5 Things You Need to Know about Applying to Med School

Kaplan with Student Huton 3 September 2019
5 Things You Need to Know about Applying to Med School

As medicine and dentistry are very competitive, you should be prepared to start your applications throughout year 12 to early year 13. We've put together some tips on how to do this...

Are you thinking of applying to medical school in the UK? If you are, the application process is something that you will need to master and be organised about whilst also studying. As medicine and dentistry are two of the most competitive degree programmes to apply to, you should be prepared to work on your applications throughout the whole of year 12 to early year 13.

1# Work experience

One of the first things to look into and set up is work experience. As a year 12 student, a good starting point is to find ways to make sure that your personal statement on your application stands out. The best way to ensure this is to find work experience in a clinical environment.

You can shadow a GP, find a hospital placement for a week, volunteer at a hospital pharmacy, or immerse yourself in events and programmes that provide an insight into a doctor’s or dentist’s world. So long as you have exposure to a clinical setting, and especially that you’re able to take away learnings relevant to the medical field - you’ll give yourself a good head start with your medical school applications.

2# The medical school admissions tests: UCAT® & BMAT® 

Medicine and dentistry programmes also require standardised tests as a crucial part of the application process. One of the most popular admissions tests (with an average of over 27,000 test-takers a year) is the UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test). This test is required for application to study medicine and dentistry in the UK, and is required by 30 UK medical schools.

Another entrance exam, which is used in the same way as the UCAT and is required by 8 UK Medical schools, is the BMAT (Biomedical Admissions test). The test is also required by a larger list of schools globally. Depending on the universities that you’re applying, you may take one or the other or, in many cases, both. Since the list of UK medical schools that require the UCAT is larger, it’s more likely that as a prospective medical student, you will take the UCAT exam. 

What to expect of the exams:

As any exam would require, these tests need preparation. They are each 2 hours long, with the UCAT being made of 5 tightly-timed sections and the BMAT with 3. Both are multiple choice tests and are not in any way similar to the curriculum-based exams that you will be familiar with. In fact, the UCAT is a computer-based test, which in itself adds an extra level of complexity. The best way to describe them is as aptitude tests which assess your critical thinking and problem solving skills in a way that you will not be used to. For those of you who may have taken the 11+ exam, these may feel more familiar to you.

Make sure you are aware of the key registration and testing dates for the exams, in addition to their required registration fees (£48 - £85**).  As a quick guideline, people who are applying straight from college will usually take the UCAT and BMAT in the summer of year 12 and the beginning of year 13. We’ve put together a helpful timeline for this below:


Testing timeline

Key Dates

May:         UCAT registration opens✝

July- Oct:  UCAT testing period

Aug:         1st BMAT registration deadline✝

Aug/Sep:   1st BMAT test date 

Sept:      UCAT registration deadline 

Oct:    Closing date for BMAT registrations✝

15th Oct:   UCAS deadline: medicine, dentistry, veterinary

Oct/Nov:  Final date to sit UCAT


Starting Preparation

To learn more about these tests, you can visit the Kaplan UCAT & Kaplan BMAT pages to access practice tests, a free question bank trial, fact sheets and visual timelines. You can also visit the test-maker websites to access free practice questions. 

3# Research & tactical decisions

Another step, which is commonly overlooked or rushed, is finding the best university for you. And we mean this in varying respects. Learn about the teaching styles of the universities, get a sense of the campus by visiting or learning from med students who go there and find the medical schools that have GCSE and A-Level/ Scottish Higher entry requirements that you are certain you can meet.

You can also look into how much importance they place on certain aspects of the admissions process. For instance, some universities may weigh their decisions more heavily on your academic results (GCSE & A-Levels) in addition to your personal statement submission, than your results on the admissions tests. You can find this information out from each Medical School’s website. Make sure you play to your strengths as well as playing to your preferences in the universities that you apply.

4# Personal statements & UCAS

Writing a stellar personal statement is a crucial part of your application. The admissions team read these applications with a fine tooth comb. They want to see that you are showing the commitment and awareness needed to study medicine or dentistry. In many instances, they will also refer to points you have made in your personal statement at interview. 

Finding resources and a trusted tutor to support you with your personal statement writing is always a good plan of action to ensure that you are on track. You will also want to weave in your clinical work experience in your personal statement, as this is the best place to showcase it.

Another thing to note, is that unlike many of your peers applying for different subjects, you will need to start planning and writing your personal statements much earlier, for the 15th October submission deadline.

5# Sitting interviews

Every medical school applicant will need to pass their interview to get into medical school. These interviews are heavily assessed and should be prepared for rigorously. There are two kinds of interviews being used by medical schools right now. The traditional interview is usually 10 - 20 minutes long with a panel of lecturers, tutors and med students asking you questions about your medical work experience, academic achievement and motivations for applying. It’s also becoming increasingly common for universities to use the second format, which are Multiple Mini Interviews (MMIs). They make the highly monitored and assessed nature of the medical school interview even more evident. MMIs are like assessment days, where you will spend 2 hours sitting interview circuits (with 8-10 stations) that assess your response to challenging medical scenarios.

Applying to medical school is certainly not easy, and we hope this guide is exactly what you have been looking for to get you clued up on the process! For more support with all aspects of your medical school admissions prep, and for insights into the lives of medical school students, have a look at the Kaplan UK Medical Blog.

Kaplan Test Prep is the world leader in test preparation. They have served millions of students since being founded 80 years ago, equipping students with the strategies to approach their test with confidence. Kaplan provide preparation for the UCAT, BMAT, Medical School Interviews and MMIs in addition to Personal Statement support.

UCAT® & BMAT® are registered trademarks of their respective test-makers, which are not involved in the production of, and do not endorse these products.

**2019 UCAT test fees - UK/EU Residents: £65 up to 31st August; £85 thereafter. Test centres outside EU: £115

2019 BMAT test fees - UK/EU Residents: £48.00. Rest of the world fee: £81.00. Additional late entry fee: £34

✝Registration for these tests can be made via the test-makers websites: UCAT Consortium and 

Cambridge Assessment - BMAT

Kaplan with Student Huton 3 September 2019