Graduate entry into medicine
Why study medicine?
Whether it’s being part of a respected profession, wanting to be of service to your community and save lives, or the intellectual challenge of being a doctor, medicine offers a wide range of varied opportunities.
These are mostly within the National Health Service but also within private health services and outside. Most doctors work within hospitals or general practice but others will find work in industry, the armed forces, academic medicine or research.
You should want to make a real difference and have a concern for the welfare of others plus good communication and teamwork skills. At all times a doctor’s job is very demanding and requires you to be able to cope with pressure every day.
The training is intellectually and emotionally challenging so you will need a lot of drive and self-motivation. Medicine is a vocation and it is important at the outset to consider what you are letting yourself in for. You should take advantage of talking to medical students and doctors before making your decision.
Studying medicine as a graduate
There are three options for graduates:
- A shortened graduate entry course (GEM) – usually four years. Designed specifically for graduates. Some are only open to graduates with a science degree and others are open to graduates of any degree discipline.
- A standard undergraduate course – usually five years. Designed for school leavers but open to graduates with any degree background and the required science A levels (or equivalent).
- A standard undergraduate course with foundation year – usually six years. Designed for school leavers or graduates without the required science background.
For details of which institutions offer medical courses and structure, visit the UCAS website.
- Degree background - most universities require a first or upper-second-class degree although some do accept a lower-second-class
- A levels - Half the institutions require A level Chemistry and some also ask for Biology or other specific subjects. High grades are normally required.
- GCSEs - Very high grades required, often in specific subjects
Find out more about the courses and entry requirements here at Nottingham:
Choosing a medical school
There are currently over 30 medical schools in the UK and just under half of them offer a graduate entry shortened programme. When choosing which medical schools to apply to you will want to consider the teaching style of the course, admission requirements, location and reputation.
Depending on your degree, A level and GCSE subjects some courses may not be open to you. There are also some courses which prefer applicants not to come straight out of university onto the course.
Teaching styles vary especially in the first year. GEM courses range from a series of lectures, tutorials and practicals to case-based, problem-solving and patient contact learning in small groups with the emphasis on self-directed learning known as problem-based learning or PBL.
Clinical demonstrations and laboratory practicals will always support any learning along with working alongside other health professionals. All clinical learning on GEM courses takes place in hospitals, community trusts and general practices. Think about the way you like to learn so that you choose the right course.
As this is a lengthy course, think about your support networks and the cost of living.
All medical courses at UK universities are validated by the General Medical Council. There are no league tables for graduate entry courses but the five year courses do appear in The Times and The Guardian league tables.
NHS Health Careers - choosing your medical school
It’s really helpful to gain experience in a care setting to enable you to decide if medicine is for you and because medical schools will expect applicants to understand what they are applying for and to be able to draw upon their experiences at interview. Experience can be gained in a variety of settings as shown below.
Work experience opportunities
Experience in a healthcare role
This could be in a paid position or as a volunteer. Support roles include healthcare assistant, care home staff and hospital receptionist.
Gaining experience of working with vulnerable people, practical caring experience, mentoring or activities such as first aid.
Talk to professionals working in areas that interest you to gain insights into their role, their challenges and successes and advice for the future. Find out more about work shadowing in the East Midlands.
Positions of responsibility
This could be through the Students' Union, for example a committee position within a society or sports club, a course rep or through your outside interests.
This does not need to be in a healthcare setting. Look for roles that demonstrate the skills admissions tutors are looking for including teamwork, communication and resilience.
The funding for the three types of courses differs significantly. In summary, UK graduate students are currently eligible for much more financial support if entering a specific graduate entry programme rather than an undergraduate programme.
The information here is a guide only. You should seek up-to-date information relevant to your particular circumstances from the sources listed and check your eligibility against the criteria for bursaries and loans.
Shortened graduate entry course
- In year one, graduate entry students have to self-fund the first third towards their tuition costs and a Student Finance England* loan will be available to cover the remaining costs to a maximum charge of £9,250. You can also apply for a maintenance loan from Student Finance England.
- In years two to four, you can apply for a non-means tested bursary of £1,000 from the NHS. In addition, you can apply to the NHS Student Bursaries Unit for a further means-tested NHS bursary to cover maintenance costs and apply for a reduced maintenance loan from Student Finance England
- Please check individual university websites for details of funding and bursaries specific to those universities.
Undergraduate standard entry course (with or without foundation)
- Graduate students are not eligible to receive a tuition fee loan or maintenance grant regardless of whether or not they have previously received funding.
- Students may be able to apply to Student Finance England* for a full, income based, maintenance loan.
- From year five onwards, tuition fees will be paid by the NHS Bursary Scheme.
- From year five, students will be eligible to apply for a non means tested grant of £1,000 and a means-tested NHS bursary to cover maintenance costs from the NHS Student Bursaries Unit, and a reduced maintenance loan from Student Finance England (equivalent to approximately half the full rate).
- Students will be eligible to apply for a means-tested NHS bursary to cover maintenance costs from the NHS Student Bursaries Unit, and a reduced maintenance loan from Student Finance England (equivalent to approximately half the full rate).
*Information based on Student Finance England, please use the links opposite for information in other countries in the UK.
The application process
The application process usually consists of an on line application form with personal statement, admissions tests and interviews.
Application tests - BMAT, GAMSAT and UCAT
Some medical schools require you to take an admissions test before considering your application.
There are three main tests: GAMSAT, UCAT and BMAT. You will need to check with each medical school as to which test they require you to sit. These are used to create a level playing field, especially where candidates come from varied backgrounds. They are designed to test aptitude rather than educational achievement.
Admissions tests - the basics
| Test||Test date||Results announced||Registration opens||Registration closes||Approx. cost ||Test validity |
||Between July and October
||On the day of your test
||September or March
||Late November or late May
||Mid May or early November
||July or February
|| Late November
Please see BMAT and UCAT websites for details of fee bursaries offered for those in financial need.
UCAT - University Clinical Aptitude Test
The UCAT test is used by the largest number of medical schools. The test lasts for two hours. It is not a test of knowledge but consists of multiple choice questions relating to:
- Verbal reasoning
- Decision making
- Quantitative reasoning
- Abstract reasoning
- Situational judgement
Both the UK Medical School Council and UCAT publish how medical schools use the UCAT scores in the selection process.
Results are provided before the UCAS deadline for medical school applications, and you may wish to decide upon your final choice of applications to medical school based on your UCAT score, as some schools place greater importance on UCAT scoring than others.
Preparing for the test
The UCAT website has plenty of useful information about how best to prepare for the test, including a Candidate Preparation toolkit and practice tests.
Familiarise yourself with the style and format of each set of questions. You may find it helpful to practice reading and answering questions under test conditions.
We have some online practice psychometric tests from Graduates First available on our website which, while not the same as the UCAT, will help you to practise similar numerical, verbal and logical tests.
GAMSAT - Graduate Medical School Admissions Test
GAMSAT assesses your capacity to undertake high-level intellectual studies in a medical programme. It
evaluates the nature and extent of abilities and skills gained through prior experience and learning, including the mastery and use of concepts in basic science as well as the acquisition of more general skills in problem solving, critical thinking and writing
If your first degree is in a non-scientific subject you can still be successful at GAMSAT but you are likely to have gained prior knowledge and ability in the biological and physical sciences, perhaps at A level or equivalent.
The test consists of three sections which assess performance in the areas of:
- Reasoning in humanities and social sciences
- Written communication
- Reasoning in biological and physical sciences
The GAMSAT test can only be taken on one single date in September or March. The tests lasts all day. The result is valid for two years candidates may apply for admission to medical schools up to two years after the date on which they sit the test.
Preparing for the test
The GAMSAT website provides tips on a preparation strategy. For sections one and two this involves reading widely, practicing the formation of opinions and arguments to apply to their writing.
For the last section you could work through A level and first year university chemistry and biology text books and exams questions.
BMAT - Biomedical Admissions Test
At the moment only two medical schools use BMAT for selection to graduate entry to medicine. The test lasts for two hours and consists of three sections;
- Aptitude and skills
- Scientific knowledge and application
- Writing task
Preparing for the test
Practice papers and preparation materials are available on the BMAT website
UCAS application form
Applications are made through UCAS and the closing date is 15 October each year for courses beginning the following autumn.
You choose no more than four courses. The course code for most of the GEM courses is A101. It is possible to have a mix of undergraduate and GEM courses within your choices. You should apply through UCAS as an ‘Individual’.
Make sure you allow sufficient time (at least two weeks) for your references to be submitted by the deadline. You should contact your referees to help them provide a relevant reference.
Use this statement to demonstrate to an admissions tutor:
- your commitment to medicine - how did your interest develop and how have you followed this up
- your experience to date - what tasks have you undertaken and what experience have you had of talking to patients. How have you built on this experience?
- the relevance of your academic background
- how your extracurricular activities demonstrate you have the attributes to become a doctor
- your suitability for the course
Read UoN medical student, Cat's blog
The type of interview structure varies between medical schools. You may experience a traditional panel interview lasting around 30 minutes or a Multi Mini Interview (MMI) format which is being adopted by more and more UK medical schools.
You may be interviewed by a panel of academics, clinicians and lay people. You may experience more than one interview and the length of it can vary from 20 minutes to an hour.
This format involves a series of stations or rooms in which you will find either a scenario or an interviewer to assess a specific attribute. Each station lasts a very short amount of time (often five minutes).
All will expect you to cover your motivation for medicine, your commitment, your previous caring experience and your ability to reason around an ethical/social issue.
Some medical schools will ask you to work with other interviewees on a group task as part of the selection process.
A range of your personal attributes relevant to studying medicine will be assessed by means of different tasks.
Types of tasks
- A short interview around your motivation to be a doctor
- An interactive task or role play
- Data interpretation, for example interpreting a graph or explaining a numerical concept
- Debate task
- A group task - you may be asked to work with other interviewees
Typical attributes being assessed
Interview stations will be assessing aspects such as:
- motivation for medicine
- communication skills - listening, questioning, engaging and responding appropriately previous caring experience and insights gained from this
- ethical reasoning
- data interpretation
- ability to evaluate information and identify relevant aspects.
- response to stress
- leadership skills
- curiosity and inquiry
A good candidate is someone who can present himself or herself as a well-rounded, caring person. You will have to present yourself as highly motivated for a career as a doctor and aware of the rigours of a medicine degree.
- Think through answers to possible questions and in particular why you want to study medicine at a their institution, how you are suitable and what you have learnt from your work experience.
- Be prepared to form, express or defend your opinion; Practise putting forward an argument - demonstrating your ideas, formulating arguments and counter-arguments and coming to a conclusion.
- You may be asked to discuss an ethical issue or comment on an aspect of medical practice. Find out more about medical ethics and how to apply these to real scenarios.
- Don’t assume the interviewers have had sight of your application form – assume that they only know your name.
- Familiarise yourself with Outcomes for Graduates 2018 and be aware of current issues affecting the profession and the NHS.
Interviews at medical schools
Preparing for medical school interviews