I Want to Work .... as a Doctor

Help with Graduate Entry to Medicine and Dentistry

 

  • Introduction
  • Courses
  • Funding
  • Selection Tests
  • Applications
  • Interviews
  • Further Information
  •  

 

PROFILE: Doctor

work either as a general practitioner (GP) or as a hospital doctor. Makes examinations of patients. Diagnoses illnesses. Recommends treatment. Monitors treatment. Gives advice on health matters.
EMPLOYERS: Hospitals, NHS Trusts, private practice.
SATISFACTIONS: helping people, high salary, status.
NEGATIVES: Long hours, considerable stress and pressure. Government interference and bureaucracy.
DEGREE: There are now 4 year, fast track courses for graduates in subjects other than medicine.
TIPS: You need to have talked to a doctor (e.g. your GP) about your aspirations, and should have some work experience in a hospital or hospice, or perhaps a home for the elderly. Most applicants will have to undertake a specialist test for entry.

magic potion

There are 30 medical schools offering a total of about 6,300 places to train as doctors. There are now many fast track (4 year) courses for graduates. Normally you will need to obtain at least an Upper Second Class Honours degree (although some courses such as St. Georges will consider a 2:2)

It is very competitive with the amount of applicants per place varying from 5 to over 60 depending on the medical school: St. George's gets about 1,400 applicants for 70 places for example (for more details on ratios of applications to places see File C1 in the Careers Service). You must have a back up plan as the great majority of applicants are unsuccessful.

Kent Bioscience graduates have obtained offers of places at St George's Medical School (2 graduates), QMC, University of Birmingham, UEA (2 graduates), Warwick (2 graduates), and Peninsula Medical School in recent years and a BA English graduate obtained a place at Exeter.

Student Selected Components (SSCs) now form up to 30% of the syllabus at some universities. This is because it is now impossible to teach everything a doctor has to know in the five years of a medical degree.

Physician Assistant

This is a new role in hospitals in the UK but which is common in the USA. Physician assistants support doctors in the diagnosis and management of patients and work in acute or community care.  They are trained to perform a number of roles including: taking medical histories; performing examinations; diagnosing illnesses and analysing test results. They work under the direct supervision of a doctor.

At present there is no professional registration body for physician assistants in the UK but a voluntary registration body has been established. It is expected that the Health Professions Council will provide registration for physician assistants in the near future and there is growing recognition of the role in the NHS.

There are no NHS bursaries for the course, so you may need to get a Professional and Career Development Loan, but salaries on completion are very good.

You usually need a science orientated first degree with at least a 2:2 to get onto a intensive two-year full-time postgraduate programme leading to a Postgraduate Diploma: these are at Hertfordshire, Birmingham, Wolverhampton and St George’s.

The physician assistants’ curriculum includes many of the same elements as the standard four or five-year medical programme that doctors study. However, it focuses principally on general medicine in general practice and hospital settings, rather than speciality care. As well as significant theoretical learning in the key areas of medicine, the course also includes 1600 hours of clinical training in a range of settings including general hospital medicine and mental health.

Dentistry

Much of the information about applying to medical courses on these pages would also hold true for the fast track dentistry courses.

There are now 4 year fast track courses in DENTISTRY for science graduates at Peninsular Medical School , Queen Mary and Liverpool/Lancaster

The Peninsula Dental School interview is based on a case study. Students are given a choice of case and a panel then asks questions around this. Topics may include ethical issues, but also topics such as preventative dentistry and oral health education. They will also look for evidence of key competencies required by the school:
  • communication with patients and colleagues
  • teamwork
  • making decisions
  • being effective under pressure
  • leading where appropriate
  • taking an holistic approach: for example, an appreciation of the personal and social dimensions.

 

UK Committee of Postgraduate Dental Deans and Directors www.copdend.org

Veterinary Science

There are four year courses for which graduates can eb accepted at The University of Edinburgh and The Royal Veterinary College but funding for these could be difficult.

Courses

  • Survey of undergraduate medical degrees at www.asme.org.uk
  • Medical School Guide www.medschoolguide.co.uk community of medical students and applicants to medical school. Very useful forums on mature entry and many other subjects.
  • AdmissionsForum.net www.admissionsforum.net discussion forum for medicine, dentistry & healthcare-related professions
  • My Med School www.mymedschool.co.uk advice on choosing a medical school, to writing the personal statement and performing well at interview
  • UCAS www.ucas.co.uk

Some 4 year courses

Some 5 year courses which welcome mature students

  • UEA www.med.uea.ac.uk  not a fast track course but welcoming to mature graduates - apparently one student is 46 years old.
  • Peninsula Medical School www.pcmd.ac.uk/medicine.php Not a fast-track course, but welcoming to mature graduates, has taken at least 2 Kent graduates (1 Bioscience, 1 BA English) and a graduate in their early 50s.

International Courses.

  • St. Georges Medical School, West Indies www.sgu.edu/som/medsciences-program.html Fees are very high and you would probably have to sit the PLAB examination to practice in the UK.
  • Charles University, Prague www.cuni.cz/UKENG-1.html 6 year course costing about £40,000. You must be able to speak some Czech
  • Zagreb Medical School, Croatia http://mse.mef.hr 6 year course taught in English costing about £40,000.
  • Debrecen University, Hungary www.ceebd.co.uk/ceeed/un/hu/hu005.htm About £24,000. Taught in English but expected to learn some Hungarian during the course to communicate with patients

Types of Course

  • Problem-Based Learning (PBL) Sheffield, Hull, York, Keele, Barts, Queen Mary, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, Peninsula, East Anglia.
    These courses have a patient-orientated approach from the start. Students work in small groups to find out information for themselves via projects and case studies.
  • Traditional Courses Cambridge, Oxford and St. Andrews
    Characterised by a rigid divide between pre-clinical and clinical.
  • Integrated Courses Birmingham, Leeds and most of the other courses not mentioned above.
    This is a compromise between PBL and traditional types of course.

Funding (English students)

The government has announced that it intends to preserve the current arrangements for the NHS Bursary for the next year’s intake of medical students and to provide support to graduate entry students.

Financial arrangements for medical and dental students (including those on accelerated 4-year courses) starting courses in 2012/13, 2013/14 and 2014/15 www.dh.gov.uk/health/2012/07/interim-funding-arrangements (5th July 2012).

Funding for graduate students on standard five-year courses

  • Graduates are eligible to apply for student loans for their maintenance but if you have previously taken a publicly funded higher education course lasting two years or more, you will not be entitled to receive funding from their local authorities for tuition fees and universities may charge you the full cost of tuition.
  • From year five onwards, tuition fees will be paid by the Department of Health and you will be eligible to apply for a means-tested NHS bursary, and reduced maintenance loan from the Student Loans Company (equivalent to approximately half the full rate).

    A doctor was due to give a presentation at a prestigious international pharmaceutical conference when he suddenly realised that he had left the pen drive containing his presentation back in his hotel room, so he was forced to fall back on his hastily scribbled first draft.

    But when he got up to make his presentation he found that he couldn't even read his own handwriting in the draft. So after walking up to the podium he asked his audience: “Is there a pharmacist in the house?”

Funding for graduate students on accelerated courses (UCAS code A101)

  • Graduates are eligible to apply for means-tested NHS bursaries from the Department of Health in the second, third and fourth years of the course. Tuition fees are also paid during that period of the course. In their first year and other years, you will be eligible to apply for student loans from the Student Loans Company for maintenance.

Their tuition fees, student fee, and expenses for clinical placements etc will also be paid.

  • Financial support for students on degree courses in medicinewww.nhscareers.nhs.uk/details/Default.aspx?Id=557
  • The British Medical Association (BMA) www.bma.org.uk offers financial awards for graduates on 5 year programmes in their clinical years (not including the final year for which a bursary is normally available). There is a limited number of awards for up to £2500 p.a. based on academic merit and financial need. They help about 50% of applicants. You apply in the second year of your medical course. BMA Charities Tel 0207 3836334
  • Banks may give a professional development loan for the clinical years of the course.

 

Selection Tests

Many applicants will have to undertake a specialist test for entry. There are three of these and it's sensible not to apply to universities requiring a range of different tests. There is lots of useful info. on GAMSAT (including practice and other tests in file C1 in the Careers Service. The Medical School Admissions Test (MSAT) is no longer used.

GRADMED www.gradmed.co.uk are an independent company that runs preparation courses for medical school. Dr Test www.drtest.co.uk/medical_dentistry_and_veterinary_tests.htm helps to prepare candidates for university admissions tests - including the UKCAT. New Media Medicine www.newmediamedicine.com operates discussion fora including the UKCAT Forum and the MCAT Forum as well as a forum for all UK Medical Schools There may not necessarily be a pass or fail score. Medical schools may look at your total score along with your application form.
See also our psychometric tests page  

We now have a copy of "Passing the UK Clinical Aptitude Test and BMAT" and also a GAMSAT test practice book for reference in the Careers Service: ask at our helpdesk to use these.

  UKCAT GAMSAT BMAT
Information UK Clinical Aptitude Test. A new test which most UK medical schools now use. Delivered on computer at Pearson VUE test centres worldwide. No UK applicant should be more than 40 miles from a test centre. Graduate Medical School Admission Test. Developed by the Australian Council for Educational research (ACER)

BioMedical Admissions Test. Subject-specific test taken by Medicine & Veterinary applicants. Computer marked. No penalty for wrong answers.

Website www.ukcat.ac.uk contains practice questions and advice. Register online. www.gamsatuk.org
Register online
www.bmat.org.uk
What it involves Requires no specific preparation as probes innate skills and competencies rather than science knowledge: contains no science content. Contains five sub tests:
  • verbal reasoning,
  • quantitative reasoning,
  • abstract reasoning,
  • decision analysis
  • non-cognitive analysis (a personality test).

Over 650 seems to be a good score.

Three sections:
  • Reasoning in Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Written Communication
  • Reasoning in Biological & Physical Sciences (chem 40%, biol 40%, phys 20%)
Three sections:
  • aptitude & skills (multiple choice),
  • scientific knowledge & applications (multiple choice)
  • short essay question e.g. should animals be used in experiments?
Length 120 minutes 5 and a half hours 120 minutes.
Cost £30 to £60. Some bursaries available for poorer applicants. £188 About £25
Courses using the test Aberdeen, Bart's, Brighton & Sussex, Cardiff, Dundee, East Anglia, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull/York, Imperial (4 year course), Keele, King's College, Queen Mary, Leeds, Leicester, Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford, Peninsula, Sheffield, Southampton, St Andrews and the University of Warwick Accelerated Medicine Courses: St. Georges, code A101, Nottingham A101, Swansea A101, Keele A101, Peninsula A100. Accelerated Dentistry course: Peninsula A201 Imperial and University College (5 year courses)
Dates Taken between 6th July and Oct. 8th 2010, with results available 2 months later. Deadline is 27th Sept. 2010 for the following year's entry. Takes place once a year. Entry deadline 13th August 2010; Test date is 17 Sept. 2010. Results available 6 to 7 weeks after test. Takes place once a year. Entry deadline 30th Sept. 2010 (late entry by 15th Oct.). Test date 3rd Nov. 2010
Validity Valid for 1 year. Valid for 2 years. Valid for 1 year.

Applications

You need to apply in the year before the course starts (closing date is usually about the 15th October). You should apply via UCAS www.ucas.com "as an individual" rather than as an applicant from a particular school or college. The UCAS guide gives information on course providers and entry requirements. Fast track courses have a different code (A101) compared to standard five track courses (A100). As well as the personal statement (see below) on your UCAS form, it may be worth sending additional information direct to the medical school in support of your application. You are only allowed to make 4 choices of medical courses.

Application forms may be scored on both personal and academic information on your application, along with information on your reference. Some courses (e.g. Edinburgh) interview all graduate applicants.

Get as good a degree as you can. Choose your 4 UCAS places very carefully and talk to your referee about what they will write about you

Getting experience

It's very important to get as much relevant experience as possible to put on your personal statement.
  • First talk to your GP and anyone you know who is a nurse or other medical professional, as doctors work in a multi-disciplinary team with staff with a range of other specialisms.
  • Try to get work experience in a hospital: even taking library books round the wards is useful. Apply well in advance as some hospitals have waiting lists. Most hospitals will have a volunteer coordinator who can help you: you can find out about on their web site. For Canterbury hospital volunteering oppportunities, see www.kent.ac.uk/careers/workin/voluntaryWork.htm#hosp
  • It's often easier to get voluntary experience in a hospice and this can look good on your statement. They all have volunteer co-ordinators.
  • Some students have Joined St. John's Ambulance or the Red Cross and this can be useful background experience
  • A nursing home or care home for the elderly can be a good place to get paid experience.

How to write an outstanding personal statement for medical school

As part of the UCAS form you will need to write a personal statement. The quality of this is crucial to your chances of getting an interview. Having said this a few medical schools such as Newcastle shortlist all candidates on the basis of their test scores and grades alone, so the statement doesn’t come into it.

30,000 pupils plagiarised personal statements in UCAS applications last year, despite a new plagiarism detection system. Here are some of the most common plagiarisms is opening sentences:
  • From a young age I have always been interested in ... (309 times)
  • From an early age I have always been interested in … (292 times)
  • Nursing is a very challenging and demanding career … (275)
  • For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with … (196)
  • Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only … (189)
  • For as long as I can remember I have been interested in … (166)
  • Academically, I have always been a very determined and … (138)

 

Many applicants borrowed from the same website. 234 applications for medicine contained “Ever since I accidentally burnt holes in my pyjamas after experimenting with a chemistry set on my 8th birthday, I have always had a passion for science”

Other common ones were: “From an early age I have been fascinated by the workings of life. The human body is a remarkable machine”

and “Living with my 100-year-old grandfather has allowed me to appreciate the frailties of the human body. When he had prostatitis, I went with him to hospital”

See www.kent.ac.uk/careers/cv/PersonalStatement.htm for general help with personal statements. We also have some example personal statements for medical applications in file C1 in the Careers Service, and a reference book on how to become a doctor - ask at reception to see these.

  • You have 47 lines to write you statement: font size 12 points with up to 95 characters per line: about a page of A4
  • Word-process your draft, then spell and grammar check it before pasting it into the form.
  • Use good English. If your statement is fresh, lively, and different, you'll be putting yourself ahead of the crowd.
  • Be clear and concise. Don't woffle! Show the ability to put the salient points across in a few words. Avoid jargon
  • Be positive and enthusiastic: selectors will read many statements and you want yours to stand out.
  • There is no single correct way of writing a personal statement
  • Take your time and try not to submit your form at the last minute
  • Give your statement a structure with an introduction, a main body and a conclusion. The opening paragraph is important as it is here that you grab the reader's attention or lose it. This paragraph becomes the framework for the rest of the statement. The middle section might detail your interest and experience in medicine, as well as your knowledge of the field.
  • Read your statement very carefully. Get your final draft checked by friends or academics.

Introduction.

  • Say why you want to study medicine and why you are applying as a graduate entrant.
  • Give the factors which have influenced your choice of medicine.
  • Provide evidence of your motivation and enthusiasm for medicine.

Talk about the relevance of your degree:

  • Why you are a better candidate for having done a first degree
  • How your first degree relates to or shows evidence of interest in medicine e.g. good analytical/clinical skills gained
  • Any relevant modules, projects or achievements
  • Evidence of consistently good academic performance will help, but explain any poor academic performance if there is a very good reason for this.
  • Evidence that you understand and can cope with the academic rigours of the course.

Work Experience

  • Mention relevant work and voluntary experience including shadowing doctors.
  • You will need to have recent hands-on caring experience in a health and social care setting such as in care homes hospitals, hospices or GPs surgeries plus having spoken to doctors and other health professionals about the role. Competition is tough: strong applicants may have volunteered every summer vacation.
  • Talk about what you learned from your placements: what you learned about the profession, what constitutes good patient care, how doctors work and how your perceptions of medicine were changed.
  • Show that you understand the demands of a medical career
  • Say what have you learnt about the role of the doctor in the wider healthcare team.
  • If you haven’t yet done a particular placement, mention that you have set it up and what you will do.
  • Mention any interesting personal experiences.
  • Evidence of careful research into what the work of a doctor involves.
  • What did you learn form the experience?
  • What did you learn about yourself as well as about the job?
  • Can you reflect on this learning?
  • Did any ethical issues arise during the experience?
  • Did you get hands on experience rather than just shadowing medical staff. E.g. did you interact with patients?
  • Name dropping doesn't impress and may go against you!

SKILLS. Evidence of any of the following will enhance your application

  • Ability to listen sensitively
  • Dealing with issues in a confidential manner.
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Compassion: commitment to caring for others;
  • Communication skills: ability to establish rapport with a wide range of people
  • Integrity and a professional attitude
  • Teamwork
  • Leadership
  • Acceptance of responsibility
  • Perseverance
  • Self-discipline
  • Ability to cope with ambiguity, complexity and uncertainty
  • Time management
  • Resilience: ability to deal effectively with stress:
  • Commitment to personal and professional development
  • Manual dexterity (especially for dentistry) and the ability to maintain intense, prolonged concentration
  • Teaching/coaching/mentoring experience: a key element of the profession
  • IT skills are becoming increasingly important e.g. computerised records and digital imaging

 Extra-curricular interests

  • Positions of responsibility held 
  • Evidence for good communication and teamworking skills.
  • Evidence of achievements in extra-curricular activities
  • A range of interests showing a rounded personality
  • Evidence of motivation to help others
  • Involvement in the community
  • Evidence that you have interests outside of your studies that will allow you to unwind and ameliorate the stresses of the job
  • Evidence that you can contribute to the life of the medical school
  • Show on how your achievements relate to the skills and personal qualities needed by a doctor.

Conclusion

  • Why you have chosen the type of course: different medical courses have different approaches (some focus on problem based learning, some are very traditional and many are a mixture of the two).  You need to explain why you have applied for courses with a particular approach and why it will suit them
  • Show that you have considered medicine carefully and give the main reasons why you feel you will make a good doctor. Keep it to the point and make it punchy.

 

Also see "How to write a personal statement for medicine" www.theguardian.com/education/2013/oct/01/personal-statement-for-medicine

Interviews

These normally last at least 15 minutes and there will normally be at least two interviewers. There is usually a tour of the medical school conducted by current students.

Don't be afraid to give your opinions, but show that you can also appreciate the views of others. The interviewers may look for evidence of your interest in helping others, and empathy for the situation for others, evidence of teamworking and leadership skills, breath and depth of experience in extra-curricular activities such as sports and music, and evidence that you can cope with intensive self-directed study.

Graduate entrants are expected to have a much better knowledge of the NHS than school leavers (how it is funded, how the money gets from governments to hospitals).

Ethical questions

These are particularly common in interviews for medicine and law. Some typical examples may include:
  • Should all class C drugs be legalised?
  • Should doctors be authorised to remove organs from a dead person without obtaining consent from their relatives?
  • A patient urgently requires a bone marrow transplant but the only suitable donor is her brother, who has severe physical and mental disabilities. Can this brother donate?
  • Should conjoined twins be separated even if it is almost certain that one of them will die in the process?
  • Since the victims in rape cases have anonymity, should the same anonymity be granted to the accused?

 

There is often no right or wrong answer, although you should be aware of the legal and regulatory framework behind these questions. You will be expected to put both sides of the argument before giving your opinion and can expect to be challenged and asked to justify your opinion.

Interviewers may not have read your application form (this is to reduce bias in the interview), if this is the case, you need to tell them about your hospital and other medical experience even if it is on your personal statement.

Questions you might be askeddoctor-interview

  • Why do you want to study medicine?
  • Why didn't you do a medical degree after leaving school?
  • How you will cope with the demands of studying 2 years of a medical degree in 12 months.
  • Why did you choose to do a degree in science?
  • Tell me about the project you did in your degree.
  • Why do you want to become a doctor and not a nurse?
  • Why do you want to study at this medical school?
  • What advantages does being a graduate give you for studying medicine?
  • What specialism are you interested in?
  • What do you think makes a good doctor?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of PBL?
  • How will you cope with the stresses of working as a doctor?
  • How will you fund your study?
  • What problems do you think you will face and how will you cope with them?
  • Where do you see yourself in ten years time?
  • How do you become a GP?
  • What do you think about euthanasia?
  • A fourteen year old wants to have an abortion: would you tell her parents?
  • What have been the most important recent advances in medicine?
  • What are the most important current issues affecting the Health Service?
  • What are your views on private health care?
  • Do you think testing new medicines on animals is right or wrong?
  • What patients you can remember from your work experience?
  • Give an example of where you have worked successfully in a team.
  • Give an example of where you have learned something independently.
  • Describe a situation where you have shown leadership.
    See our competency applications and interviews pages for help with these types of question.

Feedback from Kent student who had (successful) interview at Peninsula Medical School

15 minute interview with 3 interviewers - doctor, admissions officer, nurse. Interview Questions were based on an ethical scenario for which I was given 20 minutes preparation time. Questions included:
  • "If you were a doctor in this situation, what would you do?"
  • "What are the ethical implications in this situation? For who? You as a doctor? The patient?"
  • "How do doctors cope with stress?"
  • "Give an example of when you worked in a team?"
  • "Give an example of a difficult situation you encountered? How did you solve the problem?"
20 minute questionnaire given prior to interview. Questions included:
  • "What attributes do you have to make you a good doctor?"
  • "Why do you want to come to this medical school?"
  • "What problems are currently impacting on the NHS?"
30 minute group exercise with 6 other candidates. We were given a non-medical topic to discuss, and had to weigh up the advantages and the disadvantages of the situation.
Tips
  • Find out about the moral and ethical duties of a doctor
  • Be prepared to answer questions about yourself honestly
  • Be friendly and relaxed
Other comments
  • Interviewers were friendly and did not grill me about medical topics.
  • Before the interview, we were given the opportunity to talk to current medical students, so feel free to ask them questions
  • Research the medical school beforehand, as interviewers want to know why you want to come to this particular institution.

Feedback from Kent biomedical science student who had (successful) interview at Warwick

Team Work: aprox. 30 mins 
Written Exam: aprox. 35mins 
Interview/video analysis: aprox. 30 mins 
Questionnaire: aprox. 5 mins 

Questions asked
During the Interview section (30 mins): 

  • Why do you want to study medicine? 
  • Give an example of when you have changed the way you communicated with someone, to suit the situation? 
  • Give an Example of when you were required to show empathy? 
  • What are the problems encountered when working for the NHS? 
  • Why have you chosen to apply for graduate entry, rather than going into the undergrad course after your A-levels? 
  • What do you think you will do well at? 
  • What do you feel you would be weakest at? 

There may have been others but these are the ones that I remember as requiring some kind of preparation. In addition I was required to watch a video interview of patient/consultant, and comment on the communication, clarity etc demonstrated by the doctor. I suggest you make notes as you watch the video, as it is reasonably long and hard to remember in detail during the interview. 

Written exam 
Based on non-medical ethical situations. I was required in the position as a medical student rep to prioritise five issues provided, and to justify their position of importance and what course of action I would recommend. This section lasts 20minutes with 10 minutes reading time. I was then asked to answer four questions based on analysing my decisions- you only get five mins for this and they are very strict with time. You must write concisely (I didn't actually finish this section!) 

Questionnaire 
A brief analysis of your medical/NHS connections. 

Team Working: 
A team of five were required to pass a ball bearing over a series of slopes, through a funnel and onto the floor. It had to stay on the slope for 15 seconds. 3 assessors, 30 mins. 

Tips
Prepare some answers to as many interview questions as you can handle! this gets your brain into the right frame of thinking and puts the essential vocabulary on the tip of your tongue. Research what exactly communication is so that you can demonstrate your knowledge- this featured highly in all parts of the assessment. Relax and be yourself, there are a lot of people attending these sessions including trained lawyers, physiotherapists etc and it can be very intimidating. If you are suitable for the course your qualities will come through during the assessments. Most of all, be prepared. 

Applying for medicine? Get ready for the new-style interview
www.theguardian.com/education/2013/oct/07/interview-for-medical-school

Further Information

A Lecturer in a Medical college, famous for his high regard for social values, was lecturing the students on the harms of alcohol. To demonstrate its adverse effect on the human nervous system, he took a worm and dropped it into a bowl of gin & tonic. The worm wriggled around for a few minutes before finally giving a few convulsive twitches and dying. “So what can you conclude from it?”, asked the Lecturer.

“Yes,” came a voice from the back, “if you have got worms in your stomach, drink alcohol.”

For much more information see File C1 in the Careers Service.

 

 

 

 

Last fully revised 2013