Base 1 of Applying to Medicine: The Perfect Combination of 4

This first article will give you a starting point for the various things to think about when choosing the medical schools you apply to. With only 6.7% of medical applications being successful, it is really important that you think strategically when selecting your 'perfect combination of 4'. It is important to play to your strengths and make sure the areas you are best at are the ones you are being selected upon. Equally, if you have weaknesses in areas of your application then there are universities that will not take these into consideration as much as others and it is important you are aware of this. Right now the focus must be on securing your interview at that university - have you met the criteria that they set for interview selection from the application? You will know if you do your research. 

So how do you pick the perfect combination? Well firstly, what do you have to offer the medical schools you are applying to? There are three main things you need to think about: 

  1. GCSE Grades
  2. UKCAT Score
  3. AS Level Grades

By this point as you read this it is likely you have taken your GCSEs and AS Levels and many make the mistake of leaving their UKCAT until the last minute. The Applican team recommend that you take your UKCAT earlier rather than later. This is because your score will impact where you apply and it is important to have this information early so you can make the best decisions about your application. For example, even your personal statement needs to be tailored to your choice of 4 so if you want to complete this over the summer holidays, you will need to have done your UKCAT so you know the criteria you should be structuring it in relation to. 

The next thing to think about is what does the university you are applying to have to offer you?

  • Course structure: Is it problem based learning (PBL) or a more traditionally structured course with lecture style teaching or is it more group learning?
  • Length of course: Does your university offer the option of intercalation? This is where you take a year out in the middle of your degree and get involved in some in depth scientific research and area of speciality which may be something you would like to get involved with during your medical career. It will extend the course, therefore, by 1 year.

It is also important to think about the interview style that the university uses and whether you think this meets the strengths that you have. Interviews will be discussed in a later blog post in more detail but there are various types: traditional panel interviews, group interviews and multiple mini interviews (MMIs) which entail very different styles of interview so it is an important aspect to consider.

There are also some other options you may like to consider: 

  • A 5th UCAS choice: Biomedical sciences and then entering medicine through the graduate entry route after the completion of your undergraduate scientific degree
  • CAO Applications: Applications to universities in the Republic of Ireland which will provide you with a higher probability of securing offers

So how does this actually relate to the universities. Below we have highlighted a couple of examples of the differences. However, this does not cover everything about each university used as examples. Instead we are showing how when looking at individual aspects in isolation such as GCSEs or UKCAT that universities differ massively. However, it is important that you research yourself to see which entrance tests are required for each one and whether there are other aspects that may affect your application. On our 2 day courses we provide all of this information but it is too much for a blog post!

GCSEs: You need to consider the strength of your GCSE profile.

  • If you think you have a strong GCSE profile (High % A* grades) then you may be interested in applying to places such as Birmingham (put a lot of emphasis on A* in Sciences, English and Maths) 
  • If you didn't perform as well as you would have liked to in GCSEs then you may consider somewhere like Brighton and Sussex who put more emphasis on a strong AS profile which can redeem GCSE results OR Lancaster which doesn't differentiate between A* and As at GCSE.

Medical entrance tests: Also consider tests such as the UKCAT, BMAT and HPAT which are required for different universities. Keep posted for our blog posts on reading lists and preparation advice for the different tests.

  • BMAT: If you are applying to London universities, Oxford, Cambridge and more recently Leeds, Bristol, Lancaster and Brighton & Sussex to name a few (this is increasing in popularity so make sure you check!) then you will have to take the BMAT which is a paper exam at the beginning of November.
  • UKCAT: A large number of the universities require the UKCAT which is a computerised test with a number of sections. If you have a strong UKCAT score then universities such as Glasgow put a high emphasis on UKCAT for whittling down candidates to be selected for interview whilst other universities do not take it into account at all. 
  • HPAT: CAO Applications for Republic of Ireland universities will require this test.

AS/A level results: The final aspect of the considerations of your strengths is your AS and predicted A Level profiles and importantly, which each university you are applying to value more. 

  • A Level Results: The academic criteria for applying to the Republic of Ireland is based purely on your A-Level results at the end of your A-Level year
  • AS Levels: If you feel like your AS Levels didn't go as well as you would have liked them to then universities like Lancaster place more emphasis on predicted A2 results rather than AS results 

Hopefully this gives you a good insight about the things you should think about when considering the universities you want to apply to. The key thing we want to get across is that research is essential and you need to find out exactly what each individual university is looking for so you can best display your strengths in the application process. So good luck and we hope you find the perfect combination of four!

To see our video that accompanies this blog post then go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Uw1hSFJz88