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Life as a medical student

An overview of what to expect from medical school, with links and resources.

There are 33 undergraduate medical schools in the UK. All medical schools are run as a department of a UK university, and have close teaching links with nearby hospitals.

The final qualifications awarded by each medical school are fundamentally the same, although different universities sometimes name their degrees differently. Attainment of a degree from medical school allows provisional registration with the General Medical Council (GMC), authorising supervised practice within the UK as a medical doctor

Medical school courses are generally 5 or 6 years in length, depending on whether the course involves intercalation. Typically, several months of the course can even be spent abroad, on a medical elective.

The design of your medical degree will vary across different medical schools. The traditional approach draws a clear distinction between non-clinical (‘pre-clinical’) learning, usually taught first, and clinical work undertaken as the second half of the course. Once you start your clinical studies, much of your time will spent on placements in hospitals.

Many courses differ between lecture based and problem based learning. What will work better for you depends on your preferred style of learning:

  • Problem based learning involves teaching via scenarios; working in small groups on practical problems.
  • Lecture based learning is the more traditional teaching method, which involves mostly didactic instruction.

Both teaching methods have pros and cons. Do some research and think about what helps you retain information when you study in order to get the most out of your degree.

Opportunities for medical students

The RCP has a number of different events and benefits for medical students, aimed at helping you make the most out of your studies:

  • The RCP junior doctor network is your chance to get involved with RCP activity, add to your CV and make a difference to students in your area. Use the contact form above if you're interested.
  • Write for us! If you would like to publish an article or resource on our website, use the contact form above.
  • Get sponsored - do you have an event or activity you think other students would benefit from? Let us know and we might be able to help.
  • Bursaries for medical electives.
  • Specialty of the month is the RCP's spotlight on the 30 medical specialties we represent. Learn more about the variety of career choices as a physician.
  • A peer-written online resource bank, with loads of helpful tips and guidance to help with your degree, from revision guides to how to prepare for your exams.
  • We also have resources to help you prepare for your foundation training, including how to survive your first night shift and how to choose your career path.