Applying to medicine using your strengths: Decoding university admissions policies.

Applying to medicine can be one of the most confusing and stressful times. Your faced with a sea of applicants who have amazing grades and entrance exams scores, are baffled into confusion by each universities admissions policy and are just unsure what will make the cut.

Each year thousands of people apply to medicine, competition ratios are incredibly high with many more applicants to offers, and around 60% of applicants will get 4 rejections when applying to medicine due to this. Hence it is so important to give yourself the best shot at getting an offer, the best way to do this is to apply to medical schools where your credentials stand out. For example applying to a medical school which only uses the UKCAT to score candidates for interview when you have a score over 800 will mean you will be selected for sure, whereas if you apply with a score below 600 you will not be competitive.

During my application cycle I really struggled to ‘decode’ the admissions policies of each university, and it was hard to know not only what they were looking for, but also what would be good enough to be competitive there. One of the major regrets of my application was not understanding these admissions policies and applying to places where my application just drowned in a see of other more qualified people, but I didnt know that at the time.

What I have created is a document which collates all of the information found on the university admissions policies for GCSEs, Alevels and entrance exams at each medical school for A100 and placed them together so it is easy to see at a glance where you will not stand out and where you are likely to be a strong applicant. This document is made by myself completely, but does not replace any university admissions document and the information in this document may not be completely accurate and up to date, so can I ask anyone that uses it to ensure before going any further you check the universities website to double check your requirements meet the standard.

I hope this document helps people, TSR have a resource very similar but sadly it is a little out of date hence why I felt it important to make a more up to date version.

2017 entry NRM2707 admissions policy document: 

A100 2017 entry admissions policies (NRM2707-FDB)

PLEASE NOTE! SHEFFIELD UNIVERSITY HAVE UPDATED THEIR ADMISSIONS POLICY AND NOW RANK THE HIGHEST UKCAT SCORES FOR INTERVIEW, I WILL UPDATE THE DOCUMENT ASAP BUT I AM CURRENTLY AWAY WITH NO ACCESS TO A COMPUTER!

When asked for password just select open the document as read only!

I hope this helps anyone applying to medicine and helps ease confusion by having everything in one place. Please if you notice any incorrect information contact me so I can edit it to prevent the spread of incorrect information. Please read the disclaimer on the first page!

Natalie x

What is it like to study under a lecture-based curriculum?

As you may be aware if you have read my previous blog post I have just completed year 1 of medicine at Cardiff university, which is a predominantly CBL based course style in the pre-clinical years. So you may now be wondering how on earth I am going to be able to tell you what a lecture based curriculum is like because I haven’t witnessed one, but this is where it gets a little complex.

Most universities for medicine will brand their course structure with a single title such as CBL/PBL/lecture-based, but just because the main style of teaching on the course falls under the 1 method doesn’t mean you will not experience another method also. At Cardiff during the autumn semester of year 1 all medical students undergo a programme of 3 modules named ‘Platform for clinical sciences’ which is not in CBL format, it is in fact a lecture based style of teaching. So for 3 months of my year 1 study I did experience a lecture based course style, and this post is going to be my reflection on that experience as well as guide to what it is really like studying under this type of curriculum.

What does a lecture based curriculum even mean?

I have covered in a previous post the many different types of course structures across the medical schools in the UK. As a brief summary, a lecture based curriculum is exactly what it says on the tin. Medical students will spend the majority of their pre-clinical years learning the pre-clinical sciences through all year lectures, small group tutorials, seminars and lab teachings. This course style requires much less independant study and self inquiry and relies much more on the students engaging and taking in the material delivered to them in these structured classes.

IMG_2681.JPG

Teaching delivered through lab sessions. 

As stated in my previous post sometimes this course style can mean a lack of patient contact and clinical exposure in pre-clinical years, but for me this was not the case as clinical skills and some very early patient contact sessions were timetabled into our week to help us prepare for clinical practice early on.

My experience of a lecture-based curriculum.

As I only witnessed this method of teaching for 3 months It was like a whirlwind to me, I was new to medical school, freshers was in full swing and I was also having a tough time adjusting to life without my family around me, so I apologise if the details are lacking here.

PCS as it was known by students is the rigorous programme of 3 modules undertaken in autumn term of year 1 at Cardiff medical school. From my understanding its aim seems to be to bring all students from various different backgrounds and education systems together and up to speed as well as give us a very good grounding in the basics (but it didnt seem very basic at the time) of the pre-clinical sciences so we could apply our knowledge and build on it further during case based learning. The 3 module programme was neither systems based nor science based to me, but this may have been because it was very fast paced and we moved from topic to topic very quickly. Each module did have a theme though so it wasn’t all that crazy.

A typical week in the life of a lecture based student can be seen below, I have modified one of my timetables to show you the average contact hours as well as the variety of learning methods encompassed into one week. What may be different to many other courses is that Cardiff cover the majority of the core anatomy teaching within PCS, hence it may seem like we have a lot of anatomy sessions, this may not be the case at other medical schools who do not aim to give students the majority of the core anatomical teaching within a short space of time.

LBtimetable.png

A general overview of a lecture based medical students week.

Above was an average timetable for me during my first term at medical school, if you have counted it clocks up 26 hours of timetabled study which is broken down into lectures (6 hours), anatomy lab (6 hours), physiology labs (3 hours), small group tutorials (9 hours) and clinical skills teaching (2 hours). Obviously this is not at all representative of every lecture based curriculum, especially if your thinking of heading to oxbridge where supervisions are scheduled into the week, but it is a good idea of the kind of things you will be doing if you chose this curriculum style.

What was this like as a learning environment?

From a personal standpoint after a whole year of trying to make it work, lectures just are not the right learning environment for me. I struggle to focus on listening for long periods of time and I find my focus is much greater when I am actively studying. Saying this I found that attending the lectures and recording them as well as listening and trying to take notes made the information much easier to study, but it didn’t necessarily stick the first time. I took much better to the small groups, lab teaching and anatomy teaching. The small group teaching was particularly great because it allowed me to build on the information from lectures and solve the problems surrounding these in smaller groups with close guidance from an academic in this field. I did find that at the end of the day I had to review a lot of the material from lectures and groups to truly understand it all, hence this made the days very long and tiring, but it was worth it when it all finally clicked.

This style of curriculum is incredibly full on, hefty contact hours as well as little time scheduled for independant study meant I was always behind in terms of where I wanted my understanding to be, and I can definetly say this course style did not suit me at all. A lot of information was covered in a very short amount of time and I was always running to catch up.

Looking back on this style of learning now though having been through CBL, it providing me with a great foundation knowledge bank of pre-clinical science and has made my life so much easier in case group as the content we are covering is just building on things we have already covered. Hence in reflection whilst it was such a slog going through the long hours and lack of sleep, it was worth it to have that solid basis for further study.

How do you cope with the workload and full timetable?

I am not going to lie, the timetable and workload I witnessed whilst following this curriculum was very intense, and hence it required a lot of forward thinking and planning.

It is really important to plan out your days with your timetable in mind to be able to review your lecture material and other resources as well as study and frankly for myself just keep up. I found it best to plan my week in advance, giving myself slots for study, review and also FREE TIME! I cannot stress the importance of balance when following this curriculum, it is so easy to end up locked away in your room/library drowning in books, but you need to make time for yourself and know your limits.

Looking back now I approached this term with the wrong mindset of trying to make notes on absolutely everything, and whilst this did benefit me during CBL, it was impossible to keep up with alongside this very full timetable. Hence to cope with the workload of this curriculum I advise you annotate your lectures during the actual lecture and only make brief notes to consolidate things you dont know. This also frees some time up to do things you enjoy as well as study when exams are around the corner.

The workload was very straining, particularly because one single 50 minute lecture would cover a whole chapters worth of information in a textbook, and with multiple of these a week it can often feel slightly suffocating upon review. My best advice here is stop panicking and just try your best to take notes during the lectures and then on the weekend spend a good couple of hours reviewing it all and making sure you understand everything.

Is a lecture based course for me?

Before coming to medical school I thought I would really enjoy a lecture based course, but having experienced it I would have to say I do prefer a more self inquiry based CBL /PBL structure. For me people who enjoy being given information directly to learn rather than having to motivate themselves and search for the information themselves would be more suited to this style of course. Also if you have a deep interest in the pre-clinical sciences then a lecture based course may cover more of this in greater detail, and hence it may appeal to you. My advice as always is check out every single universities course at an open day or via a prospectus before you apply and find out what you like the sound of and what interests you.

 

This is my experience of a lecture based curriculum. Although it was brief and will differ from other medical schools which adopt this technique throughout their entire curriculum, I hope it was a useful insight into a more traditional course style. It didn’t personally work for me, but hopefully from above you can get a sense of what its like and whether you personally would suit this course style.

Nat x

What is it like to study under a CBL curriculum?

As you may already know I have just completed year 1 at Cardiff University Medical school, and the curriculum here follows a case based learning (CBL) approach from January of year 1, and for anyone who is interested it is an integrated CBL style course with a systems based approach.

Just as a side note, Term 1 at Cardiff goes by the name of platform for clinical sciences and this is delivered in a lecture based traditional format, so I will be doing a separate post on what it is like to follow a lecture based curriculum for those interested in medical schools which follow that method.

This blog post is going to be a complete run down of what its like to follow a CBL course structure, and I will address many aspects which I feel applicants often ask questions on or feel daunted by when starting the course or looking to apply.

What is CBL?

I have already addressed this topic in a previous blog post but this was on more general terms, instead here I will be describing the CBL style course I have personally witnessed at Cardiff medical school.

Case based learning at Cardiff university runs on a 2 week timetable and follows a given clinical case on one of the body systems. The case itself is split into two parts over the two weeks, the first part often addresses a patients complaint to the GP and the second part shows a development of the patients condition as part of the case. For example the first weeks case may see an middle aged gentleman who is suffering with chest pain, and this could escalate the following week to the gentleman being rushed into A&E with a heart attack. The aim of CBL is to discuss in a small group (10 people) the case, devise learning outcomes and brainstorm ideas to learn about the anatomy, physiology, pathology, histology, sociology and psychology linked to the case in question, and be able to apply this to our practice during placements.

Picture1.png

CBL case structure from a students perspective

As you can see above, there is a clear outline of what CBL entails (this is specific to Cardiff but I’ve heart it is similar at a lot of universities, and even similar to some PBL courses).

What is case group like as a learning environment?

At my university case groups comprise of 10 students and one academic staff member who is named the facilitator. During each CBL session (we have 3 over the 2 weeks), one person of the 10 will be a chair to keep the session organised and one person will scribe everything that we are discussing. The facilitators role is to keep us on track, prevent us from going on tangents and point out some useful topics of discussion if we are struggling, their main aim is to ensure our learning outcomes cover all the learning points we are supposed to cover during this case, so they do guide us when needed (i think this is where CBL differs from PBL).

For me case group was a brilliant environment to learn in, it allowed us a great safe and supportive place to share our ideas, and it allowed people who did not particularly understand one topic or learning outcome to listen to the findings from others who did, hence sharing ideas really does add to your knowledge and means your very unlikely to miss something important.

The cons for me of case group were the lack of formality, this meant that often people showed up without completing the learning outcomes and this meant some individuals in the group were not pulling their weight and piggybacking if you will off the hard work of others. Also if your not a particularly confident person case group can put you in the spotlight which may be slightly uncomfortable until your used to it.

Overall for me it is a great way to learn, and a very supportive and encouraging environment.

How do you cope with the large amount of self directed learning?

Coming from A-levels where all the information needed to pass the exams was handed to me on a plate, CBL was initially incredibly daunting. I remember leaving the first case group session with a load of learning outcomes and thinking “how am I ever going to find the answers to these on my own”, but trust me when I say its really not like that at all!

I found that the lecture material and lab material which we undertook during the 2 week case answered a lot of my learning outcomes without the need for extra reading in great amounts. Yes there were learning outcomes which weren’t covered at all by timetabled teaching, but I did in the end enjoy going to the library or back to my room and opening up my textbook to find the answers. I am a very motivated studier and this probably helped me as I enjoyed the self-directed aspect of CBL a lot more than I expected I would. SD learning is a key skill to have in medicine, and something which you will rely on heavily during the clinical years, so CBL was a great asset for me.

The main struggle is the transition to this style of learning, but over time if you work at it you will perfect the method best for you. Its also about studying smart, not every learning outcome developed by your group will be important, so make sure you spend less time on those.

For me the one big plus at Cardiff was that we received learning outcomes at the end of the 2 weeks, so even if I missed something out I could use the weekend between cases to fill in the blanks and work out what is important and what is less so.

What is integrated clinical placements like during pre-clinical years?

anyone attending a medical school with an integrated curriculum will know placements are a staple in years 1 and 2. At Cardiff we did 1 full day (8-5) of placement with half a day spent seeing real patients in the community/GP clinics who have the same issues as discussed in the case, and the other half spent learning the relevant clinical skills needed to practice on the wards in clinical years (as well as pass the ISCE and OSCE examinations).

I found clinical placements linked very well to the case, and allowed me to develop my clinical knowledge and patient communication early on. It was also really great to see the clinical issues we are learning about on real patients and to develop the key evidence based approach to medicine. I would definetly recommend any medical school with early clinical contact.

FAQs:

  • Do you ever feel like you are having to teach yourself? 

No not at all, yes self directed learning means sitting down with a textbook and learning the relevant information, but if I am ever stuck I can ask my facilitator, email a lecturer or ask any of the academics overseeing my course to point me in the right direction. Also a lot of our learning outcomes are addressed in timetabled teaching, it really isn’t as self-directed as many people think.

  • Do you feel unprepared for exams?

The short answer is no, if you put the work in during the CBL sessions and in your own revision time, you will be able to learn all the relevant information needed for the exams, especially considering we have learning outcomes to follow. Yes there is a lot of content in the course, so its practically impossible to know every last detail like at A2 level, but if you revise smart you will walk into the exams feeling prepared.

 

Above is my experience with Cardiff’s CBL style course, and hopefully is an insight into anyone who is looking at studying a course with a similar structure.  I am so glad I chose this course style because it really does work for me!

Nat x

Medical school course structures: is there a difference?

When browsing the websites and prospectus documents of medical schools all across the UK, when describing their course structure often there are many words and phrases which are used: PBL, CBL, Integrated, Traditional. What do they really mean? Are they the same at each medical school? Which one suits me best? Well this blog post will hopefully help anyone confused with the course types and hopefully will point you in the direction of the course type which may suit you best.

I will be covering various different aspects of the course in this post including:

  • Method of delivery
  • Process by which material is covered
  • Clinical exposure

please note that you can only compare and contrast courses within these 3 categories. 

Problem Based learning (PBL) and Case Based learning (CBL).

A lot of medical schools in the UK have adopted the PBL method of teaching, originally pioneered in Canada and first introduced into the UK in the 90’s by Manchester medical school. It has a very similar cousin in terms of course structure, this is the CBL method of teaching, pioneered in the USA and adopted by Cardiff medical school recently in the UK.  

Generally PBL and CBL share many similarities and sometimes its very hard to distinguish between the two teaching methods, hence below I am going to group them together when describing what they entail and how they are delivered. I will address their differences in a later section.

What does a PBL/CBL course structure entail?

Most PBL/CBL courses offered by medical schools are very similar, most run on a 1 week/2 week rotation of problems/cases and they follow a set structure as described below.

Students will meet in a small group with a facilitator for the first session of PBL/CBL. The problem/case will then be introduced to the students and they will be given some time to brainstorm their ideas and generate learning outcomes for the case. Some medical schools provide learning outcomes at the start of the case, some provide them for use at the end of the case and some do not give learning outcomes at all.

The students will then continue the week/2 week period by attending lectures, seminars, small groups and labs to fulfil their learning outcomes. As well as the timetabled activity PBL/CBL requires a great deal of self directed study to answer the learning outcomes, hence self motivation by students is very important in a PBL/CBL styled course.

Students will then meet again in their small group with their facilitator to share their ideas and answer their learning outcomes.

PBL:CBL

Basic outline of a PBL/CBL style course

As I stated before every university has a different take on the PBL/CBL styled course, hence I am going to be doing a blog post specifically about my experiences with CBL as a Cardiff student so you can get the idea of what its really like to study under this curriculum.

Differences between PBL and CBL.

Generally speaking (having spoken to my colleagues at various medical schools) PBL and CBL seem to be more similar than different, but it is important to remember that they are different learning styles and so do have some differences which can be seen.

PBL is described as an open enquiry method which allows students to discuss all topics and tangents of the problem faced with little or no guidance from the facilitator. This can be problematic if the group go off an a tangent, and can sometimes mean that the problem in question will never be answered totally – hence the conclusion may be false. Also with PBL often the learning outcomes are never officially defined and the timetabled teaching may not be as directed to the problems material. One positive is PBL does well to enhance a students problem solving skills.

CBL on the other hand is described as a guided enquiry which targets students to certain areas of the case given to generate specific learning outcomes. Facilitators generally play a more active role in keeping the session on task, and sometimes will bring up topics to guide the session, this means the learning outcomes and outcome obtained from CBL at the end of the case is most likely correct. Timetabled teaching backs up the learning outcomes very well and often official learning outcomes are provided. One downside to CBL is that its less like solving a problem as enquiry is solely directed at a purpose.

Even with saying the above I have seen students who describe PBL exactly the same as how I describe CBL as taught by my medical school, so it completely depends on the school you attend.

Lecture based course styles.

Many medical schools describe their courses as traditional lecture based or even science based, and this can often mean different things at different institutions.

These courses usually have a great deal of focus on the pre-clinical sciences and students follow a rigorous programme of all year lectures, small group and lab teaching. Hence these course types have much less independant study and self inquiry. Lecture/science based courses give students a very strong grounding in the preclinical sciences, but often a lack of early clinical exposure can make the transition from pre-clinical to clinical medicine more daunting.

Process by which material is covered. 

Material can be covered in two main ways for a medicine course:

  • Subject-based/traditional: Material is covered in subjects such as anatomy, pathology, physiology, histology etc. These courses are now very rare as the teaching method is not as fluid as the system-based counterpart, but often this method works very well with traditional lecture based courses.
  • System-based: material is covered by body system, bringing together anatomy, pathology, physiology and histology to cover each body system individually and in turn. This is the much more popular method used nowadays by medical schools as it is more fluid and proves more logical to the students who undertake it. I personally feel this allows for a more focussed approach and prevents confusion.

 

Clinical exposure.

Nowadays the word ‘Integrated’ is found in most medical schools course description. Integrated means that in preclinical years there will be some clinical contact and for clinical years it means that lectures and small groups will be integrated into their clinical practice. 

Most medical schools now boast some form of early patient contact as it is very important for students to link preclinical sciences with their clinical application as well as develop an evidence based approach to learning.

Very few medical schools now have the deeply defined pre-clinical and clinical years.

 

So what do I look for in a course?

All of the above features can be found in various combinations at the medical schools across the UK, For example my medical school (Cardiff) use an integrated CBL systems based approach, whereas when viewing medical schools I also witnessed a traditional lecture based course with barely any integration. But the important thing is identifying which course is right for you.

The best way to do this is to visit university open days and talk to students on the course your interested in, but below is a general guide of what traits tend to suit each course style:

  • CBL/PBL: Enjoys self directed study. Willing to motivate themselves to work outside of timetabled teaching. Likes to share ideas within a group setting to aid their learning. Does not enjoy being ‘Spoonfed’ information to a great extent via lectures. Does not enjoy/feel lectures are a great way of learning for them. Prefers learning within a smaller group. 
  • Lecture based: Prefers being spoonfed information. Dislikes self-directed learning. Feels they cannot motivate themselves adequately for self-directed study.

As for integration, it is really the applicants choice as to whether they prefer early clinical contact or not. Most medical schools do now have some form of early clinical contact and less of a distinction between preclinical and clinical medicine, but there are some courses out there which are more distinct (less integrated).

 

This really is a basic outline of all of the course styles for applicants which may be feeling a little confused when browsing medical schools. As I stated before tomorrow I will release a blog post on what its like to follow a CBL/PBL style course and my feelings on that for anyone interested.

 

Advice for tackling the UKCAT.

Back again, and If you have only started looking into medicine just recently then you may be unaware as to what my title even means. The UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) is an ‘entrance exam’ style test which is required by the majority of the UKs medical schools. It is taken between July and October of the year you are applying to medicine via UCAS, and much like the driving theory test, gives you your result as soon as you leave the test centre.

Universities requiring the UKCAT  for A100 include: Aberdeen, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Dundee, Durham, East Anglia, Edinburgh, Exeter, Glasgow, Hull-York, Keele, Kings, Leicester, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Plymouth, Queen Mary, Queens Belfast, Sheffield, Southampton, St.Andrews and St Georges. This information including the other courses which require the UKCAT at these institutions can be found here: TheUKCATblog.com – university requirements 2017.

Each of the above medical schools use the UKCAT very differently. For a run down of how the UKCAT is used by each university the 2016 document created by Kaptest is still mostly up to date, but make sure you check with the medical school (via the website, phone call or email) that these details are still correct before applying.

As seen above because most medical schools (and dental schools) require the UKCAT test to be sat prior to admission, the majority (if not all) of applicants will be taking the test, so make sure you book early online via the Pearson UKCAT booking system. I personally would take the UKCAT after results day and before you return to college, but everyone is different so book a time and venue which suits you. Also ensure you check whether you are eligible for extra-time via UKCATSEN, or whether you are eligible for a UKCAT bursary to cover the costs of the test.

What does the UKCAT actually entail?

This information can be found on the official UKCAT website, But as a basic run-down, the test is composed of 5 subsections:

  1. Verbal Reasoning
  2. Decision Making – this is only being piloted for 2017 entry meaning the score for this subsection is for the use of UKCAT only and will not be sent to universities.
  3. Quantitative Reasoning
  4. Abstract Reasoning
  5. Situational Judgement test

The test lasts 120 minutes (or 150 minutes for UKCATSEN) and each subsection will include 1 minute (or 2 minutes for UKCATSEN) of instruction time before the subsection begins.

Because decision making is excluded from the score universities will receive, your UKCAT total score will be range from the minimum score of 900 to the maximum score of 2700 (this is due to each of the 3 eligible subsections VR, QR and AR being scored between 300 and 900). Often universities work on average UKCAT scores, this can be worked out by dividing your total score out of 2700 by 3 to find your average between the 3 sections.

The SJT is banded separately from the other score, the bands range from top band 1 to bottom band 4. Again this is used differently by every university so ensure you check whether your SJT band meets requirements before applying.

How best to prepare for the UKCAT.

Everyone who has ever taken the test will have used different methods of preparation, but after talking to countless applicants who have taken the UKCAT, it is apparent it is not a test which can be ‘Revised’ for, instead its about ‘practice’. The questions and timings require practice to perfect the skill and pace required in the real exam, hence rather than revising its better to use resources which test and improve your UKCAT skills.

The time you spend preparing for the UKCAT is totally up to you, I personally did 4 weeks preparation spending 1 hour per day before the test practicing. My preferred method began by using the 600 questions book (this has now been updated to the 1000 question book for 2017 entry and is much more up to date) and went through each subsection untimed trying to understand what the question was asking of me, and trying to work out what method I was going to use to tackle the questions. The key is to really be consistent with this method throughout the exam as swapping between methods could waste time an cause confusion.

Once comfortable with the question style and skill required to answer them I went onto using an online resource which had a similar format to the exam (I used Medify but there are many other online resources out there to), this allowed me to begin practising under exam conditions (which is very hard to enforce with the book alone) to ensure I was pacing myself correctly throughout each section, it also allowed me to get to grips with the question flagging system and the calculator online which can be tricky to use without practice.

A few days before the exam after I felt completely comfortable I began to do the Official UKCAT practice tests, this allowed me to get the full testing experience before I entered the test centre, and also gave me a gauge as to where I was at.

My best advice for practicing the UKCAT is not to get caught up on the scores you receive in each practice test, the real exam may have totally different questions, my advice is to ignore the score and work on the things you personally struggled with more, this will make you more comfortable (but do not neglect the other sections, this is practice not revision remember!).

What to expect on the day?

If you have ever taken a driving theory test, then you will know the setting quite well. You take the UKCAT in a pearson exam centre near your home. You will be required to present with your booking receipt as well as ID to sit the test. You will then be sat in a pod or room in front of a computer screen and provided with headphones (optional but it is nice to use them to block out background noise) and a few sheets of whiteboard paper as well as a marker (some erase, some dont, it depends on your test centre) to use for note taking during the exam.

During the exam you have access to a computerised calculator on screen (which i highly recommend you learn the keyboard shortcuts for as using the mouse wastes time).

Once the exam is sat you will exit the room and collect your belongings (you cannot take anything into the exam room with you) and be handed a sheet of paper with your result on, showing your score in each section.

What to do with my score?

Many people panic when they receive their score, and begin comparing it to previous years, although this isnt always a bad thing, the UKCAT scores change very year, meaning the average and competitive scores will differ (possibly even significantly) each year. generally (but in no way religiously) over 700 is a very competitive score, below 600 is a below average score, but because most people fall between this is where the confusion lies. Remember each medical school has different requirements so no matter what your UKCAT score you will likely have some options.

If you are after advice on your score the student room have a UKCAT forum each year, and also talk to your tutors or university admissions officers to discuss with them the competitiveness of your score.

 

This is my best advice on the UKCAT admissions test, and I really do hope it can help some people who may be unsure where to start, or others who are confused about the exam some help.

Natalie x

 

How should an offer holder prepare for medical school?

Funnily enough I seem to get this question a lot from A-level students who have firm offers for medicine and have a very long summer ahead of them. I assume that because the application process is so drawn out and you have been thinking about medicine for a long time now, you are just excited to get stuck into all things medicine… But dont get to ahead of yourself, here is my advice on what to do with your summer before you start medical school.

A-levels are over: time to celebrate!

You will all have worked incredibly hard in the weeks and months leading up to your A2 examinations, so reward yourself. Give yourself time to relax, celebrate with friends and enjoy life outside of textbooks. A lot of offer holders seem to forget that they literally just finished exams before they are being eager to jump into learning new things, but give your mind and body time to rest and recuperate. Trust me, you will thank me when September comes and your feeling energised to start your degree.

Travel, Enjoy yourself and do things you have been longing to do!

This is going to be one of the longest summers you will have during your life, 3 months is ample to get yourself cultured and enjoy the amazing side of life. You dont have to spend 3 months backpacking in far flung places, but try and spend some time doing things you have always wanted to do. For me this was going on my first foreign holiday, and going to see once of the ancient wonders of the world, but thats not everyones cup of tea. Get yourself involved in a sport or take up a hobby you have always wanted to try, because this is the most free time you will have for many years to come: You would be crazy not to make the most of it.

Do some research about your university and course!

It is important to go into university prepared, so make sure you spend some time online looking at your accommodation, university, course and town/city. Being familiar with things will make the settling in period much easier and will also prevent the pre-move-in-panic. Make sure you know your term dates and you have a list of things you will be required for your course and accommodation to ease the strain when it comes to purchasing it all.

Get to grips with your finances!

Ensure you are aware of how much student finance you are entitled to, and add this to any extra income you may get throughout the year to start to build a budget for yourself. Its really important that your finances are sorted by the time you start freshers as it is then one less thing to worry about. Also once your offer has been confirmed get your student bank account open and dont forget to order a student rail card!

But what about the actual medicine stuff? Can I prepare for medical school academically? Should I be reading around? Which textbooks will give me a headstart?

I really strongly advise against doing any pre-reading for the course. Each medical school follows a different curriculum, and although we do end up with the same knowledge bank in the end, the way the degree is delivered and at what depth/pace is very different. If you jump into textbooks you can often go and overcomplicate things before starting, as not everything will need to be covered. My best advice is just leave that stuff till you begin, if you really want to start something then have a look over some basic human anatomy to familiarise yourself with the bodies systems, but I personally wouldn’t even recommend that. Do not get yourself bogged down before you even have begun, its better to go into medical school with a clear fresh mind than worry yourself over content in the summer.

So to sum it up, by advice is relax, enjoy yourself and dont worry to much about the actual content of the course. Enjoy the last long summer you will have!

 

 

 

 

My application: Story time…

Probably one of the most common things I get asked when speaking at open days or when on the student room is about my “profile”, I personally hate that term but I can understand why people are so interested in this information. When applying for medicine I was always curious as to what the people on the other side had achieved, medicine is so competitive and to me knowing more about the people who made it (and maybe why the made it) allowed me to understand the application process a little more. I used the information of other successful candidates to work out my chances at different medical schools, and it helped me be more realistic about my goals. Of course I am the very first to jump out and say that every medical school uses different criteria to assess candidates, but I see no harm in knowing what type of grades/work experience/UKCAT managed to gain an interview at a certain place yet did not at another. Hence this is why I am going to share my application story in the hope that it can be of use to somebody (please hold on this might be a tad on the long side… and I have a tendency to waffle).

Natalierm2707’s application story:

I applied to med school during my A2 year at college, this is really the first oppurtunity people ever get to apply, and I was very lucky to gain acceptance first time around.

 – GCSE grades: 9A*’s and 1.5A’s (in french and R.E. respectively), I also got Dist*Dist* in BTEC sport and Dist in I.T. but these are sadly irrelevant when it comes to medicine applications.

– AS levels: AAAB in Biology, Chemistry, Geography and Maths respectively (also got a B in general studies but very few medical schools accept this)

 – Predicted A2 levels: A*AA in Biology, Chemistry and geography respectively (and I went on to achieve exactly this).

– UKCAT: 2700 overall which gives a 675 average (very good for the year of entry… wish somebody had told me that though!).

In terms of work experience and voluntary work I had done: 12 weeks voluntary work on a hospital ward; 1 week shadowing at Europe’s largest cancer hospital; 1 month (at date of application – but 3 months by date of interview and 10 months in total) voluntary work taking disabled children out to do sports. In terms of extra-curriculars I had done: choir; open university course; charity events at college and I worked for a large pet retailer.

as shown above my profile was by no means extraordinary, I would probably label myself as an average medical school applicant. my GCSE grades were by far my strong point, and If I had known at the time that my UKCAT was good (previous year was an all time high for the average UKCAT score and hence I compared myself to that rather than my years average stupidly) then I would have had a stronger application and applied to different medical schools. My AS was average and in comparison to most my work experience/extracurricular were very poor (and this was my downfall).

I applied to:

Liverpool: rejected pre-interview (personal statement not competitive enough).

Lancaster: rejected pre-interview (personal statement not competitive enough).

Sheffield: rejected pre-interview (personal statement not competitive enough).

Cardiff: early interview invite – offer after interview (AAA) – FIRM!

I also applied to KCL for genetics and received an AAB offer, but declined this.

Reflecting:

So that is basically my application profile if you will, and reflecting on the above information here is my advice:

  1. apply to your strengths: make sure you research every single medical school and its admissions policy and requirements, choose med schools you are likely to get an interview at and this will give you ample chance to interview and hence more chances at an offer. I cannot stress how much I regret not doing this, Instead I chose universities I visited on the open day and which my school had promoted to me, Cardiff was my only well thought through choice and I am so lucky that I had thought it through or else I wouldn’t have jut finished year 1!
  2. get your work experience/extra-curriculars to boost your personal statement: your personal statement is a large part of your application which is heavily scrutinized, my best advice is you ensure you have some good voluntary work, work experience and extra-curricular activities behind you.
  3. if you are defeated try again: so many people apply to medicine and get rejected from all of their choices first time, its more common than you think. please do not be disheartened if this is you, just suck it up and improve your application for the next time around.

Hopefully this was useful in some way!

for now.

Natalie x