Frequently Asked Questions About Medical Schools Application
What degree do I need to graduate before applying for medical school?
It depends. The US is the only country where you need to have a Bachelor’s and/or premedical courses to apply for a Medical degree. This is not the case in the UK or other European countries, although you are required to have studied Biology, Chemistry, and other related subjects during high school and/or pass an admission exam proving your logical skills and knowledge in Science-related subjects.
What are the most common names for Medical degrees?
The name of your Medical degree can vary greatly depending on where you study. In the UK and countries that follows the British system, it’s common to encounter the abbreviations MBBS, MB ChB, MB BCh, BMBS. They all refer to the Bachelor of Medicine, which is awarded to medical graduates.
Other European countries can use different names, like Licentiate degree in Finland or DES (Diplôme d’Études Spécialisées) in France.
In the United States and countries that follow its model, the medical degree is called Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO). The DO is only awarded in the US.
Do I need to take an exam to get into medical school?
In the United States, yes. Almost all medical schools require applicants to pass the MCAT exam.
In the UK, many but not all universities require you to pass the UCAT examination.
Other European universities might ask you to pass their own admission exams, a national test, or other international exams, like the IMAT.
What subjects are accepted when applying to med school?
Most universities worldwide require that you have prior studies in Biology, Chemistry, and other Science subjects, like Physics or Maths.
How many years do I need to study to become a doctor?
It varies from one country to another. It generally takes 6-7 years to graduate with a Medicine degree. In most countries, med students will then start the internship or residency period, which can take between 3-8 years, depending on your specialisation.
What grades do I need to get into medical school?
Most universities will pay close attention to the grades you took in Biology, Chemistry, and other Science subjects. They want to see if you have the capacity to understand complex notions and memorise a lot of information, which is essential for all medical students.
If the university requires an exam, like the MCAT or UCAT, each institution decides how the examination impacts the students’ applications. For example, some universities have a minimum score, while others allow all students to apply and only accept the top students with the highest results. Other med schools give students with great results at the exam more points, which makes their application stand out and increases their chances of being admitted. So, there’s no universal formula.
We encounter a similar situation with the GPA (Grade Point Average). You’ll find study programmes mentioning a minimum GPA, while others accept all students, select the best ones, and then draw the line.
How to get into med school with low GPA or MCAT/UCAT scores
Sometimes things don’t turn out the way we want. No matter how much you prepare for an exam, stress can be overwhelming and impact your results. You feel disappointed and betrayed because you know it doesn’t show your true potential or knowledge.
There are also situations where you can face family or health problems, which prevent you from having an impressive GPA. We get it. Life’s not always easy or fair, but that doesn’t mean you should quit.
For those of you who have lower GPA or MCAT/UCAT scores, here are a few tips that might help you persuade the admission committee to give you a chance.
1. Show an overall improvement
Let’s say your GPA is lower than the minimum required by the med school you’ve chosen. If your first year of high school or undergraduate studies wasn’t great, but you gradually improved your grades during the next years, make sure to point that out during the interview or the personal statement.
2. Ace the MCAT/UCAT exam
This applies for those of you who have a lower GPA, but who worked hard and aced the MCAT or UCAT exam. The situation is tricky because the admission committee might wonder how you could score so high at this exam and yet fail to impress before.
Use this to your advantage. Include a section in your personal statement in which you explain how your failures from previous studies made you realise how much you really want to become a doctor. Explain how you push hard, focused on what mattered, and put in the study hours that got you a great result.
3. Get valuable recommendation letters
If recommendation letters are part of the admission requirements, you can use them to your advantage. Talk to people who know you well. They can be teachers, former employers or people for whom you’ve worked as a volunteer. Ask them to write a motivation letter for you and explain why you need it.
There’s no need to suggest that they write about this or that. Explain that your grades aren’t the best, and you want to support your university application with documents that show you’re more than a grade or an exam.
If you choose these people wisely, you can receive amazing recommendation letters that will impress the admission committee and increase your chances of being accepted.
4. Write a convincing personal statement
The personal statement is your chance to shine. You might no longer be able to change your grades or what people wrote about you in the letters of recommendations, but this statement is a great opportunity to express yourself fully.
Make no mistake. It’s not the kind of document where you should write nonsense, become apologetic, or lament your shortcomings. You don’t want to sound too emotional or forget your purpose: to convince the admission committee members that you’re the right candidate for the university and that the study programmes is the right next step in your academic and professional life.
Choose your words wisely, be honest and express your ideas clearly. Make sure each paragraph only focuses on one main idea. Give relevant examples where necessary and point out situations or achievement that show your lower grades don’t reflect your knowledge and abilities.
6. Impress during the medical school admission interview
Not all universities use interviews to screen their applicants. But if you’re university does, rejoice!
We know that for many people interviews can be terrifying. It’s easy to view the committee as an enemy or someone who’s there to make final judgments and decide your future academic fate. But that’s not exactly the reality, is it?
The interview is a great opportunity to impress. Dress sharp, but don’t overdo it. Be there on time, maybe a bit earlier. Use the extra time to calm yourself and put order into your thoughts. Several days, or maybe one week before the interview, think about the questions you might be asked.
Write down your answers and see how you could express them better. Remember, the idea is not to exaggerate or lie about something. You should use your words and examples carefully so that they highlight the best things about you, not the past failures. There’s no need to deny them since each obstacle can be turned into a valuable lesson. But you shouldn’t focus only on the negatives either.