Study Medicine: A Step-by-Step Guide
Want to study medicine and wondering what the medical school application process is like, step by step? You’ve come to the right place!
This page will guide you through each step of applying to medicine in detail – including deciding if medicine is right for you, A-Level choices, UKCAT preparation, BMAT revision and medical school interview techniques.
1. Decide on Medicine
In brief: Is medicine right for you?
A medicine course at university involves five or six years of study, plus extra training. It’s a big commitment, so it’s important you spend some time considering if this is the right path for you. Being a doctor is incredibly rewarding – and can also be incredibly challenging. Research different medical degrees, as well as what the day-to-day life of a doctor involves to discover if this is the right option for you.
Key resource: Deciding on Medicine
2. Choose your GCSEs
In brief: Most medical schools require good Science, Maths and English grades at GCSE.
Most medical schools will require you to have A*- C GCSE grades, with a minimum of grade B in English and Maths – so it’s important you work hard and revise for your exams thoroughly. You can check different medical schools’ GCSE requirements on their websites.
Key resource: GCSE Requirements for Medicine
3. Choose your A-Levels
In brief: Most medical schools require good Chemistry and Biology grades at A-Level.
This is an important step if you want to study medicine. Most medical schools in the UK require that candidates study Chemistry and Biology to A-Level, with the most competitive schools requiring A* grades. The third subject preference varies between universities (some encourage Maths or Physics), so it’s best to check that with each medical school individually.
Key resource: What A-Levels do you need to be a doctor?
4. Medical work experience
In brief: Gain work experience in a medical or care-giving setting, such as a GP, hospital or care home.
Completing work experience is a crucial if you want to study medicine, as it will allow you to build a portfolio of experience to draw on in your personal statement. Securing placements in a hospital or GP can be very competitive, so start searching early. Remember that placements in a care-giving setting are equally valuable – for example, you could volunteer weekly at your local care home. As places are competitive, don’t feel disheartened if you find it difficult to gain a variety of experience. Medical schools prefer quality over quantity: it’s about what you have learned, rather than listing an impressive list of hospital placements.
Key resource: Medical Work Experience
5. Prepare for your UKCAT
In brief: Prepare for the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT).
If you want to study medicine, most medical schools require that you take the UKCAT exam. They take your overall score into account when selecting candidates for interview – so it’s essential you revise well. It’s recommended that you spend around four weeks regularly revising for the exam and then two weeks of intense revision and practice questions under timed conditions. From there, you can identify which sections you are struggling with and then focus on those.
Key resource: UKCAT Guide
6. Take your UKCAT
In brief: book your UKCAT exam and sit the test!
Universities want to know that you possess the skills to be a great doctor, and the UKCAT has five sections: Situational Judgement, Abstract Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Decision Making. Registering for your UKCAT and sitting the exam is an important step in demonstrating that you are the perfect candidate to study Medicine.
Key resource: 4 Things to do Before Booking Your UKCAT
7. Choose Medical Schools
In brief: Visit different medical schools to pick the right one for you.
Most courses last three years, but your medicine course will last five or six, so it’s important you choose the right one for you. Take a look at each university’s entry requirements: which grades do they require at A-Level and does that align with your predicted grades? Do they require the BMAT? Make sure you research the course structure: is it an integrated or traditional course? Do they use Problem-Based Learning? Make a note of the universities that most appeal to you, and a list of open days to attend over the summer.
Key resource: Medical School Comparison Tool
8. Write your Personal Statement
In brief: Communicate your passion for medicine in your personal statement
Your personal statement is your chance to show the universities you apply to that you are a perfect candidate for medicine. You’ll need to cover the following three questions: Why do you want to study medicine? How have you explored your interest? Why are you a great fit? It’s important to detail your personal motivation for medicine, how you have explored this interest through work experience or volunteering, as well as any wider reading you’ve done.
Key resource: How do medical schools use my personal statement?
9. Complete your UCAS form
In brief: Select four medical schools to apply to through UCAS
The deadline for UCAS medicine applications is much earlier than other courses (it’s in October instead of January), so you’ll need to work on your application before many of your friends. You’ll need to fill in your personal details, upload your personal statement and select four medical schools to apply to.
Key resource: UCAS
10. Prepare for your BMAT
In brief: Revise for the Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT)
If you want to study medicine, a handful of medical schools in the UK require that candidates sit the BMAT. The exam is designed to test your problem-solving, mathematic and scientific skills, as well as your ability to think critically and to form a logical argument – and preparation is key to a good score. The BMAT tests specific knowledge as well as aptitude, so use the Admissions Testing Service’s Assumed Knowledge Guide to revise for Section 2’s Physics, Chemistry and Biology questions. Using past papers will also be a good way to prepare for Section 1’s problem-solving as well as Section 3’s essay question.
Key resource: BMAT Past Papers
11. Take your BMAT
In brief: Register for and book your BMAT exam
Universities will use BMAT scores in the process of selecting students for interview, so it’s important you prepare well and perform to the best of your ability on the day. You can sit the BMAT in September or November. Taking the BMAT is an important step on the journey to medical school.
Key resource: BMAT Guide
12. Read medical journals
In brief: Get up to date with the latest medical news and recent developments in Medicine.
This is a key aspect of preparing for your medical school interviews. Your interviewers will want to see that you keep up to date with the latest developments in medicine, as well as current NHS debates. They may ask your opinion on these topics during the interview – so it’s essential you’re clued up! You can do this by reading medical journals, reading our weekly news blogs or downloading a news app to your phone.
Key resources: The Prospective Medical Student’s Reading List
13. Practise Medicine interview questions
In brief: Practise interview questions with a friend
Practise answering common interview questions with a friend (‘Why medicine?’ or ‘What did you learn from your work experience?’) by using our Interview Question Bank. This will help you to vocalise your ideas in a relaxed environment, so you’ll feel much more comfortable in your real interview. It’s a good idea to re-read your work experience diaries and your personal statement so that your experiences are fresh in your mind. Remember too that Ethical Scenario questions are common at medicine interviews, so make sure you know your four pillars of Ethics (Autonomy, Beneficence, Non-Maleficence and Justice) – and practise applying these in your answers!
Key resource: Interview Question Bank
14. Attend your medicine interview
In brief: Travel to the university to attend your interview
How you perform at interview is key to securing that med school place. On the day, remember to dress smartly, relax (as best you can!) and smile. Your interviewers aren’t there to try to catch you out – they want to see you do well. You’ll be interviewed by people who share your passion, so don’t be afraid to show them your commitment to medicine and why you’re the perfect candidate. Good luck!
Key resource: Medical School Interviews
15. Choose from your offers to study medicine – or reapply
In brief: Accept your med school offers, or reapply next year
This is the final stage! If you have received offers from different medical schools, you can accept one and look forward to starting medical school after the summer – congratulations! If you didn’t get your A-Level grades, or you were rejected before interview, don’t worry – you can still become a doctor. You can take a gap year to strengthen your application by getting more work experience, improving your interview technique or re-sitting your A-Levels.