15 Jul 2013

applying for medicine: as a graduate

I've had quite a few requests to do a blog post on applying for medicine as a graduate so here it is! I hope those of you interested in doing this find this useful :) In this post, I'll also briefly cover applying for medicine as a school leaver as I had also tried going down that route so I have experience with both :)

I also apologise if this post becomes ridiculously long. Applying for medicine is no walk in the park and I want to cover as much as I can.

Please note that I will refer to the five-year medicine courses as A100 and the four-year (graduate entry) courses as A101. I think the code for the four-year graduate entry course at King's College London is A102 so please bear in mind that these codes aren't universal and are used to make this blog post easier to read and write!

Also, I am not an expert in medicine admissions - I am merely writing about what I have found out through extensive research and my own experiences.

1) Different Routes

You probably know this already but there are at least four different routes to get onto a medicine degree: as a school leaver, as a graduate, through an 'access' course or if your university has one, through an intercourse transfer (for example, St. George's UoL do this if you embark on their Biomedical Sciences degree, you have the opportunity to transfer if you do well).

In this post, I will be focussing mainly on applying for medicine as a graduate although some parts will also talk about applying as a school leaver. Different routes will inevitably appeal to different candidates for various reasons but ultimately, it is your decision as to which route is best for you.

2) Work Experience and Volunteering

Work experience and volunteering is an important part of your application. Whether you like it or not, to have this experience is something you'll need as others will more than likely have it. Work experience in a hospital is hard to get and it does help if you know someone who works within one. However, you probably won't get to do much - it'll mostly be shadowing and just sitting or standing in the background observing. I loved my work experience because it allowed me to gain a knowledge of the work of various grades of doctors (consultant, registrar, junior doctors and even other important roles such as healthcare assistants, midwives, etc) and it really confirmed that my desire to do medicine were for the right reasons.

More often than not, volunteering is much more beneficial. Care homes are a good place to start (though I only had two weeks' of this as I preferred community volunteering) and it could lead to a job as a healthcare assistant (which is even better as you'll have that direct hands-on experience that medical schools love). There are so many types of volunteering in so many different environments that picking something that you'll be interested in is often the best thing to do. Look out for voluntary roles within a hospital and try and commit to, at least, a few hours each week to this role.

It is quite important that you realise that it isn't HOW MUCH you have but WHAT YOU HAVE LEARNT that is key. Commitment is also another thing that medical schools will look for.

In one of my voluntary roles, I had done it for four and a half years and I think that definitely counted for me, even though I didn't have much 'hands-on' experience.

3) Grades

I can't talk much about the grades needed as a school leaver (as times have changed since I applied at the age of 18 - four years' ago!) but as a graduate, there are quite a few variations. I think the majority ask for AAA at A-Level, with some medical schools specifying which subjects they prefer you to take.

For graduate-entry medicine, most universities ask for a 2.1 grading in your degree - but some emphasise that this must be in a scientific subject. For example, Imperial have a checklist of things they expect you to know. A few universities don't specify what the degree has to be in - for example, Warwick.

Some universities will require you to get a certain percentage in your degree - Liverpool is an example of this. They ask for 65% or above. And Birmingham ask for a first in a life science degree (but they do consider those with a high 2.1 too apparently).

Finally, there are some universities that will accept a 2.2 grading in any degree. St George's University of London and the University of Nottingham are examples of this.

Also, a little known thing is that some universities that ask for a 2.1 will also consider those who have a 2.2 plus a Masters to a merit level. King's College London is an example of this.

However, by the time you come to apply, some of the examples I have used may be out of date so make sure you do your research and if in doubt, email them asking for further clarification on their entry requirements. You only have four UCAS choices and you don't want to waste a single one if you can help it.

Most medical schools don't bother looking at your A-Levels and/or GCSEs once you are studying for/have a degree but you might want to email the medschools you're interested in to confirm this if you're bothered by your A Level and GCSE grades.

4) Entrance Exams 

Some medical schools will use an entrance exam, others won't. The three most commonly talked about entrance exams are the UKCAT, the BMAT and the GAMSAT.

The UKCAT is quite simple - I prepped for mine (in 2011) for a few hours each day, for two days, and I came away with an average of 737.5. This gained me interviews at King's College London (for both their A100 and A101 courses) and at Barts and the London for their A101 course. In essence, make sure you do a mock test (if possible) and practice as many questions from each section as you have time for or can find.

I did the BMAT in 2008 so I think my experience will be quite out of date by now.

Finally, the GAMSAT. This is a beast of an entrance test and I will be doing a blog post on it next week to talk more about each of the three sections, along with how I prepared for it.

5) Funding

Funding is a massive issue for graduates (not so much for school leavers) as we are pretty much limited to Graduate Entry Medicine (GEM) courses because they are better funded in comparison to the 'A100-school -leaver' courses. For GEM courses, we are entitled to a tuition fee loan of £5,535 in each of the four years. In the first year, however, we have to pay the remainder of that ourselves (so £3,465 if the tuition fee is £9,000) with the NHS paying the difference in the next three years. For A100 courses, graduates have to pay the full amount of tuition themselves as they are not entitled to a tuition fee loan.

Maintenance loan-wise, we are only entitled to the loan and not the grants. This is true for both the A100 and A101 courses.

With Student Finance, it is important to start early as things are slightly more complicated for those studying GEM courses. Not all Student Finance advisors know this and sometimes, talking to them on the phone can be likened to talking to a brick wall.


I can't stress this enough! You only have four choices on UCAS - and you need to make each one count. If the medical school interviews and you can't get to the interview stage, you've wasted a choice. There are several things to look out for when researching which universities to apply for but you also need to make sure you apply to your strengths so, for example, if you have a high UKCAT score, apply for universities that invite applicants to interview based on UKCAT scores.

Things some medical schools could look for and rank candidates on are:

Make sure you do your research! The above are the different things a medical school
may 'rank' applicants on (some more quantitative than others). Apply to your strengths!

The above list isn't extensive and some universities are quite clear on how they invite their candidates to interview. An example is Leicester for their A101 course. They have a file (floating around on the internet somewhere) that shows how they score each part of a candidate's application, before setting a minimum score needed to be invited for an interview.

Quite a good resource for what different medical schools look for is The Student Room.

7) Medical School Features

Another thing to consider when choosing a medical school is the features it has. How is the bulk of the teaching done? Is it mainly lecture based? Or is there a considerable amount of group and independent work? For me, I really didn't like lectures in my first degree, so it's a good job I'm going to a medical school that has a considerable amount of 'problem-based learning (PBL)'.

The Student Room has a page dedicated to the different teaching styles you may encounter at medical school.

The location of the medical school may also play a part in whether or not it has a place on your UCAS form. As a graduate, you may have other parts of your life that may limit the schools you can apply to.

Other features could be the societies on offer, sporting life and even if they give bursaries to graduate medics.

But remember one thing with regards to prestige: there is no best medical school but there is a best medical school for you. When you come to apply for the foundation programme (F1 and F2 years, post graduation), the medical school you went to plays no part in your application so it is vital you select medical schools that you feel you're the best fit for (teaching style, clinical experience, intercalating opportunities, etc).


And with that, I wish you good luck if you're applying. I know how it all feels - to write your personal statement, to submit your application, to sit those entrance tests, go through interviews, offers and rejections - I can definitely empathise with you.

I know I haven't covered personal statements much but I honestly feel that I'm not the best one to give advice with regards to that aspect of an application!

Do you have any other questions? Feel free to email me or leave a comment below and I will do my best to answer them :)


  1. Oh wow! Thank you so much for doing this Ange! I'm actually in Australia and I'm currently doing an Undergraduate Biomed course that goes for 3 years, and will then be applying for Graduate Med at the same university, which requires me to sit the GAMSAT. So I'm very much looking forward to your post on that one. :)

    Surprisingly though, they don't suggest any work experience or volunteering before applying for med, but I think I'm definitely going to check that out beforehand. I think it would definitely be very helpful.

    1. Glad you found this useful :) The post on the GAMSAT is coming up on Monday - I'm not sure it will be helpful but I'll talk about my experience with it and what I did to prepare for it :)

      Work experience is really beneficial - it enabled me to realise that I definitely do really want to be a doctor. It was hard work but I always went home with feeling happy or with a smile on my face. Good luck with everything - I am sure you will do fine :D x

    2. Hi I'm from australia too, Im actually still in high school but im interested in applying for med in uni hopefully if i do well enough��if i may ask, which uni are you from? Im from perth and im planning to apply for UWA in 2015. Since you're from australia too do you mind advising me of the different routes possible to med?

  2. I'm not studying or planning to study this, but it was an interesting read!
    I always wanted to be either a Midwife or a Paramedic, and am seriously interested in the medicine field, but I'm just far too squeamish! (I'll just stick to my degree in Wildlife ecology/biodiversity and media!)

    1. Thanks! :) Haha, I used to be quite squeamish as a child (I cried at the sight of blood!!) but I'm now pretty much immune to disgusting things hehe. I guess it's one of those things you get used to - when I first started my work experience placement, surgeries had me feeling nauseous but after one or two of them, I got over it :) x