After completing his undergraduate degree in Biomedical Sciences, Toby applied to study Medicine at Plymouth. Here are his top tips on applying to Medicine as a graduate!
Doing medicine was something that I wanted to do from a young age. That sounds like a very well worn cliché, but it’s the truth. I don’t remember thinking in any other way. I took every opportunity I could to be in and around medicine growing up, and nothing else held my interest in the same way. By the time I was a teenager, my mind was made up.
My plans took a detour courtesy of my A-Level results. This was obviously disheartening, but even when I applied for Biomedical Science, I had plans to find a way to the promised land. I was driven through my first degree in the knowledge that I had to do well to stand a chance of getting into medicine the second time round. I also knew that this could have been my last chance to achieve what I needed for medicine. Even when I did achieve my first, I hit another knock back in the dreaded four rejections.
Luckily, I put my degree to good use and got a job as a biomedical scientist. I thought that I could use the money to reduce the burden of my fees when I was successful in my application. There were times where I thought that I could continue as a biomedical scientist as a career, but every time I saw and spoke to doctors, I couldn’t help but feel a little jealous.
The thought of having to pay more tuition fees and spend another four or five years extra studying seemed painful too. But when I finally got my offer, I couldn’t think of anything better. All in all, if you genuinely want to be a doctor, you will find a way to make it happen.
With a degree already behind me, I felt as though I had some skills to call upon. All of the presentations and independent learning helped me prepare for my interviews, where I could call on the confidence that I previously didn’t have.
Having lots of work experience prepared me for the questions that I was going to be asked regarding teamwork, reflection and motivation. I even applied the study skills talks from university to determine how I learn best, and used these to help prepare for the aptitude tests. I found that reflecting on what you already have was the best first step in preparing for your application.
Having my degree also helped me throughout my first year a lot. I already knew the structure of lectures and how to take advantage of the library. I could apply my previous teaching of pathophysiology to supplement the teaching that I was getting. I felt that I didn’t have to learn to live independently like the first time around. All of these things meant that I could focus on the new material and fully immerse myself in medicine.
1. Work hard during your degree
The best advice that I can give is to remain focused and not take being a graduate as an advantage. That sounds simple, but you will face competition from other graduates when applying for postgraduate and undergraduate medicine. From talking to other graduates, obtaining first class honours isn’t essential, but you will face stiff competition if you don’t.
2. Gain medical work experience
Just because you have a degree doesn’t mean you don’t need work experience either. The interview process still requires you to sell yourself, and, more importantly, be able to back up these claims. Telling a panel you are fantastic without explaining how you know that means nothing to them, and you risk sounding arrogant. It is also much more important to reflect on yourself than to write and learn questions. Inevitably, interviewers will ask something that throws you, and it may knock you off your flow. Knowing what qualities you have and how you demonstrate them allows you to adapt to questions, even if they seem unexpected.
3. Practice for UCAT and GAMSAT
Aptitude tests, such as the UCAT and GAMSAT, will play a very important role in determining interview places. Do not take these for granted either. Just because the UCAT is given to 17 – 18 year olds doesn’t mean that you have an advantage. The timings for questions are short and you have to be able to think on your feet without getting flustered.
My advice is to practice questions under the same timings you will face in the real thing. The time you sit the UCAT shouldn’t be the first time you answer these questions under time pressure. The UCAT is also run twice over the course of the year; one date for Ireland and one for the rest of the UK. It might be worth considering taking both to get some practice and standing a better chance of a better score.
As for the GAMSAT, make sure to brush up on all sections equally. It can be easy to overlook the physics part of the reasoning in science section. Do not take the fact that you have a degree in a specific science as a false sense of security.
Just remember throughout the application process that you have obviously done something right to have got this far. You will have had a lot of experience, make sure you find a way of reflecting on it all. I know graduate medicine seem can seem like a long and treacherous path, but I promise you it is worth it in the end.
Words: Toby Ball
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