Medical school application FAQs
Answers to common questions about applying to study medicine in the United Kingdom
- By: Laura Elliott
How do I know if medicine is the right course for me?
Choosing medicine is a big commitment, so you need to be sure that it is the right career for you. Attending a medical school open day can help you to decide. Talk to current students to get an idea of the nature of the course and how they find being a medical student day to day. Undertake work experience in healthcare settings and ask doctors and other healthcare staff about the highs, lows, and challenges of delivering good patient care.
How long will it be until I can call myself a doctor?
In the UK, most degrees in medicine last for five years, or six years if you decide to intercalate or take a foundation year. Some medical schools offer four year courses, which are for graduate students.
When you graduate from medical school, you will be given a provisional licence to practise medicine as a foundation year 1 (FY1) doctor by the General Medical Council. Provided you meet all the competencies of this first year, you will then be given full registration as an FY2 doctor.
How much will I earn when I qualify as a doctor?
Your first job after medical school will pay £26 614 (€30 278; $34 650) per year, and your salary will gradually increase as you go into specialty training and become a consultant.
What A level subjects do I need in order to apply?
All UK medical schools require applicants to offer at least an A grade in biology or chemistry at A level, and many institutions require both subjects. Some medical schools ask applicants to offer three science based A levels; other institutions are more flexible. Some subjects, such as general studies and critical thinking, might not be accepted by certain medical schools (box 1).
Box 1: Student BMJ resources for applying to medical school
Which medical school?
- Medical School Selector—Use this tool to match your subjects and grades with the entrance requirements of UK medical schools, and to find out which teaching style each school offers: http://medschoolselector.student.bmj.com/
What if you have to reapply?
- Plan B—Read about your options at http://student.bmj.com/student/section/apply/planb.html
Getting through a medical school interview
- Interview advice—Find out what questions to expect and how to answer them at http://student.bmj.com/student/section/apply/interviews.html
What grades do I need to get a place at a UK medical school?
Most UK medical schools require applicants to offer AAA at A level, but there is some variability across universities. Some medical schools require two A* grades, while others may accept AAB. For GCSE grades, there is even greater variability: some medical schools require eight A*s; others might ask for only two As (box 1).
What if I fail to get the grades? Can I apply again?
Yes. If you don’t manage to get the grades required, you can take A level resits and apply again to medical school the following year. Check each medical school’s policy on reapplying. Some schools will accept your application if you reapply, others might not (box 1).
What if I didn’t take the right A level subjects?
If you haven’t chosen the required subjects, some medical schools offer a foundation year that will get you to the basic level of science needed to start studying medicine. Some of these courses guarantee entry into the undergraduate medicine degree at the same institution, other medical schools require you to reapply after you have taken the foundation course.
Which medical schools should I apply to?
Knowing the differences between medical schools and how you can match your strengths to their requirements is important. You can only apply to four medical schools in your UCAS application, so be strategic and choose the schools that you think are most likely to make you an offer. Remember, medical schools can still see the fifth choice on your UCAS application, so choose a healthcare related course such as biomedical sciences, as this will demonstrate your desire to study medicine. Look at schools’ entry requirements, teaching style, course structure, location, and anything that is important to you, such as extracurricular activities (box 1).
Are all medicine courses the same?
In general, there are three styles of teaching offered by medical schools in the UK: traditional (lectures), problem based learning (group discussion), and integrated learning—a mixture of both.[2 3] Find out which style each medical school uses and pick the one that is most likely to suit you (box 1).
What is an intercalated degree? Is this something I need?
To “intercalate” means to get an additional degree to your degree in medicine, and will require an extra year of study. An intercalated degree, which is usually a Bachelor of Science (BSc), gives you the opportunity to gain experience in research and to explore an aspect of medicine in more depth. Taking an intercalated degree is not a compulsory step towards becoming a doctor, but it will add points to the application for FY1 jobs that you complete in your final year.
Do I need to sit a test before I apply?
UK medical schools use three types of admissions tests: the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT), the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT), and the Graduate Australian Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT). Nearly all medical schools use one of these tests in their admissions process. However, schools use your score in different ways when deciding whether to invite you for interview or offer you a place. All these exams are taken before you submit your application via UCAS. (From 2017, you sit the BMAT before you apply to UCAS, unless you are applying to Oxford, in which case you sit the exam in November). This means that you can use your test score to guide you in your choice of medical school on your UCAS application form. Look at the average scores for previous successful applicants to the schools that you are interested in, but remember that these are only a guide and cut-off scores can change from year to year.
How much work experience do I need?
Quality is more important than quantity. You don’t need six weeks of work experience with a brain surgeon, just enough to be able to reflect on what you have learnt about the good and bad parts of being a doctor. You can also show admissions tutors your dedication to caring for people by volunteering consistently in the care sector over a long period—spending one evening a week over one or two years in a care setting, for example. This arguably shows more dedication, commitment, and motivation than two weeks’ worth of work experience.
What are medical school interviews like?
All medical schools (apart from Southampton) use interviews to decide which candidates will be offered a place. The two main types of interview are the multiple mini interview—in which you rotate around stations where you are asked questions or required to participate in a role play—and the traditional panel interview, where you are asked questions by a panel of interviewers.
How should I prepare for my interview?
Research what questions to expect and how to answer them (box 1). Then practise answering common questions out loud: “Why do you want to study medicine?” “Why study at this University?” “What qualities do you think make a good doctor?” Try filming yourself answering questions and asking friends, family, or teachers to give you practise interviews.Laura Elliott, foundation year one doctor
Queen Elizabeth Hospital, London, UK
Competing interests: None declared.
Provenance and peer review: Commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.
- British Medical Association. Pay scales for junior doctors in England. 2017. www.bma.org.uk/advice/employment/pay/juniors-pay-england.
- Pradhan R, Bourdon-Pierre R, Green M, et al. Medical school teaching styles explained. Student BMJ 2017;25:i1636.
- Wood DF. Problem based learning. BMJ 2003;326:328-30. doi:10.1136/bmj.326.7384.328 pmid:12574050.
- Published: 05 September 2017
- DOI: 10.1136/sbmj.j2450