How To Become A Doctor In The UK – 7 Tips For International Medical School Applicants

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Becoming a doctor is no easy task - studying medicine for 5 or 6 years is just the start of what can be a lifelong pursuit of knowledge. Once qualified, you will be constantly learning on the job until the day you retire. Studying abroad is not always a piece of cake either, particularly if you are still learning English, but it is often the way to get the best education. A degree from the UK, USA, Canada or Australia could put you in good stead for work after graduation in your home country or working abroad. i-studentglobal spoke to St. George's University of London, a Medical School in the UK, to ask them for advice for international applicants, to give you 7 steps to help you start your journey to study to become a doctor in the UK.

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1. Plan Ahead

Applying to Medicine can be a process which spans several months. Most UK medical schools will require you to submit your application by 15th October in order to start your course in September the following year but you’ll need to start preparing earlier. It is important to research the entry requirements at each medical school to which you are applying to ensure that you have the right profile to give you the best chance of being invited to interview. The beginning of your penultimate year of school is a good time to start thinking about how to gain the qualifications and experience you will need to make you a competitive candidate, and of course you’ll need to be studying the right subjects at A level, IB or equivalent. If you’re not studying a high school qualification which is accepted for direct entry to Medicine then you’ll need to think about taking A levels or applying to a Medical foundation programme like the INTO St George’s International Foundation in Medical, Biomedical and Healthcare Sciences

2. Identify Your Options

All UK medical schools must meet the stringent standards of the UK’s General Medical Council, so you can be assured that you will receive a high-quality medical education whichever medical school you choose. Rather than fixating on the highest ranked (and hence most oversubscribed) options, make sure to choose medical schools at which your achieved and/or predicted grades meet or exceed the minimum requirements, and your UKCAT score (if required) is competitive. You should also consider what kind of teaching and learning style will suit you best. Many UK medical schools offer a Problem Based Learning curriculum in which independent learning is a key element of the learning experience – this suits active learners and team workers. You can also look into when the clinical placements kick in. This can be right at the start of the course (at St George’s, University of London, first-year medical students are on placement from their second week), or after a couple of years of lecture-based, theoretical learning.

A great way to get a feeling for a medical school is to pay them a visit. Open days are the best time to visit – but if you are travelling from overseas and can’t make the open days, you may well still be able to visit. Just remember to get in touch with the schools you are interested in before you apply to arrange a time for someone to meet with you and check your eligibility to avoid a wasted trip.

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3. Consider Studying Abroad

Unlike in the US, Canada and Australia, the majority of medical students in the UK are recent high school graduates. As it is not necessary to undertake a pre-medical degree, trainee doctors in the UK can qualify with fewer years of study – typically five or six years after completing A levels, IB diploma or an equivalent qualification. Shorter graduate entry options are also available. UK medical degrees are widely recognised and respected around the world, although it’s always wise to check with the authorities in the country or state in which you’re planning to practise, to see what revalidation of a UK degree will involve.

Studying Medicine in the UK will give you the opportunity to experience working within the NHS, the world’s largest publicly funded health service, which was born out of an ideal that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth – a principle that remains at its core. Many UK medical degrees allow students to begin clinical placements right from the beginning of their programme, giving them extensive practical experience for the duration of their studies. UK medical schools are also at the forefront of curriculum development, making use of innovative problem-based learning (PBL), and interprofessional education with other healthcare professionals; in UK medical degrees, students benefit from a focus on the “soft” skills relating to clinical communication, empathy and team-working, as well as “hard” scientific knowledge. 

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