Selecting your top-priority school in the UK requires knowledge of all aspects affecting your application, including medical school acceptance rates in the U.K.
While it might not seem necessary to you to know what the acceptance rate of your chosen school is (why not just apply to your top choices regardless of their acceptance rates?), it can affect how you plan your application.
A foreknowledge of the acceptance rates might also indicate how many schools you should be applying to. You don’t have an infinite amount of time and money, so you don’t want to waste your time and efforts on schools where you do not have high chances of acceptance.
Finally, there is simply this: more knowledge cannot harm your application. Acquiring information about medical school acceptance rates and data around those acceptance rates will allow you to apply with more confidence. “Forewarned is forearmed,” as the old saying goes.
Within this article, we will forewarn and forearm you with all the statistical data about medical schools in the U.K., as well as discuss some of the ways you can boost those odds and tilt even a low acceptance rate as far in your favour as possible.
Please note: although we have made every effort to provide the most accurate information, admissions information changes frequently. Therefore, we encourage you to verify these details with the official university admissions office. You are responsible for your own results. BeMo does not endorse nor affiliate with any official universities, colleges, or test administrators and vice versa.
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Medical School Acceptance Rates in the UK
Note: most A-level requirements are specific to subject. Schools have different subjects that they require, but for most it is a combination of (at least two of) biology, chemistry, mathematics, or physics – biology and chemistry being the two most common.
Some medical schools don’t accept A-levels in certain courses. These courses won’t be counted by some schools. The most common course that medical schools in the UK ignore is general studies, but often other subjects like critical thinking won’t make the grade, either.
Check with your top choices for specifics.
How to Get Accepted to Medical Schools in the UK
Learning how to prepare for your medical school application is a lot of work, a lot of time to be spent, and the most worthwhile thing you can do in the months leading up to applying to your medical school of choice. In fact, it’s longer than months – it's been years – since you have already been aiming at this goal with course selection and extracurriculars for medical school. So you have done everything to prepare for your application – but you need to do more than just put it together. You need to learn how to make your medical school application stand out! Here are our tips:
Learn About the Schools
Knowing everything you can know about the school is a good first “scouting operation”. Check out the previous matriculating class to see what kind of grades, scores, and experiences the majority of matriculants had. This can help you gauge how you compare. Find out what courses they offer, what internships they have, and about the focus of their programmes. All of that data will give you a good idea of how to focus your application, as well as whether or not the school is a perfect fit for you.
Remember that you’ll have to do this with each school you are applying to.
First-hand Knowledge of the School
Most schools offer a chance to see the campus, tour the school, and have an introduction to the programme. Find out any of these opportunities that will be available and take advantage of them. First-hand knowledge of the campus will help a lot. Even better, it gives you a chance to meet faculty and staff and do a little networking.
You can also meet and socialise with current students and ask them about the university. Asking these students about their experiences applying to the school will be extremely useful and informative. Who knows the process better? They have just been through it and they have been successful. Of course, if you found access to unsuccessful application data, that could tell you a lot as well, but it would be difficult to acquire such information.
Set Up a Timeline
First, set up a medical school application timeline, which will let you know the important dates and what steps you’ll need to take to complete your application. From there, you can plan your own personal schedule of what you need to do and how to prepare your application.
Make sure that the dates on the timeline are for current year – that you haven’t accidentally run a web search and found dates for a previous timeline.
You’ll have to do this with each school you are planning to apply to, since their timelines may vary.
Keeping to these timelines is imperative. Medical schools aren’t going to take a late application, so you do not want to miss your window of opportunity.
Get to Know UCAS
UK medical school applications are delivered through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Services – or UCAS.
Familiarise yourself with their systems and timeline. You can start creating your application far before its due date, so take advantage of time to research and prepare your application components.
UCAS covers registration, personal details (from your email address to “personal circumstances” and how you plan to fund your studies), education history, employment history, course choices, personal statement, and a letter of reference.
GPA and Standardized Scores
Your GPA and score matter. Make sure to try and meet the expectations of the schools where you are applying. It is always better to exceed the expectations. A lower than “accepted” GPA or UCAT may lead to exclusion from the pool of applicants at early stages. This is why detailed research into your schools at early stages of the application process is crucial – knowing the GPA and UCAT scores of the previous cohort will help you narrow down the schools where your GPA and score exceed the expectations, thus increasing your chances of an interview invite!
School-specific Course Requirements
Pay close attention to a medical school prerequisites, with particular attention beyond just grade scores. Your A-levels won’t mean anything if they are in subjects the school has no interest in. Of course, medical schools are very competitive, and high grades very much matter for your application. Without them, you stand little chance of receiving an offer to your school of choice.
Carefully look through the required courses and make sure you qualify for application. In some schools, your application will not even be considered if you do not complete the required coursework. This means that you must carefully study the course requirements of each school you like and determine where your academic background is fitting. You do not want to waste an application on a school where you do not possess the required coursework!
Preparing for your interview?
Write Your Best Personal Statement
Work on your UCAS personal statement. This is a crucial part of your application and can help you stand out from the pack. Take some time refining and re-writing to get the perfect statement.
Really remember that first word: personal. This statement is a reflection of you, and will introduce your uniqueness to the application board. Any applicant can (and will) brag about grades. But what makes you stand out is one thing nobody else will have. Tell your story of your personal experiences with medicine, your passion, and how you as a person connect with this path in life. Really do make it a story. Think about the kind of narrative story you couldn’t put down if you wanted to – you had to keep reading it. That’s the kind of story you want to tell.
Seeing how closely-fit you are to a career as a doctor will make the assessors see your innate value beyond statistics, and they will remember your application come selection time.
That is what a personal statement does best: helps you stand out as an individual, and makes you memorable to any admissions boards.
Be sure to re-write your personal statement, as well. The first draft is never the final draft. The second draft is never the final draft. We recommend that you spend at least two months writing your statement, so write and re-write, edit, draft, and polish until your story is perfect.
On length: UCAS allows 4,000 characters (not words: characters) and 47 lines. That’s not a lot of room, so in addition to weaving a compelling story about your life, love, and hopes, you have to do it in 500-1,000 words.
For inspiration, read medical school personal statement examples, and learn how to craft your personal statement through the craft of others.
UCAS Work Experience and Volunteer Experience
Consider all aspects of your profile. Most people tend to think of grades and entrance essays or personal statements. They forget about the full picture.
Gaining experience in your chosen field prior to application will make your application fuller, and show the admissions board that you are already taking steps on your career path. You can show all this in your UCAS Work and Volunteering Experience section!
Work experience is a significant booster shot to your application. Obviously, you cannot work as a doctor to apply to medical school, but experience in hospitals (even peripherally), medicine, other hard sciences, mental health, social work, caregiving (in daycares or seniors’ centres, for instance), and other related fields will all increase the lustre of your application.
One of the most valuable ways you can gain experience is shadowing a doctor. You take the role of a passive observer, and watch a physician as they work. You can learn about all aspects of the job, including history taking, patient interactions, physical examinations, and so on. Read up on how to ask to shadow a doctor and gain invaluable experience.
These days, virtual shadowing is your best learning opportunity, and will provide you with much the same experience as an on-site shadowing.
Other extracurriculars for medical school include volunteering. Volunteer work will send an image of altruism. Participation in science fairs and competitions will let an admissions board know that you have a scientific mind and an aptitude in that area.
You can gain clinical hours by working as a hospice volunteer, a CNA (certified nursing assistant), or caretaker. How many clinical hours you need for medical school isn’t as important as getting the best quality out of those hours. Find the best fit for you and your chosen fields and specialties (if you have a specialty in mind) and log all the hours you can.
Get Letters of Recommendation
Strong medical school letters of recommendation will boost your application above the rest. To that end, reach out to mentors, teachers, and other people in your life who are directly connected with the medical and academic worlds.
The person you contact for a letter of recommendation should be someone who has worked with you in a supervisory position so they can attest to your learning ability, development, suitability, skill, and career path.
Don’t let your referee (the person writing your recommendation letter) guess your credentials. Send along anything you can to help them write a good, personalized letter. That would include your C.V., transcripts, and the draft of your personal statement that you’re currently working on. Anything might help them help you.
Also, while this might seem obvious to some, it might easily be forgotten in the frenzy of application: ask for letters with grace, thankfulness, and professionalism. Make sure your referee knows how much this means to you and your gratitude.
UCAS allows you one letter of reference on their form. If you want your schools of choice to see more than one reference, you should contact them personally and ask if you are allowed to separately send along more than one letter.
How to Ace Your Interview
Your interviews are also maximally important to your application.
There are different formats that these interviews take, and so it’s best to go through extensive medicine interview prep for UK schools beforehand.
A common form of interviewing is the MMI, or multiple mini-interview format, used by institutions like Cambridge and Norwich Medical School – most schools in the UK use the MMI format. This consists of several stations, short interviews, covering different subjects with more focused topics. The MMI consists of 8-12 min-stations wherein the candidate is asked questions on topics like ethics or policy – for instance.
The other form of interviewing is a longer-form version, called a panel or traditional interview. This is used by Lancaster, for instance. A panel of admissions officers will cover a variety of topics and medical school interview questions with the interviewee. More open-ended questions tend to be asked here – questions like, “Tell us a bit about yourself.”
University of Glasgow has a two-panel interview, the first part is about what being a doctor means, while the second focuses on the interviewee themself.
Edinburgh has a half-day “assessment day” in place of interviews. Information about this is provided by University of Edinburgh to all who qualify.
Oxford typically give four interviews at two colleges.
Want more information about applying to medical schools in the UK?
With all the different types of interviews, it’s important to know which schools you will be applying to and what formats they prefer so you can prepare accordingly. You will almost definitely need to specifically work on how to ace your multiple mini interview, but regardless of the format, you will need to go over your medical school interview preparation.
Mock interviews are your best friend during preparations for your interview. A mock medical school interview lets you practice your questions and answers, how you present yourself, and how to put polish on the interview without memorising a script (don’t do that; memorisation winds up leading to a stiff, wooden applicant coming off as distant and robotic). The mock interview lets you build your skills at the same time as your confidence, and will give you the edge you need to shine in your interview.
This is a lot of information to take in, but it should help you as you move forward with your application process.
Leave nothing to chance. As far as it depends on you, create the perfect application. High performance, an impeccable personal statement, a strong letter of reference, and a deep knowledge of your schools-of-choice will take through the application process.
1. How Many Letters of Recommendation Should I Have?
UCAS allows for one. Additional documents might be accepted by your schools of choice, but you will need to ask them if you may send any extra letters of recommendation. You might do this if you have multiple teachers, mentors, or medical professionals who will greatly improve your standing with the admissions boards.
Don’t think that more letters are better, either. It’s about sending the right number. The requirement in UCAS is one, so if you’re thinking of going beyond that, make sure that the reason is a good one.
Get these from teachers, mentors, or other persons directly connected to you and to the medical and academic worlds (if any doctors who know you would write one – perfect).
If you’re having trouble thinking of who to ask, start with your teachers.
2. What if I Don’t Have Top Grades?
Because medical schools are so competitive, it is difficult to get in without the very best application you can prepare.
If your grades are low, however, there are still courses of action you can take; there may yet be some way you can get into medical school with a low GPA.
3. How Many Schools Should I Apply To?
UCAS allows you to apply to four medical schools, so do four.
If studying outside of the UK is possible for you, you can always increase that number, as well.
The question of how many medical school should you apply to is about finding balance between the amount of time you have to create a top-tier application and the cold fact that acceptance rates are, generally-speaking, low enough that you shouldn’t place your whole future in one school and wind up getting rejected.
Between 8 and 10 schools is a good number, as a general rule, so if a school outside of the UK is possible for you, consider adding 4-6 schools in other countries. Of course, this will depend on your ability to travel.
With that said, no number is necessarily right for everybody; apply based on the likelihood of your getting in given the requirements of each school, and the feasibility of travel.
4. How Many Times Can I Take the UCAT?
Once per year or cycle of the test. Do not attempt to take the UCAT more than once in a year. They consider this a misconduct, which will only harm you in the long-term.
You can retake the UCAT after the current UCAT cycle is over (next year).
5. Can I Apply Again if I Am Rejected?
Yes. The old adage remains true: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
But while we’re remembering old sayings, recall this one: “The definition of insanity is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
A re-application should not just be taking the same application and sending it back; it got rejected for a reason.
Try and figure out what that reason is. You will need to re-evaluate your application. It could have been a poorly-written personal statement, low grades, or just that you happened to apply against a particularly competitive cohort.
See if you can find average scores and top scores for GPA in the year you applied – if you fall short, this is likely why you faced medical school rejection.
Don’t just reapply without improvement, hoping that next year’s competition isn’t so fierce. Find time in between your rejection and the next application cycle to improve your standing so that you will be the top candidate next time.
Improve your application by taking some courses, gaining life experience, or finding a job connected to your chosen field. Network, make contacts, and come back next year even stronger than before.
6. If My Application is Successful, What Comes Next?
You will be provided with a list of next steps, but you will likely be asked to come in for an interview. This is a major opportunity and the next big hurdle you will face in the process.
Make sure you study how to prepare for your medical school interview thoroughly.
The interview is going to be the next big hurdle. You will be invited to an interview if your application goes through, and you need to prepare for that. Mock interviews are your best bet for success here.
7. Should I Have Somebody Look Over My Application?
Ideally, yes. Writers work best with editors, actors work best with directors, and students work best with teachers. Your application will definitely benefit from an outside eye. Medical school admissions consulting will benefit you tremendously.
8. Do My Personal Statements Get Graded?
Some medical schools will formally assess your personal statement (King’s College London), others will not (University of Edinburgh). It’s always a good idea to check with your school what their expectations are for your personal statement and tailor it to fit them, specifically.
The good news, however, is that this doesn’t affect your writing process too much. You’ll still be using the same, main points in your statement, and you will still be writing it to the utmost of your skills. Whether it’s being formally graded or just used to get to know you, you still want to include the best piece of writing you can, true?
The only thing that changes are details from one letter to the other – details specific to the school’s requirements.
In most circumstances, one letter will cover many schools, and should cover most with small tweaks.
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