Doctors and Lawyers. Yep, most Singaporean parents aspire for the children to grow up and be a member of either one of these professions that command respect and status. Unfortunately, admission into local medicine schools such as NUS YLLSoM and NTU LKCSoM is extremely difficult due to the stringent academic requirements and selection criteria. Hence, many aspiring medical students will have at least contemplated about studying medicine abroad, especially in the UK.
So here’s everything you need to know about studying medicine in the UK.
Assuming that you have read the first installment in this series on applying to the UK, then you should have a good idea of what’s going on right now. So the first thing you need to decide on or rather consider is which school to apply to.
Firstly, if you are intending to return to Singapore to practice medicine upon graduation. You have to ensure that your school of choice is recognised by the Singaporean government. You can check for a list of approved medical schools here.
Once you have done so, you might then think about which school should you look at. Checking out the university league tables will give you a good gauge on the quality of education in each university in terms of employment prospects and education style. Depending on whether you are an academic bookworm or someone who prefers more hands on experience, the choices you put in your UCAS may differ from your friends.
Here are some of the criterias you want to consider specifically for Medicine in the UK:
- Medicine in the UK is expensive. Each clinical year cost around £33,000 (71,000 SGD). Medicine in the UK is a 5 year course with the exception of universities like University College of London (UCL) which is a 6 year course and hence significantly more expensive.
- In general, as long as your medical degree is recognised by Singapore, where you get your degree from isn’t going to matter too much unless you are intending to pursue a career in medical research. Your performance as a doctor in a hospital is most likely going to be the main factor influencing your career path and progression.
- That being said, if school reputation and most definitely, quality of education matters to you, these are a couple of universities that are most well-known for training great medical students.
- Oxford, Cambridge, University College London, Imperial College London, Queen Mary University of London, Edinburgh etc.
- These also tend to be the schools that have a higher school fee
- Choosing your school also depends alot on school culture, whether you like living in a campus city like Cambridge, which is pretty much a university town, or a bustling city like London where you get to see all kinds of sights and sounds.
- The type of college life you lead can be drastically different too. Would you like to spend the bulk of your time involved in university life, or would you like to have social life outside of school?
- The Singaporean Population
- Singaporeans tend to choose certain UK universities and cities over others. So if you think you will feel homesick and need a local community of Singaporeans to remind you of home and keep you company, you might want to choose a city with a large Singaporean population. Without a doubt, London is one of the most popular spots for Singaporeans abroad. Universities such as the University of Sheffield, Glasgow and even Oxford and Cambridge do have a decent number of Singaporean students so you will probably get to meet some locals over there.
Most UK schools require additional exams outside your A level results to be considered for admission. These are the ones most commonly needed.
Most UK medical schools require the BMAT exam which consists of 3 parts.
- Section 1: Skills and Aptitude – This section is mainly testing your logical reasoning skills, with ”comprehension passages” and some quantitative reasoning(Math) questions. You can’t really study for this section of the paper, so all you can do is practice.
- Section 2: Scientific Knowledge and Applications – This section tests your content knowledge of Biology, Math, Chemistry and Physics up till the O Level standard. You can study for this section, so it would most definitely help to grab your old textbooks and start reading at least 1 month before your examinations. For A level students taking 3 sciences, content knowledge shouldn’t be an issue, howevever, if you are a Biology, Chemistry and Math student, like me, your Physics might be a little rusty. So reading early certainly won’t hurt.
- Section 3: Writing – This is where you write a mini-essay, something like a GP essay, except much shorter since it has to be written within the time limit. However, most questions will be related to medicine or healthcare in some way, so keeping up to date with current affairs and medical news will be useful.
Do you need to take a course to excel in the BMAT? Not really, I have known many students who have excelled at the BMAT through self study and some who have done well after taking courses as well, so ultimately it’s a personal choice you have to make.
Furthermore, do bear in mind that the BMAT is usually at the start of November, when your A levels begins (if you are a JC student), so study ahead and manage your revision time.
Schools that need BMAT:
- University of Cambridge
- Imperial College London
- University of Oxford
- Royal Veterinary College
- University College London
- Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine (SG)
- Brighton and Sussex Medical School
- University of Leeds
You can find out more and apply for the BMAT here:
Some medical schools require the UKCAT as well. However, the UKCAT is needed by most schools for dentistry. The UKCAT is primary based on skills and aptitude, so there isn’t much content knowledge involved.
There are 5 sections
- Verbal Reasoning (Logic – “Comprehension”)
- Quantitative Reasoning (Math and calculation questions)
- Abstract Reasoning (Identifying shapes and patterns)
- Decision Analysis (Deciphering symbols and codes to form sentences etc)
- Situational Judgement
A good score for the UKCAT will be a 700 in each section and Band 1 for Situational Judgement.
Once again, courses for the UkCAT are not necessary, although they most definitely won’t hurt (actually it might hurt your wallet). However, buying or borrowing some UKCAT practice books will definitely help you get acquainted with the question style and requirements which is important.
Try practicing with the materials found on the UKCAT website and do it under timed conditions because you will most likely not have enough time during the exam. Hence time management is crucial.
Singaporean can register to take the UKCAT at Pearson Vue here.
Unknown to most, medical schools in the UK require you to have at least some sort of work experience in the medical field, usually for 2 weeks or more. So if you are keen on studying in medicine, you should start finding attachment opportunities quickly.
An attachment will also expose you to more of the medical work that doctors do and give you a good insight on the day to day work of a medical professional. This will help you decide whether medicine is really for you or not. In addition, insightful learning experiences during these attachments can prove to be useful discussion points in your personal statement and interviews. These attachments can be either formal ones applied to public hospitals or attachments to private hospitals through contacts. Medical research attachments are also great. It would be ideal to have a good mix of both private and public attachment experiences, but if time is a limiting factor, I believe either would suffice. It is not the number or length of duration that matters but ultimately what you have gained from it.
The Personal Statement
Considering that most applicants have either perfect or near perfect A level scores, what’s going to separate you from the rest? It’s the personal statement and the interview.
Ideally, your personal statement should include
- What you understand about the study of medicine
- Your personal qualities and achievements
- What makes you a suitable medical student
Usually, a good personal statement will start of with an anecdote or an introduction about the study of medicine and follows up with paragraphs on why you are the candidate the schools should pick over the rest. Including some scientific knowledge either from your own reading or attachments could go a long way in proving your interest and love for the subject.
Good personal statements can be found on The Student Room forum and you can also get doctors to vet through your personal statement before submitting. However, never copy another person’s personal statement because this piece of writing should be about YOU. If you are that desperate in trying to find what to write and feel blank whilst writing this statement, reconsider your motivation for studying medicine and ask yourself if that’s really what you want for yourself.
All universities require that you sit for an interview for admission, hence getting shortlisted for one is a small win for you! Now, depending on which university you apply to, you may or may not need to fly abroad for an interview. A majority of UK universities do require you to hop on a plane over to the UK for the interview, which may incur a relatively large cost and yet at the same time, no guarantee of a placing in the university. Hence, many Singaporean students will choose the universities that conduct interviews locally or in Malaysia. The policies of universities may vary from year to year, so it is best for you to email the medical department and enquirement if you need to travel abroad for the interview.
Considering that most students will be applying for universities that conduct their interviews locally, this would also mean that these universities will have more applicants and are hence more competitive. As a result, it is recommended to at least choose 1 or 2 universities that are less competitive and at the same time, conduct their interview in the UK.
Misc. & Conclusion
Study in the UK or Singapore (assuming you made it into both)
- Many medical students claim NUS will provide you with a better education, but I doubt anyone can give an accurate judgement on that since they wouldn’t have attended universities at both countries. However, if you intend to practice in Singapore, it will always be beneficial to have some roots here and understand the needs of the local population such as conversing in dialect and mother tongues which you might not learn overseas
- However, there is also the benefit of greater exposure to other cultures and medical practices abroad which can also be of value to the healthcare system here
- Ultimately, it is your choice. Medicine is a lifelong commitment, not just for 5 years but it is a lifetime of learning and training. Hence, don’t just pick medicine because your parents said so or because you somehow scored all As. Do it out of passion and the kindness in your heart to serve the world.