Should I Study Medicine?

Medicine degree programmes are some of the most competitive and rewarding courses in the world, so it’s no wonder thousands of students consider applying every year. However, it can be hard to find free and reliable information and advice that you can use to help you decide whether you should apply to Medicine or not.

At The Profs, our experts have worked with hundreds of Medicine applicants and more than 90% of our students get into their first or second-choice universities. Using their many years of experience working with these students, we’ve put together this quick guide based on six questions you should ask yourself when deciding whether you should study Medicine.

1. Do you have the right grades?

Before deciding if you should Medicine at university, make sure you check that you are eligible to apply. The entry requirements for most medical degree programmes not only specify the grades you need to achieve, but also the specific subjects in which you need to achieve them. For example, taking Chemistry and Biology at A level will keep most medical schools open to you, and taking Maths or Physics in addition to those is recommended to keep all options open. Depending on where you are in your studies, ensure that you are taking the right GCSEs (or equivalent) in order to study the required A levels (or equivalent) for your intended course.

The grade requirements for Medicine vary but are usually on the higher end of universities’ standard entry requirements due to the competitiveness of medical programmes. The table below shows the top UK universities for Medicine, according to the QS World University Rankings (2022), and their entry requirements.

RankingUniversityEntry requirements (A levels)
1University of OxfordA*AA
2University of CambridgeA*A*A
3University College London (UCL)A*AA
4Imperial College LondonAAA
5King’s College LondonA*AA
6London School of Hygiene and Tropical MedicineGraduate-only
7University of EdinburghAAA
8University of ManchesterAAA
9University of GlasgowAAA
10Queen Mary University of LondonA*AA

2. Have you researched available courses?

Choosing a degree course is a big decision and it’s important to spend plenty of time considering the universities and programmes available to you. There are 43 medical schools in the UK to choose from, but you can only put down 4 Medicine courses on your UCAS application. Make sure you do your research, attend open days and get a feel for each university and its course before making your final choices.

Each Medicine course will be slightly different in one or more ways. Differences to particularly consider include the specific modules covered and the structure of the course’s teaching. There are two main teaching styles on Medicine courses: traditional and integrated. Oxford, Cambridge and Edge Hill are the only three universities to adopt a traditional teaching style, which splits the course into two parts: pre-clinical years, when students study biochemistry, anatomy and physiology topics in the classroom, and clinical years, when you start your practical medical placements. Integrated courses, on the other hand, combine these two parts (pre-clinical and clinical) so the teaching overlaps and placements begin from the first year.

It also goes without saying that the higher the ranking of the university, the higher the entry requirements tend to be. You should always aim high and strive to get into the best university and highest quality medical education available to you based on your predicted grades. That being said, it’s also important to consider where you’d be most happy spending your time, when you’re studying and in your free time. You’ll most likely be spending at least 5 years of your life there, so make sure it’s the best fit for you all-round.

If you are considering studying Medicine later in your academic career (e.g. after you have already completed another undergraduate degree), there are some graduate-only medical schools and Medicine courses that you can apply for. Graduate Medicine courses are typically accelerated, so they usually take four years to complete instead of the five or six-year undergraduate entry courses. The entry requirements for graduate Medicine differ depending on which course and university you’re applying to, so make sure you check the individual entry requirements before you start your preparations.

3. Do you understand the Medicine application process?

The Medicine application process is different from the regular process of applying to university in multiple ways. Firstly, the deadline for applying is the 15th October, which is more than three months earlier than the general UCAS deadline. This means that you will need to work on your application a lot earlier than if you were applying for other non-medical university courses.

Secondly, the process of applying for Medicine involves additional stages not often included in other university applications, including:

  • Admissions tests – you will be required to sit either the UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test) or BMAT (BioMedical Admissions Test) for each Medicine course you apply for. If you are applying for multiple courses, it is likely that you will need to take both tests. Whichever test/s you take, it is incredibly important to prepare effectively, as the score you achieve will form a major part of your application and many universities have a minimum cut-off score. Please note that the BMAT is being discontinued, hence applicants in 2024 (for 2025 admission) onwards will not be sitting the BMAT.
  • Interviews – all Medicine courses require you to attend an interview as the last stage of the admissions process. This interview can either be a traditional panel style interview or an MMI (Multiple Mini Interviews) – read out about the differences between these interviews in our helpful guide. It is very important to prepare for this interview, as it will likely be the only chance you will get to meet your department and make an impression on them face to face.

Our guide to the medical application process explains each of these stages in more detail and includes other useful information such as the average UCAT/BMAT scores of successful applicants to top universities, tips on how to write a medical personal statement, and more.

4. Do you know what being a doctor is really like?

Medicine can be an extremely rewarding degree programme and career path, however, it is not for everyone, and it is important that you know what being a doctor is really like before you embark along the path to becoming one. One of the best ways you can learn what being a doctor is like is through undertaking work experience in a range of different healthcare settings. When you are researching universities, you can also check what kind of work experience those courses ask for.

If possible, aim to get a range of experience, including at least one week in a primary healthcare setting, such as a GP surgery, and another couple of weeks in a secondary healthcare setting, such as a hospital. You’ll need to start early and plan your time well, as you will largely be limited to school holidays, some weekends, and after school.
You should also think about the skills required to be a really great doctor – not just the academic qualifications. For example, communication skills, ability to prioritise tasks, risk management, organisational skills, empathy, ability to cope under high pressure, problem-solving skills, and more are all critically important skills to develop if you are going to succeed in the field.

One final area that is important to consider when thinking about becoming a doctor is medical ethics. Ethics are important when it comes to managing relationships with patients and making difficult decisions as a doctor. Make sure you have read about key ethical concepts in Medicine and what it takes to be a good doctor ahead of your interview, as questions about this will be asked in both panel interviews and MMIs.

5. Do you know which area of Medicine you are particularly interested in?

Medicine is a hugely broad field and encompasses many different specialisms and career paths. While you don’t have to know exactly which area of Medicine you want to go into (after all, many medical professionals go on to specialise in multiple areas and fulfil many different roles), having an idea and communicating this in your application is a great way to show your commitment to the field.

If you’re really not sure which area you are most interested in, there are many ways you can explore your options. Firstly, use the internet to research different branches of Medicine and look at the routes you would need to take to pursue careers in these areas. Secondly, keep up to date with medical news and find out more about developments and stories that take your interest.

Finally, think back to any work experience you have already done and seek new work experiences in particular areas of Medicine. For example, if you completed a placement at a hospital, you might have had the opportunity to shadow a doctor working in the Rheumatology department. The doctor’s genuine interest in her cases and unfaltering motivation might have highlighted to you the privilege of having such a stimulating profession. Seeing her work with patients and solve problems in this particular branch of Medicine might have sparked an interest in Rheumatology for you, too. This would be an example of a great anecdote to include in your personal statement.

6. Do you enjoy being challenged?

Medicine is among the most challenging degree programmes offered by any university. It is important that you not only know this ahead of applying, but that you are going to enjoy being challenged and thrive under these circumstances. Think back to what is motivating you to become a doctor and whether you believe that this motivation will outweigh the challenges you face for the 4-5 years you will be studying Medicine.

You should also consider the challenges you will face after you have completed your medical degree. Being a doctor takes a lot of commitment, dedication, and time, which will challenge you in every aspect of your life. Think carefully about the tips above and how you can prove you have the determination and willingness to overcome these challenges in your application.

To speak with an expert about whether you are right for Medicine and work with a tutor on your medical university application, reach out to our team today. More than 95% of students who work with us get into their first or second-choice university – our expert medical admissions tutors know just how to help you succeed.

FAQs

What is the deadline for medical applications?

All applications for Medicine need to be submitted by the 15th October. The deadline for medical applications is earlier than the general UCAS application deadline and is the same as the deadline for Oxbridge applications.

Can I apply for Medicine after completing my undergraduate degree?

There are some graduate-only medical schools and Medicine courses that you can apply for after completing an undergraduate degree. Graduate Medicine courses are typically accelerated, so they usually take four years to complete instead of the five or six-year undergraduate entry courses. The entry requirements for graduate Medicine differ depending on which course and university you’re applying to, so make sure you check the individual entry requirements before you start your preparations.

What should a medical personal statement include?

Your medical personal statement is your chance to highlight the skills or qualities you have that would make you a great doctor. What you include and how you structure your Medicine personal statement is up to you, but we advise that you cover the following areas:

  • Your motivation for studying Medicine and why you want to be a doctor
  • The skills you have that make you a great candidate for Medicine (for example, great communication, prioritisation and organisational skills)
  • Work experience you have undertaken and why this makes you want to pursue a medical degree
  • Volunteering you have completed and why this has inspired you to study Medicine at university
  • Wider reading and studying that you have done to enrich your understanding of the field
  • Any extracurricular activities relating to your career ambitions and the course.

Which admissions tests do you need to take to get into medical school?

Most medical schools in the UK require applicants to take either the UCAT or the BMAT for undergraduate admissions. The majority of universities require the UCAT, while 7 universities require the BMAT, including Oxford, Cambridge and UCL.

Please note that the BMAT is being discontinued, hence applicants in 2024 (for 2025 admission) onwards will not be sitting the BMAT. UCL has announced that they are replacing the BMAT with the UCAT, however, Oxbridge has not announced their new Medicine admission test yet, so please keep an eye out.

Which universities require interviews for Medicine?

All UK universities require shortlisted applicants to attend an interview for Medicine and related medical degrees. Most universities use one of two interview types: MMIs or traditional panel interviews. Make sure you check with the university directly if you’re unsure which interview format they use so that you can prepare accordingly.

When should I start preparing for Medicine?

Based on our experience working with students who successfully got into top universities for Medicine, we recommend that you start preparing your application in the first two terms of year 12 (or the equivalent school year when you are 16-17 years old). This should give you plenty of time to really understand the admissions process, formulate an effective preparation plan, and factor in revision for any upcoming school exams as well as your admissions test and interview.

However, you may need to start planning your work experience earlier than this. Some students begin gaining work experience when they are in year 11, or as soon as they turn 16 years old (placements for under 16s are extremely hard to come by).
That’s not to say that it is too late to start preparing if you are already in your final term or summer holiday of year 12 and haven’t yet begun. There will still be many useful things you can do to prepare and more intensive support available. However, if it is an option, thinking and planning ahead is always recommended to give yourself the best chance of success.