we have all gone through writer’s block before!), so start with a brainstorm of a list of things you want to mention and work from there.

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