Beth’s top tips for a good medicine personal statement

Having spent the last 4 years reviewing personal statements in my spare time, I have come to have a fairly decent understanding of what is and isn’t required. So here are my top tips for getting it right!

  1. Do not make lists of things you’ve done. It’s important you show your interest and experience, but you have to remember your competition. Everyone will have shadowed a surgeon, a doctor, a vet. Everyone has done Duke of Edinburgh, worked at a charity shop and helped at a care home. It is all about the reflection which brings me to my next point:
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  2. Write about what you have learnt. Each placement, each experience should be related back to how it makes you a better medical student. Taught someone maths? Leadership and communication skills. Observed a multidisciplinary team meeting? Learnt the value of teamwork in a care environment.
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  3. Avoid the cliches. “Always” being interested in never true. “Fascinations with the intricacies of the human body” fade when you’re in the lab for the 3rd time that week trying to learn it. “Realising that sometimes a little chat with that elderly lady in the care home is really all she needs” changes when you don’t have the time for that any more. Oh, and orienteering your lost group in DoE back to the campsite is not a key skill. Find a different leadership role.
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  4. Don’t tell fibs. They’ll catch you out. If you say you read the sBMJ, read it or they’ll ask at interview and you’ll be stumped. Don’t be the guy who claims he runs marathons and when asked “What do you do when you hit the wall?” answer – “If I bump into things I usually just dust myself off and keep running”.
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  5. Don’t write about your A levels. Colleges love going on about this but it is so irrelevant. Unless you’ve done something obscure, there is no need. Do admissions tutors really not know that biology taught you lab skills? Do they need to be reminded that English Lit encourages essay writing skills? Not really, no. Instead they want to know about you as a person. Not you and every single other applicant who is doing the same subjects. If however, you want to discuss your EPQ or a specific part of your studies – by all means.
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  6. Do not get lost in language. Admissions will have thousands of these to read. One of the requirements of a doctor is also to be clear and understood by patients and other professionals. Write in short clear sentences and try not to sound like Shakespeare. If you feel your statement is better when it is read out loud with large arm movements, you probably need to change it. Remember that while medicine is an art and a science, until you are practicing it as a doctor, it is simply science. Your statement should reflect this.

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