Which UK medical school do you want to apply to?

So, you’re thinking about applying to the UK to study Medicine? Firstly, fantastic choice! The UK has 33 medical schools which are unique in their own right. Whilst it may be unsettling having so many options to choose from, the best way to look at this plethora of choices is that there are plenty of opportunities to find the best fit for you.

Types of Medical Courses

One of the very first things to consider is the type of course that you feel will be best for you. In essence, there are three types: Traditional, Problem-Based Learning (PBL) and Integrated. In your interviews, if asked about why you want to study at a particular school, it is worth having a deeper understanding beyond buzzwords about what these courses imply.

Traditional Course

Traditional courses can often be divided into two halves so to say, with pre-clinical years where you focus on understanding the fundamental scientific principles underpinning clinical practice before applying your knowledge in your clinical years. The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge both follow this course structure.

That said, you do experience clinical opportunities during your pre-clinical year. Often these are supplementary experiences that must be completed to meet the General Medical Council (the regulatory body for medical education in the UK) guidelines.


PBL courses very much subscribe to what it says on the tin so to say. In other words, its focus is on tackling problems/case studies within small teams where there is an emphasis on focused teamwork to not only come up with your own learning objectives but to then undertake private study before presenting your findings to the remainder of the group and the project facilitator. There is a lot of self-directed work involved and in such courses, lectures are supplementary as opposed to the main focus.


Integrated courses are quite similar to traditional courses in the sense that your lectures and small-group tutorials form the foundation. However, the ‘integrated’ aspect comes in with regards to the fact that you continue clinical training alongside your academic studies. This translates to learning as per organ systems or related topics as opposed to single modules (e.g. Biochemistry or Pathology).


Given that you are thinking of applying to read Medicine, it is most likely that you are a bright student. Grades do play a critical part in your application. In the UK, the grades that are looked at include your GCSEs, AS levels (if you have taken any) and predicted A-Level grades (or actual A-Level grades if you are applying after Year 13). Now, for students outside of the UK, there are conversions that are used to ensure that you are not disadvantaged in comparisons to other applicants.

However, if your grades were not stellar, this doesn’t mean that’s the end of your application! Certain medical schools have ‘Foundation Courses’ which are an additional year in which you are prepared for medical school. This can be useful for those who missed out on the grades required for direct entry, but also for those who may have not studied the ‘correct’ combination of subjects or even overseas students.

Admissions Tests

All medical schools require some sort of admissions test as part of the application process. This is either the UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test) or the BMAT (BioMedical Admissions Test).

Different universities can focus on different sub-tests and they score individuals as per their performance on these tests. It is worthwhile considering which schools you want to apply to so that you know beforehand whether or not you have to take both tests. Your scores can act as guides to maximise success in your application.


The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge are two of the top universities in the world. They both offer traditional courses with a focus on ensuring a deep understanding of fundamental principles, which are consolidated with their tutorial/supervision system. As a result, you, in a group of one to three students, get to have weekly discussions about the concepts and ideas discussed during lectures and practicals as well as those encountered during you preparatory work (often in the form of essays) with world-leading academics at the cutting-edge of research and practice.

Academic excellence is a key factor but both institutions take a holistic approach to assessing applicants. When applying, you can choose between either one (but not both!) so it is worthwhile considering which institution you feel would be best for you.


It is worthwhile thinking about whether you want to intercalate during your medical education. This means that you receive an additional Bachelor’s degree in a subject of your choosing (different universities have different courses available to students) in exchange for an additional year at university. Whilst for some universities intercalation is compulsory, for others, it is an optional choice that you may be interested in.

Location, Location, Location

One final aspect worth considering is where you want to stay! After taking into account everything, it is still worthwhile remembering that you will be spending the next 5/6 years not only at medical school but where you are living! Do you want to stay amongst the hustle and bustle of London, the cycle-filled cities of Oxford or Cambridge or all the way up in rugged Scotland!

Next Steps

There’s been a lot of information covered here so take your time to go through this a couple of times. Choosing which four medical schools you are applying to (the application system only allows a maximum of four choices) means you need to put in a bit of thought as to what you feel works best for you. Have a look at the entry requirements, course structures and locations of the schools you want to study at. It may be worthwhile getting in touch with an MD Consultant to optimise your choices and subsequent application to maximise your chances of gaining entry to a UK medical school!

Thinking of applying to a UK medical school? Book your appointment and start working with one of our UK medical student consultants as soon as possible!