How do I apply for medical school in the UK?

A student dentist looks at a slice

This article was written by the Great British Mag team on 2 February 2021. 

If you have your heart set on studying medicine in the UK, this article will help you understand the cost, application process and deadlines you will need to meet to secure a place at one of the UK’s world-renowned medical schools.

UK Survival Service for international students

What is the cost of studying medicine in the UK?

The average cost of studying medicine in the UK for an international student is around £38,000 per academic year, depending on where you choose to study.

For instance, to study medicine at The University of Cambridge, you’re looking at annual fees of just over £58,000, while at Hull York Medical School, they’re considerably lower at £36,750. 

It’s not just the tuition fees that you’ll need to consider though – some cities are more expensive to live in than others. London is the priciest, while Manchester is considered the most affordable according to the 2020 Student Living Index by Natwest.

The good news is that medical schools in the UK do offer funding and scholarships, so it’s worth checking out different schools to see if you’re eligible to apply for any of their opportunities. 

How do I apply to medical school?

You can apply to medical school through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), just as you would for other university courses in the UK. UCAS has an online portal which is easy to navigate and allows you to record all the information that you need for your submission. 

Deadlines for medical school applications come much earlier than those for other courses – around a year before the course start date – so keep an eye on the UCAS website as well as individual university pages for updates. 

What are the entry requirements? 

We won’t beat about the bush here – you need to demonstrate excellent academic ability to secure a place at a UK medical school. 

Different schools may differ in their requirements, but you’ll likely need three A levels or equivalent, all at A grades. These need to include chemistry and at least one other science, like biology, maths or physics. 

You’ll also need an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score of at least 7.5. 

How many medical schools are there in the UK?

There are 41 medical schools in the UK, so you have a decent amount of choice. And just like with any university course, there are a few things to consider when you’re shortlisting your favourite options. 

As well as things like rankings, location, student culture and entry requirements for individual schools, pay special attention to the type and structure of the course you’re interested in. Some are classroom-based for the first couple of years, while others blend practical experience in clinical environments with theoretical learning from the outset. So give some real thought to what kind of learning environment you’d more likely thrive in. 

It might also be worth researching the number of places available at specific schools you’re interested in, and how many applications they receive each year. This should help you identify how much competition there is for places and allow you to make an informed decision about where to apply.

You can only choose four medical courses for your UCAS application, although there is a fifth space to include a non-medical course as a backup option. 

Will I have to sit entry exams?

Yes – to get into med school you’ll need to take an exam. There are two types of entry exam – the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) and the Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT) – and which one you’ll be required to take depends on the school you’ve applied to. In fact, if you apply to institutions that don’t require the same test, you’ll need to sit both types – which is something to consider when you’re shortlisting your options. 

These exams are designed to test things like critical thinking, problem-solving abilities, reasoning and knowledge application. 

Do as much prep for these exams as you can – you can find resources such as practice tests, information on content and advice on how to best ready yourself for the tests online. 

Do I need work experience?

If you can show your commitment and drive to train in medicine, it can really help your application – and work experience is the best way to do this. 

Work experience can be either paid or voluntary, and take the form of a hands-on role in the care sector (think care homes and schools for pupils with disabilities) or shadowing in a clinical environment. There is a handy guide on The Medic Portal that details which kind of experience each med school favours. 

You’ll need to have done this within the last two years – and be prepared to discuss it in your personal statement and interviews. 

How do I write my personal statement?

The idea of writing a personal statement may seem a bit daunting, but it’s a great opportunity to really show admissions departments how passionate you are about studying medicine, why you’d make an ideal student and what you want to achieve after your degree. 

It’s your chance to add some colour and personality to your application and mention the characteristics and soft skills you have that will help you excel on a medical course, which aren’t necessarily reflected in your grades. 

How long does a medical degree last in the UK?

The number of years it’ll take you to complete a course at medical school varies depending on things like where you study and what field you’re focused on. 

Most medical degrees are five years, but depending on which route you’ve taken into medicine, you may need to complete a medical foundation course before you start. Also, there’s the chance to add a year onto your course to allow you to study for an undergraduate BSc or postgraduate MSc for in a different subject – called an intercalated degree – which means you’ll get an extra qualification at the end of your course. This is optional at many medical schools, but compulsory at others. 

After graduation, there is still more work to be done before you’re considered a recognised doctor in the UK, though – you’ll need to enrol on a two-year foundation programme. This means that it could take up to 10 years from the start of your medical degree to become a fully qualified doctor. 

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