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So, you want to be a Doctor?

Employability Service

10 June 2020

Each year thousands of students apply for the few hundred Medicine places available in the UK. How will you show your potential and secure an offer?


Aspiring medics can apply to up to four UK medical schools via UCAS, (deadline 15 October). The UCAS application process is competitive and designed to test both your job suitability and commitment. So, let’s look at the barriers you’ll need to navigate to start a career in Medicine. View the UCAS application process.

Aptitude - UK Medical Schools require BMAT, UCAT or GAMSAT. Each offers free Question Banks to help get prepared. The test(s) you take will be determined by your university choices

Attainment - Every university has different academic requirements. Be strategic about where you apply, based on a realistic assessment of all your qualifications. View the requirements.

Experience - An essential ingredient to showcase in Employment/Statement sections. Prove you have learned from good practice seen first-hand. Try and get a range of care experience.

Personal Statement - 4,000 characters to impress the Admissions Tutor that you’ve ‘got what it takes’ to be a doctor. Every university assesses statements differently.

Reference - Work with your Referee as a team. They can include content you can’t fit into the statement and highlight particular achievements/qualities.

Interview(s) - The opportunity for selectors to see you in action. Don’t be scared, interviews or MMIs can actually be a lot of fun. 

Be realistic and strategic about where you apply, and the training path right for you.

Shorter Graduate entry courses are intense - and not suited to all. They also tend to be more competitive. Universities publish detailed advice on how they weight / score each selection element, so apply for those institutions you know will value your strengths. You also need to consider location – choose universities where you will be happy to work and learn for 4-5 years. Funding and proximity to support networks are also important factors.

Group of doctors smiling and discussing

Get Experience

Arranging healthcare experience is vital. Be creative – experience doesn’t have to be face to face, you could gain it remotely. The Medical School Council have published suggestions for acquiring insights to medicine/health during the pandemic.

Identify placements that will enable you to work with a diverse range of stakeholders. For example, part-time care work, online volunteering or community service. Supporting family with long-term health conditions, or involvement in church/youth/community organisations, also demonstrates caring qualities, the affinity to working with vulnerable service users, and a genuine desire to make a difference. Keep a reflective log to capture your learning, and any transformative moments, while they are fresh in your mind.

Make it Personal

Like any job application, the personal statement is your opportunity to prove you have the essential skills, qualities and experience, to be a good fit for a career in care.

This does not mean providing an A-Z of what you did/saw on placement. Summarise your work/volunteering and reflect on highlights or observed good practice, so they can see how your accumulated experiences will enable you to become a good future doctor. View the skills and qualities required.

Explaining your motivations for medicine is also crucial. The selector wants to know why this vocation is important to you. So, for your first draft don’t worry about character limits - just write from the heart. Once you’ve got initial content you can then refine the language/quantity. Show them your application is based on lived experience, realistic insights, and an appreciation of the challenges involved. And prove you possess vital qualities, such as kindness and empathy, by using language/tone that reflects NHS values across your statement.

quote on anatomy of personal statement

Plan B Careers

So be realistic and identify a Plan B Career, just in case Plan A goes awry. Reflect again on your motivations and identify alternative health careers that offer the same fulfilment/reward. For example, Physician Associate, Public Health or Operating Department Practitioner. And remember the Employability & Careers Team is here to support you at every stage of the process, including feedback on statements, preparation for interview / MMI and to talk through your career plans.

Khrieu Healy, Employability & Careers Adviser


The views expressed here are those of the individual and do not necessarily represent the views of Anglia Ruskin University. If you've got any concerns please contact us.