Words: Ka Yuet Kenneth Au-Yeung
Applying to medical school is quite different to other applications, no doubt about that! You can apply up to 5 courses, but you can only apply to 4 medical schools at most (meaning you either leave your 5th choice blank or you can apply to a non-medical course). This blog will give you a brief idea of what you need to do to pick the right medical school for yourself.
You might be wondering what this means. Different universities have their own way of teaching especially in pre-clinical years. The main types of teaching are traditional, integrated and problem-based learning (PBL), and most medical schools use an integrated teaching style. Traditional teaching is largely lecture based, whereas PBL encourages students to learn in a group as they come together to discuss learning objectives and case-based scenarios. PBL is essentially teaching and learning from your peers, though this is done under the supervision of a facilitator. An integrated style incorporates both lectures and PBL. You should really consider which type of learning you will enjoy most before applying, and make sure you clearly know the teaching styles of each medical school! For me this is one of the most important factors to consider.
The reality is that no medical school use these tests in the same way! Some medical schools will use a cut-off system where they simply require you to meet a minimum score. On the other hand, some medical schools use these scores to rank applicants for interviews. Some only look at it if interview scores are similar. Before applying to each medical school, you must look up how your scores will be used, and you should be confident of meeting the requirements. It is never too early to start preparing for these tests too: the UCAT is computer based and generally more abstract, whereas the BMAT is paper based and has a science component. Another key point to consider is how many UCAT and BMAT medical schools to apply to: up to 30 medical schools look at UCAT but only 9 medical schools look at BMAT. You should be aware that the deadline for the application to medical school is on 15th October, yet some medical schools only accept BMAT results in November! Since you are only allowed one attempt for each test in each academic year, this means that you are to confirm your medical school choices before finding out your BMAT exam results! So, in short, know your medical school and its selection process well, prepare for these tests early and you’re good to go!
These interviews are not easy! If you really want to maximise your chances of getting into medical school, you have to know your strengths and choose medical schools with interviews that you can do well in! The 2 main types of interview are traditional and Multiple-Mini Interviews (MMIs). Traditional interviews last for about 20 to 30 minutes, and you will be interviewed by a panel consisting of 2 to 3 people. The interview will be like a normal conversation, except a lot harder! The questions may be more varied too: they can ask you anything from your UCAS application to your future aspirations, be prepared! However most medical schools nowadays use MMIs. These will last for about 60 minutes (or even longer depending on the number of stations), but you will have some time to read each question and so you can prepare them before meeting each interviewer. MMIs are challenging in their own way, it can get very tiring as they are a lot longer than traditional interviews, but it gives you an advantage in the sense that you can have some time to look at the question beforehand. So, as always, look up the medical schools and their interviews. Choose wisely and prepare accordingly!
An average university course is 3 years, but medical school takes up to 5 or 6 years. You will not have as many holidays once you start your clinical years, so you are spending the majority of your time at university. Being in the countryside and in the city can be a whole different experience! If possible, you should go on open days to find out more about life as a student at that university. Speaking to current students would be extremely helpful and will help you decide. Otherwise, there are always different resources online and many students will have shared their university experiences. You may also like to consider the living costs of the city or town. Although location might not be the first thing on your mind, it certainly is a big factor! Just be aware that if you are in smaller towns or the countryside, there may be more travelling in clinical years as you have to be in large teaching hospitals. If you don’t have a car it may mean that you have to rely on friends to give you lifts!
Please don’t think that this list covers everything, it really doesn’t. There are so many more factors that can affect your decision. Does the medical school offer dissection or prosection? Is there an option to intercalate (do an extra degree)?
The ultimate decision lies with yourself, as only you understand what you want the most. Double check (triple if you have time!) the entry requirements, explore the selection process and match it with your personal strengths and weaknesses. Have a read online, get in touch with different people and hopefully you can be in your dream medical school soon enough! Good luck!