13th April 2023

Whilst the more traditional route to becoming a doctor – studying a 5-year undergraduate Medicine degree – is still a popular option, competition for places is fierce and applicants are increasingly required to achieve exceptionally high grades (typically up to 4 A* at A-Level). As a result, recent years have seen a rise in universities providing alternative routes to studying Medicine so, before making your UCAS application, it’s worth considering all your options:

Postgraduate Medicine degrees

Usually referred to as Graduate Entry Medicine, these degrees are typically condensed to just 4 years. Some are open to science graduates while others are open to graduates of any discipline. They are a great option for those who want to study an undergraduate degree before continuing to Medicine, or for those who discover their passion for Medicine later in their career.

Pathways to Medicine programmes

This is where you study an undergraduate degree, with a view to joining a Graduate Entry Medicine programme straight after. At Swansea, Pathways to Medicine degrees also offer the opportunity to gain a guaranteed Medicine interview if you do well in your studies, studying a choice of subjects allied to Medicine such as Applied Medical Sciences, Medical Pharmacology and Medical Genetics.

Medicine foundation courses

These degrees are designed to bridge the gap for applicants who fall short in their A-Levels, studying a preliminary year that focuses on building their skills and knowledge, before moving on to a 5 -year Medicine degree.


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Top tips to prepare you for Medicine applications

1. Choose the right subjects

Many undergraduate Medical Schools will ask for A-Level Biology and Chemistry, plus additional STEM subjects, at grade A or above. Foundation Medicine years and pathways to Medicine programmes may only require one science subject or have lower grade boundaries. Some courses may also consider alternative qualifications such as Access to Science or International Baccalaureate. Be sure to research both subject and grade requirements before making your choices.

2. Gain experience

As part of your Personal Statement, you will be expected to demonstrate your drive and suitability for a career as a Doctor, so it’s always good to have experience to draw on. Whilst shadowing a doctor in a hospital setting is great, there are so many other ways you can gain experience that is both relevant and meaningful.

At Swansea, we look for communication skills, resilience, problem solving skills, the ability to cope with pressure and a keen sense of integrity – so think outside the box for ways you could hone skills like these, for example working part time at a local care home, volunteering with St John Ambulance, or lending your support to a local charity or community cause. Finding opportunities to learn from others, provide a caring service or make a difference to the lives of others will build skills, experience and life lessons to strengthen your applications to study Medicine, as well as your personal skills as a medical student.

3. Have a back-up plan

Needing a back-up plan may sound negative but Medical School is competitive, with many hard-working and capable students losing out on places each year. It’s better to have a plan B while working towards your goals of becoming a doctor than missing out and feeling lost at a later stage, like during Clearing. This is where UCAS’s 5th Choice comes in handy.

In addition to your 4 undergraduate Medicine choices, the additional ‘5th choice’ (which cannot be undergraduate Medicine) is your opportunity to have a back-up plan should you not gain a place to study undergraduate Medicine. You can choose a pathways to Medicine course, a Medicine foundation degree, or an alternative undergraduate degree before applying to Graduate Entry Medicine. You may study for an additional year or so, but you will still be on track to becoming a doctor, gaining qualifications and heaps of experience along the way, without having to re-sit your A-Levels.

4. Do your own research

There are so many great institutions across the UK and wider to choose from. Whilst it’s easy to look up the latest league tables to find out which is deemed ‘the best’, it’s wise to consider what is important to you in a place of study: it may be the calibre of research undertaken, or the number of places available each year; you may want to know more about the curriculum, or if the town or city you will live in suits you.

Visit as many Open Days as you can. They’re your opportunity to meet staff and students who can share their first-hand experience, check out the facilities, accommodation options and student support, and explore activities such as sports teams, societies, as well as local amenities. Most importantly, they’re an opportunity to get a feel for the place where you will be spending many years studying, as you’ll want to feel safe, happy and supported during your time at university.

About Swansea University

At Swansea, we know that the route to Medicine can look different for everyone, and that what makes a good doctor includes their personal experience, resilience, and drive to succeed. Our Pathways to Medicine programme offers an alternative route to your dream career as a doctor, whether you miss out on an undergraduate Medicine place and access us as through your 5th Choice, or want to build your skills and experience in a subject allied to Medicine before studying a Graduate Entry Medicine degree.


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