The process of applying for medical school can seem daunting. The different courses available, the varying entry requirements and the pressure to ensure you choose the right university for you can all make this process more confusing. Given the competitive nature of medical school applications it’s important that you do your research and ensure that you meet the entry requirements for your chosen universities.
There are a number of different routes into the medical profession so it’s worth exploring the different options and what is most suitable given your qualifications and experience.
This is usually a 5 year course, although some universities deliver it over 6 years. You may also find different abbreviations, such as MBBS or MBChB, depending on the institution, but the outcome with all is a bachelor’s degree in medicine.
Also known as the Graduate Entry Programme, this is usually a 4 year accelerated degree, although some universities do deliver it over 5 years. The programme is available to applicants who have a bachelor’s degree: some medical schools will specify that this must be a science or health related degree, but many accept a bachelor’s degree in any subject, so it’s important that you check the entry requirements for individual institutions.
This is usually delivered over 6 years, with a ‘Gateway’ or foundation year incorporated into the course; however, some institutions offer the foundation year as a stand alone course, which then allows you to progress on to the Standard Entry Medicine course. The route is the result of a widening participation initiative and is open to UK applicants who do not meet the entry requirements for Standard Entry Medicine but who could be identified as having barriers to their learning.
The entry requirements are usually one or two grades lower (at A Levels / Scottish Highers) than those required for Standard Entry Medicine but it is essential that you meet specific widening participation criteria. The criteria is generally centered around where a student lives and what school they attend: for example, if you live in an area of low progression to higher education. Personal circumstances are also usually considered within the widening participation criteria: for example, if you have spent time in local authority care.
The criteria varies slightly per university so it’s essential that you check individual institutions’ entry requirements and it is worth noting that some are local widening participation initiatives and are therefore only available if you live local to the university.
Similar to the courses offering a ‘Gateway Year’, this route delivers an additional year (sometimes referred to as a foundation year) prior to the completion of the 5 year Standard Entry Medicine course, making it a 6 year delivery in total. However, this differs from the ‘Gateway Year’ route as it is intended for students who achieve the required entry grades at A Level but who do not have the required science subjects. The additional year provides you with the necessary science required in order to access Standard Entry Medicine.
Currently the only institutes offering this route are Cardiff University School of Medicine and University of Manchester Medical School.
Entry requirements vary depending on the route taken; as mentioned, Medicine with a Gateway Year requests lower A Level / Scottish Higher grades than Standard Entry Medicine (usually one or two grades lower) if you meets specific widening participation criteria; whereas, Medicine with a Preliminary Year omits the specified science subjects requested but requires the same grades as Standard Entry Medicine.
Graduate Entry Medicine requests a minimum 2:1 in a previous bachelor’s degree, with some universities specifying that this must be a science or health related degree; the only exception to this is the University of Nottingham Medical School, which requests a minimum 2:2. Often you can apply during your final year of your bachelor’s degree and obtain a conditional offer, so it’s worth clarifying this with individual institutions if you’re currently studying for a degree. The entry requirements for A Level / Scottish Higher and GCSE grades varies significantly for Graduate Entry Medicine, with some institutions outlining minimum requirements for grades and/or specific subjects studied and some not scoring them at all within the entry requirements, so again it’s important to check the requirements for individual medical schools. You'll also find more information in our Graduate Entry Medicine blog.
For Standard Entry Medicine applicants are generally required to complete A Levels / Scottish Highers in either Chemistry and Biology (plus an additional subject) or Chemistry or Biology and one of either Chemistry, Biology, Human Biology, Maths or Physics (plus an additional subject). UK medical schools will also usually outline subjects which will not be accepted as a third A Level, these tend to include General Studies, Critical Thinking and Citizenship.
For entry on to the Standard Entry Medicine programme, the majority of universities request AAA at A Level, although some do accept AAB or specify that a grade B will be accepted if an A*A is achieved for two science subjects.
The following universities and medical schools offer entry onto Standard Entry Medicine with AAB grades in A Levels:
A number of universities request higher than AAA, usually A*AA. See below a full list of medical schools with higher entry requirements than AAA for A Levels:
For Scottish Highers AA is generally required for Advanced Highers; however, there is variation between institutions with some universities accepting AB and some requesting 3 Advanced Highers ranging from AAA - BBB, so it’s important that you check the requirements for individual universities.
For Standard Entry Medicine applicants are generally required to have a minimum of 5 GCSEs graded 6 (B) or above; although this does vary, with some medical schools requesting a higher minimum number of GCSEs and some requesting lower minimum grades (4 / C). Universities also normally identify minimum grades for Science subjects, Maths and English.
The following medical schools do not identify specific entry requirements for GCSE grades:
Applications for UK medical schools are submitted through UCAS and generally include the following elements:
If your UCAS application is successful you’ll then be invited to an interview at the university: all UK medical schools carry out interviews before offering applicants a place on the programme. Generally the interview method is a series of mini interviews and/or panel interviews; at this stage your personal statement may be referred to or used as a basis for questions and you’ll be given an opportunity to discuss any work experience you have carried out. Again, the requirements for work experience varies across the universities: some medical school request that you have work experience which gives you an insight into the healthcare profession, whereas others just want experience of working directly with people, although in a supportive or caring role will be an advantage. Whatever your work experience, it is vital that you can reflect on what you have learnt and how the experience has developed behaviours and skills required in the medical profession.
Generally personal statements are not scored and are often not read prior to offering an interview; however, they are in some cases used as part of the interview process or before an offer is made, particularly where applicants have similar qualifications. As personal statements are generally referred to at some stage of the application process, they should identify your commitment and motivation to study medicine, as well as any work experience and skills that are relevant. Our Medicine Personal Statement blog has lots of useful information and tips for writing a successful statement.
The majority of UK medical schools include an admissions test as part of their entry requirements, with the exception of the University of Buckingham Medical School and the University of Central Lancashire Medical School. There are three admissions tests, meaning you may need to complete more than one depending on the medical schools you are applying for and the test required for each.
It’s important that you check registration and completion deadline dates for each test to ensure these are not missed. This information is listed on the individual test websites, along with past practice papers, question banks and further resources to support preparing for the admissions test. A link to each of the websites is included below.
The admissions tests are:
The University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) is used as part of the application selection process as a way of identifying applicant’s mental ability, characteristics, attitudes and professional behaviours required for medicine. The UCAT is a computer-based test, which is delivered in Pearson VUE test centres; you must register between May and September and complete the test between July and October. You will be given your results on the day of the test and a copy will also be sent to your chosen medical school after the UCAS deadline.
The BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) is used as part of the application selection process to assess an applicant's ability to apply scientific and mathematical knowledge, their problem solving and critical thinking skills, and their written communication skills. There are two test dates per year: one in early September and one in late October/early November. In both cases your registration should be completed at least a month prior to the test, although late registrations were possible until the UCAS application deadline on 15 October 2019 for the October/November test for 2020 entry.
The BMAT is a two hour written test which is divided into three sections:
The Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT) is predominately used for applicants for Graduate Entry Medicine, although some medical schools use UCAT or BMAT, and a small number use GAMSAT for Standard Entry Medicine programmes. GAMSAT assesses an applicant’s ability to use concepts in basic science, as well as their problem solving, critical thinking and writing skills. There are two GAMSAT test dates per year: March and September. You must register and complete the GAMSAT before submitting your UCAS application.
A full list of universities and medical schools that require UCAT, BMAT or GAMSAT admissions test is below:
Please note: where it is not directly specified, the admission test listed is for Standard Entry Medicine and any Medicine with a Preliminary Year or Medicine with a Gateway Year programmes that the university offers.
The following list of the Top 10 medical schools in the UK is taken from The Complete University Guide Medicine League Table for 2020, which takes into consideration entry standards, student satisfaction, research quality and graduate prospects.
For more detailed information see our Best Medical Schools blog.
All information and entry criteria are correct for the academic year 2020.
The following documentation has been used for the research of entry criteria, admission tests and league tables, which you may also find useful for further information: