Applying for graduate medical school? Biomedical science graduate, Alex tells us about his experience

Alex is a Surrey 2019 Biomedical Science graduate who is now training as a doctor on the accelerated graduate entry to medicine course at King’s College London. In this interview, he shares his top tips for applying to study medicine as a second degree.

How did you decide which medical schools to apply for?

Universities use different admissions tests and some universities use different admissions tests for graduate and standard entry courses. I decided fairly early on that I would only take one admission test as preparing for more than one would, I felt, almost certainly result in me doing worse.

The test I chose was the UKCAT (now called the UCAT) – a multiple choice, computer-based test, similar to an IQ test. I chose the UKCAT as it did not require any prior knowledge. This choice immediately narrowed down my options.

Do all medical schools look at your A-level results?

I applied to universities that did not consider A-levels (many do) for application to their graduate entry courses. This left me with 5 choices – Warwick, Kings College London, Queen Mary, Newcastle and Southampton. Warwick had quite specific requirements in terms of work experience that I wasn’t sure I would meet so I now had four options.

What did you include in your medical school application?

I wrote honestly and openly about my motivations for studying medicine which included personal struggles with ill-health in the past. I was careful in how I discussed this – making sure to emphasise what I had learnt from my experience and how it had helped me to be resilient and empathetic.

 I also wrote about the relevance of my work experience and how it had given me a realistic picture of the vocation. There are plenty of guides and tips online which I used. Finally, I asked several family members and friends to read it through and give feedback.

How did you prepare for the UKCAT entrance exam?

I sat the UKCAT exam, but there is plenty of advice and materials available for all the different exams. Although no prior knowledge is required (i.e. you cannot really revise as such), getting a good score does require a lot of practice.

Good exam technique, time management and familiarity with the question style make all the difference. Initially I used the free resources on the UKCAT website to prepare but I quickly worked through all the question banks and practice papers.

I then bought an ISC Medical 1000 UKCAT practice questions book – which also contained guides on time management and how to approach and answer the different question types. I found the questions in this book to be slightly harder than those in the actual exam – so I was pleasantly surprised with my score.

Did you get any hospital work experience?

I prepared for and sat the exam in the summer holidays – working three days a week as a hospital porter (which was great work experience and a very interesting job), studying for the exam two days a week and having the weekends off.

How did you prepare for the interview?

I was invited to interviews at Kings College London, Queen Mary and Southampton and rejected by Newcastle before the interview stage. Queen Mary and Southampton had traditional panel interviews with group tasks and Kings College London had multiple mini interviews (MMI.)

My main preparation for interview involved practice interviews with Employability & Careers at Surrey. I had two practice interviews: one panel interview in which we also discussed conduct in a group task and one MMI practice. I cannot praise this service highly enough.

What did you wear for your interview?

My biggest blunder in this process was my assumption that I did not need to wear a suit (I did not own a suit). I thought that I could wear a shirt, chinos and smart shoes (as I had done in my placement interview) and that all the other interviewees would be students, who likewise would not own/be wearing suits.

I was wrong on several counts –

  • firstly, the majority of the other applicants were graduates – with careers – not fellow students
  • and secondly, all of the interviewees with the exception of myself were wearing suits

This was my first interview and I was unsuccessful. I am sure the lack of a suit was not the reason, but it can’t have helped. Needless to say, I got my hands on a suit and wore it in my subsequent interviews, both of which were successful.

Other tips from Alex:

  • Research, research, research!
  • If you have a question someone has probably asked it before – look on forums such as the student room
  • Don’t leave things to the last minute; apart from anything else the earlier exam dates are cheaper
  • Get friends or family to read through your applications – spelling and grammar mistakes don’t look good.

Where can I study graduate entry medicine?

Check out the list available here