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Medical School Booklet 0607

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Ashbourne College Kensington Medical Sciences Booklet
Last updated JULY 2006

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The Ashbourne College Medical Sciences Booklet
This booklet is reviewed every year by staff at Ashbourne College. The 2006 version was re-written and compiled by John Wilson (Director of Studies) and May Chiem (Admissions and Administration). In recent years, valuable contributions have been made by: Stephen Owen Jim Sharpe Linh Nguyen

John Wilson, August 2006


Introduction Overview Medical Sciences As A Degree And A Profession Making A Good Application What Can You Expect From Ashbourne? Medlink Is There Anything Else I Should Be Doing? Entry Requirements At The UK Medical Schools (See Also Appendix) A-Level Retakes And Medical Schools Information On Medical Organisations Alternatives To Medicine (Including Dentistry And Veterinary Medicine) Medicine For Non-Scientists What Happens If You Don’t Succeed? Appendix (Medical School Entry Requirements) 4 5 6 7 19 22 23 24 25 27 29 35 36 37


1. Introduction
The Ashbourne Medical School Programme has evolved and developed for over 20 years since Ashbourne College was established in 1981. It is designed to give students the best possible chance of entering a UK Medical School. This booklet provides information about what Ashbourne College has to offer its medical candidates and guidance for students in both the AS and A2 years on how to prepare themselves to apply to read for medical degrees. It also contains important information about entry requirements to several medical degrees for both first time applicants and retakes.


1.1 Overview
Possibly the most crucial point to remember for any prospective medical candidate is that entry into Medical School is not based on solid academic achievement alone. Students need to: • • • • • • Be well-prepared and well-informed about issues in medicine Be comfortable in the interview Gain suitable work experience Have researched the profession thoroughly Have a genuine and strong ambition to become a doctor Develop effective communication skills to aid dealings with patients.

Ashbourne can assist in informing applicants of medical issues through classroom teaching in addition to regular scheduled workshops. Furthermore, interview technique will be developed through mock interviews with Ashbourne tutors and Professor John Foreman, Dean of Students and Professor of Pharmacology and a former member of the panel for Medical School Admissions at University College London.


2. Medical Science as a Degree and a Profession
Medicine, Dentistry and Veterinary Science are among the most demanding and challenging choices of study at University. Both the workload and time commitment are vast, with a continuous round of essays, self-directed study and written assessments throughout the year. Not to mention the heavy schedule of lectures and laboratory work. It takes at least five years of university study (some medical degrees are six years long) to obtain a qualification. A doctor needs to be committed to life-long learning and study throughout his or her career. Doctors continually need to be re-licensed, which requires studying and passing examinations throughout their careers. Think very hard about the implications of this to you. Besides requiring rigorous academic work, medicine is emotionally and spiritually demanding. Skills such as interacting with patients and managing distressing situations are essential to becoming a successful doctor. Doctors must be fully committed to their profession and their studies. There are, however, many rewards to being a doctor and it can be a fulfilling and gratifying career. Doctors are well-paid and their conditions, such as working hours, have improved in recent years. However recent revelations about GPs earning £250k are the exception rather than the rule and students should be mindful that they may amass substantial debts during the course of their studies as a result in particular of tuition fees, top-up fees and living expenses. Not all doctors become surgeons or general practitioners (GPs). Medical School graduates can specialise in a wide variety of disciplines, for which the Medical qualification is the first stage in a long career path. Some of these are: • • • • • • • Anaesthetist Dermatologist Forensic pathologist Gynaecologist Oncologist Pathologist Research scientist VITAL STATISTICS: Last year King’s College, London received 4,800 applications for their medical school. They made 700 offers… 360 students took up places… of which 24 were from overseas. So, your chances of getting an offer were under 15%, much lower for international students. YOU HAVE TO BE GOOD TO GET AN OFFER!


3. Making a Good Application 3.1 A-levels and General Entry Requirements
All medical schools require Chemistry at A-level, and at least one other science; most require Biology at least to AS level. A typical Medical School candidate will offer Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics or Physics. A fourth subject, such as Psychology or a Modern Foreign Language to at least AS level may be advantageous. This fourth subject should demonstrate the student's breadth of knowledge and enthusiasm for study. The minimum grade requirement at A2 level is ABB; most schools require AAB or in some cases AAA. It is also worth noting that medical schools tend (although the trend is changing) to give offers based on A-level grades rather than on UCAS tariff points. So AAC may not be good enough for an ABB offer for example. The GCSE requirements will vary from university to university and you need to make yourself aware of these. However, it goes without saying that you need to have a very strong academic record and realistically any applicant to medical school will have a high number of A and A* grades at GCSE. Students who do not have the ability to attain A grades at GCSE or A level, may find that Medicine as a career is beyond them and they should be realistic and consider alternative careers. ARE YOU A STRAIGHT-A STUDENT? Last year, on one of their interview days, the weakest candidate interviewed for Kings College Medical School had 4 As at AS-level and 9 A*s at GCSE. In addition to the A-level requirements, some Medical Schools require a good score in the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) (see section 3.5 below). Check carefully in the university prospectuses for changes in entry requirements when choosing the Medical Schools particularly overseas applicants for whom there may be specific requirements. Good applicants would be expected to maintain outside interests; doctors should be well-balanced individuals in order to cope with the demands of the profession. They must be able to lead others in teams and to handle significant responsibilities. This can be stimulated by, for example, getting involved in school clubs, societies, drama groups and sports teams. (Don’t forget ACT – (Ashbourne Company Theatre) and the School Revue!)


3.2 The UCAS Application
Your UCAS form is your first chance to impress the people who will assess your suitability for a medical degree. It is ESSENTIAL that you afford this process the amount of time it deserves and the attention you would expect from a prospective trainee doctor. Thorough planning and preparation are vital and you should take advice on the best way to complete your UCAS form before you begin and in good time. These days, the UCAS process is all completed on-line. The first sections ask for your personal information, examination results and university choices (see later). Once you have decided which universities to apply to, the vast majority of your time will be spent preparing your personal statement. This is your ONLY opportunity to ‘sell yourself’ and outline your suitability to be offered an interview.


3.3 The UCAS Personal Statement – your chance to stand out from the crowd
This is the primary way in which a choice can be made between otherwise equally suitable candidates. It is the first opportunity you have of convincing the admissions tutor that you are right for medicine and that it is right for you. Only 500 words are permitted, so it is imperative that you are both selective and precise. If you are interviewed, you should expect to be asked about what you have written in your personal statement. Ultimately, your personal statement has to convince a reader that you would make a good doctor. If you cannot answer the question “Why do you want to be a doctor?” you are not likely to be offered a place, more importantly – should you really be applying? There is no real formula for writing a good personal statement. It is, after all, ‘personal’. However, in general, it should attempt to address the following: 1. Describe your initial interest in Medicine (e.g. visit to a hospital, topic you have studied at A-level, article you have read, issue you have heard about). Avoid making statements like ‘ever since I was a little girl/boy…’ or ‘I have always been fascinated by… WANT TO FOLLOW IN YOUR PARENTS’ FOOTSTEPS? A common reason for wishing to study medicine often cited by medical applicants, is a desire to “follow my mother/father who is/was a doctor”. This may be why you had an initial interest in medicine, but it is not sufficient to base your whole application on a desire to emulate a family member. In fact, candidates whose parents are medics, may be treated more harshly as the admissions panel believe that students with a medical background should be able to clearly demonstrate, to a greater extent, what they have learned and what they know about the profession! 2. Discuss your continued interest (i.e. what have you done to research the career?) i. Work experience – what did you do, how was it valuable and how has it confirmed your desire to study medicine? ii. Reading – what have you read about in scientific journals, newspapers etc that has stimulated further interest in medicine? You should be up-to-date and demonstrate your knowledge of topical issues in the field of medicine that interest you. You should also be able to say why they interest you. iii. Commitment – have you attended conferences or lectures, undertaken voluntary work been involved with a charitable organisation? 3. Demonstrate the transferable skills you have as a result of your extracurricular pursuits and interests. This should not be a list of achievements and interests, but should focus on how your extracurricular interests and talents have helped you develop skills pertinent to the medical profession (e.g. leadership, decision making, time-management, teamwork organisation etc). 9

For instance, don't simply state that you have been captain of a school sports team; elaborate by describing the skills you learned and responsibilities you undertook. For example "As captain of the School 1st XI, I learned to organise team training sessions and the importance of motivating others on the field…" If you play a musical instrument, explain how you balance time demands with the pressures of study and what sacrifices you made. 4. Are there any services, aspects of the courses, etc. which are common to all the universities you have chosen (e.g. If you are a sportsperson, you may have been attracted to their sports facilities, you may like an aspect of the course which is common to each university, perhaps you’d rather be at a university than a teaching hospital etc.). 5. Tell them about you. Make it a truly ‘personal’ personal statement! What type of person are you? What do you read? What films do you watch? What are your interests and hobbies? Where do you like to go on holiday? Let them know they are getting a person rather than a list of grades and achievements. Also, medicine is a stressful and demanding occupation so knowing how to relax is important. NOTE! You may feel you have few ‘extra-curricular skills’. In fact you will be surprised how many personal skills you have. Do you speak more than one language? Are you well travelled? What do you read? Are you confident in your ability as an experimental scientist? Do you ever care for younger siblings, elderly or sick relatives or children? However, be careful not fall into the trap of ‘skill listing’ – anyone can write, “I am dedicated, hard working, committed, organised and intelligent”. The better candidates are those who can support these claims.


3.4 Your Reference
Your personal tutor will write your reference. A good reference needs to be earned and the tutors will be honest and frank. Personal tutors may contact previous schools to obtain further reference information. The best way to earn a good reference is to be a good student. Ensure you are on time for lessons and submit homework on time, avoid creating unnecessary work for your tutors, participate with enthusiasm in classes, and be consistent in your approach to work. ARE YOU A GOOD STUDENT? NOTE! It is not unknown for a tutor to retract a reference later in the academic year for a student who initially impressed but then lapsed into bad habits! So your consistent effort needs to be maintained throughout the school year.


3.4 Medical School Interviews
If your UCAS form and personal statement are excellent and you are lucky enough to receive a good reference, you may be called for an interview. Very few universities will accept a candidate they have not interviewed at least once about their commitment to medicine. For Oxbridge and other renowned universities, expect to be interviewed more than once and often 3 or 4 times. WHAT ARE THEY LOOKING FOR? • A strong and colourful personality • Lively and interesting students • Passion, energy, drive, commitment, enthusiasm • Interest and awareness of current affairs relating to modern-day medicine • A student whose interests, knowledge and education, as presented in their application, are replicated at interview • An ability to discuss relevant work experience • An interest and enthusiasm for working with people • Good communication skills • Confidence without arrogance

You will be asked direct questions about your personal statement, so ensure you can intelligently discuss anything you claim to have an interest in. It is therefore important never to cite an interest in the personal statement with which you are not very familiar. In other words, don’t tell lies – you will be found out! TOP TIP! Always be yourself! Your interviewers want to know more about YOU. That’s why they invited you. You could expect to be asked: • • • • • • • • • Why do you want to be a doctor? Why not be a nurse? What alternatives have you explored? Why have you chosen this university? What do you think of the structure of our course? How can micro-organisms be used in medicine? What are your views on public and private medicine and the government’s Foundation Hospitals? What is the NHS? What issues are currently prominent within the NHS? 12

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Will your personal or religious beliefs conflict with your duties as a doctor? What is an epidemic? Why are we so healthy compared to the Victorians? “I notice from your personal statement that … please comment”. What is the difference between a virus and a bacterium? What is MRSA? How has MRSA arisen? Why was the SARS outbreak so worrying? What is immunisation? When is it effective and why? What are your views on the MMR vaccine controversy? What is homeopathy? Do you approve? What are the negative aspects of the practice of medicine? What attributes to you have that will benefit the university? What qualities do you possess which are relevant to the practice of medicine? (Give evidence) What are your views on: i. euthanasia; ii. eugenics; iii. stem cell research? WILL I BE INTERVIEWED WHEREVER I APPLY? The answer to this question is generally ‘yes’. The only institutions that may not interview you before making an offer are: • The University of Edinburgh (sometimes interview) • Queen’s University Belfast (However, take advice before applying here) • The University of Southampton (do not usually interview)

SO THESE UNIS MUST BE EASIER TO GET INTO, RIGHT? Wrong! If they don’t interview, the universities must have extremely high academic requirements and would expect an outstanding personal statement. Competition for places will be fierce. You should see the interview as an extra opportunity to shine and sell yourself. Getting an interview is an achievement in itself, you should look forward to a further chance to show the selectors what you know and let them know why they should take you. Have confidence in your own ability. 13

SO CAN I AVOID THE INTERVIEW? If you are trying to avoid the interview, you have to ask yourself one question: WHY? If you are not confident enough to take an interview, is medicine the right career for you? A good doctor MUST be a good communicator and MUST be prepared to face difficult, stressful situations. If you have concerns about your interview, don’t try to avoid it. Ask yourself what you are worried about and do something about it. But do not run away from it!


3.5 Testing! Testing!
With an increasing number of students capable of obtaining straight-A grades in their A-levels, universities have a more and more difficult job in discerning the very best candidates from those who are merely competent. In order to help them, most universities require a pass grade in some form of additional test. There are some universities who do not require this, but you can expect most of them to follow in the footsteps of the majority before too long. The additional tests are: • • • The BMAT (Biomedical Admissions Test) The UKCAT (United Kingdom Clinical Aptitude Test) Two other tests exist (MSAT and GAMSAT), however these are intended for students on graduate entry programmes

These tests are required by the following universities: BMAT • • • • • • University of Bristol Veterinary School course code D100 University of Cambridge Medical School course codes A100, A101, D100 Oxford University Medical School course codes A100, B100 Royal Veterinary College course codes D100, D101 University College London course code A100 Imperial College London course code A100

For more information see www.bmat.org.uk UKCAT • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • University of Aberdeen course code A100 Brighton and Sussex Medical School course code A100 Cardiff University course code A100, A104, A200, A204 University of Dundee course code A100, A104, A200, A204 University of Durham course code A106 University of East Anglia course code A100 University of Edinburgh course code A100, A104 University of Glasgow course code A100, A200 Hull York Medical School course code A100 Keele University course code A100 King's College London course code A100, A103, A203, A205 University of Leeds course code A100 University of Leicester course code A100, A101 University of Manchester course code A104, A106, A204, A206 University of Newcastle course code A101, A106, A206 University of Nottingham course code A100 15

• • • • • • •

University of Oxford Graduate Entry Medical Degree course code A101 Peninsula Medical School course code A100 Queen Mary, University of London course code A100, A200, A201 University of Sheffield course code A104, A106, A200 University of Southampton course code A100, A102 University of St. Andrews course code A100 St. George's, University of London course code A100

For more information see www.ukcat.ac.uk These tests are used by certain universities who believe that A-levels alone are insufficient to discern true aptitude for medicine. The test examines candidates' ability to solve novel problems and use knowledge in unanticipated applications. Candidates themselves must take responsibility for making the application for the UKCAT and BMAT separately from the UCAS application. The BMAT test has three elements, which comprise the following: 1. A 60-minute test of aptitude and skills 2. A 30-minute test of scientific knowledge and applications 3. A 30-minute writing task The BMAT will take place this year on 01/11/2006. The cost of the test is £26.00. Ashbourne is registered as a BMAT centre. The UKCAT is a 90 minute test of the following skills: 1. 2. 3. 4. Verbal reasoning Quantitative reasoning Abstract reasoning Decision analysis

The deadline for having registered for the UKCAT is 22/09/2006. The deadline for sitting the test is 29/09/2006. The cost of the test is £60.00. You must register on-line for this test and take it at an external centre. The closest test centre to Ashbourne is at London Bridge, Southwark, London.

For both of these tests, you may find the website http://www.newmediamedicine.com useful


3.6 Work Experience
Work experience is important for two reasons: i) ii) It allows you to discuss the profession intelligently, realistically and with insight. It will help to confirm for yourself that you really do want to be a doctor. You will observe the profession at the ‘front line’ and may have some of your illusions about the career curtailed! If you leave your work experience thinking that you don’t want to be a doctor after all, that is not a bad thing. Its not a job suited to everyone’s tastes.

Although not specified as an essential requirement by the medical schools, if you are serious about a career in medicine, you should endeavour to get as much experience of work in the medical professions as possible. Your general practitioner (GP) may be a good place to start. Ask if you can ‘shadow’ her or him for a few weeks to gain an insight into how a surgery operates and what the day-to-day routines are for a GP. The work may be menial and unglamorous but you will gain a useful insight into the world of the medical professional and have an opportunity to demonstrate a willing attitude to serving others. You may wish to try for some hospital based work experience. Remember all junior doctors will have to spend some time on the wards; it is worth knowing what you are getting yourself in for! The type of work you could get will vary from cleaning on the wards to working in the hospital shop, you should decide if the available positions will be of value to you. It is virtually impossible (unless you have a contact) to get work experience shadowing a hospital doctor. CAN’T GET WORK EXPERIENCE? It is very difficult to organise work experience – particularly in hospitals. Hospitals are inundated with requests. Some places require CRB (‘police’) checks, some have no space for volunteers. Here are some tips if you are struggling: 1. Try care homes, old peoples’ homes, schools and centres for disabled children, clinics, doctors’ surgeries, physiotherapists, St John’s Ambulance and Red Cross as well as hospitals 2. Don’t give up! Hospitals and surgeries are busy places. Student work experience is LOW PRIORITY for them, as you might imagine. Be polite, but persistent in your search 3. A day or even an afternoon of work experience/observation can be extremely useful. Don’t turn anything down 4. You are not expected to have performed open-heart surgery, cured several forms of cancer or carried out an amputation! Try to make an effort to do something which allows you a realistic insight into a career as a carer, working with others, in health care etc. 5. Work experience is not the be-all-and-end-all. You should also look to attend seminars, first-aid training courses, conferences (see MedLink, later in this booklet) 17

Work experience should be something that you initiate yourself, although the staff at the college will help you as far as they are able. The best starting point is the Internet. Visit the homepages of London’s hospitals and search for work experience or volunteering. To get you started, you may want to begin with the following contacts: 1. 2. 3. 4. Community Service Volunteers – 0207 278 6601 The National Centre for Volunteering – 0207 713 6161 The Royal London Hospital – 0207 377 7792 St. Bartholomew’s Hospital – 0207 601 8339

Act sooner rather than later. Places for work experience candidates are limited and hospitals are busy places. Your work experience application will not be made top priority; you may have to be persistent. Ashbourne’s tutors can help you with references and application letters but the work really has to be done by you. If you’re serious about a career in medicine then you must take the initiative and do all that you can to enhance your chances of securing that place at medical school. Charity Work – It can look impressive on a personal statement if you have given up some of your own free time to undertake charity or voluntary work. This could be a Saturday afternoon working in your local charity shop or a local hospice for the elderly. However, please undertake such work willingly rather than out of duty in an attempt to earn ‘CV points’. Voluntary work can be demanding at times for little reward, it would be unfair on the charity, its workers and the people in its care if you were not fully committed to the work and it is entirely inappropriate to undertake voluntary work for this reason.


4. What can you expect from Ashbourne?
Firstly you must remember that there are no guarantees. Most people who apply to medical schools will not take up a place (See ‘Vital Statistics’ on page 6. Competition is fierce and increasingly strong. However, Ashbourne’s record of students gaining offers is good and we pride ourselves on the quality of assistance we provide to potential medical candidates and to the UCAS procedure in general. DON’T JUST TAKE OUR WORD FOR IT! Our recent BAC inspection rated both our UCAS and personal tutoring system as ‘excellent’ (the highest rating). The comment below is taken directly from this report:

“Support for UCAS applications was… excellent. The vice-principal made full use of the UCAS on-line system to monitor and track applications, enabling her to intervene promptly if there is a lack of progress. Specific additional support, including interview practice, is given to those making Oxbridge applications or applying for medical or dental degree programmes.”


4.1 Teaching
At Ashbourne, you can expect: • To receive 6 hours of tuition per subject per week for AS (depending on the number of students in the group). This will increase to 8 hours in the A2 year. One year intensive students can expect to have 8 hours of tuition in each subject per week Class sizes not to exceed 10 students (except in rare cases) Enthusiastic teachers who will take an interest in your studies and your application to medicine and appreciate your needs and requirements. Your tutors will always put your best interests first and will be on hand to offer assistance outside of class whenever they have no other teaching commitments Medical seminars on topical medical and scientific topics using up to date materials and journals Visiting speakers and guest lecturers throughout the year To be provided with information regarding medical lectures and seminars off the premises (see ‘MedLink’ section 5). Ashbourne is well situated for many of these events and they are organised regularly; Imperial College Medical School is a 10-minute walk and University College, London is a 15-minute tube ride . Medical applicants are urged to attend these events to broaden their interests and keep up to date with current medical and scientific issues

• •

• • •


4.2 Your Application
You can expect: • • • • • A personal tutor to guide you through every step of the application process One-to-one assistance with your application and personal statement where appropriate A personal tutor familiar with both the UCAS system and applications to medicine A fair and thoughtful personalised reference At least one mock interview from Professor John Foreman (F.R.C.P) a former admissions tutor at University College London and further mock interviews from Ashbourne staff as necessary in the run-up to your interviews Assistance with writing your application letter or CV for work experience. An honest, fair reference for any work experience place you apply for

• •

WHY A MOCK INTERVIEW? Students usually find the interview the most daunting part of the application process, understandably so! You will be cross-examined by a panel of experts and there is pressure on you to perform and give the best impression of yourself in just 15-30 minutes. Several Ashbourne staff members are experienced in giving mock interviews and students can have as many of these as necessary. A real advantage to joining Ashbourne is the interview with Professor Foreman. This is a chance to get some feedback from a genuine expert and from someone who has for many years interviewed students for medical entrance. All of our former medical candidates described the mock interviews as invaluable to build confidence and pick up vital tips before the real thing.


5. MedLink
We strongly recommend our students attend the MedLink student conference held every December at the University of Nottingham. Details of the MedLink programme are published on www.medlink-uk.com from August 2006. It is a fantastic opportunity to: • • • • • • Experience student life Meet and discuss ideas with other prospective medical school candidates Meet current medical students Attend medical lectures, seminars and practicals Get an in depth look at Nottingham University, its facilities, situation, accommodation and atmosphere Speak to doctors and university lecturers

The Medlink programme is a 4-day event held in two sessions usually in December, where students attend lectures, seminars and practical sessions, and have the chance to talk to the admissions tutors and Deans of many UK Medical Colleges. Also, medical students will be present to discuss the merits and drawbacks of studying Medicine. There are various practical sessions where students can interact with patients from the other side of the clipboard, and watch live surgery and clinical skills in action. Contact the Ashbourne Medical School Co-ordinator (John Wilson) for further details. ISN’T IT JUST A MARKETING EXERCISE BY NOTTINGHAM UNIVERSITY? Many students decide, as a result of attending MedLink, to apply to Nottingham. Many students decide, as a result of attending MedLink, not to apply to Nottingham! In order to make an informed decision about where to apply, you should visit as many universities as possible. This is an opportunity to visit and appraise Nottingham University and the city of Nottingham as well as get valuable help with your application to medicine.


6. Is there anything else I should be doing?
You should begin to investigate which university you would like to apply to AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE. You should therefore investigate three things: 1. Location – arguably the most important factor. You will spend a minimum of five years in the town or city you choose to study in. This makes it a decision worth getting right. You should visit the university and the city if possible (this does not need to be an open day – just hop on the train and go there!). You should also browse university websites and send for copies of their prospectuses 2. Course structure – what appeals to you? For instance Oxbridge take the very traditional approach of teaching ‘pre-clinical’ medicine for three years, then ‘clinical’ medicine. Most others adopt a more hands-on approach from the beginning 3. Talk to students – gain an insight into the medical schools. Open days are a good opportunity to do this, but in general students at universities are always happy to share their experiences ALSO… Register AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE for tests such as the UKCAT and BMAT - See page 15 for details of these tests. In addition, you should ensure you are familiar with topical medicine and scientific stories in the news and scientific journals. You should read a broadsheet newspaper everyday and also refer regularly to New Scientist and the Student BMJ (British Medical Journal). Remember you are likely to be asked about such issues at interview. It is also recommended that you broaden your reading. A good place to start would be the reading list below: 1. The Selfish Gene – Richard Dawkins 2. The Blind Watchmaker – Richard Dawkins 3. Language of the Genes – Stephen Jones 4. Almost Like a Whale – Stephen Jones 5. The Double Helix – Watson and Crick 6. The Red Queen Hypothesis – Matt Ridley

If you can’t decide where to live, why not consider St. Andrew’s University in Scotland. You will study there for a three year BSc course before transferring to complete you medical degree in Manchester. That way you will get to experience two fabulous and historic universities as well as live in two different countries!


7. Entry Requirements at the UK Medical Schools
The entry requirements for every UK medical school are listed at the back of this booklet. REMEMBER, THESE ARE MINIMUM REQUIREMENTS. GOOD CANDIDATES WILL BE CAPABLE OF EXCEEDING THESE COMFORTABLY. Offers may be higher than those listed (in some cases, for exceptional candidates, they may be lowered, but this is rare). Also, remember it is not necessarily easier to gain entry into a university with a lower offer! A university offering AAB will have as tough, if not tougher, requirements than a university typically offering AAA. Last year Dundee was the only university to list their typical offer as low as ABB. This year they have hiked their minimum requirements up to AAA. Good for them!


8. A-level Retakes and Medical Schools
You may have missed out on your A-level grades first time round and are hoping to improve your grades with a retake course. It is becoming less and less possible for you to obtain a place at medical school if you do not make your offer at the first attempt. If you are retaking, it is important not to waste valuable applications (remember you may only chose four universities) on establishments that do not take kindly to students who have had two attempts at their A-levels. PLEASE NOTE: IF YOU A RETAKER, YOUR CHANCES OF BEING OFFERED A PLACE ARE EXTREMELY SMALL. YOU SHOULD THINK VERY, VERY CAREFULLY ABOUT YOUR CHANCES OF SUCCESS BEFORE YOU DO SO. Sometimes people have a valid reason for needing to retake (such as an illness or death in the family), however even in such extenuating circumstances the odds are against you and you will be expected to have come close first time around (BBC would be the lowest expected result and often it would need to be higher). Your chances of taking up a place as a retake candidate will be higher if you have previously held an offer with a medical school and you apply to the same school again. In our experience, you should limit your retake applications to the universities listed on the next page. However, it is always worth contacting the university you want to go to directly – they may make exceptions in exceptional circumstances. IF YOU ARE LUCKY ENOUGH TO BE GIVEN A PLACE AS A RETAKER, THEN YOUR OFFER WILL BE AAA AND A AT AS-LEVEL. Q: I want to retake GCSEs to improve my chances of getting into medicine?

A: Forget it! You will be rejected if you have poor GCSE grades. Medical candidates are expected to be academic high-fliers who should not need to retake any exams under any circumstances.


Universities to Consider if you are Retaking you A-levels:
• • • • • • • • • • • Brighton and Sussex East Anglia Hull-York Keele Leeds Liverpool Manchester Peninsula Queen Mary Sheffield UCL

Please note: This is a guide only, compiled in July 2006. Medical school applicants must take responsibility for checking these details BEFORE making their application. In view of increased competition for places, the schools always prefer first time candidates. Our research has shown that only East Anglia and Peninsula are prepared to consider retake candidates without extenuating circumstances. In each case, students must be able to prove they are ‘heading in the right direction’ with their academic record.


9. Information on Medical Organizations
The British Medical Association (BMA): www.bma.org • Represents doctors' interests; 80% of practising doctors are members • Keeps members informed on clinical and other medical issues • Publishes the BMJ and the Student BMJ • Advises on doctors' careers and provides continuous professional training • The website includes a medical education glossary and a guide to becoming a doctor General Medical Council (GMC): www.gmc-uk.org • Protects patients' interests in the NHS • Regulates and licences doctors to practice • Maintains the register of licensed doctors • Sets and maintains the standards of medical education • Handles cases of professional misconduct National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE): www.nice.org.uk • Appraises health techniques and medications before they are introduced into the NHS, by providing guidance on 'best practice' • Set up in 1999 to ensue consistent and equal treatment across the NHS Royal Society of Medicine (RSM): www.roysocmed.ac.uk • Publishes the JRSM • Maintains a large library of medical books and journals • Is a venue for continued professional development – seminars, lectures and conferences Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP): www.rcgp.org.uk • Helps develop GPs' professional training and standards Royal College of Physicians (RCP): www.rcplondon.ac.uk • The oldest of the Royal Colleges of Physicians • Maintains standards in medical practice and conducts examinations and training Royal College of Surgeons (RCS): www.rcseng.ac.uk • Promotes the highest standards in surgical care • Administers examinations in surgical qualifications (it does not award qualifications; this is the job of the GMC) • Advises the Department of Health and the NHS on surgical issues Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG): www.rcog.org.uk • Administers obstetrics and gynaecology examinations • Sets standards to improve women’s’ health Royal College of Pathologists (RCP): www.rcpath.org • Promotes good practice in pathology • Organises training and teaching and examinations • Develops pathology techniques and technology 27

UK Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting: www.ukcc.org.uk • Regulates training and registration of nurses etc. Medical Research Council (MRC): www.mrc.ac.uk • National research council which distributes tax-payers' money to medical researchers • Promotes research in all areas of medicine and medicine-related technologies British Medical Informatics Society (BMIS): www.bmis.org • Helps inform doctors on medical informatics issues National Association of Primary Care (NAPC): www.primarycare.co.uk • Represents primary healthcare professionals (GPs and community care nurses) NHS Information Authority: www.nhsia.nhs.uk/def/home.asp • Improves NHS services by providing information on services and standards • Source of much useful clinical and statistical data on NHS services, waiting times and hospital details NHS Direct: www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk • A nurse-led telephone advice and information service for rapid access by patients The Patients Charter: www.open.gov.uk/charter/patients • Sets out standards and rights which UK citizens can expect from the NHS • Includes complaints procedures for substandard and non-professional treatment Grey's Anatomy Online: www.bartleby.com/107/ • Does exactly what is says on the tin


10. Alternatives to Medical School
Becoming a doctor is not the only worthwhile career open to students who want to work in health care. Below is some information on other medicine-related subjects which are worth considering; none of them is less rewarding or less worthy than medicine; a good physiotherapist or optometrist is a more valuable member of society than a poor doctor.

1. Dentistry
Dentistry should be considered as an alternative to medicine only in that it provides the student with an opportunity to specialise in one vital medical discipline. Dentistry is as demanding, or more so, than medicine academically and entry to dental college generally requires higher AS and A2 grades. Whereas a medical doctor will specialize in one particular area of treatment, a dentist is responsible for examination, diagnosis, treatment, surgery, X-ray and post-treatment patient care. Indeed, if a patient has a problem they will come to the dentist expecting diagnosis and all treatment. Dentistry is much more than drilling teeth; oral hygiene, dental reconstruction and dietary advice are also part of dentistry, and dentists are often involved in primary care such as diagnosing oral cancers and identifying cases of child neglect. If you are seriously considering a career in dentistry, then you must keep abreast of the ongoing changes within the National Health Service and the increasing number of dentists opting into the often more lucrative private sector. The tutors at Ashbourne can offer further advice on where to look next or what steps to take if you think dentistry is for you or if you need help in selecting a University. Entry Requirements If you wish to apply for a degree in Dentistry, assume that you will get an offer of AAB. You should be capable of achieving AAA at A-level. Some universities will not let you apply unless you have at least BBB from your AS examinations. Entry requirements are much more straightforward than for medicine with most places looking for Chemistry and Biology at A-level. Any deviation is detailed below. If you have retaken your A-levels you are highly unlikely to obtain a place to study Dentistry unless you have genuine and serious extenuating circumstances and you have applied and held offers previously with the universities you apply to.


United Kingdom Dentistry Schools
University Birmingham Bristol Telephone Mr Donald Spencer 0121 237 2766 Dr John Moran 0117 928 9000 029 2074 4227 Typical Offer AAB AAB Subject Requirements Chemistry to A2 and one from Biology Physics and Maths Chemistry; Biology preferred. Only one Maths subject allowed Chemistry; Biology to AS at least. Biology and two other sciences/maths Chemistry and Biology to A2 – strong preference given to those with English at AS level Chemistry or Biology required. Chemistry and Biology required Chemistry and Biology required; one to A2 the other to AS at least and must be grade B Biology and Chemistry Retake Policy Not accepted In exceptional circumstances, candidates who performed well in interview and missed their grades by very small margin. Welcomed but places limited


Dundee Glasgow

Morag Matthew 01382 644 697 0141 330 6216

AAB (including A in Chemistry or Biology) AAA AAB (and BBB at AS level) AAB and C in a 4th AS subject AAB A grades in Chemistry and Biology 390 points (AAB + 1 AS)

Not accepted Only if previously applied and achieved minimum BBC at first attempt Not accepted Accepted in theory, but priority given to first time applicants and retakes must have serious extenuating circumstances. Only considered if applied to Liverpool in previous admissions cycle. Must have work experience in dental/doctors practice for at least 3-5 weeks Accepted in theory, but priority given to first time applicants and retakes must have serious extenuating circumstances Only considered if applied to Newcastle in previous admissions cycle Accepted rarely. Priority given to first time applicants and retakes must have serious extenuating circumstances Not accepted unless applied to Queen’s Belfast and held a firm offer

King’s College Leeds

0207 8486512 0113 3436169


Mr George 0151 706 5298


0161 3060231

AAB + AS at grade B AAB AAB

Newcastle Queen Mary University of London Queen’s Belfast

01912226000 02073777611

Biology or Chemistry required to A2 Chemistry and Biology required Chemistry and another science/maths. Maths and Further Maths will not be considered as two Alevels. Biology required to at least AS level and a B grade is needed. Also you must take at least 9 units in your final exam session Chemistry and another science

0289 0632733

AAA + 1 AS subject (Grade A in Chemistry)


0114 271 7807


Considered if received and accepted an offer in the previous year


Further Information British Dental Association: www.bda-dentistry.org.uk General Dental Council: www.gdc-uk.org

2. Veterinary Science
Any preconceptions of a veterinary career being “cushy number” should be abandoned. The training period before qualification is long (five or six years) and gruelling. Since there are only six schools offering veterinary science, the competition for entry is much keener than for medicine. Dealing with animals does not isolate the vet from dealing with human emotional issues. Informing a person that his or her only companion is too sick for economical treatment is not an easy thing to do. Equally difficult is telling a farmer that you may need to cull all of his livestock to contain the outbreak of a disease, hence seriously compromising his livelihood and only source of income. Within the profession, opportunities for specialization are very wide. You will treat far more species than the one you contemporaries at Medical Schools are stuck with for starters! Within the field however, there are opportunities for microbiologists, parasitologists, pathologists, surgeons and equine specialists among others. You will also have to decide whether to be employed by Her Majesty’s Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA - www.defra.gov.uk), an animal charity such as RSPCA (www.rspca.org.uk), a pharmaceutical company or in private practice. Each is in itself hugely varied and increasingly specialised. Veterinary medicine is a physically tough and dangerous career as many animals are not keen on veterinary treatment! There is a huge demand for veterinary doctors willing to work in large-animal practice in agriculture; many veterinary graduates have chosen careers in small animal practices in urban areas as this are less dangerous and physically hard, which has led to a surplus of smallanimal vets in England. Entry Requirements Students should aim to study Chemistry and Biology and another science. Most applicants to veterinary science will probably have taken four A-levels and will probably secure A-grades in each; indeed veterinary science has arguably the most demanding entry requirements. If you have retaken or are considering retaking you’re A-levels in order to gain a place at a Veterinary College you should be aware that you will almost certainly not be successful. Places are in such high demand that the schools will not and do not need to consider retakes to make up their numbers. You are also highly unlikely to find Veterinary courses listed in clearing. The most important entry criteria for any prospective veterinary candidate will be an ability to demonstrate a love and passion for animals, and mammals in particular. Have you attended riding school since you were six? Did you grow up on a farm? Have you done voluntary work at London Zoo?


United Kingdom Veterinary Schools
University Bristol Telephone 0117 928 8153 Typical offer AAA + pass in BMAT AAA AAB AAB AAB + one AS (390 points) AAB AAA Subject requirements Chemistry and Biology essential Physics or Maths recommended Three from Biology, Maths, Physics and Chemistry Chemistry (A grade) and Biology essential Physics or Maths recommended Chemistry (A grade) and Biology and one other science Biology essential; Chemistry recommended Chemistry (A grade) and Biology (A grade) essential Physics or Maths recommended Chemistry and Biology required Retake policy In extreme mitigating circumstances Not Accepted Not Accepted Not Accepted Not Accepted Not Accepted Not Accepted

Cambridge Edinburgh Glasgow Liverpool Nottingham Royal Veterinary College, University of London

01223 337 600 0131 650 6130 0141 330 2225 0151 7944281 0115 951 6411 020 7 468 5000

Further Information British Veterinary Association: www.bva.co.uk Royal college of Veterinary Surgeons: www.rcvs.org.uk

3. Optometry
Optometry requires a level of commitment similar to medicine. The degree programme involves completion of a BSc with clinical training and in this respect is similar to a degree in medicine. The optometrist is concerned with preserving or restoring vision to children and adults to help them to live fulfilling, unhindered lives. The loss or depletion of good visual acuity can be an extremely debilitating disorder The allure of a degree in optometry might be driven by a desire to become a specialist in a highly intricate piece of anatomy. You should certainly have a strong interest in sciences; in particular practical aspects as problem analysis and solving are frequent features of an optometrist’s daily work. The optometrist is a healthcare professional and as such should possess good interpersonal and communication skill. Additionally you will require a degree of business acumen as optometrists are generally managers of their own businesses and appoint their own staff. Further Information Institute of Optometry: www.ioo.org.uk College of Optometrists (UK): www.college-optometrists.org


4. Physiotherapy
If you intend studying physiotherapy in order to fulfil your dream of working as Manchester United’s head-physio then you may be surprised when you realise what physiotherapy actually involves. Although the opportunity to work with professional sports people is a possibility, physiotherapists are also employed in industry and private practices. However, the majority of chartered physiotherapists work in hospitals for the NHS. You will be responsible for treating patients with a wide variety of diseases, both communicable and non-communicable. Physiotherapy is also a vital part of the rehabilitation programme of patients who have suffered accidents, undergone surgery or been confined to a bed for a long period of time. If you opt to work for the NHS you will find yourself part of a team that may include osteopaths, occupational therapists, prostheticists as well as more usual hospital staff such as doctors and nurses. As such, you must be a good team member with excellent communication skills. You should have a keen interest in human physiology and in practical science skills. Physiotherapy is a “hands on” approach to healthcare that incorporates wide range of mechanical equipment in addition to your own hands. Physiotherapy is extremely competitive and hugely oversubscribed. Entry requirements are rarely lower than those for medicine and only candidates expressing a real desire to become a physiotherapist will be considered. Ashbourne can help you to assess the strengths of your application and help you build on weaknesses. Work experience for example is vital if you intend being taken seriously. Entry Requirements A relevant Biological Science (Biology, Human Biology or in some cases Sports Studies) will almost always be required to full A-level. Another science subject is also recommended.

5. Pharmacy/Pharmacology
If you are interested in a rigorous and demanding medical science degree then Pharmacy may be appropriate to you. Pharmacists are responsible for advising patients of appropriate medications and hence carry a large degree of responsibility. You will be responsible for preparing and dispensing drugs for sale and for counter prescriptions. You will lead a team of assistants and will be required to work lengthy hours in very busy and often stressful situations. The course is demanding and popular and hence entry requirements are often high. A-level Chemistry and at least one other science (Biology preferred) will be prerequisite.

6. Nursing
For every doctor in the NHS, there are ten nurses; every doctor knows that nothing happens without a nurse. The demands for nursing are as heavy but it can be an extremely rewarding career. Changes in the structure of the NHS has places greater responsibility on ward nurses; they are now able to diagnose patients, prescribe and dispense some medicines, refer patients to other specialists and carry out nearly all of the duties of a doctor. This is reflected in improving pay scales and conditions for nurses.


Nursing does not require such high academic grades as medicine at A-level; two A-levels and an AS level will generally suffice. Biology and one other science, preferably chemistry, are needed; the most important requirement is a high level of commitment. There are two routes into nursing. The degree program through university study is more academic than the alternative, nursing school in an NHS hospital. Basic nurse training takes two to three years, after which there are numerous specializations open.

7. Biomedical Science
Biomedical Science (BMS) is often seen as either a backdoor into medicine or as 'medicine-lite'. However, BMS is very demanding, as students will need to master a greater depth of academic knowledge than medical students whilst remaining familiar with clinical practice and medical applications. BMS contains a high proportion of chemistry and biochemistry and incorporates a substantial amount of independent academic research. Most BMS degrees last for 4 years including a 6-month or year-long research project. It is possible for candidates to enter Medical School after graduating in BMS; however this is extremely difficult and competition is very fierce; the number of candidates attempting this entry path into medicine has increased enormously in the last few years; those who are successful has not. Candidates must not only have achieved good grades in the final examinations, but also to have worked hard preparing for medicine by for example working in hospitals as a researcher or volunteer. Students graduating with a BMS degree have the same chances of entering medicine as any other science graduate. BMS graduates usually continue in academic or industrial research in a university or pharmaceutical company; candidates should consider carefully whether this is the career path they wish to pursue.

9. Other Options
If you are still interested in a degree in healthcare or medical science but don’t feel any of the options above are suitable for you, there are other alternatives to choose from. The tutors at Ashbourne will advise you on the suitability of any of the below courses as well as help you to choose the most appropriate establishment. Chiropractice Food Science and Nutrition Occupational Therapy Sports Science Equine Science Podiatry Immunology Osteopathy Forensic Science


11. Medicine for non-scientists
If you have taken non-science A-levels but during that time have developed an interest in Medicine, you can apply to undertake a degree programme which includes a foundation year. You will be required to have, or be predicted, very high A-level grades in the subjects you have taken (at least AAB). The following universities offer such a programme although be careful as some may require you to have taken a science to some level so check with the universities first: • • • • • • The University of Bristol The University of Cardiff The University of Edinburgh King’s College, London The University of Manchester The University of Sheffield


12. What happens if you don’t succeed?
If you do not receive any offers from the medical schools first time around, you can consider reapplying next year. To maximise your chances of success, you will need to secure excellent Alevel grades and dedicate as mush time as possible to strengthen your application. Get as much experience as possible. You will have a year to fill – use it wisely. If you do not meet the requirements of your offer, as a potential medical school candidate, you are likely to be a strong applicant and as such consider using your good results to gain entry into another, competitive degree programme. If your heart is set on medicine, you have a few options. If you receive an offer but miss out by a small margin and you are a strong candidate otherwise, it is worth discussing the issue with the admissions tutor at the Medical School. They may have unfilled places. Otherwise you will need to take individual advice about other options including retaking, graduate entry and clearing. Remember, few, if any, medical places will be available through clearing. Good Luck with your application!


13. Appendix 1. Medical School Entry Requirements


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