4 Steps to Pick the Medical Schools for Your UCAS Application
Having completed your volunteering, work experience and admissions tests you have now come to the most exciting part – picking your medical school!
Due to the competitive nature of medicine, UCAS only allows you to choose a maximum of 4 medicine choices so you can pick an alternative fifth choice as a back-up. You can pick almost any other course for your fifth choice, excluding dentistry, but remember that they will receive the same personal statement – so keep to the STEM subjects.
Step 1: Have you picked the right course structure for you?
The decision of where to go is personal to each individual and you should take the time to really think about where you want to go, especially since you’ll spend at least five years there.
At medical school there are three main course structures: Traditional, Integrated and Problem-Based Learning (PBL).
Traditional courses follow a more lecture-based approach with minimal clinical experience in your pre-clinical years – mainly attributed to Oxford and Cambridge.
Integrated courses are common. Here you will experience a mixture of lectures alongside early clinical experience – usually through GP placements in years 1 and 2.
PBL is common among all universities but only emphasised in a handful of universities such as Manchester. Here you will be given a case to go away and try to solve before presenting to a group or a tutor. If you’re into self-guided learning and have a keen intuition PBL is for you!
Step 2: Do you meet the GCSE and A-Level entry requirements?
All universities are different so shop around for the best options available to you to increase your chances of securing and interview and then an offer. Almost all universities will look at Maths and English Language and will probably set minimum requirements.
If you hold an impeccable record, you may want to consider universities such as Oxford, Cardiff and Birmingham as these schools are known for placing high importance on GCSEs. They hold the reputation of ‘GCSE heavy’ universities.
Some universities will score a number of your highest GCSEs and then set a cut-off score that year. For example, the University of Leicester give you a score for your best 8 GCSEs (including maths, English and the sciences) which they will then use, with your UKCAT, to rank you amongst other candidates.
Imperial College London doesn’t take GCSEs into consideration beyond meeting the minimum requirements and the University of Cambridge looks at GCSEs contextually so there is opportunity for all who are deserving.
Ultimately, better GCSEs will give you more opportunities but will not guarantee you a place.
Step 3: Have you researched where to apply with your UKCAT score?
By now most of you would’ve completed the UKCAT – well done! You will be looking at an overall score (sometimes people compare the mean average of their score) and your Situational Judgement Test (SJT) banding and wondering where you can apply.
Obviously the higher your score then the better but you should still wait until the testing cycle ends to look at the final mean scores and deciles. This will allow you to see where you have scored relative to your competition this year!
If you have scored above average (5th decile or more) and SJT banding 1 or 2, you should be in good standing to apply most places.
As UKCAT is the most common admissions test required for medical schools, there are many different policies on how your score is evaluated. They may use it to shortlist candidates by ranking everyone’s UKCAT or give you ‘points’ that contribute to your overall candidate ‘score’.
If you have a lower UCAT score, you may want to consider applying to universities who put less weighting on UKCAT and some BMAT universities to increase your chance of securing an interview.
Step 4: Have you researched where to apply with your BMAT Score?
The BMAT is only taken on two dates per year: firstly in September and then in October. If you take the early sitting in September, you will already have a score and will be able to apply based on that knowledge.
However, most of us would have sat the test in October – post application. Since you don’t know your score there is a greater risk in applying to BMAT medical schools – but don’t be deterred!
Each of the sections of BMAT are weighted differently depending on which university you apply to. It is generally accepted that all BMAT universities want candidates who score high in all sections.
University College London is known for handing candidates their section 3 essays prior to interview and then asking them about it – so if English is your strong suit look no further!
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