Graduate Medicine – GEMs of knowledge

Source: Paul Evans via Flickr

By Daniel Davies

Preparing to do a medical degree after your undergraduate studies is a big commitment so it needs some thought. To bust the myth, not all GEM students are from science undergrad backgrounds, far from it. Yes, okay, some medical schools want a science graduate but not all of them, in fact, the skills you could bring as an arts student gives you many advantages on all us science grads. The science element for an arts student may make the early parts of the med degree a struggle, but you’re smart you’ll get there, and by this stage chances are you’ve already aced the dreaded GAMSAT.

I’m going to have to mention them, entry exams! Sat in the summer before you apply (Via UCAS as an undergraduate before October 15th) the chances are you’ll have to sit at least one. Different med schools want different ones so you’ll need to check their entry requirements before applying, however, if you’re a particularly clever one then the likes of Cambridge don’t need any at all. For the rest of us average Joe’s then most likely the GAMSAT is the one you’ll be diving into, which encompasses 5 and a half hours of exams in the one day, yeah 5.5 hours! There are 3 sections, a multiple choice reasoning in humanities and social sciences section directly followed by the 2 essays in the written communication section. These are both sat in the morning without a break, and are followed by a mammoth afternoon session of reasoning in biological and physical sciences. Like they state sections 1 and 3 are reasoning so should be answerable using the info they give you, not to poop the party but that science section is going to require some knowledge. In fact, without science A levels I can’t imagine i’d have done too well, so a good science background will be needed for that one. The other two exams are UKCAT and BMAT, which are accepted but some other unis. I have no experience with the BMAT, but the UKCAT is really hit and miss as I have done it twice – both with very different results so I really think it is more hit and miss.

Once you’re over this hurdle getting an interview is usually quite methodical, if you hit all the minimum exam scores and have the other entry requirements, you should be a-shoo-in for interviews. Most interviews will take place between January and April after you apply and use differently methods. More common nowadays is the MMI, multi mini interviews, this is 7 or 8 stations all with different topics such as ethics, communication or work experience. This has the advantage of being segmented, so if you come across as the village idiot in one section the next station is a new dawn and you can resume being the beaming pillar of humanity that you are! This is not the case with traditional panel interviews, this normally comes in the form of 1 or 2 interviews with a panel of a few professionals such as doctors and nurses, but also students or a member of the public. This is useful as you have longer to build a rapport, but if you get off on a bad foot could be a disaster. The overwhelming tip for interviews is be yourself, and make sure you can relate the skills you’re telling the interviewer to things you have done otherwise what you’re saying is useless.

The choice to go back to university after already completing your undergraduate degree is a big decision, not only will this shape your career but also will be a huge financial challenge. Despite this for many of us the desire to become a Doctor will not be quashed by a bit of hard work or a few more thousand pound debt at the end of it all, so best of luck its a long road!

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