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 in NYU Abu Dhabi, Álvaro shared his experience gaining admission to a UK medical school as an international student in a Millie x ACS Doha collaboration webinar.
Curious about how the UK medical school system differs from in the US? Read on to hear Álvaro’s insights as a medical student in the University of Manchester!
UK medical schools entry slots
In the UK, the most common path towards medical schools is by applying as an undergraduate student to a medicine course. Generally, this undergraduate program requires 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 by pursuing another bachelor’s degree, which takes 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 graduate level like in the US by getting into a 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 intersection modules, and medical history. However, clinical studies mostly take place in hospitals. This includes working across different departments, such as general practice, women’s health, infectious diseases, or even oncology.
If you choose to study medicine as an undergraduate, it will take two years of preclinical and three years of clinical studies. Pursuing an intercalated degree will also take place during your time in medical school, usually in your third or fourth year of study.
However, if you enter medical school at a graduate level, your studies will take place over a shorter period of time as schools will already expect you to be able to work at university level! This means you will need to schedule your own timetable and be completely responsible for your own study works — graduate lecturers are never going to prompt you.
General admission requirements
If you think studying medicine in the UK means you have escaped standardized testing, think again! Whether it’s the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) or University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT), the type of required test depends on each school’s admission requirements.
In terms of course requirements, students are expected to have strong interest and knowledge in relevant science subjects. Going directly into medical school after high school will require applicants to have completed Biology, Chemistry — and for some schools — Physics, as their A Level, AP, or IB HL subjects. The grade requirements vary, but many successible medical school candidates receive the top grades or one just below in their respective exam types.
Schools will also commend students who have some experiences in shadowing, which is to follow a doctor around their work. If you apply for medical school after high school, a couple hours of shadowing will make your application stand out. If you’re going to medical school after earning your bachelor’s degree, you must have experience within a clinical setting, such as doing an official internship.
“Medical schools ideally prefer applicants with research experiences.”
Medicine is an evidence-based discipline that develops by scientific exploration of new diseases and treatments. So to value the students’ innovation and critical-thinking skills, schools ideally prefer applicants with research experiences 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 much initial knowledge about medicine — even Álvaro started his medical journey by only knowing two things: he didn’t want to take too many tests and he wanted to see the world!
As an international student, you must be aware that your acceptance process might be longer and more complicated than applicants from the EU region, but don’t be discouraged by it! Keep on learning, failing, and hold your head high. In the end, it only takes one acceptance letter for you to officially start your pathway.
“It’s not so much about beating the odds; it’s about making them.”