The Ultimate Medical School Guide

University College London Medical School

BY:
Shazia, Carolina & Abdul-Rahman
LAST EDITED:
2021

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.

Section B: What is Medicine at UCL really like?

1. What is the course structure for the 5 year medicine course?

UCL follows a traditional style of teaching, with a distinct split between pre-clinical and clinical years. Undergraduate students complete 2 pre-clinical years, followed by a compulsory year of an intercalated iBSc, before entering 3 clinical years of medicine, resulting in a total of 6 years of medical school. Graduate students follow a similar structure, however, they do not undertake an iBSc, for a total of 5 years.

UCL does not offer a foundation programme. It does however offer an MDPhD programme for medical students who are particularly passionate about research, allowing students to take an extra 3 years out after their 4th year to complete full time research, before returning for their clinical years. This allows them to graduate with an iBSc, MDPhD and MB,BS.

2. How does the structure of your day-to-day life change as you progress through the different years of the course?

In pre-clinical years (i.e. your first 2 years), the majority of your time is spent in the lecture theatre or online (watching recorded lectures), with lectures being the main method of delivering teaching. This is the 'traditional' method that UCLMS adheres to. These lectures - depending on the module and content - are often followed by dissections (to aid your anatomy learning) or in-depth tutorials, discussing lecture material. Students can access the majority of lectures - subject to lecturers’ approval - on an online platform an hour after the live lecture; however, although attendance is not taken at lectures, students are expected to attend 100% lectures to engage with the lecturer and the content and ask any questions during or after the session.

LT1 in the Cruciform Building (the main lecture theatres for medical students in years 1 & 2)

UCL lectures are delivered by a mixture of clinicians and UCL researchers, all of whom are experts in their field, which gives students the most up to date teaching possible. There are advantages and disadvantages to this. Lectures are often delivered by world-leaders in the field. However, as a result introduction to content can sometimes be overwhelming and quickly delve into topics of ongoing research. However, if you are interested in research and cutting-edge technology this could be a significant benefit of going to UCL.

All lecturers are extremely responsive and open to questions, with many students often sending follow-up emails to ask questions on the taught content. Students can also ask lecturers questions regarding wider reading. Lecturers are always delighted to respond to you! During these years, students can expect to have (packed) timetabled lectures, tutorials, and dissections for 9-5 most days, with between 1-2 hours of break in the middle of the day for lunch. Students are advised to complete 3-4 hours of reading outside of timetabled sessions daily to keep on top of the seemingly infinite content! Additionally, students are (almost never) timetabled on Wednesday afternoon, when sport and other societies typically schedule their training sessions.  Students in their first and second year also undertake a Student Selected Component (SSC) for a couple of hours a week, which allows students to pursue interests outside of medicine. Options include arts, research, humanities, and languages (this reflects UCL medical school's appreciation for the humanities).

In 3rd year, during the iBSc, your schedule varies significantly depending on your choice of iBSc (which you apply for in 2nd year). Certain iBScs are very lab-based (e.g. Neuroscience, Cardiovascular & Clinical Sciences iBSc) whereas others may be more literature based (e.g. Global Studies & Anthropology). Other iBScs may include a significant amount of hospital or community placements (e.g. Women's Health & Paediatrics). The majority of iBScs will be delivered via lectures. However, the number of hours spent depends on the iBSc. It is usually a lot less than in first & second (pre-clinical) years. However, this 'free' time should be dedicated to your dissertation project (a lab or literature-based research project which you have to write up and submit).

Years 4, 5 & 6 are so-called 'clinical' years. During these years you are attending hospital placements on rotations. In 4th year these rotations cover general medical (e.g. cardiology, pulmonology, haematology) and surgical (e.g. gastroenterology & anaesthetics) specialities. In 5th year you cover the so-called 'specialities' which include areas such as psychiatry, paediatrics and obstetrics & gynaecology. Placements involve attending out-patient clinics (sitting in with patients and doctors), attending wards (where you may join a ward round with doctors speaking to and examining patients, as well as taking histories and examining patients in your own time) and attending surgeries. A week of lectures is put on before each term (there are three terms in total) and small group seminars are put on throughout various rotations. The style, frequency and size of these teaching sessions depends on the rotation and hospital you are based at. At UCL, you are usually based at one of three main sites (UCLH, Whittington Hospital and Bloomsbury). You usually spend one term in each site. However, due to COVID-19 the amount of rotation has reduced and how this will impact future years is yet to be seen.

Each of 4th & 5th year will contribute around 25% of your overall score that determines your placement for your foundation year job after graduating medical school.

Year 6 is very much a year of consolidation and preparation for your foundation years (i.e. the two years after you graduate as a practicing doctor). It usually involves a student selected component (you choose your placement!) and a rotation around general medical and surgical departments. You will also spend time in general acute and emergency-based departments. During this year you will do a situational judgement exam (SJT) which contributes around 50% of your overall score for your foundation year placement and your prescribing exam (pass/fail exam). Importantly, you will also sit your medical school finals exams (a pass/fail exam). After these exams, you go on your self-organised elective!

More information on the content of each year can be found at http://ucl.reportlab.com/media/u/medicine-mbbs-bsc.pdf.

3. Is an iBSc offered at this university?

An intercalated BSc is compulsory for all undergraduate medical students at UCL, and UCL is especially proud of having the largest range of options for intercalating students (22 programmes in 2020-2021!) to include human genetics and genomics, medical physics and biomedical engineering, oncology, sports and exercise medical sciences, cardiovascular sciences, medical anthropology, global health, neuroscience, oncology, woman’s health, surgical sciences and many others. Whilst the vast majority of UCL students choose to complete their iBSc at UCL, students are free to intercalate at another university assuming it's for a suitable course, with Business and management at Imperial College London being a popular choice!

4. What is the typical cohort size and does this change as you progress through the course?

The average cohort size is 350 students, one of the largest in the country, allowing for the universities renowned nature of being diverse and varied! The cohort size typically remains the same, due to a low number of drop outs and transferring students (from other medical schools).

5. Which hospitals are linked to UCL medical school?

Medical students at UCL spend most of their clinical years between 3 hospitals: UCLH, located on the same street as the main UCL and medical school campus (Bloomsbury, Camden), Royal Free Hospital (Belsize Park) and Whittington (Archway). The latter two are no more than a 20-minute tube journey from the main UCL campus, allowing students living with friends based at different hospitals to easily find accommodation to suit all. These hospitals, particularly UCLH and the Royal Free are at the forefront of medical treatment, with cutting edge technology and doctors at the top of their fields, many of whom are presidents of their respective royal colleges. UCLMS is also associated with some significant hospitals including Queen Square (world-renown in Neurology & Neuroscience), Great Ormond Street Hospital (world leader in paediatrics) and the UCH Macmillan Cancer Centre (leader in oncology).

Section C: University & Medical School Life

1. Where is the university located?

Located as central as one can be in London in Bloomsbury, UCL boasts of one of the best locations of all London universities! UCL main campus and medical school building is within minutes’ walk of Euston, Euston Square, Warren Street and Kings Cross St Pancras Station - a few among the city’s main tube & train hubs.

The main campus is close to Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill for those who are into sports, morning runs or just nice walks, in addition to a proximity to great destinations such as Oxford and Regent’s street, SoHo, Covent Garden, Camden Market and many more! Medical students spend most of their pre- clinical years at the Cruciform building (big red building) of the medical school right opposite the iconic main UCL campus in the heart of Bloomsbury. It accommodates student study spaces and is located near other numerous study spaces of UCL, such as the main library or newly refurbished student centre.

UCL Student Centre (newly opened to all UCL students)

Clinical students spend most of their time at one of the associated hospitals - while UCH is on the same street as the main UCL and medical school building, the Royal Free and Whittington hospitals require a bus or tube (around 20 minutes journey) to get to. The only downside of UCL being so centrally located are the London accommodation prices- however, many students are also able to balance a part time job along with their studies &/or during Summer, with many well-paying, flexible jobs available through the student union and other student-based organisations!

Travel in London is notoriously easy due to a brilliant bus and tube system. No need to buy atravel cards or use a physical oyster as you can use your contactless card or Apple wallet to pay the same fare. The bus service is especially good value for money, paying one fixed price for as many bus journeys as you need in an hour (hopper). A good idea is to avoid tube travel during peak hours (7-9:30 am and 4-6:30 pm) as the fares increase during this time and trains do get very crowded! Additionally, a great tip for any student who has a railcard is to link their railcard to their student oyster! A student oyster can easily be ordered on the TFL website, and by taking your railcard and student oyster to any large station like Euston or Kings Cross and linking it let’s you get 1/3rd off all tube travel at any off peak times. The student oyster costs £20, but the link lasts for 4 years and you are certain to make up that cost even if you don’t travel on the tube everyday! There are lots of ways to get a railcard for free if you don’t already pay for one - some banks like Santander offer a free railcard when you first open your student account!

The Cruciform Building (UCL medical school based at the historical UCL Hospital site)

2. Are students encouraged to take part in societies?

UCL has amongst the widest range of societies any UK university has to offer! The UCL union (UCLU) has virtually every society one can think of - from the extremely popular societies such as sports (Football, Netball, Rowing, Basketball etc,), music, dance and debating to niche interest societies such as Harry Potter society, bubble tea society, photography clubs and food society. UCL hosts awards ceremonies for well performing and impactful societies and awards colours to exceptional students, thus allowing the students who commit themselves to societies along with their academic responsibilities’ recognition and celebration for their hard work!

Additionally, owing to the large number of international societies, UCL has many cultural societies for virtually every nationality, religion, and culture, great for anyone missing home or looking to learn about a new culture! There are many academic societies, related to medicine and other disciplines, such as Surgical society (one of the largest societies at UCL and winner of best society of the year in 2021), Anatomy society, Medical society, Global Health society, Medical Technology society, Economics and Finance society amongst many others which host many free tutorials, events, speakers, and opportunities across the year for students studying their subjects.

RUMS (Royal Free University College and Middlesex Medical Students Society) is the medical society at UCL which is host to a multitude of events each year, renowned at UCL for their excellent organisation, diversity, and regularity. Starting form Fresher’s Fairs to Final Year Ball, RUMS ensures that any students UCL experience is anything other than uneventful or boring! RUMS hosts events such as pub crawls, charity sporting events, many black- tie events, speed dating, quiz nights, themed parties (such as a James Bond themed night) and many others, along with the student- led RUMS committee being extremely responsive to any event suggestions and feedback. RUMS is also vital to ensuring that despite the large size - 300+ students per year group- of UCL medical school, the atmosphere is warm, friendly, and welcoming! RUMS also has its own sports societies for medical students (separate to the rest of the university, i.e. UCL union societies) including all the popular sports such as hockey, cricket, netball, football, rugby, and many others. The RUMS based societies usually better accommodate for medical student timetable needs and students often create their studying groups based on friendships built through these societies. Medical students passionate about sport often join both UCL and RUMS societies, with UCL societies being a great way to meet non- medics and RUMS societies often becoming a second home for many medical students. While the societies play a great role in helping medical students mix and make friends with students from other courses, varied student accommodation in first year along with numerous, comfortable and large social places across the huge campus, while medical students are a family of their own, they are very well integrated with students from all other courses!

3. What is the student satisfaction score for UCL medical school?

UCL medical school boasts of an impressive 83% success rate (source: National Student Survey)- amongst the highest in the country for medicine! This can be attributed to a wide variety of factors ranging from brilliant graduate prospects, excellent teaching, resources and support, a plethora of iBSc options and wonderful location to a huge number of society and clubs, welcoming atmosphere, and numerous research opportunities! It's worth mentioning however that general UCL rankings for student satisfaction is lower than average.

4. How diverse is the university and in particular the medical school?

UCL Medical School, along with being one of the largest in the country, has one of the largest proportions of international students (13%) from all parts of the world, testimony to its world-renowned reputation and 'global university' approach. Even within home students, the medical school is comprised of students from a plethora of cultures, religions and backgrounds which makes for an enriching and educating university experience. 50% of students come from a BAME background (90% of whom are British nationals). This is higher than the average number of new BAME medical students across other UK medical schools which sits at around 33%. The majority however are Asian with a small minority coming from Afro-Caribbean backgrounds. UCL is open to applicants wishing to defer their entry or apply after a gap year, as well as welcoming many graduate students from scientific and non-scientific undergraduate degrees, resulting in students of a variety of ages and levels of experience. UCL has multiple systems ensuring places go to students from fee-paying and state school students in a fair manner, ensuring context is considered when evaluating and distributing offers fairly.

5. What bursaries are available at UCL for medical students?

UCL has many bursaries and scholarships - some funded by the medical school and some by alumni, staff, and other supporters - to help support medical students through a challenging and demanding 6-year course. Bursaries include emergency bursaries for one-off financial hardships, to general support bursaries which can cover up to the full cost of the course - as well as a range of scholarships awarded for exceptional performance in a variety of academic, arts and sports related fields (often modest). There are specific criteria applied to all bursaries and scholarships to ensure the funding and help goes to the students who deserve it the most, with more information available at https://www.ucl.ac.uk/medical-school/current-mbbs-students/student-support/medical-student-money.

6. Are student support services readily available and easy to access?

UCL offers pastoral support services and has easy to access to counselling services for all students at all times of the year. The medical school stresses its concern for its student’s mental wellbeing during all stages of the course. The medical school often emphasises the importance of a good work life balance and effective stress relieving activities along with frequently making it known who to contact when you require support. Almost all students easily find a way to achieve this work life balance via the seemingly infinite numbers of societies to match any students’ interests - from academic societies to sport to arts to food- along with the incredible number of activities, sights and attractions London has to offer itself outside of UCL- many of which are student budget friendly, if not free! All students are assigned to a personal tutor at the start of medical school with whom they can have multiple meetings throughout the year and can voice their concerns to. UCLMS often supports students who may require some time off (e.g. an 'interruption of studies ... i.e. a year out) for physical or mental health reasons (both personally & for family) and often consider extenuating circumstances which require students to mitigate exams or have led to them under-performing academically. In the event of students requiring to re-sit exams, they are allocated to a tutor who follows their progress and helps them to ascertain and overcome the reason for their struggles.

7. What are the best food spots around this university?

The UK is a melting pot of cutlures and therefore London has a significant variety of great food. Fortunately, Bloomsbury is also the perfect position to try all of it! UCL is within walking distance or a short tube ride of Camden market, Soho, Covent Garden, Oxford Street, Spitfields Market and many other places renowned for brilliant food and due to the multi-cultural, metropolitan nature of London there is food to fit every dietary requirement- from vegans, halal and kosher to those ready to try absolutely anything! The main downside is of course the price which is on average higher than areas outside of the capital city. For daily meals during a busy university day, students often visit Tesco or Sainsbury’s located within a couple minutes’ walk of the campus, or simply choose to use the multiple microwaves located on campus to heat up food from home when on a budget!

8. Is student accommodation available for incoming UCL students?

UCL guarantees accommodation for all first-year students and has a great application process allowing students to rank their priorities- such as proximity to UCL, self-catering, room size, cleaning, en-suites etc.- as well as set a maximum price limit before allocating them to an accommodation. Prices range from £150-£300 a week depending on the above factors and all residences are known for being extremely sociable, welcoming, and friendly due to large common rooms and communal spaces, with many students finding their best friends from medical school in their first weeks at university in halls (though many other opportunities arise to make friends including at societies so do not worry)! Many accommodation sites have advantages such as games and music rooms, study spaces, cinemas, bars, and wonderful locations such as the middle of Tavistock Square or on Tottenham Court Road. The majority of accommodations are within a 5–20-minute walk of UCL (great for maximising on sleep in the morning before 9am lectures)! In subsequent years, most students choose to live in private accommodation with friends and the majority do not have any trouble finding housing, large housing market in London and excellent underground and bus services allowing students to choose to live further away from UCL and travel to campus (or hospitals in clinical years) easily and conveniently every day! A major advantage UCL boasts over other universities is that due to the large and frequently turning housing market. UCL students can choose who they wish to live with and start looking at properties as late as July/ August, while students in smaller city universities must choose their flatmates and properties after only a month of starting at university, which can be very stressful! A popular housing location for pre-clinical medical students is the bustling , lively (and slightly cheaper) Camden area- close to Regent’s Park, many large supermarkets, Camden market and UCL itself- with clinical year students remaining in Camden or moving closer to UCL’s associated hospitals- UCLH, Royal Free Hospital and Whittington Hospital- to aid the morning commute.

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