Medical school application is, and always has been, extremely competitive.
It consistently attracts the top students from every school. Oxford and Cambridge do this regardless of subject, so the difficulty to getting in is doubled.
These two medical schools have very difficult decisions to make. They have to decide who are the very best amongst a sea of excellent applicants. And their duty goes beyond simply allocating the space to the highest achievers, those who may deserve it most.
Medical schools are selecting the doctors of the future – those who will look after the health of many generations across the course of their career, and who will rise through the ranks to, in turn, train new doctors and shape the health service of the future.
The application process has multiple steps, which help medical schools gather information about applicants to help their decision making. The main components are your personal statement, admissions test and interview. Whilst this process may seem daunting, once you learn about each step and break each down into manageable chunks.
A-LEVEL SUBJECTS FOR MEDICINE
A-Level subjects matter when applying to study Medicine. Biology and Chemistry are pretty much must-haves, with Physics and Maths trailing closely behind.
Many universities do not accept General Studies as a subject. Different universities require different A-Level subjects. If you have a specific university in mind, you should look at their requirements to make the right decision.
Oxford: Chemistry and at least one of Biology, Physics or Maths. If a practical component forms part of any of the A-levels taken, we expect candidates to have taken it and passed.
Cambridge: Chemistry and one of Biology/Physics/Maths. Most applicants have at least three science/mathematics A-Levels and some Colleges require this and/or particular subjects. See College websites for details.
Types of Teaching At Medical School
Traditional – Oxbridge
For the traditional courses, students begin their training with two years of ‘pre-clinical’ work, involving study of the basic medical sciences. This is followed by the ‘clinical’ course, of approximately three years, during which they work in hospital wards under the supervision of consultants.
Throughout the final three years they also attend lectures on all aspects of medical practice. This is a subject based course of lectures, where, for example, you would undertake anatomy, physiology, biochemistry etc., all as completely separate courses.
Almost all teaching is lecture based.
PBL is a very patient-oriented approach and students can expect to see patients right from the beginning of their course.
Students are given medical cases to resolve and learn from, guided by group work with a tutor as well as self-directed learning. Group work, on top of academic and clinical learning, helps students develop communication, teamwork and problem-solving skills, personal responsibility and respect for others.
Medical schools in the UK that offer this style, of course, include Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow, Queen Mary, Peninsula, Sheffield, Keele, Hull and York, Barts and East Anglia.
Case-based learning uses virtual ‘trigger’ cases to stimulate interest in a particular area of the curriculum. Working in small groups over a short period, a case is used to think about the knowledge and skills needed and why these might be useful.
CBL is backed up and reinforced by a variety of interlinked learning opportunities including seminars, life sciences resources, lectures, dissection, clinical skills practice, small group learning, individual study and patient-focused learning out in the community. It is very similar to PBL. Medical schools in the UK that offer this style, of course, include Liverpool, Cardiff and Glasgow.
Enquiry-based learning starts by posing questions, problems or scenarios—rather than simply presenting established facts or portraying a smooth path to knowledge. The process is often assisted by a facilitator.
You, the student, are in charge of your own learning and at the centre of the learning experience. The emphasis is very much on your learning rather than the teacher (or lecturer) teaching. Students will identify and research issues and questions to develop their knowledge or solutions.
Integrated courses which the majority of medical schools have now implemented integrate what was previously learnt at the pre-clinical and clinical stages, to provide a seamless course. Teaching methods can include problem-based learning (PBL) and practical clinical skills.
Integrated courses are the GMC’s recommended approach to medicine; instead of teaching anatomy and physiology etc. as separate courses, the idea is to join them into systems (also known as the systems-based approach) where you will take a bodily system, such as the circulatory system and consider the anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, pathology of it all at once.
The new integrated approach also encourages early patient contact and self-directed learning. Much of the teaching has a basis in lectures, supplemented with tutorials and your own self-directed work.
Your Personal Statement
Just check out the Personal Statement cheat sheet in the infographic above for everything you need to know!
Medicine Admissions Tests (UCAT & BMAT)
To apply to Oxford or Cambridge, you will need to sit the BMAT exam. It’s very likely that you will sit both the UCAT and BMAT (and it’s highly recommended you do so) so we will talk about both exams in this section.
BMAT Exam Structure
UCAT Exam Structure
Getting a medical school interview is a great achievement – well done if you get one! They can be a daunting prospectct, but with the right preparation, there is every reason to be confident that you can present yourself in the best possible way. There are two styles of interview that you may face.
o There are normally five to twelve stations
o Each station is five to ten minutes long and will focus on different topic
o There is normally an interviewer at each station
o You physically move from one station to another
o You will often be provided with a scenario before entering
o You will have about 1 minute to read the scenario background before beginning
o Multiple interviewers
o Normally 20-40 minutes
o May have two long panel interviews