Section A: The UCL Medical School Application Process
1. What qualities in a student does UCL medical school look for
UCL Medical School’s website describes the ‘UCL Doctor’ as: “a highly competent and scientifically literate clinician who is equipped to practise person-centered medicine in a constantly changing modern world with a foundation in the basic medical and social sciences”.
This translates as an individual who is keen and passionate to learn about the intricate science behind clinical medicine while maintaining a human approach (i.e. they treat their patient more than just a biological system!). They are curious and strive to remain up-to-date in all medical knowledge that may benefit their patients.
2. What elements of your application does UCLMS value most?
UCLMS has a very holistic approach to assessing candidates. It utilises both applicant's achieved and predicted grades, BMAT score and all other available information on their personal statement and UCAS application to make an informed and balanced decision. This is used to select around 25% of applicants for interview. At the interview stage, the assessment of candidates is no longer academic. The aim is to find out more about you and identify whether you're the right 'fit' for Medicine. Just over 35% of interviewed candidates are given a place at UCL medical school and this is based only on their interview performance (not grades, BMAT or any other aspect of the application). You are effectively treated as 'equals' once you reach the interview stage.
3. How important is the BMAT score at UCLMS?
UCL uses the BMAT (not UCAT) and emphasises the importance of the candidates’ score for interview selection. However, unlike other universities that may operate a hard cutoff, UCLMS does not have an official cut off BMAT score. Whilst a higher score can strengthen an application, the medical school uses this information alongside other aspects of the candidate’s application to determine whether a candidate should be offered a place. The average BMAT score for all UCL medical school applicants is available online and data can be filtered for those selected for interview and those offered a place. This can provide a useful indication of the BMAT scores of successful applicants.
4. How important are the grades you ultimately achieve (end of Year 13) for UCLMS?
UCL’s typical offer is A*AA, which must include chemistry and biology. In addition, all examinations must be undertook at the same time as re-sits or year 12 repeats are (usually) not accepted (exceptions apply). UCL does however accept graduate students who have re-sat A- Levels before their undergraduate degree.
UCL medical school does not require students to have undertaken an EPQ, nor do they include it in their offer or have a grade requirement for EPQ; however, they state that an EPQ can demonstrate interest in a subject as well as provide evidence of independent learning skills.
Students must have predicted grades that meet or exceed A*AA when applying.
For students sitting the International Baccalaureate (IB), they must offer three subjects including chemistry and biology at Higher Level, plus three subjects at Standard Level. The standard IB offer for 39/45, with a minimum score of 6 in any subject.
UCL accepts many other qualifications, including those of graduate students, details of which can be found at https://www.ucl.ac.uk/prospective-students/undergraduate/degrees/medicine-mbbs-bsc.
UCL also offers a contextual offer subject of AAB, subject to students meeting certain criteria found at https://www.ucl.ac.uk/prospective-students/undergraduate/how-apply/access-and-participation/access-ucl-contextual-offers.
UCL’s MB, BS course does not participate in clearing or adjustment, does not have an alternative foundation programme, and does not accept students who do not meet their offers.
5. What other requirements does this university have for Medicine?
UCL requires all candidates to offer GCSE, or equivalent, qualifications at grade B/6 or above in both English Language and Mathematics, as well as requiring UK students to offer a grade 5/C or above in a modern foreign language. While good GCSE grades can strengthen an application, they are only one aspect of the overall application and poor GCSE grades can be compensated by other components of the application, such as predicted grades, BMAT scores, personal statement, or interview. UCL does not consider UCAS points. The key thing to remember is that UCLMS is very holistic in its approach!
6. What should I put in my personal statement for Medicine at UCL?
UCL assigns a priority score to all applicants in order to identify 25% for interview. Along with BMAT scores, achieved (GCSE) and predicted (A-Level) grades, UCL lists several other factors they use to assess candidates before interview, all of which can be evidenced in a candidate’s personal statement. These include qualities such as motivation to study medicine, which students can demonstrate through activities such as wider reading, research, external projects such as EPQ, discussion, attending scientific events or work experience, and evidence of teamwork, leadership and communication skills, which an applicant can show by mentioning participation in arts, intellectual or sports related teams, part-time jobs, volunteering, positions of leadership in societies or clubs, Duke of Edinburgh or many other situations. In the words of the senior admission tutor at UCLMS, they are looking for 'interesting' candidates with interests beyond just Medicine.
UCL recognises that work experience is difficult to obtain and therefore looks for other previous experiences, including personal, volunteering or work-related experiences. It's always key to demonstrate reflection with any experience, particularly those involving work with the sick, disabled, very young or elderly, and emphasises the importance of candidates being able to reflect on this experience to demonstrate professional values such as flexibility, integrity, empathy, honesty, conscientiousness, and compassion. More information regarding UCL’s selection procedure can be found at https://www.ucl.ac.uk/medical-school/study/undergraduate/mbbs-admissions/selection-interviews/selection-procedure.
7. What is the structure of the medicine interview for UCLMS?
UCL currently adopts a panel interview, however, have stated on their website that they foresee a change to MMI interviews soon. The panel interview mostly involves 3 interviewers, one of whom is often a medical student. One of these panellists is also given the role of 'observer' (not restricted to medical student). Observers do not ask any questions but observe a candidates body language and listens to their responses.
Students are normally given a slot of a couple of hours within which they can expect their interview to take place. During the waiting period before the interview students are often put in the same room with an attending UCL student. They are encouraged to talk to each other and the medical student, providing a relaxed atmosphere and a chance to ask any questions.
Interviews take place from December to March on a rolling basis based off applicants BMAT scores. The interviews normally last between 20-30 minutes. Interviewers are well skilled at putting students at ease and students are expected to dress smartly (however suits are not essential). Students can expect to hear of their outcome within 2-3 weeks of their interview.
8. What does UCL look for in a Medicine interview?
A thorough awareness and understanding of your personal statement is absolutely essential. Panels will have your personal statement in front of them and consider anything mentioned on your statement as 'fair game' (i.e. they can ask about any aspect of it). In fact, interviewers have been known to quote a line from a perspective students' personal statement and ask them to elaborate on it.
UCL interviews have the advantage of being less structured than other interviews, which allows interviewees to lead the interview in the direction of topics they are well read on. This can be current affairs, a speciality, work of famous alumni (6 former UCL students and staff have been awarded the Nobel prize!), an opportunity undertaken or impressing the interviewers with an in-depth knowledge of the UCL course- reading up and having an idea of the various iBSc courses and dropping that into conversation is sure to make a good impression! However, it's important to remain genuine in your responses.
While students are rarely asked their reason for applying for a medical degree directly, they are often asked questions pertaining to their work experience, volunteering, or other activities they have undertook and are expected to relate their experiences with their desire to have a career in medicine.
UCL is very involved in public health and is proud of its many staff and professors that are involved in the NHS leadership, Royal Colleges and Health & Social Care Ministry. A good understanding of the structure of the NHS, its advantages, current challenges faced, budget and services offered is very liable to be asked and should be known by a prospective student.
Questions regarding current affairs in medicine are also common favourite of UCL interviewers so it is vital all students are up to date on the large, major developments in medicine currently in the news such as a pandemic (stay up-to-date with healthcare news with the weekly Newsfeed). Students are not usually asked about any particular developments but rather asked to speak about any current research or technology that interests them. They should be able to do this in enough detail to justify their choice of interest.
Students are often asked to provide an example of a situation where they have demonstrated teamwork, leadership, resilience, or communication skills or may be directly asked to speak about opportunities or activities they have mentioned in their personal statement. This is the ideal opportunity for students to elaborate and demonstrate to the interviewer that they can work well in a team, for example in a sports/ music team, volunteering, work experience or Duke of Edinburgh.
Students are expected to have a basic idea of medical ethics- such as the 5 pillars of medicine, consent, Gillick competence, organ donation, euthanasia - and should be able to talk about the importance of medical ethics and the laws that uphold them. While UCL interviews do not involve role plays or scenario-based questions, students are expected to be able to engage in conversations regarding such aspects of medicine and explain their views, beliefs and understanding eloquently.
UCL clearly state the qualities they will attempt to gauge at interview, which include academic curiosity and interest in healthcare, problem solving and reasoning ability, professional attitudes and values, team work, leadership, resilience and individual strengths, and many others. UCL emphasises the importance of communication skills, to include verbal ability, listening skills and eye contact, which are worth taking into account for interviewees!
9. What are my chances of getting into UCL medical school?
UCL receives an average of 3500 applicants per year, for 334 places, resulting in a success rate of under 10%. UCL typically interviews 950 applicants (approximately 25% of total number of applicants) for these 334 places, giving an applicant a 35% chance of being offered a place after being interviewed.