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Graduate Entry Medicine, or GEM, is an accelerated four-year medical programme for students who have a previous degree. The Graduate Entry route is increasingly popular – both for those who missed out on undergraduate medicine originally and those who’ve had a change of heart later in life. There are universities that only offer GEM courses, like Swansea, and others that offer it alongside their undergraduate route.  

New Ways to Study Medicine

GEM is an exciting way to study medicine in its own right: Swansea University’s course, for example, allows you to study medicine in coastal South Wales, as part of a small, 150-student cohort alongside other graduates from all disciplines, including the Humanities.

Taking the GEM option means you are on an accelerated version of a medical degree, which might sound scary, but it means you can use all the transferable skills you honed as an undergraduate and jump straight in. 

However, GEM is competitive and understanding the application process is key to securing a place. Read on for our top tips and advice to stand the best chance of success in your GEM application! 

Understanding the Entry Requirements 

There are 17 universities offering GEM courses in the UK, and they all have different entry requirements, so there’s no way out of doing your homework. It’s really important to make sure you understand each medical school’s requirements so you don’t miss out. 

In general, entry requirements revolve around your academic achievements, an admissions test and an interview. On the academic side, you’ll need to have or be predicted to have a good degree qualification (usually a 2.1 or above). Several GEM courses accept non-science degrees (some may require science A levels to compensate, and/or specific GCSEs – so it’s worth checking the small print).

On the admissions test side, you’ll have to take an exam, usually the UCAT or GAMSAT for home students and the MCAT for international students (more on these later) and achieve a certain score to be eligible for an interview.

Because of how different and complicated different medical schools’ admissions policies for GEM are, it’s worth thinking about prioritising courses that are more flexible so you minimise the number of exams you have to take. 

Swansea’s GEM course, for example, accepts graduates with a 2:1 from any discipline (and allows applicants to compensate for a 2:2 with postgraduate study), has minimal GCSE requirements and no A level requirements. Courses that are inclusive and flexible, like Swansea’s, mean you can focus on showing your aptitude for medicine, rather than having to prioritise studying for additional qualifications.  

Overview of Admission Tests 

There are three admissions tests used by GEM schools: the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT), the Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT) and the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). It’s a bit like alphabet soup, so it’s worth checking out each test and making sure you pick the right test for you.

Traditionally, most GEM courses used GAMSAT, but they are increasingly using UCAT as well. Swansea has just become the latest GEM Medical School to accept the UCAT, in addition to GAMSAT and MCAT. This is great news for applicants, as it means you can pick the test that you have the best chance at succeeding with to apply! 

This table offers a brief comparison of the different GEM exams:

GAMSATUCATMCAT
Number of UK universities requiring it for home applicants (for 2025 entry)8 (4 also accept UCAT)12 (4 also accept GAMSAT)1 (which also accepts UCAT and GAMSAT)
(FYI – many accept MCAT from international applicants only)
Cost (in the UK)£271£70About £430 (the MCAT is a US-based exam so prices are converted from dollars)
When you can take the examTwice a year, in March and SeptemberRegularly between July and SeptemberRegularly throughout the year on specific dates
When are scores availableApproximately two months after the examImmediately after you finish your testApproximately a month after the exam
Exam formatThree sections of one hour to two and a half hours each, taken over the same dayFive sections over approximately two hoursFour sections over approximately six hours

Exam contentReasoning in humanities and social sciences, reasoning in biological and physical sciences, written communicationVerbal Reasoning, Decision Making, Quantitative Reasoning, Abstract Reasoning, and Situational JudgementBiological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems, Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior, Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

Given the shorter exam time, range of dates available, significantly cheaper entrance fees and the growing number of medical schools that now accept it, UCAT is proving increasingly popular.  

Whichever entrance test you choose to sit, there are lots of helpful resources out there, and it’s worth investing in a question bank so you have access to lots of high-quality questions and exam papers. Making a timetable to plan your revision is helpful so you don’t neglect sections you like less. It’s also important to start doing questions under timed conditions: whilst the UCAT is mostly challenging because of its tight time constraints; GAMSAT is a marathon, not a sprint.

Of course, while a good entrance test score will definitely help you, it’s also important to schedule time to focus on all aspects of your application. GEM schools are increasingly taking a more holistic view of their candidates: Swansea, for example, applies a cut-off score for UCAT, GAMSAT and MCAT, so a higher score won’t advantage you – but not meeting other academic requirements or doing poorly at interview will be a barrier to success. 

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Evidencing Relevant Experience 

On top of academic entry requirements, GEM courses want to see a commitment to medicine, often through working or volunteering in healthcare or generally in a public-facing role. Here are some things you might want to consider to ensure you’re the right fit for Medicine, and they’ll be great to talk about in your personal statement and interview: 

  • Working for the NHS in an entry-level role, like as a Healthcare Assistant, a phlebotomist, or as a carer: These roles can often give you incredible insight into what healthcare is like as a profession, and you’re getting paid! 
  • Volunteering: any kind of volunteering is useful, especially if you’re working with people. Look into St John’s Ambulance to volunteer providing first aid, but you can also look at charities like Nightline (providing emotional support and information at night), Sexpression (teaching secondary school students sexual health) or volunteering to help the elderly for relevant experience.
  • Shadowing a doctor: contrary to popular belief, this isn’t as important as showing long-term commitment through work or volunteering, but it can be useful to get an idea of what working as a doctor is like day-to-day
  • Staying up to date with healthcare news: This can be as easy as getting a news app – just be sure to think about where you stand on controversial topics so you can demonstrate your moral compass. 

It’s important not to forget that diverse experiences from all different fields can also enrich a medical career. Discussing working in a bar or your first degree or career in art and design can be incredibly relevant, giving you a chance to explore your personal journey to medicine as well as showing key skills like teamwork and communication. GEM courses are increasingly recognising what applicants with non-traditional backgrounds, such as the arts and humanities, can bring to medicine. 

Universities often provide lists of attributes they’re looking for to guide candidates. Try and come up with one or two clear and detailed examples where you showed each of the attributes. It’s important to be specific and show what you learnt: using reflection tools like STAR or the Gibbs reflective cycle can help give you a framework for this. 

FAQ 

“How difficult is Graduate Entry Medicine?” 

There’s no denying that it is competitive to get into GEM, but this is very much going to depend on your individual circumstances and how well-prepared you are. At the end of the day, if you are well prepared, passionate about medicine and you take the time to make your application competitive, you’ll stand a good chance of getting into GEM. And remember that it is possible – hundreds of people are successful every year, and plenty of people take several goes but make it in the end! 

“Do A-levels matter for Graduate Entry Medicine?” 

This will depend on which GEM courses you want to apply to: some, like Swansea, have no A level requirements, while others, like Oxford, need AAB grades in science subjects. There are enough GEM courses that don’t look at A levels, meaning that A levels won’t necessarily be a barrier, but you may find that taking or resitting A levels increases your options and chances of getting in. 

“What is the UCAT score for Graduate Entry Medicine?” 

There is no fixed UCAT score that will guarantee success in a GEM application. Not all GEM courses even use the UCAT, and those that do will use the exam in various different ways. 

You should make sure to look into how your target courses use the UCAT, and take your UCAT well before applying so you can target your applications knowing your score. Swansea, for example, suggests a minimum score of 2550 overall, but does not consider the UCAT Situational Judgement bands.  

“How can I stand out in a Graduate Entry Medicine application?” 

The idea that you need to ‘stand out’ in any kind of medicine application is a common misconception. At the end of the day, medical courses receive high volumes of applications and ultimately make thousands of offers every year – you don’t need to stand out to be successful! 

Focus on having a solidly good application that ticks every box for the medical school: you should have the academic qualifications needed, be above their entrance exam cutoff and have some relevant work or life experience to showcase. The best way to look good at interview is simply to be passionate about medicine and have spent time working in healthcare or volunteering. 

“Is the GAMSAT harder than the UCAT?” 

The GAMSAT and UCAT are different exams and they can’t be directly compared. Some people will find the GAMSAT format fits them best, and some people will hate the GAMSAT and much prefer the UCAT! Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, as GEM courses increasingly accept both exams. If one exam is easier for you, you can focus on applying to schools that use that exam. 

“Is Graduate Entry Medicine a good backup choice for Undergraduate Medicine?”

Absolutely yes – if you miss out on Medicine after your A Levels, don’t be disheartened as Graduate Entry Medicine means you can still qualify to become a doctor in the long run. Swansea has a range of Pathways to Medicine courses which aim to support students in this position into medicine. 

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