Millie's Guide on UK Med Schools for an International Student
Did you know that UK medical schools accept more international students than US medical schools?
As a former neurobiology research fellow at NYU Abu Dhabi, Álvaro shared his experience of gaining admission to a UK medical school as an international student in a Millie x ACS Doha collaboration workshop.
Curious about how the UK medical school system differs from that in the US? Read on to hear Álvaro’s insights as a medical student at the University of Manchester!
UK medical schools entry slots
In the UK, the most common path to medical school is by applying as an undergraduate student to a medicine course. Generally, this undergraduate program takes five years to complete if you pursue a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS). However, medical schools usually require you to do an intercalated degree, pursuing another bachelor’s degree, which results in six years of study in total.
“The UK allows students to study medicine directly after high school.”
You can also choose to study medicine at the graduate level, like in the US, by entering medical school after your bachelor’s degree. The benefit of this structure is that you can explore non-medical interests during your undergraduate years, which is great if you're not completely committed to medicine as a career yet.
Expectations when studying in a UK medical school
Although not every medical school in the UK guarantees the same study experience for each student, here’s a typical timeline of what it’s like to study in a UK medical school: Preclinical studies are mostly conducted in classrooms. These include basic science modules (biology, chemistry, and physics), anatomy dissection modules, and medical history. Clinical studies, on the other hand, mostly take place in hospitals. This involves working across different departments, such as general practice, women’s health, infectious diseases, and even oncology.
If you choose to study medicine as an undergraduate, it will comprise two years of preclinical and three years of clinical studies. Pursuing an intercalated degree will also occur during your time in medical school, usually in your third or fourth year of study.
However, if you enter medical school at the graduate level, your studies will unfold over a shorter period because schools will already expect you to operate at university level. This means you'll need to arrange your own timetable and be entirely accountable for your own studies — graduate lecturers won't be prompting you.
General admission requirements
If you think studying medicine in the UK means you've escaped standardized testing, think again! Whether it's the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) or the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT), the required test type depends on each school's admission requirements.
In terms of course requirements, students are expected to possess a strong interest and knowledge in relevant science subjects. Going directly into medical school after high school will require applicants to have completed Biology and Chemistry — and for some schools, Physics — as their A Level, AP, or IB HL subjects. The grade requirements vary, but many successful medical school candidates achieve the top grades or one just below in their respective exams.
Schools also value students who have shadowing experience, which involves following a doctor during their work. If you apply to medical school straight after high school, a few hours of shadowing can enhance your application. If you're pursuing medical school after earning your bachelor’s degree, you should have experience within a clinical setting, such as completing an official internship.
“Medical schools ideally prefer applicants with research experiences.”
Medicine is an evidence-based discipline that evolves through scientific exploration of new diseases and treatments. Therefore, to value students’ innovation and critical-thinking skills, schools ideally prefer applicants with research experience when applying for graduate entry levels.
Is entering medical school hard?
Getting into medical school is hard, but don't worry too much about not having extensive initial knowledge about medicine — even Álvaro began his medical journey knowing only two things: he didn't want to take too many tests, and he wanted to see the world!
As an international student, you should be aware that your acceptance process might be longer and more complicated than that of applicants from the EU region, but don't be discouraged! Keep on learning, face failures, and keep your head high. In the end, it only takes one acceptance letter for you to officially start your journey.
“It’s not so much about beating the odds; it’s about making them.”