Updated: May 5, 2020
By Hithin Noble and Maria Chowdhury
The city of Manchester is literally the definition of a student-city. For starters, it’s the 2nd largest city in the country- but in my opinion Manchester’s got everything London has, but cheaper. The food scene is insane- the university campus is a stone’s throw away from the Curry Mile. You can virtually smell the naan being roasted in the tandoor ovens whilst sat in lectures. If that isn’t enough, the Northern Quarter is where you find the most hip and trendy restaurants and bars in town. That last sentence didn’t do my street cred any favours. From having a vibrant night-life scene to hosting one of the UK’s largest Christmas markets: there’s always something going on in the unofficial capital of the North. With medical school being between 5-6 years long, you do really need to consider the city or town you will be studying in. Certainly, I’ve found that the city of Manchester has really helped me to find that treasured work-life balance amongst my packed medical school schedule.
The medical school cohort is approximately 400 students, making it the largest medical school in the country. There are all sorts of individuals with different personalities, ages and backgrounds, and I still find it slightly surreal that I meet someone new every day. This really intimidated me initially. I was expecting this cut-throat, competitive environment, where I would be swallowed alive. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The vibe at Manchester is very supportive, and everyone is so friendly. Medical school can be tough at times, and exam season is an epitome of this. Nevertheless, one of my fondest memories of med-school is being amongst a group of stressed out medics in the library at midnight- a week before our final exams. We shared our notes, taught each other, and as a collective, worked through our doubts efficiently. That is the Manchester student experience summed up in a nutshell.
The course at Manchester is PBL- based and provides the perfect basis to develop the critical thinking skills required within the clinical healthcare setting. As a group at the start of the week, we discuss the case study given and form a learning agenda. We work through this during the week and come together with everything we’ve learnt in the session at the end of the week. We gain a holistic understanding of each case and disease we cover, from the pathophysiology of an illness to the psychological impact it can have on a patient. Furthermore, the PBL process allows you to develop your communication skills and ability to convey complex concepts in a coherent and efficient manner. What I love most about PBL is that with the diverse nature of the cohort- each individual brings their own expertise and experience. Hence you are constantly learning from other group members, giving you a different outlook on the case you hadn’t considered. Being PBL-Based, there is an emphasis on independent study and fewer lectures to a traditional course. However, with this comes the freedom and license to explore what you truly enjoy in medicine. Nonetheless, we are given intended learning outcomes after each case to ensure we aren’t getting to side-tracked.
If you love languages: Manchester is the place for you. Manchester offers an MBChB with European Studies: the only one of its kind nationally, which offers you the chance to study a European language adjunct with medicine- with the added bonus of being able to practice for a few months in your final year, at one of many of the medical school’s European partners.
Alongside PBL, the university also offers full cadaveric dissection, only available at a few medical schools across the country. It is certainly a great privilege. With so much to remember, the prosections, 3D- anatomy software and dissection provides a perfect mechanism to visualise the intricacies of the human body, that you just don’t get from any anatomy textbook. The Communication Skills Learning Centre speaks for itself. It provides a fun and open environment to test our clinical skills, and the chance to make mistakes that we can learn from. Actors become our simulated patients who we practice on, and they genuinely couldn’t be more approachable or realistic. The leaps and bounds I have come in terms of how to communicate with patients is something that was unprecedented for me before medical school. Furthermore we have frequent placements, having access to Greater Manchester and contact with a unique patient demographic.
Our Tips and Advice
Make the most of your interview experience- from the briefing room, the actual MMI, to the tours afterwards. In the briefing room, talk to the medical student ambassadors and the other applicants. It doesn’t matter if it’s about medicine (in fact it’s better if it’s not!), chatting to people that are in the same boat as you and have just recently been in the same shoes you’ve been in can really ease your nerves and gets you into the right frame of mind for the interviews. Plus, this is also a great opportunity to make friends! Remember that whilst the medical school is assessing whether you’re right for them, you need to see if the medical school is right for you too. For instance, my interview at Manchester was when I realised Manchester was the one for me- the scenario stations and the importance they placed on patient centredness solidified to me that Manchester would (hopefully!) mould me into the best doctor I could possibly be. On the tours afterwards, pick the brains of the medical student ambassadors and ask them to show you anything in particular you’d like to see.
Reflection is very important at Manchester, not just in your personal statements but also in interviews. In the communication and patient scenario stations, reflection is normally the 2nd part of the station and is part of the marking scheme in a majority of the MMI stations. If you think you haven’t done your best in the station, then an honest and accurate reflection of your performance can really help you to redeem yourself and bag yourself some marks again. My top tip for this reflection would be to start with how you can improve. This way, if you run out of time you’ve covered the most important points.
The interviewers. At Manchester, there are often medical students in the MMI circuits, either as interviewers or actors in the scenarios. Treat the medical students just as you would a lecturer or senior doctor in the NHS. Some students enter a station, introduce themselves to the interviewer and not to the medical student and this can give a bad first impression. Most of the interviewers are super friendly at Manchester but even if they’re not, don’t read into it, they’re just trying to see how you’ll react under pressure. If you think of the interview as more of a discussion with the interviewer than a Q&A, this will enable you to really show the best of yourself.
Experience the city. On your offer holder and open days, see if you fit into the city. Have a stroll down Oxford Road, see if you can see yourself walking down that road every day to your lectures. Experience the vast range in Manchester: Spinningfields, Curry Mile and Northern Quarter are very different to each other, there is something for everyone.
Things might go wrong on the day. Yes, it is important that you look presentable and professional for your interview, but is it the end of the world if you’ve got a crease in your shirt, your palms are sweaty or if your tie is a tad too long? No. At the end of the day, you’re being assessed on your performance in the stations. So if things aren’t going perfectly smoothly on the day of your interview, don’t sweat the small stuff (I know it’s easier said than done!), this is just an unnecessary waste of energy and you’ll be exhausted before you even start your interview. Just on a side note, sweaty palms are totally understandable and some talcum powder after you put deodorant on can be a life saver with sweat patches!
Apply tactically. If you have a UKCAT score in the top 1/3 nationally- an interview at Manchester is very likely. Furthermore, a vital part of the application process at Manchester is the Non- Academic Information Form. The reason for this is that Manchester like their students to be all-rounders, and demonstrate you have sufficient clinical work experience and evidence of a good work-life balance.