Getting into medical school

Aimed at GCSE and A-level students, this page contains information regarding what qualifications and experience are needed to apply to medical school.

If you're interested in becoming a doctor and are looking at applying to medical school, then the information below can help you navigate this process. Good luck!

Pre-A-levels

It's important to think carefully about which A-levels to choose, as this will be a key factor in getting into medical school. There is no one rule as to which subjects you should choose, but the following are the most common choices:

  • chemistry compulsory for a large majority of medical schools
  • biology compulsory for a handful of medical schools
  • maths while it isn't compulsory, it is often useful.

The UCAS website has a full list of UK medical schools, as does the Medical Schools Council. Both hold lots of information on what each medical school is looking for. It is important for you to investigate the exact requirements of the medical schools you might like to attend.

Work experience

As well as your qualifications, you are also expected to demonstrate enthusiasm for a career as a doctor, as well as showing understanding of what's involved. Because medicine is such a vocational degree, interviewers will also be seeing if you have the potential to be a good doctor, not just an able student. The best way to demonstrate this is by obtaining some practical experience.

Some ways to gain experience in a medical setting are:

  • see if your school or college has a work experience programme
  • contact hospitals directly to ask if they have work experience schemes; do note that substantial hospital work experience is very hard to get
  • volunteer for medical charities, eg St John's Ambulance
  • volunteer in a care home
  • gain administrative experience in a clinical setting, ie an assistant in a GP surgery.

UKCAT and BMAT exams

  • UKCAT (UK Clinical Aptitude Test)  a test used by several medical schools in the admissions process to test your cognitive skills, not your clinical knowledge. If your chosen medical school(s) require a UKCAT score, then you will need to sit the test.

  • BMAT (Biomedical Admissions Test)  like the UKCAT, it is used to assess applicants' knowledge as part of the admissions process for some medical schools.

What if I don't get offered a place?

Applying to medical school is a competitive process. UCAS figures for 2010 show that 21,389 applications resulted in only 8,009 offers for places starting in September of that year. This, along with UCAS limiting the number of medical schools on your application to four, inevitably means that many strong candidates are turned down. Not being offered a place does not mean that you are a weak applicant, and it is important not to feel dejected.

So what are your options if you’ve not got into medical school?

  • Ask for feedback from the medical schools you applied to. This might show you ways to improve any future applications.
  • You could re-apply for the following academic year, taking a gap year to grow your skills and experience, adding to your application.
  • You could do another undergraduate degree (eg biomedical sciences) and re-apply for medicine as a postgraduate student.
  • Look at alternative career paths; there are lots of different careers within medicine to choose from.