The Battle of the Century - Social Media & Mental Health

It influences everything we do within modern society. In the back of our minds at all times. It consumes all our time, energy and thoughts. The most destructive weapon and held in your hand. Robbing us of our uniqueness. But more importantly, robbing us of our minds.

This is evident through the recent trends of mental health issues increasing alongside the increase of social media users.

Social media. 2.1 billion users. 3 billion people with access to the internet. With the rapid increase in popularity of social media does it really come as a surprise that suicide numbers have sky rocketed over the past few years?

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As seen from these statistics we can begin to understand how quickly the popularity of social media has exploded and with an 80% increase (18-29 years old) in social media users in under 10years. There is an extremely clear trend for every age group and these numbers are projected to continue to increase.

Many people have felt social media to be a burden to their lives in particular their mental health. As the graph below will show since 2005 when social medias rise in popularoty really began there has been a massive increse in suicide rates.

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Is this a coincidence? Most likely not. Many people who said they have suffered from mental health illness said social media had a further negative impact on their mental wellbeing.

It's a battle which will not stop. Influencing the future of mental health and everything else around us. It's a silent battle which will influence so many people. Social media will only lead us further down this downward spiral, deeper into the unknown effects of this toxic movement, and further away from our own minds.

Student Blog Post Special: Obesity- Death from Within

This year we ran a bursary competition for students to write a blog post. We are delighted to share our winner, Nusaybah, who wrote an interesting piece on the obesity epidemic.

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Obesity has our society locked in chains, damaging it from within. Obesity is a medical epidemic which has boomed vastly over the last decade due to the easy accessibility of cheap junk food. An accumulative disease with direct link to CVD, numerous cancers, diabetes and even severe depression. Today nearly a third of children aged 2 to 15 are overweight or obese and younger generations are becoming obese and staying obese for longer (HM Government, 2016). Is our medical system doing enough to prevent and tackle this notorious disease? Many approaches from the government have been taken one of which include the sugar tax.

Obesity is defined as having an excess amount of body ratio fat compared to the rest of your body. This abnormal amount of excess fat is measured using BMI (body mass index). BMI is a measure of whether you’re a healthy weight for your height (NHS choices, 2018). It is calculated using your weight divided your height in metres squared. For most adults, a BMI of 30-39.9 is classed as obese and a BMI of 40 or above is classed as severely obese (NHS choices, 2018). However, BMI is not used diagnostically to prove that a person is obese, as a person who has large muscle density (such as a healthy rugby player) has a high BMI due to their excess muscle mass. In addition with BMI, waist circumference is used reliably to determine whether a person is obese. Men with a waist circumference of 94 cm (37in) or more and woman with a waist circumference of 80cm (about 31 .5in) or more are more likely to develop obesity related health problems (NHS choices, 2018).

Obesity has been proven to cause life threatening conditions, a poor quality of lifestyle and even decreasing the chances of fertility. It is caused by a poor diet and consuming far more calories than a person is burning off, particularly consuming a large amount of fatty foods and drinks. Obesity is directly linked to circulatory problems such as sudden heart attacks, high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat (Harvard Health Publications, 2018). Such issues that can cause an instantaneous death and increases the risk of heart disease by 81%. (Harvard Health Publications, 2018). Psychological issues such as severe depression and anxiety can develop due to being obese. This is due to social media negatively influencing people that being fat is “ugly” hence lowering a person’s self- esteem and confidence, which is factually known to be linked to obesity. Stress eating and feeling emotionally overwhelmed is a factor which causes obesity and is one of the reasons why many people are unable to control their weight. Due to food becoming their coping mechanism it is extremely difficult to control how much they are consuming. Furthermore, statistics has shown that obese people have a whopping 55% higher risk of developing depression over time compared to a person with normal weight (Harvard Health Publications, 2018).

Obesity is a huge problem in our society today, as the toll taken by the NHS is rapidly increasing. More people are admitted to hospital with heart conditions, gallstones or needing hip and knee replacements related to their weight (S. Boseley 2018). Obesity is a reversible disease which is causing the NHS a large sum of money to treat.

There are various risks factors which increase the chances of being obese, many of which include children who are sadly brought up in low income backgrounds. Their parents are unable to provide healthy food, due to a lack of money and sometimes even a severe lack of knowledge as to the importance of healthy eating. Children aged 5 and from the poorest income groups are twice as likely to be obese compared to their most well-off counterparts and by age 11 they are three times as likely (HM Government, 2016). Another direct risk factor of obesity is the easy availability in supermarkets of junk foods and unhealthy meals. The lower the prices the more drawn the general public is to buy such foods compared to an expensive healthy choice. Therefore, changes in the environment (decreased need for physical activity and greater availability of cheap food) mean we are all at increased risk of obesity compared with our parents and grandparents (T. Frayling, 2012).

There are many measures in place to address the problems of obesity such as a recent tax on sugary soft drinks being enforced, meaning consumers will have to pay more for their favourite refreshments. This will help to reduce obesity as it will reduce the general public’s sugar intake. Ministers and campaigners believe it has already proved to be a success with many firms reducing sugar content ahead of the change (N.Triggle, 2018). A sugar tax ensures consumers will be more wary of their decision of buying an expensive drink and the extra money being made in England being invested in schools sports and breakfast clubs (N.Triggle, 2018). The sugar tax is cost effective as it does not cost the government anything to implement it and it actually profits the government. Children from lower income households will benefit from the sugar tax as the money profited from the tax will benefit them through their attendance at these sports and breakfast clubs. Many of the general public are outraged as many believe that the government should not be interfering with their personal lives, and there is a risk that consumers may buy the same amount of sugary drinks but just pay more (N.Triggle, 2018). Hence, it has not been practical to implement as it has caused an uproar in the general public. Many whom believe that educating people to drink within limits and making healthier drinks cheaper is a much better solution to tackling obesity. Although it is still too early to judge whether or not this sugar tax will decrease the rise in obesity, it is still a positive step in the right direction. Public Health Minister Steve Brine said: "Our teenagers consume nearly a bathtub of sugary drinks each year on average, fueling a worrying obesity trend (N.Triggle, 2018). The levy is a ground-breaking policy that will hopefully help to reduce sugar intake and decrease the risk of childhood obesity (N.Triggle, 2018). Socially, the sugar tax will benefit the oral health of children and help reduce the statistics of preventable tooth extraction linked to an excess sugar intake.

I believe that the sugar tax should also be implemented on sugary snacks such as sweets, crisps and cakes. This will increase the effectiveness in tackling childhood obesity as it will steer parents away from such snacks. I also believe that revealing, fun healthy snack, alternatives to children and parents at school assemblies will hep to combat childhood obesity. The cost of healthier snacks such as vegetables and snacks that are not sugary should be made cheaper and more available to lower income families. I believe that the money from such taxes should be invested back into fitness sports programmes to help children be more active and most importantly enjoy themselves. Healthy eating, fitness and sugar free snacks should be easily accessible to parents and should be appealing to children. This will make them more interested and will change the obesity trend which children sadly some are carrying into adulthood.

In conclusion I believe that the sugar tax plays a crucial role in our society today. Our choice is a stark simple one. A sugar tax is the next logical step in combating childhood obesity. It only brings about benefits and the money being made is being put to good use. Tackling childhood obesity in the bud is vital as not doing so will lead to tooth loss, diabetes at a young age and severe heart problems. Children are our next generation and it is extremely important to educate them and teach them how to live a healthy lifestyle.

What is intercalation and is it for me?

Choosing a medical school is tough. Many factors influence your decision: the course, the place, university facilities and much more. Another factor which may be crucial is the opportunity to undertake an intercalated degree during your studies. 

 Many medical schools in the UK offer intercalated degrees. However the way they run them, the subjects available and the degree you get out of it vary widely. It is important to be aware of what intercalation is and whether it is right for you - in some medical schools it is compulsory! 

 

What is an intercalated degree? 

An intercalated degree is a “year out” of the normal medical school programme where students are able to study and get an additional degree in a subject of their choosing. This usually occurs during year 3 or 4 of medical school and involves joining the Honours (AKA final year) of another degree programme. 

 Generally the subjects on offer are related to medicine and include biomedical science-based degrees (e.g. cell biology), clinical medicine-based degrees (e.g. anaesthetics) or even literature-based degrees (e.g. medical literature). Some universities will allow students to study subjects completely unrelated to medicine; for example, one of my friends studied English literature for his intercalated degree!

The degree you receive at the end of the year of study depends on the university but usually is a BMedSci or BSc. 

 

How do different UK medical schools run intercalated degrees? 

Each medical school runs its intercalated degree programme in a slightly different way – so it is important to check this before you apply! 

As mentioned previously, most medical schools offer the opportunity to do an intercalated degree during year 3 or 4 of the programme. This often coincides with the switch from pre-clinical to clinical years, so is a convenient time for a year out. Examples of universities that do this include the University of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Imperial College London. 

 However, within this group of universities there are some important differences. In some universities, the intercalated degree remains optional (e.g. Glasgow) but in others it is now a compulsory part of the curriculum (e.g. Edinburgh, Imperial College London). Furthermore, intercalation may be available to all students who want to do it but in others it may be competitive entry. 

Different systems include the University of St Andrews, where instead of completing an intercalated degree in a field of their choosing, they gain a BSc in medicine as part of their 3-year course before moving to a different medical school for clinical years. On the other hand, the University of Aberdeen offers not only a BSc intercalated degree after 3 years but also the chance to complete a MSc degree after 4 years. 

If you don’t like the look of the courses on offer at your favourite university, don’t worry! Many universities allow students to transfer to another university for a year if they provide a course not on offer at your home institution.

What are the benefits of an intercalated degree? 

Intercalation was classically seen as a route into academic medicine as it provides an opportunity for research and an academic education not conventionally found in the medical curriculum. 

You may be asking: What is an “academic education”? It is a field of study that focusses on the conduct of scientific research (i.e. how to run a study) and how to appraise others’ research (i.e. this study says drug X is best but is that research trustworthy?). These skills can be very helpful as a clinician and are vital if you wish to pursue a career in research. 

Aside from the research focus, there are many other advantages to doing an intercalated degree. It is one of the few times in a medical education where you have the chance to explore a subject you are passionate about and pick modules according to your interests. 

Medicine can be an intense degree. Having a year out can be a nice break before clinical years as well as giving you an experience of life outside of medicine. Many students find that the intercalated degree is not as time-intensive as medicine (though this is not guaranteed!) and provides a chance to explore interests outside of medicine and university.  

Another benefit is you shall receive an additional degree on top of your medical degree. Other than just having a few extra letters after your name, this gives you extra points for your application to the Foundation Year programme after finishing medical school. Compared to other sources of points, such as your performance at medical school and the SJT sat in final year, these points count for relatively little. Nevertheless, extra points are always helpful and may provide a competitive edge to get the FY posts you desire.  

What are the downsides to intercalation? 

While there are many benefits to intercalating, it is important to consider the downsides.  

Completing an intercalated degree require an additional year of study. This means another year of paying for tuition and living costs. Bursaries and sponsorship programmes may be available from universities. If this is an important consideration, it may be worth checking with your prospective medical school for more information. 

Another potential downside is taking a year out means you shall graduate a year later than some of the people you entered medical school with. However, in some universities the majority may intercalate, so the opposite is true!  

Lastly, not everyone enjoys the research-intensive and academic nature of intercalated degrees. Sitting in a lab or poring over scientific journals is not everyone’s cup of tea! For a realistic idea of what everyday life during an intercalated degree looks look check out a previous blog post written by one of our tutors Erin.

It is also important to note that an intercalated degree is not a requirement to become a doctor or researcher! Though it can teach you some extra skills, these are by no means necessary to be a good doctor. 

 

Conclusion 

Completing an intercalated degree can be a great opportunity and a key part of your university experience. However, it is not for everyone and so it is important to take the time to weigh the advantages and disadvantages and pick an institution that suits your needs. 

What do I do if my Higher results don't go well?

Ultimately, if you really want to do medicine, you will find a way to do it. There are many paths which lead to the degree, it’s just about finding the one that’s right for you.

Last year, 94.4% of our Applican students nationwide received at least one offer for Medicine.

We specialise in advising students on how to shape their application strategically.

First off - DO NOT PANIC! Understandably, everyone gets worried about their exam results and the impact they may have on applying to medical school. I will never forget the sleepless nights before results day with worrying about what the text from the SQA would say, so I can completely empathise with all of you. However, I survived results day and I’ve got a few tips to share with you so you can survive it too!

 

1)  Your application isn’t all about your grades

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While it might be great to get a clean sweep of As, just remember that your medical school application consists of so many more elements than just what you achieved in your exams. You can make up quite a bit for a slip-up grade in your UCAT and SJT, the way you craft your personal statement and even in how you perform in the interviews. 

The best way to give yourself a chance is to look at how different universities grade each aspect of your application, and apply to the ones where you can score highly in other sections. For many universities, if you can get to the interview stage, the next decision maker for them will be how you come across on the day. By that point, the thing that will differentiate you from all the other candidates won’t be your grades, but will be your communication skills and knowledge about the world of medicine. 

Our Applican course is perfect for helping you tailor your application to the correct universities and gives you a head start for interview preparation. Click here to see where the course nearest to you is!

2)  Gap years are great!

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 If I had a pound for every time I heard someone in my year at uni say that taking a gap year was the best thing they ever did, then I could pay off my student loan right now! Taking a year out can allow you to gain so much experience of the health care sector which would look great on applications and allows you to experience what being a doctor might be like. While a lot of people may go abroad to work in hospitals in other parts of the world, staying in the UK is so valuable! There’s so many possibilities as to what you could do to gain both experience and earn money to help you through your time at uni. 

Working as a health care assistant on wards in the hospital would allow you to gain an essential insight into the work that goes on to provide holistic patient care on a daily basis- from chatting to patients about their lives, to helping them look after themselves while they get better and generally making their stay in hospital a more pleasant experience.

 Another great opportunity would be to find a job working in a GP practice. Administrative work allows you to understand the day to day running of the NHS whilst training as a phlebotomist could give you a head start to learning the skills you get taught about in medical school. If you didn’t want to work in a health care environment in your year out, you could gain more experience through volunteering in the community or finding more work experience attachments to go to. The possibilities are endless!

 As cheesy as it may seem, taking a year out also allows you to learn about life as an adult instead of just being catapulted into it as a student (trust me- suddenly having to look after yourself can come as a shock!). Think about practicing skills such as cooking, budgeting your money and even figuring out how to work a washing machine (finding out how not to shrink clothes is harder than it seems…).

So if you don’t get in first time round, ace your Advanced Higher grades in 6thyear and then try again once you’ve had a year of amazing experiences!

3)  Post-graduate medicine!

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If you don’t fancy taking a year out or just want to keep learning, then doing a medical degree as a post-graduate may be the plan for you. Use your back-up option (I highly recommend using the 5thchoice on your UCAS form- you pay for it after all!) as an opportunity to go to university and see what life in higher education is like. Some universities offer an accelerated medical course if you already have a degree and some post-grads have told me that they felt going to medical school this way was easier as they were better equipped to plan their studies as they knew what worked best for them from their previous degree. Going from high school to university is completely different and learning to adapt your study skills can be difficult- so maybe this route would be the perfect one for you!

 

 

How will Brexit affect the NHS?

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Brexit. Love it? Loathe it? Utterly confused? The UK’s planned exit from the European Union is the biggest political and economic event of the last 50 years. Three years on from the referendum there remains huge uncertainty about the how the process shall take place or even if it shall happen at all! One thing is assured: whatever form of Brexit occurs will have a profound impact on the NHS. 

Last year, most of Applican’s students faced this tricky question at an MMI interview station - How will Brexit affect the NHS? Here is Applican’s answering model.

 

1 – Availability of Medicines

 Though the UK has a strong pharmaceutical industry, it still imports 37 million packs of medicine from the EU each month. A no-deal Brexit would likely result in huge delays at ports where these medicines enter the UK, potentially precipitating a serious shortage of vital drugs. This fear is so real that the government has taken the precaution of asking firms to stockpile a six-week supply of medicines.

Stockpiling drugs has its own problems. Some drugs, such as insulin for diabetes or vaccines, require refrigeration, so more fridges must be bought to allow stockpiling.  Other drugs have very short shelf lives, so cannot be realistically stockpiled. There are plans to airlift these drugs into the UK at short notice, however this will be extremely expensive. Even normal medicines pose difficulties as stockpiling drugs involves large, upfront costs which small firms or the cash-strapped NHS may not be able to afford. 

 

2 – Staffing

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 Currently about 1 in 20 members of the NHS workforce are from the EU. With staff shortages common throughout the NHS, these workers are vital. It is likely that any deal made with the EU would allow all staff currently working to remain in the UK. However the situation in a no-deal Brexit is less clear. 

The government has indicated that a new immigration system which allows skilled migrants (e.g. doctors and senior nurses) to be recruited from overseas would help fill any gaps. This system is currently exists for workers applying from countries outside the EU. However, concerns have been raised that this system will miss lower-paid nurses and non-clinical staff (e.g. health care assistants) because workers must be earning more than £30,000 a year. 

 Brexit poses other problems for recruiting overseas staff. Brexit may be seen as an “anti-immigration” policy, thus making the UK a less attractive place to move to as a migrant. Furthermore, the economic damage and weakening value of the pound means any earnings sent back home will be worth less. 

 A potential benefit is that fewer overseas staff may increase the jobs available for UK citizens. The government has promised to increase the number of training places for doctors and nurses. However, training a doctor takes 5/6 years of university and then further training after that, so it is unlikely that this will compensate for any immediate drop in staff. 

 

3 – Medical Research

 The UK is a powerhouse in medical research with a number of world-leading institutions and universities. The EU supports research through programmes such as Horizon 2020 which allocate billions of euros in research and innovation grants. The UK’s strength in medical research means that it receives a disproportionate share of this funding (i.e. we get out more money than we put in). There is a risk that leaving the EU will reduce the funding available for research and jeopardise the UK’s world-leading status. 

It is not all about money. A significant number of researchers and academics working at UK universities are from the EU. Similarly to NHS workers, their right to stay in the UK has not yet been established.  Science is a strongly collaborative discipline; the sharing of knowledge, ideas and data is central to success. Therefore there are worries that restriction to the movement of researchers between the UK and EU could negatively impact science. In addition, conducting research across multiple countries, which is sometime necessary for rare diseases, could be more difficult. 

 

4 – Demand on NHS services

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 As you are probably aware, the NHS is under significant strain with target waiting times being missed in every part of the UK. There are multiple reasons for this: an ageing population with more healthcare requirements, an increased prevalence of chronic diseases, staffing shortages and underfunding. In addition, it is a common belief in the general public that migrants are a contributing factor. In 2017 a survey found that 58% of people agreed that immigration placed pressure on public services. 

However, a government review found that migrants were actually net contributors to the health service. This is because many migrants work in the health service and that they tend to be younger and healthier than the average UK citizen. It is foreseeable that a decrease in immigration following Brexit might actually make the demands on public services worse. 

 

5 – Health Insurance 

Many people in the UK have European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) which entitle the individual to state-provided medical treatment across the EU when visiting. In addition, UK citizens living in an EU country have the same rights to healthcare as the citizens of the country they live in (the same applies to the EU citizens living in the UK). 

 While it is likely that any deal would ensure EHIC and these rights are retained, a no-deal Brexit would theoretically terminate these agreements. This could put patients at risk of considerable costs for treatment should they fall ill when abroad.

 

Conclusion

That was a quick overview of some of the biggest issues that Brexit may pose to the healthcare system of the UK. The uncertainty around Brexit means that much of what we have covered is still hypothetical. Nevertheless, it is clear that Brexit is going to have a profound impact. If we hope to maintain the levels of care we have come to expect, these issues must be carefully considered and solutions proposed. As it stands, we have until the 31st October 2019 – the clock is ticking. 

***Disclaimer – The information that follows was correct at the time of writing. The latest Brexit deadline is the 31st October 2019. After this date, the UK shall be leaving the EU unless a further extension is granted. Currently it remains unclear what form of Brexit shall occur. As a result, the issues raised in this article are hypothetical. Nearer the deadline, we should have a better idea of the UK’s future relationship with the EU and be able to predict Brexit’s effects more accurately. Most university interviews shall be occurring after deadline so we shall review the article to ensure the information is up-to-date. 

So you want to apply to medical school in Scotland?

Everyone knows applying to medical school is super competitive – but with free fees on offer for Scottish students at Scottish universities, the spots at these medical schools can often have the highest number of applications in the UK.

Therefore, when you pick your perfect combination of four medical schools on UCAS, it is important to be fully aware of the selection process for each course and choose tactfully based on your results.

At the Applican course, we offer a full guide on all the medical schools across the UK, and help our students select the courses that best fit their profile. With 94.4% of Applican students receiving an offer for medicine last year, we believe that the information that we have is invaluable: this article offers a flavour of the guidance that we give at our courses.

University of Edinburgh 

Often the highest ranked Scottish medical school, Edinburgh is notoriously difficult to get an offer from. Boasting world class research facilities and teaching – Edinburgh is renowned for medicine.

Some things have changed this year in the Edinburgh selection process which is really important to be aware of. The programme is now 6 years long, with a compulsory intercalation in third year. The University do not interview undergraduate applicants (yet!), so the personal statement and UKCAT combo is of total importance!

UKCAT: High score usually required, significant emphasis on SJT section. Most successful applicants will have a Band 1 or 2 in the SJT.
PS: They give special weighting to some specific aspects of the personal statement. Jack Henderson, the mentor for the Scottish Applican course and 5th year Edinburgh medical student, is an expert at crafting personal statements for the Edinburgh selection process. Some of these key things include an interest in academia, leadership, teamwork and a care for others.

University of Glasgow

Known for it’s research opportunities and emphasis on PBL teaching, The University of Glasgow medical school is a popular choice.

UKCAT: Selection to interview is based completely on UKCAT ranking. The top 800 get called to interview, so only apply if your UKCAT is strong!
PS: Not used for selection to interview, but we advise if you are applying here to include lots about problem solving skills to use in your interview! At Applican’s course, we help to give your personal statement direction based on what course you apply to.
Interview: Traditional panel based. Often use personal statement for the basis of the interview. One interview tends to include an issue or ethical questions that you are expected to discuss in detail.

University of Dundee

The graduates of the Dundee medical school are sometimes considered the best clinicians in Scotland – this is because of the high clinical focus of their course from day 1.

UKCAT: Selection to interview is completely based on UKCAT and N5/Highers/GCSE combination.
PS: Of little importance – only used in several MMI stations.
Interview: MMI. At the Applican course we spend the second day preparing our students for MMI style interviews. Dundee MMI is infamous for having some bizarre and tricky actor stations in their  MMI.

University of St Andrews

Only lasting three years before students complete their last three clinical years in Edinburgh or Manchester; St Andrews medical school offers an excellent pre-clinical medical programme.

UKCAT: Highest 400 UKCAT applicants will be selected to interview.
PS: St Andrews ask for evidence of your qualities and experience that is suitable for medicine. Similar to Edinburgh Medical School applications, it is important to tick off exactly what they are looking for in your personal statement.
Interview: MMI. Your score in the MMI is combined with the SJT section from the UKCAT. 

University of Aberdeen

Boasting some of the highest student satisfaction scores of all medical programmes, Aberdeen offers excellent teaching, but also one of the most competitive application processes. 

UKCAT: Used as a component for selection to interview. Last year the lowest score to get brought to interview was 2180.
PS: Do not place a significant emphasis on personal statement.
Interview: MMI. The MMI set up is very similar to Dundee and St Andrews stations. 


Preparing to apply to Scottish medical schools can be particularly difficult. At the Applican course we help our students pick which universities to apply to based on their academic profile, as well as helping to adjust your personal statements so that they are suitable for the universities you pick. We also prepare all of our students for each type of interview process they will face.

With 94.4% of our students receiving an offer for medicine last year, we believe that the information that we have for medical applicants is really useful.

Our UKCAT and Applican courses will be running in summer 2018!

UCAT Situational Judgement: 10 Golden Rules

The SJT component of the UCAT can be one of the trickiest sections to master. With some UK Medical Schools weighting the SJT as equivalent to the other 4 sections combined, it is imperative to try and get the highest band possible. 

92% of Applican UCAT Students achieved in the top 2 SJT Bands last year.

Applican’s Junior Doctors have compiled 10 Golden Rules to follow when approaching any SJT scenario!

1. The patient is the first concern.

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The core principle of Good Medical Practice, this principle should be applied to every scenario you face. If a solution does not address the core patient issue, it cannot be the optimum answer. 

2. Act as quickly as possible. 

Solutions to the issues you face should be solved as fast as you can. If a solution to a problem sounds perfect, however it includes an unreasonable delay, it is not a perfect answer. 

3. Be honest and trustworthy.

If a solution ever involves lying, cheating or hiding the truth, it is always a very wrong answer!

4. Treat each patient in each scenario the same way.

Some scenarios will make their characters sound difficult, for example with social issues or violent  behaviour. A core medical ethical principle is justice - your approach to solutions should not be affected by these distractions, the patient is always the first concern, no matter who the patient is. 

5. Identify who you are in the scenario, and be aware of your competency. 

In each scenario, you will be told you are a different person, from Medical student to junior dentist - be clear when answering the solutions who you are acting as. Bearing this in mind, be aware of what you can and cannot do - for example a doctor can prescribe pain killers, and a medical student cannot. 

6. Solving disputes locally and escalating appropriately. 

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You will be faced with scenarios where colleagues are poorly behaved and you will be asked how to handle this. As a rule, try to initially solve these disputes locally by discussing with the person concerned directly. If the persons behaviour is impacting patient safety, escalate the issue to a senior colleague in a time appropriate manor. Anonymous complaints to the hospital director are rarely a good solution! If patient safety is ever acutely at risk, for example in an intoxicated colleague scenario, protecting your patients is your immediate priority (not writing a formal complaint!).

7. Respect patient wishes.

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Autonomy, as another core medical ethical principle, is something you should be aware of in the SJT. If patients wishes are explicitly stated in the question stem, these wishes should be respected in your solutions. Similarly, you should be aware of general principles surrounding capacity and when patients wishes can maybe sometimes be overridden. Patients always have the right to a second opinion and if they don’t want you to perform a procedure they are entitled to request this. 

8. Protect yourself. 

Although we already discussed that ‘The Patient is the First Concern’ is the SJT mantra, your safety is of equal priority. If a solution ever places you in a dangerous or uncomfortable scenario, this often is not the best answer. Equally, if a solution is expects you to keep a secret or lie about anything, it is also often incorrect. 

9. When to break confidentiality?

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Generally for every SJT scenario, patient confidentiality should be respected and only shared within the medical team caring for that patient. There are some situations where confidentiality can be broken (such as if the patient is a risk to themselves or others) and you should be aware of these situations. Equally, if confidentiality must be broken, the patient should be told this will happen. 

10. Trust your instincts!

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The scenarios you face will be challenging and sometimes it feels like there isn’t a right answer. Overthinking the solutions an complicate an otherwise straightforward answer, if you are in doubt go with your instinct and trust yourself!


Last year, 92% of the students who attended the Applican Intense UCAT course scored in the top 2 SJT bands. We teach our students all of the essential students ethical principles to beat the SJT in an interactive and dynamic lesson style. 

Essential Summer Checklist - Preparing for a Medical Application

With the prospect of UCAS and the UCAT looming, utilising your time over the preceding summer months will optimise your chances of a successful medical school application. Use this critical time to tick off Applican’s checklist that will lay the foundation of your personal statement, UCAT and interview knowledge.

GP Work Experience

An essential element of every personal statement, you must have spent at least one day observing health care professionals in primary care. Simply call up a GP practice near you (note that sometimes you won’t be allowed to shadow doctors at the same GP you are registered at), and ask to spend time as a work experience student. Remember to read our blog on how to make the most of your time on work experience!


Nursing Home Visits

Another impressive yet easily achievable experience to add to any personal statement are care home visits. To arrange this call up some local care homes - many already have weekly slots for volunteers to visit, and often residents really love meeting students. You will learn a lot about chronic health care management - a major discussion point in personal statements and at interview.


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Book UCAT Exam Date

Some UCAT centres will book up quickly and you want to do your big test on the day that suits you. We recommend sitting your UCAT from mid August to mid September and preparing with a 4 week action plan that we teach you on the Applican Intense UCAT Course. Check out our blog on the 10 things to do to prepare fo your UCAT today.


Buy 1250 UCAT Book

One of the first things in your UCAT preparation is working out the structure of the questions you will face in the 5 sections. Buy this handy book and accustom yourself with the sections before you start worrying about how much time you have to answer the questions.


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Download BBC News App

The most impressive applicants at interview have a detailed interest in current affairs affecting health care. By reading the daily health news on the BBC news app, you will become aware of the most recent and important issues - remember to flag your favourite articles so that you can return to them when you begin preparing for your interviews.


Watch one TED talk per day

Similarly, watching TED talks can be a really easy and interesting way to keep up to date with some of the most exciting advances in medical technology and thoughtful arguments in ethical dilemmas. Some of Applican’s favourite TED talks to get you started are below!

Navigating the medical application minefield is really tricky and daunting - however getting ahead of the game with these simple steps will save a lot of stress in the months to come!


Last year, 94% of Applican students received at least one offer for Medicine or Dentistry. This year every student is assigned a personal mentor who is either a doctor or medical student. This mentor will provide one-to-one advice and support to each student throughout their application journey.


With limited places remaining, book here!

Record Breaking 2018 Applican Offer Statistics

2018 was a record breaking year of success for Applican students

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Of those students who attended our Applican Course in 2018 and returned our survey, 94.44% received at least one offer for Medicine.

In particular, there were some students with outstanding applications, with 14 Applican students receiving more than one offer for medicine. With 15 individual offers, the University of Edinburgh was the medical school with the highest offer rate from Applican students.

With offers from across the UK, we wish every one of our students the very best as they prepare to start University next year!

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For the fourth year running, 100% of Applican students would recommend the Applican Course to a friend.

2018 Applican Student's Average UKCAT Scores

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In the second year of Applican’s UKCAT course we adjusted and strengthened the course that we delivered to over 100 students in Scotland, England and Northern Ireland. We are very proud that our students excelled in one of the toughest and most competitive scoring years of the UKCAT yet. The data below was collated from those students who completed our survey:

UK 2018 Average: 2485 (621)

Applican 2018 Average: 2653 (663)

The average Applican student scored in the top 30% of those sitting the exam. 


UK Average Student
21% Band 1 SJT, 34% Band 2 SJT

Applican 2018 Average
50% Band 1 SJT, 42% Band 2 SJT


92% of Applican students scored in Band 1 or 2 of the SJT.

2018 Intense UKCAT Course Review Wall

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And thats a wrap for our 2018 Intense UKCAT courses! This year we helped over 75 students across Northern Ireland, Scotland and England with their UKCAT preparation. Here is what they thought:

100% of students found the course beneficial for their UKCAT preparation

100% of students would recommend the course to a friend

Much better than Kaplan - up to now my UKCAT answering has been really shocking, I feel a lot better now!
I liked the strategies, especially for decision making as I struggle with that section the most. Thank you!!
I feel a lot more confident about my UKCAT exam after taking this course. I think my technique has improved significantly.
This is a great course! Very structured and a comfortable environment.
It gave me a really good insight into what the UKCAT is like. In particular, the mental maths exercises really increased my speed and were really helpful.
This has helped me a lot with my confidence going into the UKCAT. All so friendly and relaxed too - thank you!
Perfect starting place to begin preparing for the UKCAT and really get your head around each section.
The strategies definitely helped me answer more questions correctly and quickly which was really good as time was my biggest issue with the UKCAT.
I loved the slides and the Applican models for each section. These models were very useful for me formulating my own strategy when approaching questions which now make a lot more sense to me. The quick tips for SJT were great too!
Very helpful! Gained a greater understanding about the UKCAT as a whole as well as every section in depth. Very fun and friendly teaching!
So so much more affordable than Kaplan, but much more helpful!
It really does help. I felt very anxious and worried about the UKCAT prior to the course - I now feel so much better. Thanks Jack!
Useful course that taught me a lot about the timings and how to approach the abstract reasoning which I was struggling with.
Very friendly and welcoming atmosphere - thank you!
I found the course really beneficial for my UKCAT preparation - the strategies I learnt will definitely help with time saving in my exam.
As a new comer to the UKCAT, Jack really helped my confidence level with the strategy for answering questions.
Really beneficial course!! Thank you so much for making the course really relaxed but enough to get intense UKCAT work done.

MARK SCHEME: Edinburgh Medical School Personal Statement

Everyone knows that applying to the University of Edinburgh medical school is tough. They do not use interviews for undergraduate selection and therefore the personal statement is of paramount importance. Until now, the crafting of this personal statement has been a relative guessing game relying on the information form the medical school webpages for an idea of what the screening panel are looking for. 

Applican have gained access to the selectors handbook from 2017 which details the mark scheme that the panel utilise to rank medical school personal statements. 


The General Selection Points

  •  There is one place at Edinburgh Medical School for every 12 Scottish students who apply. 
  • 46% of offers were made to those applicants who scored in the top UKCAT octile. 28% of offers were made to those who scored in the second octile. 
  • Undergraduate applications are split into 40 points - note that SJT is max 6 points and the top UKCAT octile gets you 8 points. For those scoring top academic points, the 6 non academic (personal statement) points are the differentiator. 
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  • Your Higher/GCSE grades are ranked based on your scores for the academic component. 
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The Personal Statement

Two selectors will read your personal statement and they will be looking for the level of reflection that you show across three areas. Only the top 10% of applicants of each domain will achieve an excellent grade and receive top scores.

  1. Personal Qualities
    Do you show you are suitable to be a doctor? Have you shown good interpersonal skills? Have you shown a high level of both written and verbal communication? 
  2. Career Exploration
    Have you shown an informed application? Have you shown interest in reading and science in the medical career? Evidence of work with 'diseased, disabled or disadvantaged' people.
  3. Non academic achievement
    A good statement will show a broad range of interests across music, arts or sports. Those applicants who have achievements at a local, national or international level seem to achieve more points. Furthermore, evidence of leadership, organisational abilities and social responsibility. 
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The selection process to Edinburgh Medical School is so competitive. Scoring top points in the personal statement section, for many, is the fine difference between an offer and a rejection. 

At Applican, our experts have been helping students to craft their personal statements for over 5 years through both our courses and our individual personal statement packages. To gain access to the selectors handbook and an Applican mentor's advice please feel free to get in touch!

What do my Scottish Exam results mean for Medicine?

Results day is upon us and a whole year of your work and preparation is about to appear on one piece of paper. Whilst receiving results can often be blinded by panic and emotion, translating your results into a strategic application to medicine and thus your chances of becoming a doctor is really the big question you must consider next.


What Grades do I Need?

We know that for many of you, today will be spent furiously looking up entry requirements for medicine at every medical school you can think of. To help you with this, we have created a table showing you the grade requirements for medicine for Scottish applicants at each of the 5 Scottish medical schools


What do I do now?

Your next steps depend on the stage of exams you have just completed:

 

National 5s

Your National 5 results might feel like the biggest deal in the world right now, but you have to remember several things in the context of applying to medical school. 

Your National 5 results will not gain you a place in Medicine, nor do they absolutely rule you out of one. 

  1. No matter if you get straight As or a mixed bag with a few Cs, this does not secure nor break your chances of medicine. There are so many routes to becoming a doctor, so no matter what you get, take a deep breath and remember it might still be possible! (The only grades Scottish universities really care about at N5 are biology, chemistry, english and maths)
  2. For Medicine, it is more important to get better grades in core subjects (Maths and English) and subjects that allow you to take specific Highers (Biology and Chemistry) than others. So if you have lower scores in these subjects, you might want to think about resitting or reconsidering your options...
  3. Your N5s act as a platform to grow from, not a trampoline that propels you to an excellent application. Your focus should now be shifting to how to maximise your portfolio for an application next year: volunteering and work experience should be your next project after results day!

 

Highers

These results matter quite a lot, but again - these scores do not promise or completely ruin your chances of getting an offer for Medicine. When analysing your results consider these things:

  1. Should I be thinking strategically about my Advanced Highers? Regardless of everything else in your application, if you don't get top scores in your Highers and Advanced Highers at the end of next year, you will struggle to get into Medicine. If you have had a bad Higher result, by actually carrying that subject through to Advanced Higher and getting a super score, this can sometimes mean that Universities overlook the Higher blip...
  2. How will I balance my academics next year? Unless you REALLY want to do 3 Advanced Highers we advise against it as there's nothing to be gained in terms of minimum academic requirements, but everything to lose. All 5 Scottish medical schools will accept 2 Advanced Highers and an additional Higher in S6 and the workload is much more reasonable, so unless you need to compensate for a less than perfect Higher or are wanting to applying to a prestigious Non-Scottish medical school, we recommend you go for the sane choice of 2 Advanced Highers and 1 crash Higher instead.
  3. Can I still do Medicine? Absolutely. Regardless of what scores you turned out this results day, what is in your control now, is making you application as strong as it possibly can be. This means getting a great UKCAT score, crafting an exceptional personal statement, getting work experience and fine tuning your interview technique. Your exam results can improve down the line, if you really want to be a doctor, your focus must turn to the medicine application process now.

 

Advanced Highers

These results also matter quite a lot, but again like highers don't be despondent if they're not idealThe common questions you might ask yourself may be:

  1. Where can I still apply? Unfortunately, Advanced Highers do matter and some universities will just flat out reject your application if you do not meet their minimum standards. As with Highers though, all universities are different so it's worth while trawling through their application criteria and importantly EMAIL AND CALL THEM DIRECTLY. You might think that you're annoying them but it's their job to answer any questions you have, so go nuts!
  2. Can I still do Medicine? Absolutely, however if you don't meet the minimum requirements it is trickier but but definitely not the end of the road. No little letters on a piece of paper can tell you if you'll be a good doctor or not, so don't give up and you'll get there even if it takes a little longer than you'd hope. If you've exhausted all undergraduate opportunities in the UK, then you have 2 options - 1) study medicine abroad at an English-teaching university, or 2) apply again as a graduate. They may seem like the worst possible choices, but if you really want to be a doctor then investing 3/4 years doing something you don't want so that you can spend the next 45 doing something you do isn't the end of the world (and a few years experience will, in this graduate's opinion, make you a better doctor anyway (sorry Jack!))
  3. I got the grades - what next? For those with conditionals you have nothing to worry about - so sit back and bathe in the glory that in a few weeks you will be beginning medical school. For those applying for 2018 entry, one word - UKCAT. After meeting minimum academic criteria your next big hurdle is the UKCAT, and you need to nail it. Our courses run across Scotland and the UK and are run by current medical students who have years of combined experience teaching the test (and we've all done it ourselves which is more than can be said for other companies!) But take today off - you've earned it!

RESULTS DAY HOTLINE
For personal advice please give Team Applican a ring to discuss your options and any questions that have cropped up this Results Day.
Our mobiles will be open all day so give us a ring!
Jack: 07769502211
Erin: 07789098657

Securing your place in Medicine depends not only on your SQA exams; more importantly it requires a strategic selection of university choices, a perfectly crafted personal statement and the highest score you can muster in the UKCAT. Applican's courses guides you through this application minefield and helps you personalise your application to the results you receive in your exams. Below are the Scottish Applican dates this year:

Edinburgh:
UKCAT: 25th August 2017
Applican Course: 9th-10th September 2017

Glasgow:
UKCAT: 19th August 2017
Applican Course: 2nd-3rd September 2017

5 things to consider for graduate entry medicine

Choosing to study medicine as a graduate is an insane choice; that is a fact. It’s a huge personal and financial undertaking that few people outside the medical world will understand, and as a graduate your chances of being successful in gaining a position are significantly less than if you had applied straight out of school. But, it can be done. As a graduate student at the University of Glasgow currently in my 3rd year, trust me it may seem impossible, but it’s not – it’s just about playing the game, being smart with your application and using your age and experience to your advantage, rather than apologizing for it. So with this in mind, here are my top 5 things to consider when applying to medical school as a graduate.

 

1.     Your application is not scored in the same way school-leaving applicants are, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Because they are often 16 or 17 when they are applying, school leavers, or “schoolies” as they are affectionately referred to at my university by the graduates, are chosen for medical school based on potential to be great medical students and doctors with very little time to prove their worth. Graduates (or “posties” for postgraduates) however, are scored based on attained achievement, and as such need to show that in the 3+ years since leaving school that they have achieved what would be expected of someone wanting to enter the medical profession. Bear this in mind when writing about your work experience when you got when you were 18 – it might’ve been enough then, but if you haven’t significantly developed it over the years you may come off as lazy and lacking commitment. 

2.  Apply to medical schools that best fit you, your experience and your eventual career aspirations.

All medical schools are different…to an extent. Yes, they all produce GMC-qualified doctors at the end, but they can differ greatly in their approach to medicine and the type and aspirations of applicants which they accept. For example, many of the inner-city medical schools are heavily involved in biomedical research, and as such individuals with traditional science backgrounds with a view to pursuing academic medicine or research may be able to use their experience in these fields to their advantage. Alternatively, medical schools in more rural areas may have a focus on providing excellent teaching for rural medicine, and those that are so inclined to practice out in the sticks. In practice, this means that once you’ve identified your strengths and you’ve thoroughly researched the universities which you are considering applying to, you can make it look like your application is tailored to a specific medical school, when really you’ve just applied to universities that share many of the same characteristics.

3. Don’t limit yourself to graduate only programmes – the lure of surrounding yourself exclusively with other graduates is tempting, but the competition is FIERCE (and they know this).

As a 25-year old applying to medical school, the thought of surrounding myself with 18 year olds for 5 years filled me with dread, and graduate-only programmes like that run in the much-coveted Warwick medical school were, for a long time, the only ones I considered applying to. Because they are so appealing to graduates like myself however, they attract an extremely high calibre of applicant and are therefore fiercely competitive to gain a place. Secondly, with a few notable exceptions they tend to have much smaller intakes than the traditional A100 medical courses, and as such the ratios for applicants:offers is much higher (sometimes around 20:1). So whilst by all means apply to them and I wish you the best of luck, but as someone who goes to a medical school with students aged 18-30 trust me, it doesn’t matter where you eventually end up studying medicine, and long as you get to study medicine.

4. Think hard about tuition fees and how you will fund yourself

At the risk of sounding like every parent ever, you need to think about how you will pay your way through medical school. As a graduate on a 5-year course, you are considered a “second first-degree student”, and as such will be staring down the barrel of a £9000-a-year-in-tuition-fees gun to study in England, and unless you are part of the 1% scraping that kind of money together every year for 5 years can be borderline impossible. So what to do? Aside from the obvious save as much money as you can before starting, it is essential to think about where will be cheapest to study – if you are from Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales, studying in your respective region as a home student will drastically cut the amount you will be expected to pay each year. This means that depending on where you live in the UK for residency purposes will massively impact the number of medical schools you can realistically afford to attend, and yes in an ideal world this is perhaps not fair, if you really will do anything to get into medical school it may be a compromise you have to make.

5. Finally, don’t be disheartened if you don’t get a place whilst still in your final year of university (you have a much better shot once you graduate)

Ever since your school exam results day where you failed to get the grades you needed for medical school, you’ve everything right – you’re sporty, you’ve done the work experience in the care home, you have extracurriculars coming out your ears and you’re on track for that essential 2.1 or better and may even get a cheeky publication out of your honours project. You are the model student personified with a bullet-proof personal statement to match, but as days turn to weeks and weeks to months and still no updates on UCAS you begin to lose hope until it happens. “Unsuccessful”. And again. And again. And again. And it’s a horrendous, but it’s also OK, and that’s because in a way it’s be to be expected because you still haven’t proven anything yet. Medical school (and being a doctor) is not just about hard work, but it’s about continuous hard work and commitment, and, perhaps brutally, the only way for a graduate to show this is to not just be predicted that 2.1, but to actually have it. With a degree you have PROVEN that you can work and commit towards a goal until completion, and that’s exactly what they want. So if you don’t get in first time, just make sure you nail your exams and your year out so that come next year, you can make them regret not giving you a place the year before.

 

UKCAT Countdown - 10 things you should be doing right now to nail the UKCAT

The UKCAT countdown is on - here are 10 straightforward things you can be doing to help prepare for this seemingly impossible exam.

The run up to the UKCAT can be a very stressful and difficult time. With expensive preparation courses on offer and some people saying that it is ‘an intelligence test that you can’t revise for’, it can be hard to know how you can best prepare for this important test. At Applican’s course we thoroughly prepare our students for both the UKCAT and the BMAT and help assist you through these challenging few months. 

Applican have created a TOP 10 TIPS on how to prepare fully for the UKCAT without breaking the bank!

1. Get fast at mental maths.
The quantitative reasoning section of the UKCAT can be horrible if you can’t do mental maths rapidly – it is such a tightly timed section and you don’t want to be relying on the fiddly calculator. Start by reminding yourself of basic maths principles - addition, subtraction, multiplying and diving – and start testing yourself regularly until you can quickly solve simple questions in your head or on pen and paper. If you are struggling to become efficient at mental maths, we think this website has some great shortcuts for solving maths problems that could buy you precious seconds in the UKCAT: http://www.cut-the-knot.org/arithmetic/rapid/rapid.shtml.

2. Be smart with UKCAT resources.
You may feel pressured to attend expensive UKCAT courses because a lot of your friends are going and you feel that you may be at a disadvantage. Whilst these courses are useful to some people, at Applican we believe that you can prepare effectively with other, more reasonably priced resources. The important thing is finding a method for the questions that suits you - we believe you can do this with books and online resources. The ISC Medical ‘1000 Questions UKCAT Practice Questions’ is a really great place to start – only £15 from Amazon, it gives a nice flavour of what kind of questions you will face and allows you to start practising your question answering technique.

3. Patterns. Patterns. Patterns.
At first glance the abstract reasoning section is the most intimidating on the test. However, the more practice you do looking at the patterns, the easier it gets – and believe it or not for most people it is their highest scoring section. At the Applican course we work through pattern identifying techniques and how to find the answer quickly. There are only so many abstract patterns that the examiners can think up, so you will find that if you practice lots of patterns, you will recognise some similar patterns in your test and get easy marks!

4. Two birds with one stone: start speed reading medical news.
Verbal reasoning is often thought of us the easiest section to prepare for – read a paragraph and answer some questions, right? Wrong. This section is so tight for time that it is impossible to read all the words on the screen - so you have to become very proficient at analysing large chunks of text ultrafast. This can be done whilst also reading relevant news in preparation for your interviews. Good resources could be the BBC News App, the Guardian or the student BMJ. Start sourcing relevant and current medical news everyday and discipline yourself to quickly scan read it. Become effective at pulling out the key details of each article and you can train your eyes and brain to become masters of the verbal reasoning section!

5. Start reading GMC documents.
The Situational Judgment section of the UKCAT is notoriously difficult to prepare for – most people forget about it completely! At Applican, we think it is really important that you familiarise yourself with GMC documents such as Good Medical Practice (found here: http://www.gmc-uk.org/guidance/good_medical_practice.asp) and also Tomorrow’s Doctors (found here: http://www.gmc-uk.org/Tomorrow_s_Doctors_1214.pdf_48905759.pdf). It is amazing how much of the SJT is pulled directly from these documents, so even by reading through them you can earn yourself some valuable points in this section. They are also really useful documents to get to know early on before your interview preparation begins.

6. Ethical principles.
Ethical awareness is an essential part of interview preparation, however it can also be very useful for the Situational Judgement section. ‘Medical Ethics: A Very Short Introduction’ is an excellent read and only £5 on Amazon. This book teaches you principles that can be applied to many scenarios you will be presented with in the situational judgement section.

7. Time management.
September can be tough. Your teachers will be pressuring you for UCAS forms and personal statements and sometimes that feels like your highest priority. Applican advises our students to start a UKCAT preparation plan 4 weeks before their test day so that you feel fully ready for the exam. We assist our students with a planned timeline and offer our own UKCAT resources at our courses that are running in the next few months across the UK. Even if you only use the resources that we have outlined in this list you will have loads of things to keep busy with!

8. Online timed practices.
In principle the UKCAT is quite a simple test – most people could answer basic maths and comprehension questions correctly if they had enough time. What makes this exam so difficult is the time restrictions: you have to answer questions uncomfortably quickly. Therefore, it is vitally important that you are ready for these time restraints and don’t get caught out on the big day! There are many resources online that you can get your hands on that offer good exam condition practice tests – you should use these in the week before UKCAT D-Day.
www.medify.co.uk starts at £30 and gives you several practice tests. The official UKCAT website also offers free practice tests and you should use these as the very last practice before your real test!

9. Night before and mental preparation.
The UKCAT is not like GCSEs or A-Levels – it is not technically a ‘knowledge based’ test, but rather designed to be ‘ability based’. Therefore, the very nature of this exam demands a slow and steady preparation plan – not a panicked all-nighter of studying the night before (save these for when you are in medical school!)
At Applican we advise a relaxing and chilled out night before your UKCAT – being calm and focused mentally is the key to success right before this particular exam!

10. Your score.
The averages and scoring for the UKCAT changes each year, and so does how universities use them – whilst 670 was a great score one year, it could be a low score the next. When you receive your score after the test and when you hear other people speaking about their own scores, just remember to take it all with a pinch of salt and not to panic. No matter what score you get, it does not rule you in or out of any medical university application – there is still many other obstacles in the process you have to navigate around. Even if you have a bit of a blip on the day, there are still many other options open for you because different universities weight the UKCAT very different. This is the information we provide at our 2 day courses and help you find the universities that best suit you strengths. 

Good luck in your UKCAT - remember preparation is key!

If you found this blog post useful and are interested in attending our 2 day course which covers UCAS choices, UKCAT, BMAT, personal statements and interview techniques and preparation – make sure you book a place on one of the Applican courses which are running across the UK within the next two months!


For free content, a full mock exam and more interesting blog posts including our last year average score, check out our Intense UKCAT page.

Unusual Careers in Medicine

When applying to medical school, you have one goal - to simply get in. However, once you embark on your medical journey, the world of medicine opens up to you and for a while that can be a bit overwhelming. Cardiology, respiratory, neurology, orthopaedics, nephrology, urology.....the list of words thrown at you goes on and on and on. This blog is here to give you a head start to the game, with a number of unusual specialties that not many people think about venturing into when they think of themselves as future doctors. So the next time you’re discussing medicine with fellow applicants, talking with your work experience staff or even in your next med school interview you can show off how vast your knowledge of the medical world is and how determined you are to be part of it.

Maxillofacial

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Maxillofacial is a specialty which is usually surgically based, centring around facial, jaw and oral issues. In the UK, degrees in both medicine and dentistry are required to practice this speciality. In recent years this surgery has sprung to fame thanks to well-publicised developments in surgeries such as facial transplants. In addition to the extreme surgeries, many cosmetic facial procedures can be carried out by these specialised surgeons.

Dermatology

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Dermatology as a specialty deals with the treatment of skin and, unbeknown to many, nails and hair. After completing junior doctor years, dermatology usually requires around 3 years of practicing general medicine before completing around 4 years of specialist dermatology training. From treating skin conditions with medicines to performing minor surgeries, dermatology has become a infamous through videos such as those of Dr. Pimple Popper, an American dermatologist who films her dealings of consultations from pore of Winers to abscesses. If you’re not easily disgusted, look up her videos!

Endocrinology

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Endocrinology looks at the hormones in the body and deals with any imbalances or hormonal problems. It’s a vast area, dealing with ailments from diabetes to Cushing’s syndrome to fertility issues. Endocrinology works like a puzzle, finding where the problem is and thinking about the effects up and downstream of where the hormone comes from. Around 4 years of specialist training is required to become a consultant in endocrinology. A huge issue that endocrinologists deal with that every applicant should know something about is diabetes (know the difference between type 1 and type 2!)

Haematology

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Haematology is the study of blood and its components. Haematologists deal with treating blood disorders from sickle cell anaemia to leukaemia. Once completing junior doctor and general training years, haematology specialist training usually lasts 2-3 years. Have a look at the student section of the British Society for Haematology’s website for more career information and some cool student essays about haematology.

Critical Care

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Many people don’t realise that critical care is a specialty in itself and isn’t just run by general medical doctors. Helping patients who are at their most vulnerable, critical care is highly specialist and requires 3 years of acute care training following junior doctor years and then a  further 5 years of critical care specific training. Critical care is closely linked with anaesthetics and emergency medicine, with doctors quite often having dual consultancy. 

Sport Medicine

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Sport medicine, as might be expected, deals with the prevention and treatment of injuries in sports. Practice of sports medicine is usually on the private market or through affiliation with a certain sport governing body or team. Sports medicine generally is heavily orthopaedic based but can also deal with drugs in sport, sports nutrition and concussion. Check out the Calgary Stampede’s blog article on sports medicine in a rodeo for an unusual case of sports medicine.

Pathology

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Pathology is the study of causes of disease, mostly through the examination of body tissues. There are many sub-specialties of pathology, such as neuropathology and histopathology. Becoming a pathologist requires around 6 years of training post junior doctor years. Pathologists look for irregularities in tissue samples which can range from whole organs to minuscule biopsies.

Rheumatology

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Dealing with inflammation and autoimmune disease ranging from rheumatoid arthritis, temporal arteritis and lupus, rheumatology manages a large array of pathologies. Pioneering biologic treatment available for some of these conditions are sometimes discussed in ethical interview settings due to their high cost and side effects.

As medicine is all about team work and utilising the multidisciplinary team, all of the above specialties will work together alongside other specialties to ensure excellent patient care. It is important to remember that in medicine, no doctor works in isolation and it’s essential to have an understanding of what other specialties do and how they can help your patient.

An Interview with a Medicine Admissions Officer

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Samantha is a medical admissions officer at a top UK medical school. Her name has been changed for this article. All answers are specific to the university at which she works and are intended to give a general overview only.

Tell us a little about your job.
I'm a medical admissions officer, which means that I’m responsible for overseeing all applications for our undergraduate medicine course from the point of submission up until matriculation.
We also deal with many pre-application enquiries, primarily questions about our admissions policies such as qualifications, work experience, personal statements and the UKCAT.

What’s your typical day like?
That depends on the time of year. In the run up to the UCAS deadline in October we deal with hundreds of enquiries, often from people who have just had their results, and advise people on the possibility of a successful application.
From then on we are scoring applications academically and ranking them in order of achievement. Then we are preparing for interviews. After those, we assess the interview results with a view to sending out decisions in March. That involves essentially ranking people on their scores, and taking into account contextual factors like adversity and widening access programmes.

What’s your role during interviews?
Making sure everything goes smoothly. I check that everything is set up properly, and that the applicants have all their documents uploaded before the interview, and bring their ID and qualifications. We then check that the correct applicants and correct number of applicants are invited and present. We also check that all the interview questions have been screened for potential discrimination and for how well they work.

What does that kind of test involve?
We take a test group of staff from different backgrounds to make sure there is no bias in favour or against any particular group.

So you’re not involved in interviewing people?
No. Largely, it’s medical tutors who carry out the interviews - academics, supported by senior medical students who act in role-playing scenarios.

Say an applicant called up, in the middle of their National 5 or GCSE year, and wanted to know what they should be doing to prepare for applying. What would you tell them?
First thing they have to do is get their grades. Ideally, you need As in the correct subjects - whatever the university you’re applying to asks for. The competition is so fierce.
In this year you should also be thinking ahead - entry to medical school depends on a lot more than grades. You should be reading widely, thinking about preparing for a medical career, and thinking about the type of work experience that it’s possible for you to get. You should also be choosing your highers very carefully. It changes depending on the university, but most will need chemistry and another science.


What if the same applicant called during their A level/higher year?
Similar things apply, in that you need the grades in the right subjects. You should also be practicing for the UKCAT.  By now you should have started building your personal statement. This isn’t just work experience. Universities are all looking for well-rounded individuals with non-academic skills and hobbies, and volunteering. We like to see that people have had a position of some responsibility , for example as a school captain or scout leader. Everyone’s been a prefect.

What if an applicant doesn’t get the grades? What should they do?
We don’t consider resits at my university, unless there are significant mitigating circumstances such as serious illness (not just “I felt sick on the day”) or close bereavement in the run up to exams. That might be different at other institutions.

If this person didn’t have that?
It is possible, depending on admissions criteria, to overcome less-than-stellar grades with a strong UKCAT score. It all depends on how much weighting the university gives to each. If this isn’t possible, my advice would be to consider doing a life sciences degree and applying as a graduate.

Does it matter if an applicant went to a private or state school?
Not a jot. We do have Widening Access criteria, which is for people whose circumstances might have affected their ability to fulfil their potential (for example, having been in care). This will not apply to most state school pupils, and can apply to some private school pupils.

How much work experience should people get? 
We recommend up to a fortnight, but this doesn’t have to be consecutive or even two separate weeks. It could be an afternoon a week over the course of several weeks.

What if someone has more than two weeks?
It wouldn’t give them any advantage with us.

What if someone has less than two weeks, say only one?
We might question their commitment and motivation, but this can also be shown with research and discussions with healthcare professionals in a variety of fields.

What if they don’t have work experience in a hospital or GP practice?
We recognise that it can be difficult, particularly for people in rural areas where confidentiality issues are more likely. What we’re more interested in are the skills that applicants have developed from their experience. Experience in a care home would be fine, or a pharmacy. Even if it’s a paid Saturday job, that’s okay. In a pharmacy they’d be engaging with members of the public about healthcare and learning about medicines, for example.

How much do references matter?
Well, at my university, very little. As long as it’s not appalling, it won’t make a difference - we don’t give it a formal score. Other universities might.

How do you use personal statements?
We use them primarily in the interview. They aren’t scored, but again, this is specific to my university. Other institutions will actively score the personal statement. Also, our policies are evolving all the time.

How should applicants prepare for interview?
The essential skill that we are looking for is communication - that’s the most important one, and it’s tested at every part of the interview. Applicants should read widely and be aware of issues facing the medical profession. They should know their personal statement inside out and be prepared to back it up when questioned. They should give some thought to ethical issues which may come up, and that may depend on what’s in the news.

Do you have any advice for applicants on the day of interview?
Make sure that you’re there in good time; that you look professional (don’t leave your interview suit on the bus, for example); don’t bring your mum; make sure you’ve done your homework. It’s all the obvious stuff that applies in any interview situation.

How does the experience of applying differ for overseas applicants?
Not hugely. They still have to apply through UCAS and sit the UKCAT. They also still have to be interviewed, but they have the option of coming to our university for the the interview or attending an interview in East Asia. Essentially, the process is the same.

What’s your biggest pet peeve about medical applicants?
Applicants who don’t put all of their qualifications on their UCAS form. This can lead to them being summarily rejected. If they then tell us they do have the qualification, we have to reinstate them, and go through the whole process again. That, and applicants who don’t read our website before calling up. The information is there!

Do you have any top tips for applicants?
Think ahead and don’t leave it all to the last minute. An application to medical school needs a lot of time and preparation. It shouldn’t be dashed off.

What would you say, finally, to 2019 applicants?
Good luck!

A day in the life... clinical medicine

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During my time as an undergraduate medical student I have struggled at a number of points. During the pre-clinical years, in particular, I found the style of teaching and learning difficult to engage with at times. The highly academic focus with limited patient contact was useful for developing my knowledge of the basic scientific principles of medicine, but I have always preferred learning in patient-based settings. This was the rationale for me omitting the (then) optional intercalated year of study and directly entering the clinical years of medicine. Now that I have reached the clinical years, the scientific learning from before has become contextualised and I now feel comfortable and confident putting it into practice. I can now begin to visualise the end-goal of becoming a clinical doctor and I thoroughly enjoy my work with both patients and clinicians alike.


In clinical medicine, we rotate in 4-6 week blocks around the specialities – for this blog post I will describe a standard day of my Obstetrics & Gynaecology rotation.

8am – pre-operative ward round.
We get kitted up in our scrubs and join the medical team on the ward for a handover from the night team. In Obs & Gynae these ward rounds could include pregnant people who might need a caesarean section, or some major gynae operations such as hysterectomies. These ward rounds are usually rapid but allow some time for us to meet the patients and briefly hear about their stories and clinical presentation. 

9am – operating theatre
Once you are a senior student (and if you are lucky with the consultant!) you can get scrubbed up (handwashing and surgical gowning) which allows you to get involved with the operation. This might include suctioning some blood during a caesarean section or suturing some deep tissues in a gynae operation. For me, this was hugely superior to the cadavers we learn from in the pre-clinical years.

12am – lunchtime tutorial
Quick lunch whilst a consultant gives us some formal teaching on an element of Obs & Gynae – this could be how to manage a natural delivery, dealing with miscarriages, communication scenarios or fertility treatments. Whilst in clinical years we do learn a lot of the important bits on the ward, we are still supported with more formal small tutorials.

1.30pm – clinic
Shadowing in a clinic allows medical students a chance to see a broad range of pathologies, but also to observe the history taking and clinical communication of the consultants – some clinics might include the high risk antenatal clinic (working with twin pregnancies or mothers with serious health conditions), the fertility clinic or the general gynaecology clinic.

Most of our days will finish by 4/5pm – and a lot of our weeks will include a few half days, so we often maintain the same amount of free time as previous years of university. For Obs & Gynae, medical students are expected to attend at least two night shifts – during these we get involved with a lot more things such as assisting with natural deliveries (most medical students will deliver a baby!), take blood from patients, assist in C-sections or take histories from patients directly. 

In clinical medicine placements you are often welcomed as part of the clinical team and have the privilege of speaking and engaging with really impressive doctors and interesting patients every day. For those of you struggling with the idea of text book learning, PBL or dissertations for intercalated degrees – have faith that patient contact in clinics and suturing wounds in theatres are just around the corner!

A day in the life... intercalation

“Inter-what?” is usually the reply I get when people ask me what year of medical school I’m in and I have to bring out my well-rehearsed explanation; intercalation is a year out of conventional medical school, where students join the Honours year of another degree to get an extra degree (usually a BMedSci). Different universities offer different courses and offer the intercalated year at differing times in the course of the medical degree, while some don’t offer it at all. Generally, the degrees on offer are biomedical sciences-based but sometimes options such as medical literature and global health are available. Some universities offer the chance for students to complete their intercalated year at a different university if the course they would like to take isn’t offered at their home university. Of the universities that offer intercalation, some may make the year competitive to get into or, in the case of the University of Edinburgh, it may even be compulsory.

 

I chose to complete intercalation because having another degree gives a slight edge for application to junior doctor jobs and I felt that I wanted an extra year to prepare myself for beginning my clinical placements. I chose to complete my BMedSci in Reproductive Biology and for the first time in my life at university, I had to choose electives (mini modules of study). Intercalation allows for more autonomous learning that medicine quite often doesn’t.

 

 In my first semester, my mornings consisted of lectures which were delivered in a style very similar to medicine while my afternoons were dedicated to “self-study”. During the afternoons of self-study, my time mainly consisted of reading science papers. I found that the main difference in learning style between medicine and intercalation is that papers informed my revision more than notes taken during lectures. In medical lectures, the information given is mainly evidence-based facts, whereas in the Reproductive Biology lectures, the information provided was centred around cutting-edge research which was often debated and not concrete. Reading papers provided arguments of differing views on the research and for the first time, I learned to not take information at face value and to challenge where the information was coming from. 

 

During my second semester, I had to conduct research and write a mini-dissertation on my findings. The projects undertaken allow people to choose an area of science in which they are interested and is another prime example of intercalation allowing for more autonomy. Projects can be lab-based, literature-based or statistics-based, meaning that there is something for everyone! If you like to be hands-on and practical, lab projects are best for you, whereas if you prefer reading and weighing up arguments, literature research is great. If epidemiology and trends in numbers take your fancy, then statistics-based projects are perfect for you.

 

For me, intercalation has been a really fun year! It’s allowed me to meet new people from a different course and has enabled me to appreciate the work that goes on behind the research which informs a doctor’s practice. I feel that my academic writing and critical thinking skills have improved massively thanks to this year and I would highly recommend intercalating.

 

Intercalation is a great opportunity, but it isn’t for everyone. It’s another year of university, with fees and living costs adding up and extra time to gaining that all-important medical qualification. Some people may not like the research aspect of most of the courses on offer or may decide that focussing on medicine is what’s best for them. Therefore, it’s really important to consider whether or not you’d like to do the intercalation year before choosing universities to apply to, as it may influence your choices.

 

As ever at Applican, if you have any questions about intercalation and choosing a university, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.