medical schools council
 

Teacher/ career adviser FAQs

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While we try our best to answer as many questions as possible during our teacher and careers adviser webinars, any we were unable to respond to will be answered on this page. 

Grades and qualifications 

Students who are unhappy with their GCSE grades will be encouraged to sit the exam in the Autumn. If students do not achieve the required grades will resits be considered by medical schools?

Medical schools are aware that GCSEs have also been disrupted this year and that they may need to consider this in setting entry criteria in future years. The Autumn exam will not be considered for admissions as a resit.  However, if the student decides to take a resit following the Autumn exams it is likely it will be considered in the same way as now. 

If a student achieves higher grades then they expected could they alter their firm choice?

If a student achieves higher grades than expected they can through UCAS Adjustment look for an alternative place. They would need to find a place elsewhere that would take them. See UCAS Adjustment for details.

In general, are students at any disadvantage by not studying a third A level science subject, for example, physics or maths?

Each medical school sets out its A level requirements and will state if there are any particular A levels required.  It is common for medical schools to specify the subject for two A levels but not the third. See individual medical schools websites or our entry requirements page for details on the qualifications students need to apply.

How much value is the Extended Project Qualification for medical school applications, assuming it is in a relevant area?

The Extended Project Qualification provides information that applicants can draw on in their personal statement and at interview. 

Will applicants from Wales/Scotland/Northern Ireland who don't have the opportunity for an autumn examination be treated as a first sit in 2021 applications if they decide to redo the exams next year?

This will be determined by individual medical schools. Candidates should contact the medical schools they hold an offer with or will be applying to for more information on their individual stance. 

Schools may not be teaching as usual in September and this will impact on the teaching of A2 materials. Will this be taken into consideration?

We recognise that students will have had disrupted schooling and this will have adversely affected some students more than others. We would encourage students who have been particularly affected to include information in the personal statement. Teachers, if aware of particular issues, should also include information in their academic reference. 

Do you think there will be a consideration of grades for those students from disadvantaged backgrounds?

Medical schools recognise that students from disadvantaged backgrounds are likely to be affected most during this period. Each medical school will have a different approach but they will consider a students background and take it into account as part of the admissions decision.

Which categories are included within the widening participation banner? For example, if you do not qualify as the first family member to attend university but you live in one of the lower participation areas, would you still qualify?

Some medical schools run contextual admissions and recognise a student’s educational and social context. Medical schools will often use a combination of different measures and this could have different outcomes, for example, it may be used as additional information when considering whether to invite a student to interview or it can be used to refer students to alternative entry schemes. Refer to individual medical schools websites or our entry requirements page for details.

 Places

In light of their being fewer international students will there be more places available?

Medical schools have a set number of places determined by the Government. They are fined if they go over that number. International student numbers are determined separately from UK numbers. We have not received any indication that there will be additional numbers available to us this year but it may be the case that if there are fewer international students these numbers could be used for UK students. It is worth noting that international places are capped at 7% of a medical school’s intake so we are not talking about large numbers of places being available.

Would you consider increasing the number of transfers from other courses to medicine to provide students an additional opportunity to show academic ability through their first year exams and university study?

We only have a limited number of places available. There are very few transfers onto medicine and we would not encourage this route for students. 

How do you envisage 2021 admissions if lots of 2020 applicants defer?

A student has to be granted a deferral from the medical school. As with any year medical schools will consider the number of requests alongside the impact it will have on admissions for the following year.

Autumn exams 

In Wales there are no plans to have Autumn exams – does this disadvantage Welsh students?

It is true that Welsh students will not be able to have the option to sit exams if they do not accept their assigned grades. This will not disadvantage students in the 2020 cycle as those sitting examinations will only be able to start in 2021 at the earliest.

If a student opts to sit their exams in Autumn, will their university place be held for both their firm and insurance choice?

This is likely to be a decision for individual medical schools. 

Can you confirm that the Autumn exams won't be seen as 'retakes' or exams not being taken in one sitting?

They will not be considered as resits or as exams taken in more than one sitting.

Preparation for admissions

There will be far more limited time and opportunities for students to prepare for their application this year. What should students do?

Medical schools are aware that students will have had less support to prepare for their application to medicine. There is still time for students to prepare for their application to medicine by volunteering, reading articles and watching talks about the subject. Encourage them to reflect on their experiences to date and what they see and hear. We have made available online resources and guidance to help students in their application, including virtual work experience. See here for details.  

Can you please tell what kind of work experience students can apply during this pandemic for future admissions in medicine?

Please see the updated guidance on work experience for details.

Can you tell me more about the online work experience that is available?

There are two good online work experience tools students can use. Observe GP has been produced by the Royal College of General Practitioners and is designed to provide an insight into working in primary care. Brighton and Sussex Medical School have also produced virtual work experience

Some of my students have asked about the validity of their experience of supporting local Covid-19 initiatives for example, working in food banks or shopping runs. Can I please have your thoughts?

These are all relevant experiences. Applicants need to reflect on their experiences and consider how they demonstrated caring responsibilities, an understanding of other people’s lives and how this may affect the health service. Through these activities students should be developing the values and attributes medical schools look for in prospective applicants. 

Should we be preparing students to answer interview questions on COVID-19?

Yes, we will expect students to be aware of what is happening in medicine. We would encourage students to follow stories of doctors, how the situation is managed in hospitals and the impact on patients. 

Can you recommend any particular podcasts or sources of information for students?

We would recommend students access the following resources:

The Guardian's science pages

The Telegraph's health pages

The British Medical Journal's open access information

TED talks on science and health topics can provide useful background information 

The Royal Society of Medicine provides podcasts

Do admissions staff value MOOCs?

Medical schools value an applicant’s ability to reflect on their experiences and what they have seen or heard. Understanding and reading round the subject will be of benefit. Some MOOCs can play a valuable role in aiding understanding of the subject and encouraging reflection.

References

Do you have advice for teachers writing references for students, normally we would refer to their work experience and skills gained from this?

Medical schools expect an academic reference to provide an assessment of the student’s academic potential, confirmation that the student is motivated and committed to studying medicine, confirmation that the student is suitable for medicine, any information about the social or educational disadvantage that they have experienced and/or overcome and any additional information that the student may not have included.

In the reference, medical schools are looking for indications that the student possesses the qualities needed to be a doctor, such as empathy, integrity, communication, teamwork, leadership and resilience. They may have demonstrated these qualities in other ways other than work experience. Please refer to the UCAS Application guide for teachers and careers advisers.

How important is it to mention WP circumstances in a reference?

Any information about the social or educational disadvantage that a student has experienced and/or overcome should be included. Background information on the school as well as the applicant is helpful. Please refer to the UCAS Application guide for teachers and careers advisers for details.

 Admissions tests

If the September BMAT is cancelled, will more universities require UCAT?

The BMAT test is not running in September, but it will run in November.  It is highly unlikely that medical schools that use BMAT will move to UCAT. 

I am concerned that many students I work with will be disadvantaged by not having appropriate technology or space at home to sit UCAT and may live too far away from test centres.

We are very aware that access to technology and their home environment may affect some students. We would ask that schools and colleges where possible enable students to take the test from their premises. We have also raised this issue with UCAT. There will be places at Pearson Vue test centres to take UCAT.

When will the BMAT/ UCAT admissions tests be scheduled for 2021 applicants?

Registration for the UCAT tests opens on the 1 July 2020 and testing will take place between the 3rd August and the 1st October.  

For BMAT the test will run on the 4 November 2020.

When should students start preparing for the UCAT/BMAT?

Students should start preparing now. Guidance notes, practice sessions and questions are available on the UCAT and BMAT websites. It is essential that students practise the tests and become familiar with the type of questions, format and time constraints. Some parts of the tests will be weighted differently, so ensure your students know the weightings so they can focus their time accordingly. The best preparation is to encourage your students to complete the practice papers under examination conditions. UCAT reports that the most successful candidates spend around 21 to 30 hours preparing for the test.

Will the weighting of the UCAT and BMAT be the same as in previous years?

All medical schools weight UCAT and BMAT differently, and use it in different parts of the admissions process. There may be some changes in some medical schools around how UCAT and BMAT will be considered. However, it is likely to continue to be a significant part of the admissions process for those that use it so students should be encouraged to practice and prepare as before.

Do you have any recommendations for free BMAT or UCAT support and materials?

Both BMAT and UCAT have guidance and support materials on their websites. We highly recommend students use their materials and practice papers. 

Admissions interviews

Will MMIs be used by universities this year?

Yes, we expect that medical schools will continue to use MMIs, if they have done so in the past.

Are interviews going online?

Many medical schools have not made a final decision. It is possible that they will move interviews online, depending on the social distancing rules in place and the ability to travel. 

How should students prepare for MMIs at home?

Encourage your students to research the type of interview used by the medical school and be aware of the format. Some medical schools release the MMI questions prior to the interview and they may wish to look at these beforehand. 

Students need to be self-reflective and they should think about their skills, abilities and interests in advance of the interview. All medical schools are different so students should know why they have applied to that medical school and be able to talk about it. 

Encourage your students to practice answering questions at home. Students can also use the Medical Schools Council’s interview preparation website to prepare. 

Do any schools of medicine release rehearsal samples of scenario-based/station-based MMIs?

Yes, many medical schools will give examples of the MMI stations. Sheffield Medical School release the information in advance. On the Medical Schools Council interview preparation website students can watch MMIs and panel interviews to help them practice.

Will you move away from MMIs to one-to-one interviews online?

There may be some changes to interviews this year. However, medical schools that use MMIs find they give real insight into an applicant. It is highly unlikely that interviews will move from MMIs to one-to-one interviews. 

I am concerned about online interviews. Is there a possibility of students been fed answers in the background? What measures are in place to ensure the integrity of the process?

Medical schools are considering how to run their interviews online. Do be assured that the integrity of the interviews will be central to our considerations.

If interviews go online, what happens if there are technical issues?

We are very aware that there could be technical issues during the interviews. We will take this into consideration. 

Would you offer any mock interviews?

Some outreach programmes offer mock interviews. Medical schools provide guidance and advice on the interviews (available on individual websites). This guidance will be updated if there are any changes to the interviews. 

Could you give us an example of a typical opening interview question please?

There is no typical opening question. We would encourage prior to interview that students get used to talking about themselves and expressing their views. For more information on how to support your students to prepare refer to our Admissions Process guide for teachers and advisers.