Tag Archives: reflection

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.

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!