A Guide to Applying for Medical School.


Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Medicine are amongst the most competitive degree programmes to get into. If your child is interested in any of these fields, it’s crucial that they are thoroughly prepared for the journey that leads to medical school, and how to get their application to stand out from the crowd.

The educational journey is long, with the initial higher education courses taking a lot longer to complete than a regular bachelor’s degree, and once qualified there is a commitment to lifelong learning.

Your child should be 100% sure that they want to study medicine, having researched the level of study needed, as well as the hours and lifelong commitment once qualified.

Competition for entry into medical schools is very high so every grade counts, and your child will need to commit to achieving the best grades possible from their GCSEs onwards.

They are interested, what now?

Almost every medical school in the UK requires three top grades in science subjects:

  • A-level: AAA including chemistry and one other science, biology being the preference, followed by physics, and even maths or psychology.
  • International Baccalaureate: 37 points including chemistry and another science subject.
  • 3 Scottish Highers: S5: AAAAA/AAAABB or S6 ABB.

If they struggle to meet these entry requirements, they may wish to consider doing the six-year course ‘Medicine with a Foundation Year or Pre-clinical Year’. They could also consider enrolling on a related course such Biomedical Sciences or Biochemistry, then transfer to Medicine after the first year if they achieve high grades. There is also the Graduate Entry Route to consider after finishing their degree.

Choosing a medical school

When researching medical schools your child should consider the grades they anticipate getting and their learning style, as medical school courses can generally be broken down into traditional, integrated or problem-based learning.

Once they’ve decided on the type of course they’d prefer, location could be the next factor. With courses lasting up to six years, they need to be comfortable living away from home for such a long time and should consider the cost of living in each area too.

Medical Placement or Work Experience

If your child can organise medical work experience prior to their application, it’s a fantastic way of gaining a first-hand idea of whether a career in medicine will suit them, as well as being a great addition to the CV they’ll need.

With medicine being so competitive, hospitals and other obvious areas are often overwhelmed with applications for work experience, so another avenue for your child to try is volunteering, especially in care-based roles. Volunteering in a care home or youth group will demonstrate a willingness to dedicate themselves and reflects key skills expected from a medical doctor such as empathy, patient interactions and communication skills.

Admissions tests

Another factor to consider and research is the different types of admissions tests and what they involve.

The UCAT and BMAT are by far the most popular admissions tests and are designed to assess thinking skills, medical knowledge, and clinical aptitude.

The University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) is a computerised exam that tests key skills such as communication, spatial awareness, quantitative reasoning, and numeracy. It usually covers five key areas: verbal reasoning, abstract reasoning, quantitative reasoning, decision making and situational judgement. The exam is usually sat between July and October and results are given straight after the test, so they can be used as a gauge to see which medical schools are more likely to accept your child and to tailor personal statements accordingly.

The BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) is common with some top medical schools such as Oxford, Cambridge, UCL and Imperial College. The test covers 3 main sections: problem-solving, scientific knowledge and essay writing. Registration opens in July and the exam is usually sat between September and October.

The Situational Judgement Test for Admission to Clinical Education (SJTace) is mainly used for entry to the Scottish Graduate Entry Medical Programme (ScotGEM), in particular, the University of Dundee and the University of St Andrews.

The Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT) is primarily used for the Graduate Entry Medicine courses and for a few selected Standard Entry Medicine courses where the applicant is a graduate. As with the UKCAT, an applicant must register for and sit the GAMSAT before making the UCAS application. Registration is in August while the test is sat in September.

Advice on the Personal Statement

A personal statement for medical school is the chance for your child to showcase their academic prowess and work experience, alongside their passion for medicine and why a career is so important to them.

It’s important to understand what the admissions staff want to see, so the best way for your child to do that is to visit their chosen medical school’s admissions website. This will ensure they know precisely what the admissions staff want them to include and will guide them on the structure and tone needed.

Key things to demonstrate in a personal statement:

  • Motivations and inspiration for choosing medicine
  • The volunteering, work experience and extra-curricular activities they’ve done and how they relate to the emotive skills needed in medicine
  • Wide ranging personal interests and participation in extracurricular activities that demonstrate teamwork or overcoming challenges.

Preparing for an interview

If your child gets offered an interview, the best advice is to use their chosen medical school’s website to find out more about the style of interview generally offered. It could be a panel interview or a Multiple Mini Interview (MMI), so they will need to do a lot of research on what to expect and the types of questions asked.

It’s also essential that they prepare some good quality and original responses to help them on the day. Preparing some solid answers to justify why they chose that medical school and degree programme in particular shows that they have done their research. Having knowledge of the attached hospital, its speciality, and performance is key too.

There are some great online resources that can help your child prepare and practice for a medical school interview, here is a selection: