Category Archives: Medicine Application

Southampton Interview

Some of my most frequently asked questions about interviews.

How do they decide who to interview?

For BM6:
If you meet all the criteria, they will review your PS and rate it on the non-academic entry requirements.

Non-academic entry requirements In addition to academic entry requirements, you will be assessed against our non academic criteria.Applicants must be able to show they:

  • Are self-motivated and resilient
  • Have reflected on and learnt from life experiences (this may include, work experience, paid employment and personal experiences both in and outside health and socialcare settings)
  • Can communicate effectively
  • Are able to interact successfully with others
  • Can demonstrate an understanding of the values of the NHS constitution

For BM4 and BM5:

If you meet all the criteria, they interview in order of highest UKCAT.
When are interviews?
BM6:  6th of March and 13th of March 2017. Check on the website if this is out of date next year.

BM5 and 4: Various dates. Check the website.
When will I hear?
You will get 2 weeks notice.

How will I hear?
The uni send out invites via email.

How many interviews will there be?
120 for BM6.

Someone has an interview but I haven’t heard yet, what does that mean?
Nothing at all. They decide who is getting one and everyone in that lucky list will get one eventually.

How should I prepare for interview?
Read your personal statement.
Read it.
No seriously, read it.

Read the news starting now. Read BBC News Health section if you don’t buy a paper regularly. Check NHS Behind the Headlines to get the real understanding.

THIS is how I prepared and is a good place to start. And then here is what happened at my interview.

DO NOT search out people to tell you what you will be asked. It will not help. You’ll be too rehearsed or you simply won’t be asked those questions and wont be prepared for that whey do ask. No 2 interviews are the same.

Where can I practice?
Your college should offer mock interviews. Ask anyone who can read your personal statement and a list of potential questions!

What will happen on the day?
You will have 2 interviews. 1 on your own with 2 interviewers and one in a group. These can happen in either order and you’ll spend the rest of your time there in your group with some current medical students relaxing and chatting.

Who are the interviewers?
These are lecturers, doctors, teachers, admissions staff. Huge variety.

What is the individual interview?
This is a 20 minute interview based loosely on your personal statement with 2 interviewers. You can be asked a range of questions depending on what you have written. Expect – Why medicine? Why here?

What is the group interview?
This is also 20 minutes but you’re also given 5 minutes to prepare. You’ll be given a topic for discussion and after having 5 minutes to think about it, you will discuss it as a group in front of 2 interviewers. It is relaxed and friendly. Don’t worry about it! It is not a knowledge test, and you can’t really practice for it.

What questions will come up?
I’ve listed 2 almost universal questions above. Otherwise the rest will vary enormously from person to person depending on what they say and what is in the PS. People get asked about the history of medicine, the future of medicine, books they mentioned they read, hobbies, ethics, law. Each interview is totally unique and so there isn’t any point in trying to work out what you’ll be asked.

Just practice answering anything (use the link to my blog on how I prepared) because that is the best way to a) come across unrehearsed and b) be able to answer complete curve ball questions.

What happens after interviews?
You’ll get a letter saying if you have been successful or unsuccessful. If this is going to take a while you may get a “further consideration” letter that says you’re still in the running. This may not happen until March/April, even if others hear before you.

How do they choose?
After each task, you will be listed as “suitable” or “not suitable” ad marked on their assessment criteria. This is then taken into consideration with the rest of your application before an offer is made.

How will I get an offer?
This is an update on UCAS Track and then a letter follows.

What is the offer?
The offer is the same for everyone – for BM6 it is BBC in any of your subjects (ie you don’t need to get B’s in specific subjects). BM5 it is AAA and BM4 is a 2:1, plus A level requirements.

Is it conditional or unconditional?
Last year a few people got unconditional offers but these are reserved for people with their A levels in hand and proven. Everyone else gets an unconditional offer until they get their results or prove old results.
If it is conditional and you send in your certificates, they may not update your status until August Results Day.

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:
    .
  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.
    .
  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.
    .
  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”.
    .
  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.
    .
  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.

Reviewing my own personal statement

At the end of my second round of applying I only had one hard offer. Waiting lists just don’t cut it! So had I applied again, my PS is one thing I would have really worked on. With hindsight and experience, my comments on my statement will be in blue!:

 

As a mature student, I took the time to find a career that would challenge me, seeking academic rigour in an interpersonal environment with a foundation in science.

I like this. It took me ages. While it doesn’t specifically say medicine, it is concise and explains why I came to medicine as a career option.  

At 16 I left education due to the financial constraints of independent living. During this time I focussed on what career I really wanted to pursue and gained valuable life experiences.

This was fairly important to me at the time and it explained my gap between college and high school. It isn’t actually doing anything for me that couldn’t have been in a reference though.

Living independently I have overcome many obstacles, balancing homework and housework, education and earning.

Again, at the time it was important and I like the alliteration but I don’t think it is making me a better applicant.

Since October 2007 I have worked in Worthing Hospital’s Accident and Emergency department.

Long and irrelevant introduction. Working in A&E since 2007 – would have been better. October? Who cares. Worthing? Who cares!! And it has it’s own place on UCAS if they really wanted to know.

Performing initial triage allows me to see a range of complaints, familiarise myself with a patient orientated environment and develop an understanding of patient confidentiality.

Good – could have been elaborated though. I have started talking in the present tense which is weird. Stick to past tense.

Working in a front line multidisciplinary team also gives me an understanding of how every person plays a vital part in maintaining excellent patient care under pressure.

Every “person” is a bit generic. 

 Being confronted with often traumatic injuries, I learned the value of organ and blood donations and have now become a regular blood donor. In these sessions I learned how blood is taken and preserved before it is used whole or split into its constituents, for example the plasma is used reverse the effects of anti-coagulants.

This was important to me at the time but again, really not relevant to me as a medical student wannabe.

Returning to college was a challenge I enjoyed and I quickly settled in. Taking contrasting subjects allowed me to grow my research and essay writing skills but also my problem solving and logic.

Again, not highly relevant. They know what I took and what I got from it. Doesn’t matter how quickly I settled in either. 

I have taken advantage of every opportunity available,

“every” is a stretch. I certainly didn’t join a sport or a club etc.

including leading group study in lessons, organising and running revision classes, and coordinating charity events. This helped to hone my leadership skills and taught me how to bring out the best of everyone in teamwork situations.

Leadership is important but so is being a team player. 

I accepted a place on the BrightMed course last year where I had the privilege to experience anatomy at its best and observed a dissection. During the session I learned how each cadaver is treated with respect, and the importance of body donation.

Again the sentiment is nice but this doesn’t make me a better applicant. 

It was fascinating to see the human body in such detail as to be able to identify the cause of death, in this case a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm.

IRRELEVANT

Inspired by this, I initiated a college visit to the Body Worlds exhibition “The Mirror of Time” which explores human development and aging. Being able to see the intricacies of the human body was fascinating, providing a more detailed understanding of different systems and processes such as the circulatory system and foetal development, both topics that I had enjoyed during my Biology studies.

Organising the event was good, but the rest of this is irrelevant. My college encouraged talking about college – which is rather misguided. 

Having volunteered at Worthing Hospital for over two years, I appreciate the often challenging work that comes with treating individuals with individual needs.

Ditch the place name but otherwise good. 

I have learned that medicine is often not a simple case of diagnosis and treatment as individuals can have unique symptoms.

Okay… this could be more interesting. 

Talking to patients on the wards showed me how much medicine can improve quality of life which I found thoroughly rewarding.

Nice sentiment but again not great. 

This has led me to take up further volunteering at Worthing Society for the Blind, helping those with vision impairment enjoy a range of craft activities. I found it very humbling to see how people adjusted to the loss of their sight but it was inspiring to see how this was overcome and activities such as knitting were still enjoyed. This firsthand experience of making a difference has reinforced my aspirations to work in a healthcare environment to improve the lives of others.

This is okay. But I certainly could have elaborated on HOW they overcame it. And what I actually did!

My experiences have widened my familiarity with differing levels of care of patients with a range of difficulties.

Good

 

I am keen to learn more I have obtained a work experience placement with a GP in November.

This doesn’t make sense

Through work experience and college I have a developed an understanding of the demands of a medical career both academically and professionally and feel that my experiences have presented me with the potential to flourish in both.

I like the ending haha.

Overall I think this had potential (luckily Southampton saw that!) but needed a lot of work. Writing a PS is hard work so I recommend getting started nice and early!!

How to get started on your Medicine personal statement

I get asked this question a lot and I always give the same advice. Make bullet points under the following headings and then expand each part:

Intro – This wants to be a few sentences, short and specifically detailing why you want to study medicine. Keep it current – nothing about when you were 3 or 4 or 5 and wanting to study medicine. You may have wanted to do it for a long time but they want to know why you want to do it NOW. Try to avoid the cliches, and quotes rarely work well.

Key tip: No one has ever ALWAYS wanted to do it.

Work experience – This part should form a large chunk of your statement. Don’t just list what you did, because remember that you’re up against people who have all done the same. They’ve all worked as a HCA, shadowed a doctor, shadowed a surgeon, worked in a charity show and a care home. It’s all been done. Nothing (well, unless you’ve done something exceptional) is new. Instead you need to show that you have had these experiences and learnt from it. For example

I went to my local GP surgery and I saw lots of patient consultations. To further my experience I went to a local hospital and shadowed an oncologist and a paediatrician and a nurse. I saw that they had long hours but this experience still intensified my passionate desire to work in a hospital.

 

That (stolen with permission) tells you that they spent some time following people. And they liked being in a hospital. It’s almost completely useless and doesn’t tell me anything about you or about what you LEARNT which is the whole POINT of work experience and a PS. Instead, you want to reflect. Did you see good communication skills? Why were they good? Did you see teamwork? Why was it important and why made it good?

Pro Tip: If you’re still doing work experience, try to keep a diary as you go. It makes reflection so much easier.

Volunteering – This comes next and again should form a large paragraph. Start with anything where you’ve been in a caring role, working with children or vulnerable people, working in a care home etc. This can follow the same sort of reflection as work experience.

Then move onto less relevant experience. Charity shops, etc come into this category but it is where you can express your ability to deal with a diverse range of people. Remember that while giving up your time and working with the public are important, being in a charity shop is not enough on it’s own. You need to remember to relate it back to medicine.

Extra curriculars – Unless you’ve done something amazing, you will want to keep this short too. Captain of a team, member of a team, any teaching etc that you want to get in is great but remember most people play a sport and most people have done DofE. In fact a lot of statements I read all say that during DofE they got lost and that you managed to save your group by orienteering back to where you were supposed to be. Orienteering is not a key skill here. Keep. It. Relevant. Remember your competition and keep it short. Anything about gap years or future experiences can go here too.

Conclusion – This should be a couple of sentences. Summarising why you should be chosen.Try not to repeat yourself, but just quickly tell them why your experiences mean you’re better for a place that the next PS in the pile.

 

This is obviously not a required format but it seems to work and is easy to make it flow. Once you’ve expanded it, then it is a case of going over it again and again. Giving it to parents/neighbours (not posting it online) to read and critique. Anyone can tell you if it is good because everyone should have an opinion on who they want as a doctor.

Then put it in a drawer/folder and leave it for a week. Ever read something you wrote years ago and thought “why did I write that?!??”. Well that is what this does. Gives you some distance and lets you review through more critical eyes.

A PS is not something you can do in a day or a week. Don’t leave it until October. Get started now. In fact, if you have time to be reading my blog, you have time to start doing this! So go on! GO! Get started. And good luck!

Update on Southampton Selection Process for Medicine BM4 BM5 & BM6

Things are changing at Southampton! Here is a quick rundown of the latest info I have:

BM6
No real changes. Entry grades are BBC with interviews decided on personal statement. Graded on interview and personal statement and offers given to the highest scorers. Interview will also have a group task.

5A*-C grades at GCSE,

BM5
Big big changes. GCSEs 7A*-B grades, and A levels now required AAA. In addition, applicants will be ranked by their UKCAT. Those scoring the highest in the UKCAT will be invited to interview. The selection day will be a group interview and individual interview.

BM4
Still 2:1 in any subject, C grade now required in Chemistry A level though if your degree contains a lot this can be waived. All applicants will be ranked by their UKCAT. Those scoring the highest in the UKCAT will be invited to interview. The selection day will consists of a written component, group interview and individual interview.

Good news for one is good news for all.

A very good friend of mine has recently had some amazing success in med school applications. Like me, my friend has had a non-traditional background that is not associated with successful medicine applicants. However despite and in spite of this, they now stand in a better position than many “traditional” medicine applicants.

Times are changing and universities are becoming more and more aware of how many brilliant and talented people are out there, hidden by state schools and lack of encouragement. If you aspire to medicine, it has never been more accessible. Go for it!

Medical School Interview: It’s like fight club….

First rule about a med-school interview… don’t talk about your interview. Second rule of a med-school intervew – don’t talk about your interview.

It’s a new rule that is being enforced by TSR but it should apply regardless. Once you’ve had your interview, don’ t share the details with other applicants. It’s nice to help and once you’re in, that’s all very nice. But putting other people at an advantage at this stage in  the game is not what you want to be doing. How much would it suck if they send out 45 offers and someone you helped was 45 thanks to you, but you were 46?

This is a post on how I prepared for my interview, and here is an overview of what happened in mine.

Anyway, good luck if you’ve got an interview, I hope it went well if you’ve had an interview and to those still waiting, I have my fingers crossed for you.

Beth

Medical School: Don’t be disheartened.

I’ve heard so many tales, including my own, of people being told by their colleges (or people on The Student Room) that they’re not cut out for medicine. To not even bother trying. This is absolute rubbish.

This is a message to all those who want to do medicine and have been told they can’t:

If you really want to do it, there is nothing that can stop you. If your GCSE’s are not 50 A*’s, you may not be able to take the most direct entry into the most prestigious university, but there will be a way. Whether it’s graduate entry, or a foundation year, or working your backside off at A level and getting those results that the unis are looking for, there is a way. Don’t be told that you’re not good enough. Don’t be told that you’re from the wrong background, or not right as you’ve never captained a polo club or been part of the schools rowing team. It is rubbish.

Some of the best doctors come from non-standard backgrounds, with life experience and a good work ethic.

Don’t let them tell you no. I decided in 2006 that I wanted to do medicine and my night college and then my full time college in 2007 told me not to bother. I was already 18 and just starting a full set of AS levels, didn’t have straight A’s at GCSE, my parents were not doctors, I didn’t live at home and I had not been striving for it my whole life. But being stubborn I decided to ignore them and plough onwards. Now, 5 years later, I’ve got a bunch of A levels, I’ve done my foundation year, I’ve started BM5.

I sent a polite email from my uni account to all the doubters when I started…

Nailed it!

BM6: Getting the grades

Just wanted to outline the importance of getting the grades. This is vital to all medicine applications and seems obvious, however in my class many people got turned down who had not quite made the requirements of CCC. This included those with CCD (and extenuating circumastance) and even those with BBD.

This was a little overshadowed by the fact that 33 people did make it, 3 over the normal class size already, however in the class of 2011 only 29 students made it. This goes to show that even when there is space, those without the minimum grades are no longer considered, even if only missing out by one grade in one subject.

Although this is not great news, it just reinforces the idea that once they’ve given you an offer, if you meet it in, you’re in. If you don’t, you’re not. It’s clear cut and simple, no confusion of will I won’t I.

So to those applying good luck! And those lucky 29 who made it this year, congratulations! It was all worth it in the end.

Southampton Uni UKCAT

So I helped out at the open day the other week. I met a proportion of the 25000 people or something that visited. Lost my voice completely but found out interesting things about the UKCAT!

– BM6 requires the UKCAT to be taken but they DO NOT USE IT!
– BM5 requires the UKCAT and they discount those with scores that are below 2500 (when added together). This will be going up.

I don’t think “they”, you know, the scientists, know if it is effective in determining who is going to be a good doctor but oh well.

Here is a link to a list of hints that I found useful when doing the UKCAT!