So, having been on the medicine forums for the last few days, a question that comes up a lot is: “Am I good enough to do medicine?”. First things first, I don’t really like that question… It only encourages the god-complex some people have when they get into med school, making them think they’ve achieved something incredible which others can only aspire to. However, this is how quite a lot of people phrase the question and so I’m going to use it here. The main problem with this question is that there can be a few interpretations of the term “Good enough” so I’ll go through a few of them here.
The grades you need to get into medicine are pretty much set in stone in each universities prospectus, so have a look for the institutions you want to apply to. When I applied to Dundee 4 years ago (that makes me feel really old), you needed 3A’s and 2B’s at higher level. I don’t know what this equates to in the english system unfortunately. But Dundee had the lowest entry requirements for any medical school in Scotland despite being either first or second on the leage tables for Scottish medical schools each year. However, if you didn’t get the right grades, you can phone up the medical schools you want to apply to and ask whether it’s worth applying with the grades you have – you can only try.
If all that fails, you can try medical school clearing. I know a few people in Dundee, who I’m good friends with and who are doing very well in medical school (in fact, better than most people in some cases) that came in through the medical school clearing process. I don’t know much else about this process apart from the fact they had to come for an interview, so hopefully that’s some reassurance to you.
I’m a bit unsure about UKCAT at the moment. It all seems to have changed since I did it. I think our year was the second year to have to do the UKCAT for medicine. When I did it, you had 4 sections, got a score out of 900 for each section, and then the average score for the whole test was your UKCAT score. I did ok in it – apparently the average score for medical students was 600 and I got a little bit above that so felt ok about things. Then I saw on the forums that people were being all like “OMG. I only got 910 in my UKCAT… Am I ever going to get into medicine with a score like that?!” – to them, I say, shut the hell up.
My thoughts on why they do the UKCAT is to differentiate peoples academic ability under pressure. This is all my own thoughts and I have no evidence behind my thinking here, but if everyone applies and has 5As, then there’s no way to differentiate between the ‘smartest’ people. For example, some people could have worked really hard to get the 5As, whereas somebody else could have done no work but just somehow managed to perform well on the day. So, I think they use the UKCAT to differentiate between these types of people. Not that one is better than the other – in fact, I would argue that people who work hard are better suited to medicine, if you ask me. But anyway, don’t get to wound up about the UKCAT.
Also, when I applied they removed one of the sections as there had been problems with the system during that section to had to discount everyones score for that section, meaning that the whole thing was scored out of 3 categories. I think at Dundee, it counts for like 20% of the score that gets you an interview. Once you get an interview at dundee, everyone’s score goes back to zero, and you’re all on a level playing field, which I think is really good.
Are you nice enough to be a doctor? The chances are, if you’re a normal human being, then yes, you’re nice enough to be a doctor. There’s some weird people I’ve met through my time at medical school that are students or doctors. If they managed it, you should be able to too.
This is a question I asked myself a lot when I was going to apply – am I really signing up for this? This is going to be really F***ing hard. And still, some days, I think – I can’t believe I signed myself up for this – this is really F***ing hard. But actually, most of the time, I love it. It’s not so much hard work as a lot of work. The concepts aren’t difficult to grasp, its just you have to learn a lot in a short period of time.
So, the big question: Do you want to do medicine enough? Somebody on the student room medicine forum said they don’t like biology at school – when i did Biology, I distinctly remember that about three quarters of the course was on plants. I had no interest in botany whatsoever. However, we did one week on the human body, and I loved it, so that was enough reassurance for me. The problem with school is that theres a wide syllabus, in an attempt to teach everyone as much as they need to go to uni and study whatever it is they want to study, hence there’ll be some things you like and a lot of things you dont. That’s life I’m afraid. I can only reassure you that if you make the right choice at university for your course, you’ll love doing it. The same person on the student room also said they enjoyed physics – you do get medical physics, y’know. Radiology requires a lot of knowledge of some pretty advanced physics too. In medicine there’s such a wide variety of specialities you can do, each requiring different interests and skills. Diversity is one of the things that makes the NHS what it is. If they only let people into medicine with one, distinct interest then the NHS would fall to its knees pretty quickly, I would imagine.
Hope that clears a few things up!