What are UK Medical schools looking for?

What are UK Medical schools looking for?

Applying to Medical School is no easy task

It’s common to hear conversations surrounding the world’s most competitive schools, but less so about the world’s most competitive courses.

Medicine is perhaps the most famous and notorious of these, as no matter where in the world you may choose to pursue this academic path, the standards are sky-high.

This is because Medicine is a course like no other: being academically adept is one thing, but just as important is that you have what it takes character-wise to excel in this high-intensity field once you graduate.

One foolproof way of assessing this capability, universally adopted across prestigious medical schools in the UK, is to stack up on requirements.

Whereas most UK courses (Oxbridge aside) would simply expect you to submit grades, one teacher recommendation, and a personal statement, below are the requirements for the typical Medicine program:

  • Your grades
  • A UCAT score, BMAT score, or both (depending on the schools you choose to apply to)
  • One teacher recommendation
  • Your UCAS personal statement
  • Completion of interviews

Notable here is the additional aptitude test(s) you’ll be needing to take, as well as the series of interviews you wouldn’t otherwise have to undergo.

If this sounds like a whole lot to complete, don’t fret.

In essence, all Med admissions tutors are looking through your materials in search of the same three pillars: strong academics, the natural character of a medical practitioner, and a strong interest / understanding of the medical profession in particular.

If you think about it, here is precisely how these manifest in the aforementioned requirements:

To understand these pillars a little further, let’s talk about each one by one:


Strong Academics

Of course, the minimum threshold for grades will vary according to the institution.

Generally speaking, however, Med programs expect no less than AAA at A-Level (approximately 35-37 points in the International Baccalaureate system) – which would include relevant subjects like Biology, Chemistry, and Math.

For the most competitive of programs, like that of the University of Cambridge, minimum requirements can go up to A*A*A at A-Level or a 40-42 on the IB (with a 7-7-6 in your Higher Level subjects, composed primarily of the sciences). 

The UCAT and BMAT – both aptitude tests of medicine-related thinking skills – are also scored on a scale that Med schools scrutinize closely.

To be a competitive applicant, it is recommended that students score at least a 2700 out of 3600 on the UCAT (with at least a Band 2 for Situational Judgment). For the BMAT, students should aim for a 6.5 out of 9.0 in both the Thinking Skills and Scientific Knowledge & Applications sections, and at least 4A for the Writing Task. Learn more about how these two tests are broken down and scored here.

Strong academics can be shown anecdotally, too, through both the teacher recommendation and personal statement. 


Character of a Practitioner

According to the Medical Schools Council, these are some of the core values and attributes medical schools are looking for and integrate within their admissions processes:

  • Resilience, especially amidst difficult situations
  • Personal organization
  • Self-reflexiveness, especially upon one’s own work
  • Natural empathy and care for others
  • Problem-solving
  • Honesty
  • Ability to treat people with respect
  • Teamwork
  • Ability to deal with uncertainty

In the personal statement, one can show these traits not just through supercurricular commitments that are explicitly related to medicine, but also through any sort of activity that might display these characteristics.

Volunteering would be the most common, but the possibilities are really endless, as many also cite books they’ve read and the character-related take-aways they’ve gleaned from doing so.

Interviews are more straightforward.

There are three types – the OxBridge interview, the Panel interview, and Multiple Mini-interviews (MMI) – the latter two of which are used across the majority of Med schools.

In a Panel interview, you’ll be given 15-30 minutes to speak with a panel of interviewers (ranging from admissions tutors and professors to current medical students), while in an MMI, you’ll have to go through multiple stations (around 6-10), each with a different set of tasks (eg. answering simple interview questions, role-playing, or even conducting a physical demonstration).

Whatever the format may be, however, the goal remains unchanged: to assess your character and to what extent you’d be a suitable fit for the medical field. Learn more about Medicine admissions interviews here


Strong Interest in the Medical Profession 

Med school aspirants have more than enough room on the application to display a strong interest in practicing Medicine.

A few lines on a personal statement communicating long-term ambitions within the field, coupled with a compelling and authentic set of interview answers will go a long way in terms of final admissions results.

Of course, if this passion for Medicine can be corroborated by whomever is writing your teacher recommendation – all the better. 

For a glimpse of what showcasing this interest might look like on a personal statement, check out the concluding paragraph below, which comes from a real (and successful!) Med school application.

Notice that the student makes an explicit declaration about wanting to be a doctor, and states their commitment for the professional despite its demanding nature:

“Medicine is far from glamorous. The long, irregular work hours and the obligations to patients take an emotional and physical toll. Yet I am excited by the prospect of a career as a doctor (as opposed to other jobs in healthcare), as this will enable me to learn everyday while fueling my desire for that about which I am most passionate: impacting the lives of people in small, yet undeniably powerful ways.” 

There is no such thing as the perfect Med school application.
However, hitting upon all the key points UK Med admissions tutors are looking for can be done in more ways than one – it’s about finding your own unique way of doing so.