The first thing you’ll need to consider when thinking about applying to medical school is whether or not this is the career path you see yourself going down. Medical students are incredibly employable and are taught industry-valuable skills throughout their education.
Although the rewards of undertaking a medical degree (financial and otherwise) are considerable, medical degrees are typically lengthy and challenging. When you are sure that medicine is your future, it is important that you consider the types of learning environments that are right for you when deciding which medical schools to apply to.
How to Choose a Course
Different universities use different methodologies for teaching medicine. For instance, both Oxford and Cambridge undergraduate degrees consist of pre-clinical studies for the first three years of schooling. During this time students do not have contact with patients, and their learning consists of lectures, practicals, and supervisions.
Other universities, such as the University of Cardiff, deliver the course through Case-Based Learning, where you are supported in small groups by a trained facilitator. By the third year, clinical time is increased and students are required to work in hospitals and GP surgeries throughout Wales. The Oxbridge approach is markedly more academic for the initial period of study, whereas other universities give students industry training from the outset.
When deciding on a medical school to apply for, you might want to consider where different universities are ranked in the UK. It may be the case that the universities in the top-spots (particularly in the cases of Oxford and Cambridge) are more competitive than those that rank lower, but such institutions may provide you with better training and carry with them prestige and greater employability.
The 2018 Complete University Guide ranks the UK’s top 20 universities for medicine in the following order:
- Queen Mary, University of London
- University College London
- Imperial College London
- East Anglia (UEA)
- St Andrews
The rankings are formed based on the following criteria: ‘Entry Standards’; ‘Student Satisfaction’; ‘Research Quality’; ‘Graduate Prospects’, and sees the University of Oxford at first place, with the previous front-runner, the University of Cambridge, close behind it.
Applying to study medicine at university in the UK does not consist of merely a straightforward UCAS submission; prospective medical students must undertake an admissions test in order to decipher suitability for the course. There are three tests that are used by institutions to test prospective students, which are the:
- UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT)
- BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT)
- Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT)
The choice of test or combination of tests used depends on the university to which you choose to apply. UKCAT is the test most commonly used by UK medical schools, and it is taken prior to your UCAS application. You are then required to state your UCAT score inside your UCAS application. Interviews are generally required to be undertaken prior to an offer letter being issued (if successful).
Due to the additional tests that one must undertake in order to apply to medical school, it usually takes a bit longer to get a UCAS application together for medicine as opposed to other courses in the UK. Because of this, it is important that you give yourself plenty of time to work on your application, which must be submitted on the 15th October. With Universities such as Oxford and Cambridge, the process involves extra administration, such as filling out the Cambridge Supplementary Application Questionnaire (SAQ) and attending admissions interviews (in a panel format).
Just as with any other degree in the United Kingdom, medical students are eligible for taking out a student finance loan. These loans are to be repaid once you are in employment and your monthly repayments are dependent upon how much you earn rather than how much you owe. Student loans are not interest-free: you are charged interest from the day you take out your loan. Interest is calculated daily and applied to the amount you owe each month, such that a fixed interest rate is not applied. This is known as ‘compound interest’.
Independent of student finance, the NHS provides a bursary to certain medical students in support of their study. Many medical students who are on courses for a duration of more than 5 years use this bursary to support them through the length of their studies. Use this NHS Student Bursary eligibility calculator to see whether it applies to you.
Please note: The only new courses which will attract an NHS bursary on or after 1 August 2017 are:
- Postgraduate courses
- Dental Hygiene courses
- Dental Therapy courses
- Medical and Dental courses