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Top tips for international students applying to study Medicine at university in the UK

University preparation 5 July 2019

Studying Medicine at a UK university is highly competitive, with between 1 and 34 international students applying for each university place (Medical Schools Council Selection Alliance, 2019). Preparing an outstanding UCAS application that demonstrates your skills and commitment is essential.

George Casley

George Casley, Academic Director of CATS Colleges, has over 20 years’ experience advising international students on applying to university. Read his advice to help you prepare for the challenging but rewarding subject.

1. Showcase your commitment through work experience

Work experience is an essential part of any aspiring medical student’s university application. Universities are looking for students with a commitment to the profession. Healthcare is about people. Typical opportunities include  volunteering in a care home, supporting a healthcare charity, working with people who are unwell or working as a hospital porter.

2. Reflect on your healthcare experiences

After completing your work experience, a good medical school applicant will be able to reflect on their experiences. One of the best personal statements for medicine I have ever read was a student reflecting on whether, as a hospital porter, she should take a patient suffering with dementia to an operation he said he did not wish to go to. In addition, read research relating to our work experience; scientific journals such as the New Scientist are a good source of information.

3. Be an excellent scientist

Medicine is applied science. To be a doctor you need to be an excellent scientist. Your personal statement needs to reflect scientific method as well as scientific research. Choosing the relevant subjects at A level or International Baccalaureate is important. All medical schools require Chemistry, some also require Biology. I recommend that anyone applying for healthcare-related courses take Chemistry and Biology. Mathematics and Physics are often recommended as a third option. Successful CATS Colleges’ applicants have also taken Physics, Psychology, Sociology and Government & Politics. Most medical school offers are based on A*AA or higher. However, university entrance requirements vary.

4. Practice for the medical entrance exams UKCAT and BMAT

Most medical schools require one of two tests – the Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT) or The UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT). These tests are used in collaboration with the UCAS application and interviews. These tests are difficult. To succeed you need to practice. Work through past questions – again – and again – and again!

5. Take advantage of higher education support

To be successful, you need the best help and advice. Every CATS College has a dedicated Higher Education Officer who provides one-to-one advice and guidance on selecting degree programmes and universities to suit you. As a CATS student you can also access our Key Professions Programme for aspiring medics. It includes:

  • One-to-one higher education advice including interview practice, and personal statement support

  • UKCAT and BMAT exam preparation classes

  • Seminars on healthcare topics such as ethics from medical and research professionals

  • Visits to medical schools 

  • Dedicated A level subject lessons in Mathematics, Biology and Chemistry (a tuition supplement applies)

  • Guaranteed progression to St George’s University, Medical School, Grenada subject to meeting entry requirements.

And finally…

The sooner you start preparing your application for Medical school, the better. However, as part of the planning you must consider…what if you do not succeed? What is your ‘plan B?’ What will you do instead? 

I wish you all the very best in preparing for a degree in Medicine and hope to welcome you to a CATS College soon.

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