The Complete Guide To Studying Medicine In The UK (2020)

studying medicine in the uk
Share This Article
Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on email
Email

Have you always wanted to be a doctor and dreamed of studying Medicine in the UK? Our Complete Guide series is here to give you all the information that you need to know.

In this guide, we will cover every step of the entire admissions process for international students who want to study medicine in the UK, including:

  • Which A-levels subjects to take and required grades
  • Teaching styles in medical programmes
  • Choosing the right medical school
  • Tips for acing your UCAT and BMAT tests
  • How to write a good UCAS personal statement
  • What to expect at the admissions interview
  • A brief summary of healthcare-related topics that might come up at the interview
  • Applying for a UK student visa
  • Studying and living in the UK

Our guide is quite comprehensive, so we recommend that you skip ahead to the section that you need to read. We have broken down our guide into three sections – the first details all the information you need to know before you apply to UCAS such as entry requirements and how to choose medical schools, the second section covers the steps of making a UCAS application and acing the interview, and the third section covers what you need to know after applying to UCAS including some possible outcomes after making your applications and other concerns such as tuition fees and coping with studies.

Table of Contents

Path to Becoming a Doctor in the UK

Medicine is a popular choice among UCAS applicants, which means that competition for admission into a medical programme can be tough. Not only do you need to secure top grades, you also have to be well-prepared and submit a good application that stands out from the crowd.

Annually, UCAS will receive about 75,000 applications for medical schools and only 8,600 will be accepted – this is roughly a 12% success rate for all applicants. However, as long as you have your mind set on becoming a doctor and have the required grades for it, our guide can help prepare you to submit a good application that highlights your potential as a future doctor.

Most medical school programmes will be a five-year course which includes two years of pre-clinical studies followed by three years of clinical studies, depending on the programme structure. At the end of the course, students who meet the stringent standards of their programmes will graduate with a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery, which is more commonly abbreviated as MBBS, or MBChB in the UK. At this stage, graduates are not doctors yet as they only have provisional registration with the General Medical Council (GMC) and have to complete their foundation programme (known elsewhere as a housemanship or house officer programme), where they would be a junior doctor completing training in a hospital.

Junior doctors will receive their full registration with the GMC after the first year. From here on, they have the option to go into private practice or they can choose to complete the second year of the foundation programme, followed by specialty training which can take three years for general practice up to eight years for other specialties.

With stringent immigration laws in the UK now, it could be difficult to complete the foundation programme there as a non-UK citizen. Another option for graduates would be to complete the foundation year programme overseas. With prior approval from the medical school, it is possible for Malaysians to register with the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) and complete their foundation programme in Malaysia.

This is subject to the medical school’s discretion as not all of them may allow overseas training. If approved, graduates who complete their foundation programme abroad can retain a full registration with the GMC to practice if they decide to return to the UK in the future. Take note that medical graduates are placed on a long waiting list in Malaysia for postings to complete their house officer training – this can take anywhere from three months to a year.

Aside from those entering medical school after A-levels, there are also accelerated graduate-entry programmes designed for those who already have a Bachelor’s degree and wish to study medicine. Students who complete these programmes will also have to go through the foundation programme and registration process.

Requirements for UK Medical Schools

What Is The Minimum Age To Get Into A UK Medical School?

Most medical schools have a minimum age requirement of 17 or 18 years-old on the date of the start of the course, while some do not have this requirement s at all. Although this may not affect most applicants, this is something you should take into consideration if you completed your A-levels early.

The medical schools of Dundee, Edinburgh and Aberdeen do not have minimum age requirements while the Norwich medical school (University of East Anglia) allow deferred entry for those who are under 18 years of age at the start of the course.

IGCSE results

In addition to requirements for A-levels, most medical schools will also list GCSE requirements although you are mostly admitted based on your A-level results. So why do IGCSE (or its equivalent) results matter?

Most applicants for medical schools will have good grades for the A-levels, so good results for the GCSEs can help you stand out from the crowd. Additionally, during the application period for medical schools, it is likely that you do not have your A-level results yet, so your applications are often made based on predicted grades. This may be based on your past exam results at your A-levels in addition to your GCSE results.

Medical schools such as Imperial and Cambridge do not have GCSE requirements, but you would also have greater competition for these universities as they are among the top universities in the country. Some other schools have lower GCSE requirements, such as Aston (minimum 5 GCSEs, 6/B or above), Glasgow (English Language at 6/B or above), and King’s College London (minimum B/6 for English and Maths).

While some universities such as Exeter prioritises academic performance, some others rely more on other aspects of your application such as your personal statement, UCAT or BMAT exam results, or your performance at the interview. Regardless of your IGCSEs or equivalent grades, being strategic with your applications and doing good research will help you gain entry into a UK medical school.

A-levels entry

Due to the academic rigour of studying medicine, most medical schools in the UK have high academic requirements. The very minimum is AAB, but most places will require AAA. It is a safer bet to try to meet the minimum requirements rather than to apply with ABB-AAB because there is a lot of competition for entry into medical schools. It is important to research schools well before applying, as some may have even higher requirements such as Cambridge, which requires a minimum of A*A*A. If you have good grades but fail to meet Cambridge’s requirements, it would be wise to apply to four other medical schools that you qualify for instead. Being strategic with your applications will maximise your chances at admission.

For admission into all UK medical schools, it is recommended that you take Chemistry, Biology, and Mathematics or Physics. Some other schools may accept As in Chemistry and Biology, and an A in another subject. Additionally, you will need to take at least five subjects including English.

If you don’t meet the school’s grade requirements, it is possible to retake the exams or take additional subjects and try again. However, some schools such as Anglia Ruskin and Imperial College London will not consider retakes.

If your subject combinations do not meet requirements, you may qualify for pre-medical courses which are about a year long.

International Baccalaureate entry

On average, 36-38 points is the minimum required for entry into most medical schools, including 3-19 points for Higher Level (HL) subjects. Cambridge requires 40-42 points while on the lower end of requirements, Birmingham and Buckingham require a minimum of 32 and 34 points respectively. Similar to the A-level requirements, some subjects are mandatory so it is best to take the HL Chemistry and Biology subjects at IB.

English Language requirements

Applicants from countries that do not use English as a medium of instruction may have to take additional exams that test their proficiency in English. English language requirements vary from school to school, but IB English and GCSE English results may be accepted in place of IELTS/TOEFL. Some universities such as Aston may even accept a minimum of a B in the SPM 1119 (GCE-O) English Language paper in lieu of an IELTS/TOEFL certification. 

Otherwise, if you are required to take IELTS or TOEFL, a minimum IELTS score of 7.0-7.5 or a TOEFL score of 100 are typically required for admission.

Do You Require Work Experience To Apply For A Medical School?

To be clear, having work experience is not a requirement to apply to medical schools. However, it can help give you an idea of what you’ll be doing as a doctor, test your aptitude for the practical aspects of the job, and to familiarise yourself with a work environment such as a hospital or nursing home. Work experience will also bolster your application and give you some real-world examples to discuss during your UCAS interviews. Some may find it easier to draw from their own experiences when they’re giving a thoughtful reply during the interview.

As for the length of your work experience, it may not be essential as this is not officially part of the UCAS application requirements, but we recommend two months, or volunteer work once a week for six months. The purpose of working for a good amount of time is to demonstrate intent, dedication, and work ethics while you gain relevant experience.

The UCAS interview will be largely focused on the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), but for international students, it is still worthwhile learning how hospitals work before applying.

Many vacancies in the medical industry in Malaysia will require certifications and registration with the Ministry of Health, but there are still some short-term vacancies that are available for SPM and IGCSE leavers. Assistant nurses are often required in clinics – in this role you would be tasked with clerical duties such as collecting samples, dispensing medication and registering patients. Caregivers are also in demand in rehabilitation centres and elderly homes where you would assist the patients with ambulation, feeding, personal care and other activities.

Try to get in touch with a hospital or doctor and ask if you could shadow them for a while. These types of observations can help you understand how doctors interact with patients and nurses and the scope of their duties. You could start by doing research into nearby hospitals and clinics, then writing a letter or email addressed to the appropriate department that handles requests such as these. A reference from a teacher could help with your request.

Example of a request letter for work experience

Dear Puan Salmah,

Request for Work Experience

I am very interested in applying for some work experience at this hospital/clinic, and I was wondering if such an opportunity is available. I am currently in the first year of my A-levels studying Biology, Chemistry and English, and I would appreciate the opportunity to gain some practical experience during the upcoming holidays.

I would appreciate the chance to meet with a doctor to learn more about the profession, and if it is possible, I would like to be able to observe them at work to gain some insight into what they do and how they interact with patients, nurses, and other medical staff. I would greatly appreciate being able to gain first-hand experience on how hospitals work and what medical staff do on a daily basis.

If you require a reference, please feel free to contact my tutor, Mr. Chen, via phone at +6010 0000000 or email at [email protected]

Please contact me if you need further information or if you would like me to come to your office to discuss this in person.

Thank you, I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,
Roberta Loh

References

Being a doctor is as much of a test of character as it is about your academic aptitude. A reference from a teacher, tutor, principal, etc., will help greatly as it is their assessment of your character based on your proven attitude in class.

From your time in your A-levels, you should already be developing your interpersonal skills as much as you work on acing your subjects. This might seem to be an abstract and difficult thing to improve, but you can try to picture yourself as what any great doctor should be – empathetic, hardworking, a problem-solver, and a team player.

Make no mistake – doctors work together with nurses and other medical staff to give patients the best care possible. Considering that many schools employ group-based teaching styles, being a team player is one of the most important skills you could cultivate before you enter medical school. It is also a trait that will make you stand out if your referee happens to mention this about you.

As counterintuitive as it sounds, it is best for your referee to write their most honest opinion about you. Many reference letters are generic and can apply to anyone, but having an honest, heartfelt letter written by a tutor who knows you personally will really tell a reviewer about your demeanour and potential as an aspiring medical student. The only real way to get such a glowing reference letter is to earn it – show interest in what you’re learning by asking good questions, meet with your personal tutor occasionally and talk to them about areas for improvement, and most importantly, be respectful to everyone.

Make an Appointment with Britannia StudyLink Malaysia

We are a Kuala Lumpur-based education consultancy and we’ll be glad to guide you through the application process to study Medicine in the UK. You could make a free appointment with us to talk to one of our consultants by filling in our contact form or you can also contact us via WhatsApp (+6019 991 7575) to speak with us directly.

Choosing A Medical School

A degree in medicine will take at least five years of studies, so it is important that you choose your medical school wisely. Not only does the programme’s teaching style have to be suitable for you as the learner, the campus and its student life also has to be up to your liking. Additionally, different medical schools will require you to take different aptitude exams (BMAT, UCAT, GAMSAT) which means that you will have to prepare accordingly.

How To Research Medical Schools In The UK?

There are a number of ways you could gather the information you need about medical schools. For those who are not currently living in the UK, you could do research online using the UCAS website which provides good information about medical programmes. UCAS’ website also provides links to the university websites which makes research a lot easier for you.

Another way you could research medical schools online is by looking at university league tables. Rankings are not the be-all and end-all of medical schools, but every league table will rank universities based on different criteria such as student satisfaction and research quality which can give you a picture of what to expect. Check out our article about Top UK Universities for Medicine which includes a league table and our own curated list of recommended UK medical schools.

If you live in or have the opportunity to visit the UK, the most direct way to get information about medical schools is to attend their open days. You would get the chance to talk directly to their academic staff and students, take a look at the campus, and get a feel for the university. Make sure to book a spot in any relevant talks on the open day so you can get all the information you need and maximise your visit. If you’re visiting the campus but their open day is months away, it might also be possible to contact the school directly and ask if there are any opportunities for a campus tour. Otherwise, you could still visit the university and casually take a look around the campus, even if you’re not able to access the medical school.

Accreditation

Most universities in the UK are recognised by the Medical Schools Council and accredited by the General Medical Council. At the time of writing this, only a small number of schools are currently under review by the GMC:

  • Anglia Ruskin School of Medicine
  • Aston Medical School
  • University of Buckingham Medical School
  • University of Central Lancashire School of Medicine

The reason for their accreditation being put on review is solely due to these programmes being new – it is standard for the GMC to provide accreditation only after the first cohort has graduated from the programme. It should be of no concern as all medical programmes in the UK are closely monitored by the GMC and other relevant councils.

Teaching styles in UK Medical schools

Medical schools typically have two years of pre-clinical studies followed by three years of clinical studies. Medical schools have different styles of teaching which we can classify into a few categories: traditional, problem-based learning (PBL), case-based learning, integrated.

Most schools offer an integrated approach to teaching which is where basic medical sciences are taught concurrently with clinical studies. What this means is that theory is taught along with clinical training which develops the student’s knowledge as well as their clinical aptitude side by side. This approach is fully endorsed by the GMC which is why many universities have adopted this technique. Students will have patient contact which prepares them well for patient interactions and provides some practical experience.

Traditional teaching refers to the lecture-based approach where students gain knowledge by attending lectures. This is less commonly used in UK medical schools now, with only Cambridge, Oxford, Queen’s University and Belfast using this teaching style. Students undergo two to three years of theory taught in this technique followed by two to three years of clinical training which some may find causes a divide between knowledge and practice. This style of teaching suits students who learn best in a lecture theatre.

Another technique is problem-based learning (PBL) which is also endorsed by the GMC. Students learn in small groups and are presented with a problem, typically a clinical case, which they have to solve as a group. Students will have to work together to examine and dissect the problem and decide how to solve the problem. They then decide what they need to learn in order to solve the problem, conduct research independently, before returning to the group to report on their findings. Facilitators play a minimal role in this teaching style as the learning objectives are set by the students. The purpose of this open inquiry approach to teaching is to develop independent learning, problem-solving, and working in groups.

Case-based learning has a similar structure to PBL where students work in small groups and the teaching style employs an independent learning approach. This is implemented in many international medical schools and has been recently adopted by Cardiff – it is likely to be adopted by more schools in the UK as studies have shown it is a highly effective method of teaching. Case-based learning differs from PBL where learning objectives during group discussion have more guidance from a facilitator, which is also known as a guided inquiry approach. You could read more about PBL and case-based learning in this journal article.

Post-graduate studies and intercalated degrees

Students have the option to complete an intercalated degree, which allows them to incorporate an additional degree into their studies. This will take an additional year and it allows medical students to explore an area of studies in more depth. While there is often a broad range of degrees to choose from including subjects from the humanities such as philosophy and law, most go on to study biomedical or clinical sciences. There are also a wide range of post-graduate degrees for medical students that can further their training in medicine. Intercalated and post-graduate degrees may be advantageous for medical students who wish to go into research or specialise in the future.

How is support for applicants with disabilities?

UK universities generally provide good support for students with disabilities, including mobility aid users, students with impairments, long-term illnesses, learning difficulties and mental health concerns. There is usually a whole department dedicated to ensuring students with needs get proper provisions and adequate support throughout the course of their studies. If you require any provisions, it is best to consult the medical school before applying to ensure that they can meet your specific needs.

Foundation programme options for international students

As we have mentioned earlier, the stringent immigration laws in the UK now may mean that it would be difficult for international students to secure a foundation programme placement after graduating from the programme. Things could well change within the five years between the application date and graduation. However it is prudent to ask if the medical school accepts overseas training for the foundation programme in the event that the student cannot complete foundation in the UK and have to return to their country. This is especially important if you plan to practice in the UK in the future.

Campus location and student life

Although this is a more minor consideration, the location of the campus and student life will have a great impact on your wellbeing for five years or more. One important consideration is the availability of dorm rooms close to the medical school. For some international students, student societies such as the Malaysian Society can help combat feeling isolated or homesick. A lively student scene or the local sports can help bring some balance to your student life too. Perhaps for some students, it is important to have a spacious library where you enjoy studying or you want to be somewhere surrounded by greenery. Whatever the case may be for you, it is important to include these aspects when choosing a medical school.

International student presence

Success rates for international applicants are lower, at around 7%. For applicants that are not from the UK, it is a good idea to research how many international students are admitted into each medical school and to pick ones that have a higher international student presence. The University of Lancashire is the only UK medical school that admits mostly overseas applicants, so it might be worth considering this school in one of your four picks. 

Make an Appointment with Britannia StudyLink Malaysia

We are a Kuala Lumpur-based education consultancy and we’ll be glad to guide you through the application process to study Medicine in the UK. You could make a free appointment with us to talk to one of our consultants by filling in our contact form or you can also contact us via WhatsApp (+6019 991 7575) to speak with us directly.

UCAS Application Process

Students applying to study medicine in the UK will have to take the UCAT or BMAT which are aptitude tests for medicine. We recommend that you tailor your UCAS applications based on your test results from UCAT or BMAT. So, in this section, we will first discuss the aptitude tests before we walk you through the UCAS application process.

As the UCAT has earlier sittings than the BMAT, it is a good idea to first take the UCAT and decide which universities to apply to, or if the results are unfavourable to take the BMAT later – we go into more detail about these strategies in our Taking the UCAT and BMAT Guide.

After submitting your UCAS application and paying the application fees (£25 or approximately RM140), you will receive an application number as well as confirmations of your application from each school. Then, you may be called for an interview – for international students, some schools allow you to be interviewed outside the UK, but this may require a fee. If you have been accepted, you will be given an acceptance letter, which could either be a conditional or unconditional offer. In the case of an unconditional offer, this means that you have a secured position in the school and programme you applied to and you will be given about three weeks to respond to their offer. If you receive a conditional offer, it will usually state what those conditions are in the letter. This is common for applicants who have applied early using their predicted grades as the offer is based on the pending A-level results. You may only accept their offer once your A-level grades have been released to the university and all conditions have been met.

What is the UCAT and BMAT?

UCAT stands for University Clinical Aptitude Test – a total of 26 UK universities use UCAT for admission which makes this an important test for medical students. It is a computer-based test which assesses candidates based on five criteria: verbal reasoning, decision-making, quantitative reasoning, abstract reasoning, and situational judgement. Candidates are discouraged from preparing for the test aside from taking practice tests online – many students who have taken the UCAT found it particularly helpful to get practice on the timed IQ tests.

Students who wish to take UCAT must do so in an official centre. Registration for UCAT begins from as early as May and the test can be taken between July to October every year. It is recommended that you book a test early in this period which gives you time to prepare for the other aspects of the UCAS application, and if necessary, to take the BMAT exams. The UCAT costs £115 (approximately RM620) to take outside of the EU.

The BioMedical Admissions Test, or BMAT, is a written test that is used by eight medical schools in the UK including Oxbridge and UCL. BMAT has three components which tests students on aptitude and skills; scientific knowledge and applications; and writing tasks. One of the test centres for BMAT in Malaysia is the University of Malaya (UM). It costs only RM200 for Malaysians to take the exam in UM but there is only a sitting for this paper in February. The paper is a standard BMAT exam and registration will be done through UM instead of BMAT. You could learn more from UM’s website here. Another option is to take the exam at a British Council centre (more information here) which has a sitting in October, but you may have to pay the full fee of £122 (approximately RM660).

The Graduate Medical Schools Admission Test, or GAMSAT, is also an aptitude test, but this is only for graduate-level entry programmes. These programmes are for students who already have a Bachelor’s degree and are choosing to re-specialize in medicine.

Our Taking the UCAT and BMAT Guide goes into further detail about what to expect at the exams, how to prepare for them, and application strategies for UCAS. The general wisdom is to take the UCAT first as the results are released right after taking the test, then tailoring the application for schools that accept UCAT. If the UCAT score is unfavourable, there is still the option to take the BMAT later. The UCAS deadline for medical schools is around mid-October, which leaves applicants enough time if they took the UCAT as early as possible (around July) and then for a backup they can take the BMAT before the application is due. It is slightly different for those in Malaysia as there is the option to sit for the BMAT in February, but we’ll cover this in greater detail in Taking the UCAT and BMAT Guide.

Learn Everything You Need To Know About Taking The UCAT Exam

UCAT is one of the important admission tests for aspiring medical students. We’ve written a comprehensive guide along with practice questions and other useful information you should read before you sit for the exam. Check out our UCAT guide now!

How to Make a Good UCAS Application?

There are many factors that determine successful applications once you have met all requirements – as we have mentioned before, although grades are important, you should assume most applicants also have good grades so you have to stand out with your application.

As international students face greater competition, it is recommended that you consult informally with the medical school before submitting your UCAS application. Some simple things you could do to maximise your chances are to apply early, be strategic about the schools you apply to and to ensure the application is filled out correctly. Learning everything you can about the NHS, gaining work experience, and learning what doctors do will certainly put you at an advantage later on. However, with all things equal, the two things that set an outstanding candidate apart from the rest are their personal statement and their performance at the interview.

The Fifth UCAS choice

You can only pick four medical schools in your application. The fifth option can be left blank or filled with a non-medical programme with a lower grade requirement. Many aspiring medical students will leave the fifth option blank as they are sure that medicine is right for them, but some may choose a medical-related programme such as biomedical studies or neurosciences as their fifth choice to maximise their chances of getting an offer. There is no right or wrong here – it is both valid to leave this blank if you are only interested in medicine or to include a fifth choice if you want another option. If you’re leaving this blank, you should objectively consider your chances of getting an offer and the amount of effort and money that has already been invested in the application process. Do consider having a backup plan if your utmost interest is pursuing a medical degree.

How to Write a UCAS Personal Statement

The personal statement is the most crucial part of your application. This is key in determining whether you get an invitation to be interviewed or if your application gets put to the side by the reviewer.

Your personal statement should include these key themes:

  • Why you want to be a doctor
  • What you have done to learn about the profession of medicine – work experience, self-studying/research
  • Why you are the right candidate for their medical school – your personal traits, qualities, and academic aptitude

Be mindful of the very basics of writing – ensure that your personal statement has been meticulously checked for errors, does not exceed UCAS’ limit of 47 lines or 4000 characters (roughly 500 words), complies with all their guidelines, and make sure it is not plagiarised – even copying a sentence is frowned upon as plagiarism is a big academic offence. Work on your draft weeks before the application deadline, seek feedback from others, and amend your personal statement to your liking before you hit the submit button. Be sure to display personal flair, academic merits, and any extracurricular activities that you have been involved in. If you have work or volunteer experience, a large portion of your personal statement should be about this. Discuss your experiences in relation to your future as a medical student.

There are no fixed formats for writing a personal statement as it should be something that comes from you, but we have an example below which could give you an idea on how to go about writing yours.

Example of a UCAS personal statement for medicine

When I was playing hockey at the national levels, I had a coach who would always say, the best we can give is our all to the team. The mantra stuck with me and I always made sure to take training just as seriously as I took competitions. That was the level of dedication to the craft that I saw everyday in hospitals among doctors and nurses. I have seen how doctors find fulfillment in their work by giving the best they can to others which is what cemented my decision to study medicine.

I gained valuable insight into the industry from my time shadowing a doctor in Hospital Kuala Lumpur, a public hospital in Malaysia. I am under no illusion about how demanding the job is – doctors are highly committed, working tirelessly despite the long hours and heavy workload to ensure all patients get the best level of care possible. In the emergency department, patients would arrive in varying states of distress and pain. A young patient had been admitted with an open fracture of his left forearm and was visibly afraid. The doctor examined the patient’s arm while talking directly to him to explain what was going to happen to his forearm, all while reassuring him about his fears of the hospital and the injury. This highlighted the importance of good communication and empathy as a doctor and I hope to emulate that. I also witnessed a patient who had fallen into a coma following a hypoglycaemic episode and the crash team’s response to regain the patient’s consciousness. The patient had diabetes with comorbidities of atherosclerosis and cirrhosis so the team had to be sure that none of the medication administered on the patient had adverse effects. This showed me the attention to detail needed in the medical field, especially in critical moments. I was in awe of the professionalism demonstrated by the medical staff which was inspiring in how they worked together for a patient’s care.

Reflecting on my time spent in the hospital made me realise that I’m privileged to be protected under the national healthcare system. While Malaysians can seek medical help for a small fee, we have shortcomings in providing refugees affordable healthcare. For many who cannot afford to pay for private healthcare, they may put off treatment which could worsen their condition. I believe that there should be universal access to the national healthcare system as is the case in the UK’s NHS. My experience in the hospital helped me understand that every system presents its challenges such as funding and policies.

Over the past year, I have been volunteering as the coordinator of an Animal Welfare student initiative. Some of us noticed stray animals in our school had been culled which is not only inhumane, we found through research that it is an ineffective method of animal population control. We formed the group to campaign to end culling and to run our own Trap-Neuter-Release programme. As the coordinator, it is my responsibility to ensure that there is a steady roster of volunteers responding to calls about injured animals, organise logistics for sending animals to be spayed, and to secure food supply from the school’s canteen for animals in our care. Not only has this volunteer work honed by communication and problem-solving skills, it has been an enormous responsibility coordinating a group of fifteen volunteers. We have seen a drop in strays recently and I feel privileged to be part of such a great team.

I have dedicated the last few years towards meeting the requirements for medical school and sharpening the skills I need to become a doctor. I have proven myself to be empathetic, an able communicator, a team player, and someone who can handle responsibilities. There is no doubt in my mind that medicine is the right career for me, even if it is one that fluctuates from being immensely rewarding to extremely challenging. My observations have only furthered my desire to practise as a doctor.

Make an Appointment with Britannia StudyLink Malaysia

We are a Kuala Lumpur-based education consultancy and we’ll be glad to guide you through the application process to study Medicine in the UK. You could make a free appointment with us to talk to one of our consultants by filling in our contact form or you can also contact us via WhatsApp (+6019 991 7575) to speak with us directly.

Preparing for the UCAS Interview

Once you submit your UCAS application along with your personal statement, you have to wait to hear from the universities that you have applied to. If they are impressed by your application, you will receive an invitation to interview via email. The interviews conducted may be multiple mini interviews (MMIs) or a panel interview.

International applicants may be given the option to be interviewed online or in person outside the UK. For Cambridge, applicants may interview in Kuala Lumpur but it requires a fee of £150 (approximately RM810).

The interview is the very last stage of your application process, so it’s important that you prepare well. We will take a look at questions that have been asked in these interviews before so you can have an idea of what to expect, but you may just get an unpredictable question at your interview. Interviews can be highly stressful but practicing can help you curb the nerves and clear your mind to formulate a good and thoughtful response to a question.

Some typical themes in the interview include:

  • Why do you want to become a doctor?
  • What have you done to show your commitment to medicine and to the community?
  • Why have you applied to this medical school?

Use everything in this guide to help formulate your answers for these questions. Try to avoid simplistic answers such as, “I want to be a doctor because my father is a doctor,” or “It is a noble profession,” as it shows little initiative or personality in your answer. Interviewers are looking for answers that show you have given this profession a lot of thought and consideration. If you’re stumped on a question, think about what you have written on your personal statement.

Besides, all the research that you have put into choosing a medical school is valuable during the interview as it demonstrates planning, and our guide has already given you a number of reasons why you applied to the medical school you chose – the school’s teaching method, the option to do the foundation year abroad, student life balance, and so on. The work experience that you have undertaken, along with any other initiatives that you have made – including copious research for your UCAS application – all counts as your show of commitment towards becoming a doctor.

If you’re overwhelmed by nerves, take a moment to think about the question and remind yourself of what your objectives are. All your personal motivations for wanting to become a doctor might inspire your answer.

A big part of the interview questions are designed to test your knowledge of medicine. While they do not expect you to know everything at this stage, they are testing you to see how much initiative you have put into researching these topics yourself. There will be questions about the NHS and common medical conditions which most people will have heard of.

Bear in mind that our list only contains some of the questions that have been asked before, and it is in no way comprehensive – these questions may change from year to year and there is no way to predict what an interviewer will ask. These only give you a picture of what to expect, but only the interviewers can decide what will come up at your interview.

The following are the areas that you will be tested on:

  1. Major medical issues
  2. The medical profession
  3. The National Health Service and funding health
  4. Private medicine
  5. Ethical questions
  6. Other issues

Topic 1: Major medical issues

You have to demonstrate an interest in medicine and have some knowledge of commonly heard illnesses. Chronic fatigue syndrome or myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) is characterised by a long-term tiredness and it is an illness that currently has no cure. Mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder are a major group of illnesses that affect a lot of people globally – these are often treated through lifestyle changes and psychotherapy and managed with medication. Lyme disease, also known as borrelia or borreliosis, is a type of infection caused by a tick bite with symptoms that may affect the skin, heart, joints and the nervous system. It can cause symptoms such as a headache, muscle pain, and swollen lymph glands. Symptoms may present days after the bite, but may take months or years in some cases. You may also be asked about communicable diseases such as COVID-19, Ebola, and MRSA, where questions may test your critical thinking such as why COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, or why the flu or Ebola had been reported so heavily in the news while more deaths have resulted from accidents. You should also know about the big killers which are heart disease, dementia and cancer in the UK, and how they may be prevented and treated. Do some research about different regions too, as they may ask questions about the global picture on health, such as trends in global population, the biggest killers in different regions, and the differences in medical standards between developed and developing countries. The Human Genome Project and gene therapy are also common topics – do familiarise yourself with developments in genetic research. Diet, exercise and the environment is about disease prevention by maintaining a healthy diet and environment, avoiding a sedentary lifestyle, smoking cessation, and so on.

Topic 2: The medical profession

These questions will test you on your understanding of the medical profession and what being a doctor entails. This will include questions about your understanding of the skills and attributes that a doctor needs. Consider the technical skills that doctors require – they have to carry out thorough examinations, make swift and accurate diagnoses, have the skills to choose and organise the correct treatment, and the precision to carry out treatment. They also have to be clear yet sympathetic communicators to be able to explain the illness and treatment plan to a patient. Further, doctors have to have good teamwork skills, empathy, and the ability to work under pressure. The interviewers may even ask you to define what you think some of these traits mean – you could explain these using a scenario or something that you have experienced before.

Topic 3: The National Health Service and funding health

This could be tricky for international candidates as it will require a bit of research about the NHS – however, with enough knowledge about the NHS, it will demonstrate critical thinking if you could talk about UK’s healthcare in comparison to your own country’s healthcare system.

You will be closely acquainted with the NHS as a medical student, which is why this is an important subject for you to know, even if you’re not a UK citizen. Do read up on some key issues that surround the NHS, such as: funding, staff shortages, UK’s social care crisis, the cost of treating problems related to lifestyle diseases (obesity, lung cancer from smoking, etc.), caring for the ageing population, and the NHS’ move towards privatisation.

Topic 4: Private medicine

Many countries have a system similar to the UK where there is a national healthcare system like the NHS which provides services using taxpayers’ money, while there is also the option of private hospitals and practices. Any aspiring doctor would need to understand the dynamics between the NHS and private medicine as it is not only a divisive topic in the political sphere and the industry, it is also one that affects consultant doctors, many of whom work in the private sector for part of their income. A large part of the discussion about privatised medicine and the NHS revolve around the funding and limitations of the NHS, such as waiting lists.

Topic 5: Ethical questions

If you are asked questions about ethics, these are in relation to clinical scenarios and you will be asked what you will do in these situations. Rest assured, you are not expected to debate moral philosophies. These questions are solely to gauge your grasp on medical ethics, not your personal opinions or your understanding of the moralities behind these cases.

A classic case is where someone refuses a blood transfusion due to their religious beliefs. While this may be a straightforward example, the interviewer may ask how you would feel if the case was a parent refusing blood transfusion for their baby. In contrast to that, you may also be asked about the ethics of euthanasia.

Having a good grasp on the code of medical ethics can help you prepare for these types of questions. A great resource on medical ethics can be found here on Patient.info.

Topic 6: Other issues

There may be any number of questions about medicine that an interviewer may ask you. Questions such as whether smokers should be treated in the NHS or if it is right to ration healthcare (ie. choosing between two patients) are all designed to test your awareness of current issues and if you have demonstrated critical thinking about these topics.

Again, you are not expected to have in-depth knowledge of each of these topics, but it is important to show that you have made the initiative to at least understand some common issues related to medicine.

Aside from medicine and the main themes, some other questions interviewers may ask are aimed at finding out if you have the necessary skills to be a doctor, questions about your UCAS personal statement, how you may contribute to the life of the medical school (a question to gauge your study-life balance) or unpredictable questions that are not related to medicine at all to see how you think on your feet. Brushing up on what you wrote in the personal statement before the interview could help you in the event that you are asked about it.

What Are Multiple Mini Interviews (MMIs)?

MMIs are a form of interview where candidates are given a number of small interviews and tasks to do. For example, the MMIs in the University of Bristol consists of ten five-minute mini interviews. Candidates move to different stations and will receive instructions explaining what they will be required to do. Each station may vary in format and type, but you could expect to be presented with role play scenarios. MMIs also tests candidates for attention to detail, especially in reading written instructions, and active listening. In a way, it is an interview by way of showing, rather than talking.

The majority of universities have moved towards using MMIs as panel interviews have been found to be a poor indicator of a student’s performance as a medical student. Besides, it is also possible for candidates to be heavily coached to ace panel interviews. Therefore, some universities have not shared much details about their MMI to retain its efficacy in testing certain attributes of a candidate.

While every school may have their own design for their MMI, we do know that the objective of it is to test the candidate’s:

  • Compassion and empathy
  • Initiative and resilience
  • Interpersonal and communication skills
  • Organisational skills, problem-solving skills, decision-making, critical thinking
  • Team working
  • Insight and integrity

Body language

In general, be sure to demonstrate good etiquette by dressing and behaving appropriately during the interview. Be sure to speak clearly and assume a friendly and positive attitude. Try to make eye contact with the interviewers. Take a moment at the beginning of the interview to be aware of how you are seated and how your arms are rested – a pair of crossed arms may look defensive, even if it might be a natural position for you. Finally, try to ask your friends if you have any habits which may be distracting during an interview, such as clicking a pen repeatedly, chewing on your fingers, or touching your face.

Make an Appointment with Britannia StudyLink Malaysia

We are a Kuala Lumpur-based education consultancy and we’ll be glad to guide you through the application process to study Medicine in the UK. You could make a free appointment with us to talk to one of our consultants by filling in our contact form or you can also contact us via WhatsApp (+6019 991 7575) to speak with us directly.

After You Apply

So you have jumped through every hurdle, it has all come to waiting for an email and spending days refreshing the UCAS track website repeatedly. There are a number of outcomes that could happen, and we’ll take you through each of them along with our advice about what to do in these situations.

I have received some conditional offers, but I couldn’t take the A-level exams

Immediately notify the medical school. With ample notification and a valid reason, exam boards may grant you extenuating circumstances, allow for you to defer your studies, or provide some other provision for your situation. It may help to explain your situation to your teacher and have them write to the relevant medical schools and boards.

I have good grades, but no offer

If you have three As in the science subjects and you were rejected from all your top choices, you could consider writing to the schools that have rejected your application and politely ask for clarifications about why you’ve been rejected. An alternative is to go through the UCAS Adjustment process (see below).

I have received no offers and I want to switch courses

If you have received absolutely no offers, you can apply for a different course through the Clearing system.

I accepted a lower grade offer, but I got better grades than I expected

If, for example, you originally received and accepted an unconditional BBB offer for biomedical studies but you did better than you expected and achieved AAAs, you can go through the UCAS Adjustment process to swap your offer for a different conditional offer, or for a different course. Some other applicants may have missed their conditions or decided to swap courses, so there may be something available for you in Adjustments.

I got a conditional offer and I missed the grades

If you have only missed the required grades narrowly, you can contact the school to see if they would still admit you. It is a long shot as it is a highly competitive subject, but there is no harm in sending an email to ask.

If you are unsuccessful, it is possible to retake your A-level or IB exams and try to apply again, although you should take note that not all schools will accept retakes. Alternatively, consider pursuing your studies elsewhere (see below).

I got a conditional offer and I got the grades

Congratulations, you’re admitted! If you’ve met all of your conditions, you simply need to wait for your school to send you joining instructions.

I don’t have the grades and I still want to pursue medicine

So the rejection stings and the journey has been difficult, but not all hope is lost as you can always consider studying elsewhere. There are plenty of outstanding medical programmes outside of the UK that have lower academic requirements. The good news is that A-levels and IB will be accepted in most universities in the world so you should have little issues finding an appropriate school.

Visa Application

The student visa application process to the UK operates on a point system. For international students from outside of the EU, you can apply for the Tier 4 (General) Student Visa with the following:

Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies document (30 points)
— You must obtain this document from your university.
— Your university must be on the latest Tier 4 register of sponsors.

Funding (10 points)
— You need to provide evidence that you will be able to pay for your tuition fees and monthly living expenses.
— Do take note that international students pay a vastly higher tuition. For some medical programmes and in advanced years of study, the annual tuition fee is around £40,000.

Visa Application form
— Complete the form online, then head to the nearest visa application centre to provide them your biometric information (fingerprints and photograph).

Immigration Health Service charges
— This provides students access to the NHS. The health surcharge is £150 (approximately RM810) a year. The fee is payable online when you submit your visa application.

Visa fee of £348 (approximately RM1880)

Students may arrive in the UK up to a month before the start date of their medical programme. Make sure that you have a valid passport and visa. When you arrive in the UK, bring along a copy of the Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies document and evidence that you have funds to pay for your tuition and living expenses. These documents are to be presented to the immigration officer should they be required, so make sure that you have a copy on board with you. A good reference for any further concerns is the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) website.

Fees and Funding

Securing funding will be vital before you consider studying medicine in the UK. Before you even begin your programme, the application, aptitude tests, and visa application will already cost about £760 which is roughly RM4100. Be sure to do research about tuition fees and living costs as places such as London would have vastly higher monthly living expenses. It may be a good idea to look into scholarships, although full medical school scholarships are rare due to the hefty fees. Regardless, there may be a discount or partial scholarship from the school for students with excellent grades so it might be worth asking about them before applying.

List of Scholarships

While you’re studying

There is no doubt that medicine is an extremely rigorous programme. You may find yourself studying twice as hard as students of other faculties, and spare time may be scarce, especially in your clinical studies years. Still, it is important to find a study-life balance amidst your packed schedule.

Burnout is unfortunately common amongst medical students. While this is largely due to the heavy workloads and the immense pressure which is the nature of medical programmes, good stress management techniques can help channel how you feel into a more positive direction. Just as you would be advising your future patients, it is important that you take preventive steps to care for your health. Over time, stress can find a way to eat at you, whether that be physically or mentally. Find healthy hobbies, destress, and make sure that you maintain a social life outside of your studies. Do consult your university’s wellbeing counsellor or psychologist if you feel that you’re in need of support – they are there to help you and they can teach you how to manage stress.

There may come a time when you might fail and need to repeat a block or subject. Even some of the best doctors have had to repeat the occasional block or subject – if this happens to you and you feel bad about failing, just remember that the course is extremely demanding and it’s among some of the most difficult degrees out there. If your studies are starting to get overwhelming and you find that you’re struggling to keep up, you might want to consider talking to your university wellbeing counsellor and see if deferring your studies might be an option. It is best in some extreme situations to take a rest, recover, and return to your studies happier, rather than to struggle and continuously fail to keep up.

When you graduate

Once you receive your MBChB, you have to complete your foundation year in the UK in order to gain a full registration with the GMC, which allows you to practice in the UK. As mentioned earlier in the guide, international students may have a hard time obtaining a foundation year placement in the UK due to strict immigration laws.

Some medical schools may allow the foundation year to be completed overseas. This leaves Malaysian MBChB holders the possibility of returning to Malaysia, completing the house officer training in the country, and still retain their GMC registration in the UK. The Malaysian equivalent of the foundation programme is the house officer training programme, or housemanship, which takes two years to complete. However, there is a waiting list for placement in the programme of between three months to a year.

Following that, you can choose to continue with a specialisation or practice as a doctor in any hospital or clinic. At this stage, if you want to return to the UK to practise, you can do so by applying through GMC.

Additional Information

Medlink UK is an organisation that provides advice, seminars and other information for students who want to study medicine in the UK.

The Royal College of Physicians (RCP) is a great resource for any medical student or professional.

Make an Appointment with Britannia StudyLink Malaysia

We are a Kuala Lumpur-based education consultancy and we’ll be glad to guide you through the application process to study Medicine in the UK. You could make a free appointment with us to talk to one of our consultants by filling in our contact form or you can also contact us via WhatsApp (+6019 991 7575) to speak with us directly.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

WhatsApp chat