By Leonardo De Lima Picca
Deciding to apply to study medicine can be a stressful experience for anyone doing it, independent of age and previous experience. Not only do you have to ensure you meet the entry requirements for each university, you also have to decide which medical school suits you best. Since the medicine course in the UK is regulated by an outside body (the General Medical Council, GMC) the content taught in every medical course meets the requirements set by them. Henceforth, this means you’ll be learning the same content wherever you end up. This article will focus on different considerations that graduates should take into account, when it comes to applying to study medicine in the UK.
As a graduate, your experience will come in handy and applications will likely to be easier than when you applied as an undergraduate. If your undergraduate degree was in the UK, you’ll be even better off as you’ll be familiar with UCAS, and the process of using it when applying for medical school. This may help ease some of the stress of the process.
The experience from your undergraduate degree will also come in handy when it comes to choosing the medical school that best suits you. Your previous degree will have taught you a lot about yourself, such as your learning style, what learning environment your most productive in or how you like to pass the time. The list goes on. Don’t let all that experience go to waste! Use it to help narrow down the search for that perfect medical school. Medicine is a tough course, independent of your background, so being somewhere you are happy and comfortable in can really make your life easier throughout your degree.
Here’s a list of factors that you may want to take into consideration when applying for undergraduate medicine as a graduate.
The teaching style of the medical school is probably the biggest and most obvious consideration to take. You may want to consider what the teaching style of your previous degree was like, and how you coped with it. Was it heavily lecture based or was it more practical? Did you enjoy it, or would you do it differently going forward? How did you best learn the material you had to?
The two main teaching styles offered in medical schools are:
· PBL (problem-based learning)
· Traditional teaching (lecture-based).
As a graduate in an undergraduate course, I preferred the PBL style. I did my previous degree traditionally and wouldn’t like to face 5 years of more heavily lecture-based teaching. I prefer the independency of doing my own research and being responsible for my own learning schedule. Throughout my undergraduate degree, I learnt how to do my research effectively, and learned what sources worked for me. I personally prefer being prompted to learn about a topic rather than being spoon-fed the information I need to memorise.
Don’t be afraid to change and adapt your learning style though! Of course during your first degree you learned some study skills, but you surely didn’t learn all of them. You may need to adapt your approach to best fit medicine, but having a baseline from which to go from will be very helpful.
Entry requirements (Admissions tests)
You need to consider the entry requirements for each medical school before applying and you all know that! What I mean here is to be smart about your application. You should apply based on the admissions tests each medical school asks for, in order to maximise your chances of getting in. There are three types of medical admissions exams for graduates:
· UKCAT (UK Clinical Aptitude Test
· BMAT (BioMedical Admissions Test)
· GAMSAT (Graduate Medical School Admissions Test)
These tests all vary in format and content, so have a look at them extensively before making any decision. Try to look at sample questions from each and consider which one best suits you. Which exam could you do best in? You don’t need to limit yourself to just one exam, but knowing which one you’ll likely do best in will help you manage your preparation time. This may also influence your final list of choices.
Try to do them more than once, as your score will likely get better with each attempt. Do try to them early, so you have time to sit another one or two if needs be! It may also be the case that after sitting the first, your score is better than what you expected. This may then steer your applications in a specific direction. This happened to me. After taking my UKCAT, I knew my score was good enough, so I only applied to medical schools that used the UKCAT as their admissions test.
Make sure you have understood all the entry requirements, as some of them can be a bit tricky to find on the medical school’s website. The Scrubbed-Up table illustrates, what admissions test is needed, and what the score you need to have a likely chance of an interview. This certainly helps you stay organised and focused throughout the application. At the end of the day, you only have 4 choices, so you don’t want to waste them.
Size of course/graduate population
This is an important factor that I did not consider when I was applying myself. A bigger course will mean you’ll meet more people, but it may also mean you get distracted more often. A smaller course may mean not meeting as many people, but the course itself may be a tighter- knit group. There are pros and cons to both large and small course cohorts, and it’s really only down to personal preference when it comes to your learning.
The number of graduates on a course, however, is something I did not consider. I hoped there would be a few, but thankfully my course ended up being about 1/4th graduates and 3/4th undergraduate. Graduates tend to be in their early 20s, been through university once before, and most having studied a science-related degree. This puts graduates in a very similar position to one another, and it’s very comforting to know you’re not alone in the position you’re in.
It’s hard to know what the graduate population of each course is like, especially in undergraduate courses, so this is difficult to put in practice. From what I have observed, larger courses will tend to have a higher number of graduates (simply based on numbers, as percentage-wise it’s likely the same). Universities that don’t offer graduate-entry will usually have a higher number of graduates in the undergraduate course.
Consider universities that offer sports and societies that are of interest to you. Were you part of any societies in your first degree that you’d like to be a part of again? Did you play any sports or maybe even compete? Do you want to try something new? Don’t give up on your hobbies and interests just to focus on medicine. It’s actually more beneficial for your health and studies to maintain a work-life balance. Going to a university, where you can
find people who share your interests outside of medicine is extremely beneficial.
Housing is a common topic of discussion for graduate medics going into an undergraduate course. There are a lot of options for housing and at the end of the day, it comes down to your personal preference. You could want to do halls for the second time, or the first time if you never got around to it. Nevertheless most of the graduates I know were not keen on doing halls all over again. If that’s your case, your options are basically to go private. That could mean a private student accommodation or finding a room/house either with other people. It can be useful to get to know your future course mates after offers have been sent out. In my year, there was a Facebook group was made by the graduates, so we can all get in touch with each other. I know people who sorted out housing through those groups, in order to live with fellow graduate course mates, and it turned out great for them.