Applying for Medical School

Applying For Medical School – Parents Guide

Is your child considering medical school? Here’s what you need to know about the application process…

So, your son or daughter has chosen a career in medicine, or is at least looking into it as an option. We’ve invited Kaplan, leaders in UCAT, BMAT and medical school admissions preparation, to provide some guidance on key things to bear in mind when applying to medicine.

A-Level choices & entry requirements for medical school

Being aware of the grades that universities look for is a great place to start when considering medical school. Usually they will look for grades ranging from B – A*, with AAB being the minimum, but always check with individual universities for specific requirements. With the cancellation of 2020 A-Level exams, universities will accept students at their medical schools based on their predicted grades this year. Students applying for 2021 university entry and beyond will almost certainly take their A-Levels, and universities will once again make their definite decisions on results day.

Ideally, students will know that they want to pursue a career in medicine from year 11 – a time when they will also decide on their A-Level subjects. Yr 11 is an important time, as A-Level course choices will have an impact on their chances of getting into medical school from college/sixth form. The reason for this is because Biology, Chemistry and/or Physics are the most common subjects medical schools require.

If your child is in year 12, you can use Kaplan’s Med School Matcher to see which medical schools you can apply to based on predicted grades.

How you can help your child with their decisions to choose medicine

Students should be aware that the foundation of working as a doctor is helping people, sacrificing a lot of time, and dedicating oneself to life-long learning. Students should be clear on the reality and not the glamour of being a doctor. One way to do this is by carrying out work experience in a clinical setting or a care- or service-related setting. Aspiring medics can also follow YouTubers who are recently-graduated medical doctors to see what a day in their life is really like.

Your child will also need to bear in mind that the application deadline to medical school is a little earlier than other subjects. Students will be expected to submit their UCAS application by October 15th instead of January, which is the general deadline for all other courses. Medical school applicants will need to have completed their personal statement, entered their final university choices and gathered their references well in advance of this. For a little context, most students applying for other courses will be gathering these pieces of their application together in October, when the applications for medicine are due to UCAS.

Due to the current situation, the 2020 UCAS application for medical school is yet to be confirmed. It may be a little later than the usual October 15th deadline.

Medical Work Experience & Personal Statements

As mentioned, getting work experience in a clinical setting is highly advisable for medical school applicants. This is not only to give them a clear indication as to whether they should pursue medicine, but also to gain insights about what it takes to work in the medical field. These insights are also needed for personal statements. Normally, the expectation for personal statements to medical schools is that students share what they learnt from their time during work experience.

For instance, if a student had acquired valuable work experience at a hospital pharmacy, they wouldn’t stand out for simply listing what they did, but rather what they learnt about patient needs and demands, or about themselves and the skills they would need in those types of situations.

The 2020 lockdown due to COVID-19, has meant that many students who are now in year 12 don’t have the opportunity to carry out work experience, however that shouldn’t discourage students. They can still demonstrate their passion for medicine by carrying out service-related tasks, like delivering food or drugs to the elderly/vulnerable. Alternatively, they could set up a social media account that spreads positivity and highlights the work of the NHS in this time. Anything which shows understanding of what it means to be a doctor will help them stand out.

UCAT & BMAT: Medical School Admissions Tests

One of the most unique parts of the application process for medical school is the requirement to take one (or both) of the admissions tests below:

  • UCAT (University Clinical Admissions Test)
  • BMAT (Biomedical Admissions Tests)

Despite the current situation, these tests are highly likely to go ahead in the summer, however, specifically for the UCAT, there will be delays as to when students can officially start taking their UCAT as test centres are currently closed.

Generally students will take these tests in the summer of year 12 or the beginning of year 13, depending on the universities they apply to attend. It’s most likely that students will take the UCAT, as most universities (a list of 30) require that test. The remaining medical schools, including Oxford, Cambridge and UCL, require the BMAT. Both exams are 2- hour long aptitude tests, somewhat similar in style to the 11 Plus – however that is as far their similarities go.

The UCAT is a computer-based exam with 5 separate sections, including an enormous amount of questions to answer within a limited time, and the BMAT is a paper-based exam with 3 sections. The latter contains Biology, Physics and Chemistry content plus an essay section, so students can find some familiarity to their normal school exams with this test. The UCAT, on the other hand, is much more unusual, with sections including venn diagrams, puzzles, intricate patterns and shapes, and ethical conundrums. It is highly advisable that both tests are prepared for in order to have the best possible chance of getting into medical school.

A handful of medical schools have minimum score requirements when it comes to UCAT & BMAT results, and they have a certain cut-off point that their successful applicants must meet.
Another reason why preparation is key! You can use Kaplan’s Med School Matcher to see how each university uses the UCAT or BMAT.

Kaplan also provides free practice for both tests. Access their free UCAT practice test, or their free BMAT practice test to familiarise yourself with the kinds of questions to expect.

Interviews & MMIs

The final stage of the application process to medical school is the interviews. If your son or daughter gets this far, that means that they have put together a successful UCAS application, and that they performed well on their admissions tests. Medical schools are becoming more and more standardised in the way that they deliver their interviews. Most are now providing Multiple Mini Interviews (MMIs) which are almost like assessment days. However, some do still carry out traditional panel interviews, whereby you will have conversations with a few faculty members and sometimes a student from the university.

Either way, preparing for these interviews and having an approach to the different questions that may be asked is important. It’s also key for students to look back at their personal statement, as they will be asked questions relating to what they wrote within it. Being up to speed on NHS news is also important. Students will start hearing back about interview invitations from November – February of Yr 13.

Hopefully you have been equipped with enough information to help your child make informed decisions about applying to medical school, whilst also mapping out all the key steps they will
need to take.

Find out more about the process for applying to medical school here.