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Medicine application and GCSE results

Uploaded by matt101 | Jun 11, 2008 | UCAS Personal Statements
matt101 asks:

Hi there,

Im currently a student at college who has just sat AS Chemistry, AS Biology and AS History exams ( and feel they went well :) i am wanting to study medicine at university HOWEVER my gcses are very poor due to me being a lazy student in high school i have ( AAABCCCC ). However i have now decided that i love learning and have worked hard throughout my AS year and was predicted AAA. i was wonderng if i could get some advice about my application this summer. I understand that i will be competeing with some amazing candidates so during my A2 year i am planning to pick up AS Physics and resiting my gsce science and maths. i also have alot of work experience as i feel i would need to have alot to prove that i am capable of pursueing medicine. Any advice for me? should i mention on my personal statement that im now a different student to the one who lazily walked through his GCSEs?

Any help would be great!


etutor answers:

I'm glad that you seem now to have seen the light! Your most recent results will be the most important, and so it is essential that you achieve A grades in your AS exams if your application is to be taken seriously. You will also need a referee who is prepared to state that you are likely to achieve A grades at A2 level next year as well, and that you have come on very strongly academically in the sixth form. The fact that you are picking up AS Physics from scratch is a clear bonus, and needs to be stressed.

It is important that your UCAS Personal Statement focuses on your strengths, and so it is not advisable to draw attention to idleness in the past. What you need to do is to provide evidence that you have the capacity to make a success of a Medicine degree. All institutions screen the UCAS forms, with those applicants not meeting the specifications appearing in the entry profile almost certain to be rejected. Applicants who overcome this first obstacle then often find themselves completing detailed admissions questionnaires (possibly over the internet), with their responses, together with the content of their UCAS Personal Statement, having a significant bearing on whether they reach the interview shortlist. Some institutions alsorequire applicants to sit a two hour Bio-Medical Admissions Test, which should be entered for by 30th September. It is sat at school in early November, and is designed to test subject knowledge, numeracy, essay skills, data interpretation and aptitude for science. Specimen papers for BMAT can be found at An early application is absolutely essential, for there is considerable evidence to suggest that early applicants tend to more committed and of better quality; they are certainly more likely to be called for interview and to receive conditional offers. In any event there is a deadline of 15th October for forms to reach UCAS. You are permitted to nominate a maximum of four institutions on your UCAS form. The remaining two choices may be left blank, or else you may make applications in subjects related to medicine, such as pharmacy or pharmacology.

You should try to read the UCAS Student’s Guide to Entry in Medicine, which offers extremely useful information and advice. A course in medicine is academically, physically and emotionally demanding, and you will need to be particularly robust to be able to deal with setbacks, crises and stress. Following the recommendation of the General Medical Council, medical schools have in recent years made quite radical changes to their courses. There is greater integration of the ‘pre-clinical’ and ‘clinical’ programmes, less reliance on factual information, and far more time devoted to communication skills and to practical clinical tasks; there is more ‘self-learning’, as well as more group and individual work. All medical schools now put an emphasis on contact with patients as early as possible in the course. Hence there is no ‘facts on a plate’ approach, and instead you will be exposed to problem-based learning, being required to discover quite a lot of information for yourself. You qualify at the end of your fifth year; and there are then two pre-registration years of general clinical training, one as a house officer in a general hospital and one of further training for general practice and hospital specialities. This is a period of very demanding work, very long hours and increasing responsibilities. On successful conclusion of this period application can be made for full registration with the GMC.

If you are called for interview you will face searching questions about your motivation, work at school and personal interests. A key issue will be your reasons for wanting to become a doctor, and whether you have the critical personal qualities of compassion, resourcefulness, boundless energy and perseverance that are required. There is greater uniformity in selection policies these days, though individual medical schools might still have somewhat different views about the qualities that make a good medical student and a good doctor. What they are all looking for is unambiguous evidence that you will ultimately be a valuable and successful member of a caring profession. For your application to stand any chance of success you will need to demonstrate as many as possible of the following qualities:

A clear sense of vocation
Self-motivation and excellent personal organisation (with evidence from your present work and activities)
A willingness to learn at all times
Practical concern for the welfare of others (through, for example, voluntary or charity work)
Excellent communication and ‘inter-personal’ skills
Determination, energy, perseverance, resilience, enthusiasm and the ability to make a success of the course; tenacity in pursuit of a result
A curiosity about the scientific basis of medicine, and some knowledge of strategies for treatment of diseases, and for prevention of illness
Humanity, compassion and patience
Originality and initiative; creativity; flexibility
Honesty, integrity, modesty and a sense of humour
Evidence that you are a balanced individual, with hobbies and interests that will counter some of the stress
Leadership skills and an ability to accept responsibility, and to take difficult decisions
An awareness of current medical and ethical issues (such as abortion, euthanasia, embryology, HIV and AIDS, CJD, and cancer and circulatory diseases)
An ability to find solutions to problems and the confidence to rise to challenges
Evidence that you are a team player
ICT skills (at least at a basic level)
Excellent physical and mental health

What you write in your UCAS Personal Statement is absolutely critical in the selection process, and you should remember that it will be read by virtually the only admissions selectors who are recruiting students for a career as well as for a degree course, and so your passion for studying medicine must come across very clearly indeed. You will naturally need to be a gifted scientist, but academic strengths are only part of the picture; good scientists do not always make good doctors. It is vital that you study carefully the student entry profile published for each course, which outlines the skills and personal qualities that the selectors are looking for. While these profiles naturally have a great deal in common, you should ensure that your Personal Statement comes as close as possible to matching the requirements of your chosen institutions. You must therefore highlight any efforts you have made to discover more about the reality of medical practice, and emphasise any relevant work experience you have had. This should not simply be a catalogue of what, where and when; rather it should focus on your experience differed from your expectations, what you learned from it, and how it has reinforced your determination to enter the medical profession. You are at a very serious disadvantage if you have neglected to arrange plenty of work experience, and preferably in more than one location or context. There is no doubt that experience of the extended kind is the most useful and the most impressive, since it helps you to discover things about your own character (stamina, maturity, commitment) and represents an acid test of your conviction. The selectors are also looking for information about your interests, hobbies and achievements (both in and out of school), especially those that demonstrate qualities of teamwork, initiative and concern for others. Evidence of community service, such as voluntary work with the elderly or the handicapped, or involvement in local charity ventures, is often a critical factor.

I hope this is helpful. Good luck with it all! I am happy to review a draft Personal Statement.

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