In this series of articles, medical students from across the UK speak about their personal journey to medicine. Emilia is an undergraduate medical student at the University of Cardiff.
The application process for medicine is extremely long compared to application for other degrees which you probably already know! To begin with, the medical schools that I eventually applied for were Birmingham, Leicester, St Georges and Cardiff. I had interviews at all four medical schools, and obtained an offer from Cardiff, which is where I am studying now!
I began relevant work experience and volunteering before I even knew I wanted to apply to medicine, which was midway through year 12. Regarding volunteering, I worked at a disabled children’s playschool called CHIPS for several years (which I eventually got a job from – becoming a personal assistant for a disabled woman) and I worked at a care home for a couple of months.
I personally believe volunteering for a longer period is one of the best things you can put on your personal statement or talk about in your interviews, because it shows a commitment to caring for people.
For work experience, I did a week in GSK (a pharmaceutical company where I did a lot of lab work), a week in a GP surgery where I also joined the patient forum group for several weeks after (I worked in the admin office due to confidentiality which was still very interesting as they let me do paperwork which still involved patients) and a week in Barnet Hospital and Potters Bar Community Hospital. I feel that the work experience that I did was probably more than was needed; I definitely didn’t have time to talk about all of this in my interviews!
As long as you have a few experiences that you can elaborate on to show that you have a realistic understanding of medicine then that is enough! Admissions tutors will understand that its incredibly difficult to secure work experience in a hospital or GP so don’t worry if you aren’t able to.
Commitment to wanting to study medicine doesn’t just need to be through work experience – for example one of the things I did was make a medicine related YouTube channel with my best friend Daniella! I found that this was a unique thing to talk about in my interviews and it was also a really good way to keep up with medical news!
As you know, most medical schools look for 3 A’s at A Level. I ended up getting 3 A*’s, and I think it’s all about having a revision technique that works for you. I began working to the final goal from day one of A levels. I took Biology, Chemistry and Maths as well as Italian at AS level.
I began with printing the specifications for all my subjects. It is important to follow and learn all the points on the specification as this is all that the examiners can test you on. Therefore, after each lesson in school, I would tick the point on the specification that the lesson had covered, and then immediately write up my notes on it. Therefore, I had a steady stream of notes that I could revise.
This worked especially well with Chemistry and Biology. For all three subjects, I did as many past papers that I could get my hands on. This helped me get to grips with the most common styles of question. If I’d do badly on a practise paper, I’d keep it and repeat it later.
Admissions test are another hurdle in the application process. I only did the UCAT, as none of the BMAT universities really took my fancy. In the end I averaged at 675, which was decent as the average for 2017 was 642.5. I did my UKCAT in July and began studying for it exactly a month before. This is the perfect time to start as otherwise you will run out of resources. I used Medify as well as the ISC Medical books (I couldn’t afford to do a fancy course). Even though my score was higher than average, I wasn’t confident enough to apply to medical schools that had a high weighting on UKCAT score, which takes me onto how I chose which medical schools to apply for.
When I was choosing which medical school to apply for, I only chose based on where I was most likely to be offered an interview. It is hard to get into medical school and I wanted to give myself the best chance. I knew my GCSE’s were a strength as I got 10 A*s and I thought my personal statement was strong. As I got 4 A’s at AS level, I wasn’t worried about applying to Birmingham, which was an A*AA offer. I tried to avoid universities that considered the UKCAT strongly.
I literally remember reading through the entry requirements and admissions processes for all the medical schools in the UK (which can be found on their websites) before deciding Birmingham, Leicester, St Georges and Cardiff were my best chances.
My judgement turned out to be correct as I got interviews at all 4 medical schools, which were all MMI. MMI stands for multiple mini interviews, which is where there are several different stations in the interview, and you are asked different questions in each one. For me, interviews were a stressful time. Cardiff was my final interview, and I’d obtained 3 rejections before it, so I knew it was my last chance. Interviews are difficult as they can literally ask you anything under the sun. For example, in Leicester they asked me how much I slept every day and if I thought it was enough, which completely baffled me. It’s important to stay calm in these situations and think through the question logically – which you can find more about in our Interview Tutoring! To be as prepared as possible, start revising for them early – even before you have even got any interview offers! Keep up to date with the medical news, as this is a common thing they ask in interviews. To revise for my interviews, I once again brought the ISC Medical interview book, which I read through and started relaying answers to anyone that would listen to me. Remember it is an interview – don’t write your answers down – vocalize them!
After all this hard work, I am very happy to say it payed off! I’m incredibly glad that Cardiff took me on in the end 😊.