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Timeline and strategy for navigating resources for applying to medical school

There are a lot more accessible resources to help you become well-informed about UK medical school and the process of applying. However, as these resources increase in number, so do students' confusion and I'm often asked what my recommendations are for all parts of the process: admissions tests, personal statements, and interviews. In this blog post, I'll be discussing the timeline of the application process and what I would recommend focusing on each month. In addition, I'll be recommending resources I've either used myself or worked to provide which I would use as a starting point to create the best application you can.

June - July, FOCUS: what medical schools you want to go to, UCAT

Around June-July of Year 12, you should be thinking about what medical schools you want to go to as the UCAT registration also opens (this year it is opening 20 June 2022 6am).

You will be able to book a date for your exam from July to September.

I do not think it matters when you take it, but rather how prepared you are.

Taking it in July-August means that you can work on it exclusively (and maybe start writing your personal statement alongside it) and take it before you start Year 13. On the other hand, if you want to spend your summer taking a break / going on vacation, then make sure you're prepared to do it in September alongside starting Year 13 and finishing up your personal statement as it will be closer to the deadline.

Regardless of your test date, make sure you register as soon as possible and book what works for you.

Now, my UCAT strategy in a few bullet points:

  1. The first thing you want to do (before even booking your exam, if you haven't already) is go through the UCAT website to familiarise yourself with the structure and content. Then set a reminder to register and choose your exam dates.

  2. Download the We Are Medics free UCAT ebook. This is based on the 2021 exam but it is the perfect student-curated guide to familiarise yourself with: any special requirements you may need like extra time, bursaries, cheat sheets, what YouTubers you should watch, and student tips for each section.

  3. Locate at least 2 UCAT question banks - best resources are:

    1. Medic Mind: 1000+ free UCAT questions to practice

    2. UCAT Ninja (by Ali Abdaal, this is ONLY what I used and I scored a 733 average. You will see solutions and shown your mistakes to practice again. IT IS FREE but I think it is worth the £40 12-month subscription to get access to more features and questions compared to Medify which can be pricy. I believe they are rivals)

    3. Medify: top-rated paid-for resource with one of the biggest question banks you can find. Quite pricy but bursaries are available.

  4. Save the x4 official UCAT past papers that can be found on the official UCAT website. Attempt these LAST (around 1-2 days before your exam) under timed conditions + the other questions in the UCAT question banks.

  5. I would spend at least 2 weeks preparing for the UCAT. I spend 4 weeks.

August FOCUS: personal statement (should have a first draft at least)

You may also be preparing for your UCAT during this time, but it is vital you do not leave your personal statement to the last minute as it's the easiest part of the application process (so the easiest thing to get done fairly quickly).

Writing your personal statement:

  • Have a word document, notebook, iPhone notes... whatever it needs to be - where you keep notes about all the experiences you've done in order to prepare for medical school. I would also jot down a couple of sentences to answer the question: why do you want to be a doctor?

  • Read my personal statement blog post and start deciding which experiences you're going to include in your personal statement. These should be the skills and experiences that show you in the best light and taught you the most about what it means to be adoctor.

  • Avoid vague and empty statements that are not backed with evidence. Imagine that the person reading your personal statement is asking: 'so what?' about every statement you make. Only talk about things that have shaped your decision to study medicine. You can find out my why here.

  • Make sure you have at least your first rough draft done by the end of August and send this off for feedback by either a teacher, a medical student or a mentor (if part of a scheme).

These organisations provide FREE personal statement reviews:

October, FOCUS: Med school choices & finalising personal statement
  • October 15th is usually the UCAS deadline for Oxbridge or Medicine/Dentistry. Therefore, you have 2 weeks to make your final medical school decisions and ensure you personal statement is finished.

  • This is the time to weigh up your final choices. My favourite way to do this was using the comparison tool on Medic Portal.

  • If you have done your UCAT by now, you should look at the published deciles to make a strategic decision about your medical school. These are published on the results page in early September each year. Bookmark that!

  • I also recommend planning some open days to see your universities in person if you can. If you cannot, read other students' personal accounts. Scrubbed-up has a range of blog posts on UK medical schools and I write about King's here (and specifically about the EMDP widening participation course here).

  • Send your personal statement to your teacher for a final check. Make sure your teacher references are complete.

November, FOCUS: BMAT
  • If you need to take the BMAT for your university, you must sit it in November.

  • There is a BMAT live chat on 28 or 29 June 2022 where they will cover what’s in the test, where to find free preparation materials, and you’ll have the opportunity to ask them anything about BMAT. Register here

  • As I advised for the UCAT, familiarise yourself with the exam format and the free resources they recommend on the official site.

  • The hardest part of the UCAT for me was the essay section. See my BMAT blog post for more tips.

  • Try and find teachers, family members or medical students you may know to read and mark your short essays.

  • I would spend at least 3 weeks preparing for the BMAT. I spent 4 weeks.

December - March, FOCUS: interviews (and school)

Once your application is submitted, it is a waiting game for an invite to interview!

Between December and March, your main focus should be your schoolwork/A-levels and preparing for any interviews.

You will usually receive an invite with at least a week's notice. DO not fret - this is more than enough time to interview prep. But to avoid panic and allow yourself sometime to get over initial nerves, make sure you still have those notes you made when brainstorming what to include in your personal statement.

Some questions always tend to come up:

  • 'Tell us about a time when you demonstrated... [teamwork/ resilience / leadership etc.]

  • 'Why do you want to study medicine / be a doctor?'

  • 'How do you overcome... [stress / conflict]'

By pre-empting these types of questions, you can be prepared to use your bank of experiences and adapt them to suit whatever one you're asked.

The more difficult questions tend to be ethics, scenario, and role play questions. See my blog post on interview strategy

Make sure to bookmark organisations that do free interview practice. See a master list for 2021/22 here.

Interviews may be taking place in person again in 2023 so see my blog post on what happens on the day of a medical school interview.

I hope this blog post helped to give you a roadmap of the year you're coming up against! It's a challenging process but equally as rewarding when you finally get that offer. Best of luck and share any more resources in the comments.

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