Why study graduate entry medicine?
Making the decision to study medicine should be one that you have thought long and hard about. Giving yourself an extra 3 years to make that decision, when you are (a little) older and wiser can only be a good thing. It allows you to get an idea of all the other courses and options that are out there, which is something that can be lacking in school or college career services. Studying another degree beforehand, be it Biology or Philosophy will enable you to have the real university experience before you get thrown into a very intense degree with lots of responsibility. It will also let you develop your study skills and get the work-life balance right, which will make learning medicine easier! It may seem like a long haul but realistically it isnt much longer than studying for a masters or PHD, or even entering some graduate training programmes. Above all, medicine remains an incredibly rewarding and varied career, which will let you develop as both a professional and a human being for the rest of your life.
The funding available for graduate medicine can be confusing, and comes from various sources. Heres what you need to know:
3,465 of your tuition fees must be funded out of your own pocket. You cannot get a loan or bursary from either the NHS or Student Finance for this amount. This is why many graduate medics take at least one year out to work before applying. If you are eligible, you can get a loan for the remaining 5,535 from Student Finance. You should also still be able to get a maintenance loan from student finance to cover your living costs, although bear in mind that this is still partly means tested.
You will need to apply for the NHS bursary at the end of your 1st year. The NHS will cover the initial 3,465 in these years and you can apply for a loan from student finance for the remainder of your tuition fees. Then, you are eligible for a non means tested grant of 1000 and a further means tested grant of up to 2,643 based on a 30 week term. You will be given a further 84 a week for every week over 30 that you are in University (more if you study in London). When applying for funding from the NHS you must first check whether you qualify as a dependent or independent student, as this may affect the amount of means tested funding available to you. Student finance will also provide you with a non means tested loan of up to 2,324 (more if you study in London).
There are 14 universities in the UK that offer graduate entry medicine courses. When considering which universities to apply to you should take into account the structure and teaching style of the course, how big a cohort they accept each year and how far away you could be sent on your placements. A lot of people are attracted to London universities as they have a certain prestige and the quality of teaching is considered to be very high. However, living in London is a lot more expensive than other places and when you apply for the foundation programme after you graduate there are no bonus points for attending a London University.
Most Universities ask for at least an upper 2nd class honours degree (2.1), a few will accept a 2.2 but it does somewhat limit your options. The vast majority of universities will also ask you sit an entrance exam (discussed further below), with different courses having different thresholds for offering an interview. It is also very important that you have relevant work experience or better still, have actually worked in the healthcare field. Many students choose to work as healthcare assistants in a nursing home or hospital before applying. As well as making your CV look good this will also give you some insight into what it is like to work in the healthcare.
There are 3 entrance exams used for graduate medicine in the UK. They are the UKCAT, GAMSAT and BMAT. You
can check each universities website to see which one they use. Heres a breakdown of each:
UKCAT. This is the test that all undergraduate applicants sit. It is a clinical aptitude test that is taken on a computer at a testing centre and has 5 sections (verbal reasoning, decision making, quantitative reasoning, abstract reasoning and situational judgement). At the end of the test you are given a print out of your results for each section and an overall score. The advantage to this test is that you have your score before you apply and University thresholds tend to not vary much from year to year so you can be confident you meet their criteria before applying. It also only takes around 2 hours and costs between 65 and 80 depending on when you sit it. Also, you choose the date you want to sit the test on.
This test is purely for graduate students. It has 3 sections: reasoning in humanities and social sciences, written communication and reasoning in biological and physical sciences. The big downside to the GAMSAT is that you only receive your score after youve applied, so if you dont get the score you wanted you will have to wait another year to apply. However, if you do get a good score but arent successful at interview, your score is valid for 2 years so you can reapply next year without having to re-sit the GAMSAT. It is a lot more expensive than the UKCAT, and a lot longer (it takes around 5.5 hours). Everyone sits the exam on the same day, which is in September
BMAT. This test is just used by the University of Oxford and Imperial College London. It is a 2 hour pen and paper test divided into 3 sections: aptitude and skills, scientific knowledge and applications and a writing task. The level of scientific knowledge needed is to school GSCE level. The BMAT costs 45 to sit, and takes place in November (after you will have sent off your UCAS application).
If you manage to score highly enough in the entrance exams and you meet the rest of the Universities entry criteria you will be called for interview. Different universities have their own interview styles and it is important to check before you attend so you are fully prepared. The 2 most common types are a classic panel interview, which is similar to a job interview and MMI (multiple mini interviews). At an MMI you will be in a room with other applicants and will rotate around different cubicles every 5 minutes. During each station you will either be asked to answer a question or you may be asked to act out a scenario with an actor.
After you have had your interview you will be contacted by the university directly. You will either be given an offer, put on a waiting list or rejected. Just because you have been rejected once does not mean you shouldnt try again, medicine is an incredibly competitive field to get into. Use your extra time off to get some more work experience, save some money or travel!