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Here’s the first-hand experience of a student who graduated with a Biomedical Sciences degree at Newcastle University, stayed for a Masters, and then went on to study Graduate Entry Medicine at Warwick.

What was your pre-Medical School experience?

I studied Biomedical Sciences as my undergraduate degree at Newcastle University and then remained there for another year to do a Masters of Research in Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine.

What made you want to do Graduate Entry Medicine after your first degree?

Like a lot of students, I actually studied Biomedical Sciences knowing from the very beginning that I wanted to do Medicine eventually! I was only invited to one interview when I initially applied during my A-Levels (which was an absolute disaster), so after receiving no Medicine offers I decided to go ahead and pursue a different degree instead of taking a year out.

I applied for Medicine again during the final year of my Biomed degree and still had no luck. So I decided to do my Masters. Regenerative medicine was something that had always interested me, but my knowledge of the area was quite limited, so I was keen to learn more about it.

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How did you prepare for the Graduate Entry application process?

I know some people say that you can’t really prepare for the admissions tests – but honestly, you can. I’m pretty certain that the reason why my previous applications for Medical School were unsuccessful was due to my low UCAT scores. So, just before starting my Masters, I went on a UCAT course which gave me a better understanding of how to approach the questions – and this definitely helped!

What work experience did you get?

I did some medical shadowing whilst I was doing my A Levels. During my Undergraduate degree and my Masters, I did some volunteering – my advice is to make sure you do any kind of work that’s in a caring environment. Not only does it prepare you a little bit for what you might come across during your time at Medical School, but it’s also really rewarding!

How long did you prepare for your Graduate Entry Medicine application?

Before I started my Masters, I did some volunteering abroad as a teacher in a rural area of Cambodia. At the time, I already had quite a lot of experience working with older people, but I hadn’t really worked around children.

Working abroad helped to develop my confidence as I was thrown into a very unfamiliar environment, and it gave me something interesting to talk about during my interview! I also spoke to some medical students about their interview experiences and asked them for tips.

How many times did you have to apply before you were successful?

I applied a total of three times (the third being successful), whereas some of my course mates applied just the one time and were offered a place. So what’s the secret to obtaining a place? It really depends on how you perform compared to other applicants that year.

I’ve told a number of students interested in Medicine that one year you could be amongst some of the best applicants, whereas another year you could be considered average – but don’t let this put you off! I was so close to giving up and withdrawing my application before hearing back from my interview with  Warwick, because I was convinced that I wasn’t going to be offered a place. So my top piece of advice is: don’t give up.

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Why did you choose the Med Schools you applied for?

I’m currently at the University of Warwick, which was my first choice. Warwick appealed to me not only because they offer Graduate Entry only, but also because it has a lot more places compared to other Medical Schools.

When picking a Med School, make sure you do plenty of research – such as typical entry offers for the previous year, intake, location, options for accommodation and so on. Also, go to open days. It’s one thing to look at photos, but actually seeing the university and the surrounding area in real life can be very different.

What is the best part of your course?

One of the great things at Warwick is the structure of the course. We are taught by systems – so GI, Cardiovascular, Musculoskeletal, etc.

We learn all about the anatomy (which is reinforced with some incredible plastinated specimens), the physiology, the pharmacology and anything else that’s relevant, which really helps to bring everything together. Warwick also uses an integrated approach for teaching – the majority of content is delivered using lectures, but we also have Case-Based Learning which is a great way to see the clinical side of what we’re studying.

Warwick also exposes us to the clinical setting quite early on. Within a few weeks of starting we were learning how to take a history and carrying out different examinations. During my Christmas break, I did some work experience in a  hospital near home, which was quite different from when I was an A-Level student. I truly came to appreciate what was being said by the doctors and nurses and was actually able to understand what the surgeons were doing – plus being allowed to scrub up to have a closer look was a bonus!

What is your least favourite part of GEM so far?

Definitely the workload. I won’t lie to you: Graduate Entry Medicine is hard work! At the start of the course, everyone was quite shocked by the sheer volume of the content we were being taught, and how quickly we progress from one concept to another.

How do you relax?

My friends and I usually spend our evenings chatting, sometimes playing a few games, or we might wander over to one of the bars on campus for food. I also play on the medics hockey team – admittedly, I’m not very good, but I’ve never been any good at sports! I’d definitely recommend joining societies and sports teams at university, as it’s a great way to meet other people.

GEM is definitely a course where you have to keep learning as you go along. It’s really important to stay on top of your work and keep revisiting what you’ve learned, but it’s also vital to find a balance, avoid burnout and enjoy yourself as well.

What do you see yourself doing when you have completed all your training?

This keeps changing for me. When I first started, I was interested in going into Oncology, maybe even Paediatric Oncology – but more recently I’ve become very interested in infectious diseases. I’m still only in first year, so I know that I’m probably going to keep changing my mind during my studies. After all, I went through at least eight different career paths in my head before settling on Medicine during school!

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