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Secrets to securing four medical school interviews
Nidhin Laji, writer and founder of a medical school shortlisting tool, That Edge, talks us through the key nuances to bear in mind when selecting the right medical schools for you. Nidhin is an FY1 doctor at Addenbrooke's and an NHS England Clinical Entrepreneur Fellow
In 2016 UCAS recorded 75,665 applications for Pre- clinical Medicine, of which 7,660 were accepted. With such a high volume of applications, selection panels are forced to reject the majority of applicants before they even reach the interview stage. Most medical schools interview around 20 - 30% of applications, each with a different shortlisting algorithm. Some schools filter out applicants solely based on admissions tests, others take a more holistic approach. With this in mind, getting into medicine is not just about being the smartest, most caring, articulate individual out of the ten people competing for that place. To succeed, you must know how to utilise the system to stack the odds in your favour. The single most important piece of advice I can give you is to apply to places where your strengths are weighted highly and where your weaknesses are overlooked.
The Harsh Reality
Imagine that you and I are two applicants applying to a certain London medical school that uses BMAT as part of its selection process. You have 10A*s at GCSE, predicted 4A*s at A-level and months of caring work experience. Unfortunately, you slightly under-perform at BMAT, scoring just below the cut-off score for section 1 whilst doing well in the other two sections (eg 4.1, 6.8, 4A). Now let’s say I had 3A*s, 5As and a B at GCSE, predicted 4As at A-level and one week of caring work experience. I, on the other hand, get a relatively average BMAT score which just about satisfies the school’s cut-off scores in each section (eg 5.0, 5.0, 2.5C). As unfair as this sounds, you are almost guaranteed to be rejected without an interview, whilst I am almost guaranteed to be called for an interview. It’s obvious that you are much more hard-working and committed to medicine, however, the person who wins in this situation is simply the one who has been most consistent in BMAT.
Shortlisting candidates is not about carefully considering each application to select the candidates with the most potential, it is pretty much just about efficiently cutting numbers. The reality is there are enough highly qualified, motivated and passionate people that get through to the interview stage for this to be viable. The reason it has to be this way is because pretty much everyone has at least 8A*s at GCSE, predicted at least 4 As at A-level and has weeks of work experience.
For the example above, the good news is that there are enough medical schools in the country to find an admissions process that fits your profile. Although that particular medical school may not favour those with strong GCSEs and A-level predictions, there are plenty of others that do. So as you approach that critical point of choosing where to apply, remember that the main priority is to apply to places where you can get your foot in the door with an interview.
How to Make Your Choices
Lots of people rely on wisdom by word of mouth to pick up tips on which medical schools to apply to. But beware of people’s interpretation of their own successes and failures, which are too often heavily biased. It’s imperative that you base your choices on real, objective data. In an ideal world, you would have a magic calculator that tells you exactly where you would have got interviews in previous years, based on your grades and admission tests. By knowing where you would have been interviewed in previous years, you can make more informed choices on where to apply. The great news is, through months of planning and correspondence with admissions offices That Edge has managed to make exactly this tool. We are pleased to release a ‘shortlisting simulator’ web app, which will model where you are likely to get an interview in the next admissions cycle.
In the meantime, here is a structure to help you break down this process into manageable chunks.
Step 1: Do I satisfy the minimum requirements?
- Do my A-level predictions meet the offer level?
- Do they take re-sits?
- Can I apply here if I have applied before?
Step 2: How likely am I to get an interview?
- Grades: Do they have a cut off for the number of A*s at GCSE’s? Do I have enough?
- Admissions tests: Do they have a UKCAT (UKCAT)/BMAT cut off score? Is it for each section or your overall score? Is my UCAT good enough? Is my BMAT likely to be good enough?
- What was the average UCAS tariff score for candidates admitted last year?
Step 3: Is this the right place for me?
- Does the style of the course suit me? Is it PBL or more lecture based?
- Do I want a very scientific course or something with clinical contact
- Do I want to be based on a campus or in a city? Do I want to be in a big year group?
Have a look for yourself at That Edge, it could be the missing link in giving complete confidence in your application, and if you apply to four of our recommended schools from the shortlisting tool, you can get an insight into which medical schools will select you for an interview!