How to Make the Most of the Summer Before A-Levels
The summer before your A-Levels is a critical time for your application to medical school. Preparing for your A-Level exams alone is hard enough, but the added burden of having to work through the summer to gain work experience, practising for the UKCAT or BMAT, start writing your personal statement and planning which medical schools to apply to can seem impossible!
I’m not going to trivialise this by making it sound like everything will be a breeze. Yes, applying for medicine is pretty stressful, and you will need to put a lot of hard work in and have infinite amounts of patience. But always think of the road to medical school as a marathon, not a sprint. It’s all about pacing yourself, planning ahead and doing a little every day to minimise stress as much as possible. Here’s how to make the most of the summer before Year 13:
1. Organise work experience
If you haven’t already, make sure you arrange some work experience. This is probably the most important step since it will help you build your personal statement, give you material to talk about during your interview and give you a better understanding of how people work in a healthcare setting. It doesn’t matter whether you fly across the world to volunteer or shadow your local GP, what matters is what you make of your experience. You can find out which medical schools require which types of work experience on TMP’s Medical School Work Experience Requirements.
2. Prepare for the UKCAT and BMAT
It’s important you prepare the best you can for your UKCAT and BMAT over the summer. Focus on the sections you feel weakest in and make sure you practice timing yourself regularly. Getting your head in the exam mind-set is just as important as knowing the material, so dedicate a specific time of the day for your UKCAT and BMAT revision.
3. It’s never too early to prepare for your interview!
Find a book with interview questions or use TMP’s Interview Question Bank. However, it’s worth saying that you should certainly not memorise any of the suggested answers – use them more as a guide and a prompt to practice a little every day. I remember when my mum drove me to school on her way to work, I used to read out a question and give her my best answer as if she was my interviewer.
I can’t stress how important it is to prepare with someone else. Even if the other person isn’t in a position to give you much feedback, simply being able to answer a question on the spot, practising your structure, being mindful of your body language is the best practice you can get. You can then analyse in your own time how you could have improved your answer and build it up from there.
4. Preparing your personal statement
The most important tip I can give when writing your personal statement is to get it all down on paper. The number of hours I spent trying to find a punchy line to start my personal statement is embarrassing. Your first and last sentences are indeed very important for attracting your reader and giving them a good final impression, but the rest of the content is what will get you an interview.
Start brainstorming, jotting down ideas, sentences, things you will definitely be including like impressions from your work experience or what made you choose medicine. Only after this should you start shaping it and creating your story. Trust me, you will waste so much precious time otherwise.
Some final general tips:
- Don’t let your parents stress you out. Often our parents stress more than us because they feel helpless and very much out of control. Make sure you communicate to them how important it is to give you some space to study and let them know how best they can help you.
- Try not to compare yourself to others. You will inevitably doubt yourself when you hear someone else’s medical school choices, or when you compare your friend’s grades to yours. If you find someone with whom you work really well with and you are both able to help each other, then make the most of them! Otherwise, focus on your own objectives and progress.
- Finally, make sure you take a break. Don’t burn out before you’ve even started! Take a few days off where you do zero work and recharge your batteries to tackle the next year successfully!
Words: Natalia Kyrtata