Studying medicine

Last updated:

Applying to medical school

Queens Uni Belfast medical students 04-11-16

Medical school places are sought after and the application process is very competitive. Read our in-depth guide to applying to study medicine to help your application stand out.


  • Researching medical schools

    Leave time to do your research!

    Check the competition ratios of medical schools. If you are worried about your chances, consider newer medical schools, as they often have less competition for each place.

    Where do you want to study? What type of course do you think will suit you? Make a list of the pros and cons of each school you want to attend, analyse what you need to do in what order and what you specifically need to provide to each school to apply.

    Attend open days to the universities where you can - visiting the university campus gives you an idea of what uni life is like and whether you would be happy to spend the next five years of your life there! Try talking to someone who attend university there to get a first hand account of life as a med student.


    Be aware!

    Entry requirements may change and should always be confirmed with medical schools before application. Individual medical schools will also be able to advise students with other qualifications such as the international baccalaureate.


    And remember...

    You can only choose up to four medical schools, so many students use the fifth as a back up option, applying to related courses like bio-medical science which require lower grades. Consider what other course you'd be interested in taking instead of medicine.

  • Writing your personal statement

    Don't rush! Find out the deadlines, apply as early as possible and give yourself plenty of time to get your application ready.

    Medical schools want to know not just about your grades, but about you as a person. Talk about all the things you've achieved in your life: personal interests, hobbies, sports achievements, academic prizes, projects you've work on, social groups you've been a part of.

  • Having care experience

    Whether it be as a volunteer or in paid employment, having experience in a caring role is extremely valuable.

    Look up your local hospital or nursing home to see if you can do a placement, get in touch with doctors who have inspired you or you local GP, and ask them if you can do work experience with them.

    Getting hands on experience will also give you a great insight into the day to day life of being a doctor and show your commitment to becoming a medic. 

    Read more about getting and making the most of your work experience placement

  • Submitting your application

    Have a checklist, double check your application against it and make sure you're including everything that is being asked for. Have a friend, teacher, family member or careers advisor look through and check all your application items.

    Many medical schools have the same requirements, but it's up to you to be organised and make sure your application is received on time and includes everything required.

  • Admissions tests

    Some medical schools use the UCAS tariff point system to designate entry requirements. This point system establishes agreed comparability between different types of qualifications and between applicants with different types and volumes of achievement.

    In addition to application through UCAS, medical schools require applicants to take admission tests.


    University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT)

    UCAT is used as part of the selection procedure for 30 medical schools in the UK. The UCAT test focuses on testing attributes considered to be valuable for healthcare professionals. It aims to ensure applicants selected to medical school have the mental abilities, attitudes and professional behaviours required to be successful doctors.

    UCAT also offers various bursaries for those that require financial support to pay for the test, with applications open May to September every year.

    Find out more


    BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT)

    BMAT assesses a candidate's potential to study an academically demanding undergraduate biomedical degree. The test is designed to be challenging, in order to discriminate effectively between applicants for university courses. BMAT is required for applicants to the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, University of Oxford, University College London, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, University of Leeds, Keele University and Lancaster Medical School.

    BMAT offers reimbursement of the standard test entry fee based on the candidate's ability to pay, as long as they have applied to a BMAT university.

    Find out more


    Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT)

    The GAMSAT is a test for applicants to graduate-entry medical courses. The GAMSAT involves testing your ability to think critically, analyse information and express your thoughts clearly and effectively. GAMSAT is required for applications to graduate-entry programmes at St George’s University of London, the University of Nottingham at Derby, the University of Wales Swansea, and Keele University.

    Registration for sitting the GAMSAT is between June and August, and the test takes place once a year in mid-September. At the moment, the GAMSAT test does not offer any concessions.

    Find out more


    Top tips

    After completing your entrance exam, jot down some points you made in the essay question. You may be asked questions about what you wrote in your university interview.


  • Attending an interview

    Most but not all medical schools interview prospective candidates. Approximately 10% of applicants are interviewed, with one in two or three then offered a conditional place.

    Whilst they can be nerve wracking, an interview is your chance to show who you really are, why you want to study medicine and your passion for becoming a doctor.


    What are interviews like?

    Interviews vary between medical schools, but many are panel interviews, usually with a mix of academics, clinicians, and patient and student reps.

    Other medical schools use multiple mini interviews, where candidates attend a series of short interviews with different interviewers.


    What are the interviewers looking for?

    Interviews are a university's opportunity to see how you perform under pressure and whether you display the skills required to succeed at medical school and practice as a doctor.

    These could include communication skills, honesty, empathy, problem solving, reasoning and listening skills.

    Interviews are a chance for the panel to gauge your knowledge about medicine as a career and why you want to become a doctor in the first place.

    They also help the panel get a sense of who you are as a person as well as academically. You may be asked what you might bring to university life, like your hobbies and interests.


    Preparing for your interview

    To prepare for your interview, you could:

    • practice answering questions with friends and family
    • talk to others who have been through an interview to find out what it will be like
    • read articles about health issues in BMA News and BMJ Student
    • be prepared for questions about what you included in your personal statement, like you work experience, interests and background.


    Ten interview tips

    1. Prepare. Think about possible questions, read about topical medical stories, and talk to other people who have had interviews or look at Internet forums.
    2. Read about the course and university. Have an idea what they might be looking for.
    3. Do not learn answers parrot fashion. You need to sound natural and sincere.
    4. Dress appropriately. Look smart and professional.
    5. Do not be late. This isn't a good first impression to make.
    6. Arrange a mock interview. Panel members don't need to be doctors but people have who experience of interviews and employing people, e.g. a teacher.
    7. Ask a few questions at the end. Show an interest in the university/course.
    8. Think about body language. Appear interested and engaged.
    9. Think before you speak. It's better to take time to answer than waffle.
    10. Be honest. Know what you wrote on your personal statement and be prepared to talk about it.

    Download these tips as a PDF checklist


  • Congratulations! You've been accepted

    Most offers to medical school are a conditional offer and based on scores you are expected to achieve at A level.

    The pressure will be on to make sure you achieve the results that are expected so you can take up your place at medical school.

    Keep studying, focus on your exams and ask for help if you feel you need it. There's no harm in asking your teachers, a family member or friends for help if you feel you are struggling with your studies or just need someone to talk to.

  • You got in - now start preparing

    Get excited and get prepared for life as a medical student.

    If you are moving out of home or shifting to another part of the country to attend med school, use all the resources on offer from your university to sort out your accommodation, attend any pre- course events and get settled in to your new life as a med student.

    It's also worth looking through all the student finance options, do your research on bursaries, loans and grants on offer that can help you out during your studies.

    Most of all, enjoy your success and look forward to starting your journey to becoming a doctor.