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Preparing to apply to Medical School in the UK

22 Oct, 2020
Preparing to apply to Medical School in the UK

Kings Medical Pathway students have had a busy start to the year, taking part in various extra-curricular activities and training sessions in preparation for submitting their UK Medical School applications before the 15 October deadline.

As our Head of Science at Kings Oxford, Pushpa Chaure (pictured below), explains, there is a process for students who enrol at Kings with the intention of progressing to study Medicine:

“Once students tell us they are applying for Medicine, we make sure they have information about all the aptitude tests they will need, as it is a very narrow window to apply. Students will need to register for UCAT/BMAT, UCAS and try and get some real-life experience in the medical field.”

Below, we look at some of these additional elements required of students interested in a medical degree, and how they are supported at Kings.

Extra steps for medical students

UCAT

What is it? UCAT stands for University Clinical Aptitude Test. A number of UK university medical and dental schools use the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) as part of the selection process for their medical degree programmes. It is a test specially created to enable data on each student’s cognitive abilities to be analysed. Universities use it to make accurate and informed decisions when awarding limited places.

How do Kings students prepare for the UCAT? There are sessions during the induction week that focus on the UCAT, and all medical pathway students also take part in a “Mastering the UCAT” training day in early September. The UCAT training would usually take place at one of our four schools, but this year, it was moved online. All students are also given a list of useful online resources and pre-arrival reading to complete during the summer break.

Kings Bournemouth A-level student Lewis Sadaoui (pictured below) recently obtained an outstanding UCAT score after sitting the test last month, and is aiming to apply for Undergraduate Medicine at Kings College London, University of Manchester, University of Bristol, and University of Plymouth. He commented:

"The UCAT Test is what you make it, if you give yourself enough time and structure to revise, you should find it easier and enjoyable. It’s made up of five sections: Verbal Reasoning, Decision Making, Quantitative Reasoning, Abstract Reasoning, and Situational Judgement. I’ve felt supported by Kings so far, especially with the UCAT training.”



BMAT

What is it? The BioMedical Admissions Test — or BMAT — is a test that’s needed by anyone who’s planning to study certain medicine, veterinary medicine or related courses at certain universities, such as the University of Cambridge, University of Leeds, University College London, Lancaster University and Brighton and Sussex Medical School.

It is a two-hour admissions test which medical or veterinary students must sit to stand a chance of securing a place at the most exclusive universities. It is a way for those institutions to ensure they select students of the very best calibre. The BMAT has scientific elements and is testing science at around GCSE level.

How do Kings students prepare for the BMAT? This year, all Kings medical pathway students attended a full day of virtual BMAT training, delivered by a specialist tutor from The Medic Portal on Thursday 8th October.

The tutor introduced the BMAT test, and then ran five sessions that focused on individual elements of the test — Logical and Spatial; Verbal; General Skills; Physics; Writing Task.

A-level students who are going into their second year with Kings were given support during term 3 of their A1 year, consisting of past papers and group discussions. All students are also given a list of online resources and pre-arrival reading to complete during the summer break.

MMIs

What are they? MMIs — or Multiple Mini Interviews — consist of several short practical assessments, usually less than 10 minutes each. Students are presented with the scenario a few minutes before the interview to allow time to prepare. The student is then either asked a question by the interviewer, or has to take part in a role-play scenario with an actor whilst the interviewer observes. Depending on the universities that you are applying to, MMIs are usually undertaken in January, but some can take place in December.

How do Kings students prepare? All 1-year A-level and Foundation students will be given interview practice as part of their Academic Enhancement entitlement at their school. This will consist of sessions exploring topics which are relevant to the exam as well as interview techniques. Students can expect to take part in individual practice interviews, as well as a full day of preparation and training on “Interview Guidance and Communication Skills” specifically for MMIs, which takes place in November.

Speaking about MMIs and preparing our students for them, Pushpa commented:

“I work on the latest medical research and we subscribe to Chemistry World, Biology World, and Physics World for latest scientific innovations and news. We also debate on medical ethics, which prepares students for MMI.

"We invite NHS [the UK National Health Service] workers or patients, so that our students can get NHS experience, which most of them will not have previous knowledge about. Then we run an MMI session as Kings, but I also do at least 5 – 10 individual sessions with students once they are offered an interview.”

Work experience

What is it? Work experience is useful to allow students to gain a realistic understanding of medicine and the physical, organisational and emotional demands of a medical career. Through work experience students will be able to demonstrate they are passionate about a career in this field and stand out when applying to university. They will also understand their abilities and limitations, and gain an awareness of everyday realities in the health service.

It’s important to note that not all universities require medical-related work experience. For example, our partner university, Aston University Medical School, specify that they are looking for evidence of a student having worked in high-stress environment, or where they can show they worked as a team. This could be something like working in a busy coffee shop in the morning rush hour and dealing with angry customers! They key is show how, whatever experience you have, the skills you’ve learnt can be applied in the medical environment.

How do Kings students prepare? Students following a Life Sciences or Medical pathway have the opportunity during their time at Kings to add to their profile by completing a period of work experience. We have various agreements with local hospitals and doctor’s surgeries, as well as nursing homes. Students have opportunities to shadow doctors in their practice, as well as work as volunteers in care homes. This experience takes place during enrichment session times or out of term time.

Extra-curricular and enrichment

What is it? Across all four schools we run additional enrichment and extra-curricular activities that are specifically designed to help Medical Pathway students gain experience and develop the skills necessary to succeed both in their applications, and subsequent medical degrees.

What do Kings students take part in? Options vary from school to school, but may include things such as medical school visits (in-person/virtual), talks from medical professionals or representatives from medical schools, workshops about personal statements or university research, and participation in Medical Society.

Pushpa, from Kings Oxford, said:

“We run extracurricular activities, such as MedSoc (Medical Society), and arrange external talks where students can attend specially, being in Oxford we always have speakers like Sir Paul Nurse and Oxford university lectures. Even during lockdown whilst the schools were closed for face-to-face teaching, our students have been participating in webinars run by Oxford university Vaccine group.”

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