Studying Medicine at King's College London
Updated: Jul 1, 2020
King's College London is a well-known university (and a very old one at that). I'm a student ambassador so we're given a script/fact sheet about the university's history and all of the cool things it has taken part in (e.g. the discovery of the structure of DNA) but I won't bore you with these. However, it is good to know that it is now the largest university for the education of doctors and dentists in Europe (good or bad thing? You'll have to decide). It is also home to 6 Medical Research Council centres – the most of any British university - so if you are thinking about an academic career in Medicine, studying at King’s College London can provide a number of opportunities for you to explore that. The University also has several global partner institutions and many students tend to study abroad for a year or semester. I have made many amazing international friends!
So what is the Medicine course like?
The course is taught in an 'integrated' fashion. As mentioned in my blog post on what to consider when choosing a medical school, this means that scientific knowledge is delivered alongside clinical training from very early on in medical school (in King's this is from Year 2).
Teaching - Your first year at King's will mainly consist of lectures from 9-5pm (with breaks in between). Everyone is entitled to Wednesday afternoon off (to take part in extra-curricular activities such as sports) and it also sports night on Wednesday evenings. You will have dissection once a week starting from October/November and also have seminars and tutorials once every 2 weeks or so. You are given work to complete beforehand and go over it with a tutor/academic in small groups of ~15 people.
Assessment - You will sit 3 single best answer exams at the end of the year in May. Throughout the year, you will have an exam in October and January to measure your progress and a portfolio to complete (short essays and reflections).
Teaching - Lectures alongside clinical placement twice a week. One day will be GP placement, the other day will be hospital placement and you are expected to complete a clinical portfolio of your skills and reflections from these placements. So, if you want to get hands-on patient contact from early on in your degree, King's integrated style Medicine course may be for you.
In terms of your academic work, you will learn the material by topic rather than by discipline. We are taught about different medical conditions within topics/overarching themes that can include multiple medical disciplines such as 'Supporting Life' (i.e. Emergency medicine, some Cardiology and some Respiratory) and 'Ageing' (i.e. Geriatrics, some Rheumatology, some Cardiology...). I personally do not find this method the most useful and prefer learning disciplines traditionally but you can adapt your learning style to do what suits you. I do, however, love the fact that I get early clinical exposure and can link my knowledge together as I progress throughout the course.
3rd year - final year
Your days on placement gradually increase and you should be rotating around all of the medical disciplines.
In Year 3, you will have a year-long, longitudinal Psychiatry placement.
In final year, you will have a block dedicated to GP placement where you will be the one seeing the patients!
Assessment - from Year 2 until final year, King's assesses us through 'Progress Tests'. These are clinical scenario exams to test our knowledge on conditions and patient presentations. We should progressively get a higher score on these tests to show that our knowledge is expanding. You are also expected to complete your clinical portfolio to ensure you are competent in the clinical skills required of you as you progress throughout medical school and a student selected component (SSC) or Scholarly Project. These are research projects/scientific essays that we are expected to work on alongside placements and lectures. As you can see, the workload builds up quickly throughout medical school.
The 'Mums and Dads' scheme
The GKT (Guy's, King's and St. Thomas') Medical Students’ Association (MSA) is a student-led group that is responsible for medical student life. They regularly attend academic meetings with the School of Medicine to ensure that the views of students are listened to and run a Mums and Dads scheme to help new students settle in. They also have a Peer Teaching scheme, in which clinical year students mentor pre-clinical students.
This is a nice touch because you have an older student you can go to if you need help or signposting. I didn't get particularly close with my 'Mum' or 'Dad' but some people become really good friends with that older student.
What are the downsides of King's Medicine?
1. You might feel that you are confronted with patients before you know enough.
Since we are taught alongside clinical placement from Year 2, you are definitely not ready for the questions that doctors will throw at you. There have been many times where I was expected to know something I have not even heard of and it can be humiliating if this is in front of a patient. However, it WILL make sense as you progress throughout the course and it pushes you to do further reading and go ahead.
2. You may feel like another number
King's is a huge medical school with 450 students in one year group alone. At times, I have felt like just another number or another medical student on the conveyor belt. You can get left behind if you do not seek help when you need it. You need to be quite a proactive person and go out of your way to get support. It can also be a bit frustrating when you're on placements too. In the younger years, you feel a little bit like a spare part or a waste of space. There are a lot of students, the hospitals are in the centre of London and it is fast-paced and busy... it can be very overwhelming for a second year student! Especially those who have only ever been in a hospital for 1 week's work experience.
3. The lectures
I do not enjoy lectures because I do not learn anything when someone is talking to me for 1 hr straight. King's also lacks a clear (and detailed) set of learning objectives or knowledge that you need to know for each year. Therefore, a lot of the time you're going in blind and expected to pass the exams each year. You don't know what you don't know! This means you need to be ready to do a LOT of self-directed, independent learning.
What about extra-curricular? Will I make friends?
There are SO MANY extra-curricular activities to get involved with at King's and I can easily say it is the most exciting and vibrant university in London! There are 100s of societies you can join and events for medics such as the first year medical ball, half-way ball (Year 3) and so on.
I have also met many friends who do not study Medicine during my time living out at university accommodation together as well as when I have attended different society events. Great Dover Street Apartments is the closest accommodation to Guy's Campus (where medics study). I lived there for the past 2 years and will be releasing a blog post on accommodation soon.
I hope this gave you a little bit of insight into King's and it's structure from my experience so far!
Please note that I study on the EMDP (Extended Medical Degree Programme) and will have a detailed blog post about this coming out soon. This is also a blog post on the undergraduate programme only. Please see below for further information for the graduate entry and MaxFax courses (for dentistry students who also need to get a medical degree qualification in order to become maxillofacial surgeons) as they have slightly different structures and lengths.