Applying to medical school in the UK might not be as straightforward as applying to other subjects and can be quite daunting, especially if you are an IB student trying to balance your coursework at the same time. Here, I will briefly summarize the process (step-by-step) of applying to medical schools in the UK and share some tips with those of you who are going through the same process. I hope you will find them useful!
*The suggested timeline will mainly be applicable if you are taking the May examinations.
1. Before you start DP: Select the right IB subjects
All UK medical schools have requirements on which subjects you must take to be eligible to apply. Most universities require chemistry at the higher level but vary for subjects like mathematics and biology. Some don’t require mathematics, fewer don’t require biology, but most will offer you a range of options. For example, as of 2022 entry, the University of Bristol only requires chemistry, but allows you to choose between biology, physics, and mathematics. On the other hand, Lancaster University allows you to choose two from biology, chemistry, and psychology. This means you don’t necessarily have to take mathematics or biology if you feel particularly insecure with these subjects. Be sure to research the entry requirements early on so you can waive one safely!
2. DP1: Do well in your IB coursework
Most medical schools put a lot of emphasis on your predicted grades when deciding who to invite to an interview. Therefore, ensure you do well in your exams to achieve the maximum predicted grades.
3. DP1 (May – June): Ask for a reference (i.e. recommendation letter)
You must have a reference as part of your UCAS application to medical schools. The referee will usually be a teacher or tutor in your school since they will be able to comment on your academic potential and whether your personality fits that of a doctor. Make sure to supply your referee with information you want them to highlight! This should be informed by your own research into the selection criteria, which are usually really similar across medical schools.
4. DP1 (June) – DP2 (November): Prepare for and attend a UCAT and/ or BMAT exam
You will be required to sit an additional admissions test either before or shortly after you submit your UCAS application. The specific requirement can be found on the website of each medical school. (Just search “International Baccalaureate” under “entry requirements”.) Preparing for either test will (and should) take you a lot of time, so I strongly suggest preparation during summer vacation and taking them as soon as possible (i.e. before or shortly after DP2 commences)! This is to give you sufficient time for the following steps and your commitments to IB (i.e. IAs and EE) in DP2.
5. DP2 (September – October 15): Write your Personal Statement
On the contrary to the advice you might receive elsewhere, I suggest you NOT start your personal statement too early. This is because you might gain more insights into the medical career in the summer that you might wish to include in your personal statement.
I do suggest, however, to start gathering a list of reflections and evidence early on, so that you can select later which parts to include in your statement. Personally, I think a good time to start your personal statement is sometime near the start of September, as this will (hopefully) allow you time to gain sufficient reflections and organize them into the personal statement. There is a lot of advice and examples of personal statements out there. However, try not to be too reliant on them or you might risk losing your originality. Don’t be too stressed about the personal statement as well, since medical schools often put less emphasis on it compared to other components of your application.
6. DP2 (September – October 15): Select the 4 medical schools and the ‘5th choice’
If you have your UCAT and/or BMAT results, research how universities use these results (plus your grades in school) to estimate your chances of getting an interview at a particular medical school. Select those universities that you believe are of the highest chances for you to get an interview! If you cannot obtain your UCAT/BMAT results before the October 15 deadline, consider your grades and try to balance out the risk of not getting any offers by choosing a range of medical schools based on their competitiveness (which you can deduce from past admissions statistics).
7. DP2 (October 15): Submit your UCAS application
If you have completed the steps above, you should be ready to submit your UCAS application. As a reminder, the major components of your application include your choices, reference (which your referee will upload for you), and personal statement. UCAT or BMAT scores will be sent directly to the universities so there is no need to include them in your application!
8. DP2 (October 15 onwards): Prepare for and Attend Your Interview
Start your interview preparations early! It might be tempting to start your preparation only after you receive an offer for an interview. However, I suggest you NOT do that as it will not give you enough time to do proper preparation, which includes (but is not limited to):
- researching recent medical advancements and issues
- understanding medical ethics
- organising your motivations and the corresponding evidence (your EE, if applicable, can also show your interest in medicine!)
- researching the medical school
- gathering questions that might come up
- practising answering questions
It is crucial that you practice answering questions out loud. Although it is really unlikely that you will encounter the same questions you prepared for in your interview, practice answering questions will make you more comfortable in the actual interview and familiarize yourself with presenting your evidence. Once you are familiar with your evidence, you can tweak them to fit the majority of questions you encounter in the actual interview.
9. DP2 (May): Do well in your IB exams
You will have to achieve the conditions for your conditional offer to gain admission into medical school, so prepare well for the IB exams! If you’re in a non-exam route due to COVID-19, still study hard so that you can do well in your school’s exams and fulfil the entry requirements.
It can be really challenging to balance your time between coursework and applying to medical school, so time management is key. It is normal to feel exhausted, but it will be worth it if you do find yourself in medical school in the end. Good luck!