Applying to Study Medicine in the UK: A Comprehensive Guide for International Students


Embarking on a journey to study medicine is an exciting prospect. The path, however, can be complex and requires meticulous planning compared to other subject areas. This article will guide you through the essential steps you need to take.

The NCUK International Foundation Year (IFY) opens a world of opportunities for aspiring medical students. By undertaking this qualification, you can access various prestigious medical degrees at leading universities in the UK, Australia, Malta, and the Caribbean.

Among the renowned institutions where you can pursue a medical degree are:

However, it is essential to note that this guide focuses specifically on applying to medical schools in the UK. The application processes and requirements may differ for universities outside the UK. Research each university’s specific application procedures and requirements when considering your options.

As well as being able to progress to study medicine and dentistry, you also have the option to progress to over 80 medical-related degree courses, including pharmacy, biochemistry, medical sciences, nursing, sports nutrition and many more!


Stage 1: Decide if Medicine is right for you

Before diving into the application process, ensuring that a medical career aligns with your aspirations is crucial. Gain insights about the life of a doctor by researching online, reading relevant books, or reaching out to professionals in the medical field.

Remember that medicine is not for everyone; it is vital to understand the profession before committing.

Stage 2: Organising Work Experience, Volunteering or Internships

Work experience plays a significant role in your medicine application. It demonstrates your commitment and gives you a taste of a medical career.

Whether at a local hospital, a GP practice, a care home, or even online, any work experience can bolster your application. Ideally, this should be done the year before you undertake the NCUK International Foundation Year. With experience, likely, you will receive an offer to study a medical programme at a university, and you will need to take time to gain this experience before applying. Medical programmes are incredibly competitive, so an outstanding application is vital.

Step 3: Excelling in Your NCUK International Foundation Year

Getting accepted into a medical school is challenging, with only about 25% of applicants being successful.

Aim for excellent grades during your NCUK International Foundation Year, particularly in Biology and Chemistry, to enhance your chances. High academic performance will make you stand out among the pool of candidates. Only the highest calibre of applicants will receive offers, so you must work hard to achieve high academic grades in your subjects and our English studies.

You must study the correct modules on your International Foundation Year to align with a medical programme. You must choose suitable subjects in your IFY to receive an offer.

Stage 4: Sitting the UCAT & BMAT Exams

UK medical schools require applicants to sit either the UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test) or the BMAT (Biomedical Admissions Test). These exams test your thinking skills and are a prerequisite for gaining a place or even receiving an offer to study.

The UCAT is more widely required, but check which of these exams your chosen universities prefer. Both can be taken globally at test centres so that international students will avoid location constraints. Once again, speak to your Study Centre for guidance on where to study this in your home country alongside your studies.

The BMAT consists of three sections focusing on essay writing and scientific knowledge, while the UCAT is a time-pressured multiple-choice exam requiring basic maths skills. Choose the one that best suits your strengths. However, ensure that the one you are taking aligns with the requirements of the universities you wish to apply to. Entry requirements are strict, and you must comply with the requirements of the universities.

Stage 5: Writing a Medicine Personal Statement

A personal statement is an essential part of your application. It provides universities with insight into your motivations beyond your academic achievements.

You will have 4000 characters (roughly 47 lines) to demonstrate your motivation to study medicine, work experience, relevant extracurricular activities, and suitability to be a medical student.

Writing your personal statement during your NCUK International Foundation Year is recommended. During this process, you can seek guidance from your Centre Counsellor or the NCUK Student Support team to ensure you maximise your chance of receiving an offer.

We have written a guide to writing the best possible Medicine application personal statement to inspire and guide you.


Stage 6: Selecting Your Medical Schools

It would be best to have a shortlist of the medical schools you are interested in, as this is beneficial early on. Each school’s requirements vary, from the subjects you should take to the entrance exam they require.

Spend time researching and understanding these specifications. Being thorough in this step can save you from potential rejections. It is crucial at this stage to check the entry requirements, cost of study and facilities to ensure it is the right choice and a realistic option to apply for. Medical programmes in the UK can vary in price but are usually relatively expensive, so you must budget appropriately to ensure you can fund your studies.

Applying for medical school in the UK involves careful planning and organisation. However, with the proper preparation and dedication, you will be well on your way to becoming a successful medical student.

Stage 7: Preparing for Interviews

Once you have submitted your application, you may be invited for an interview with the Admissions Team. This is an integral part of the application process, where universities assess your suitability for a medical career.

The format can vary from traditional interviews to Multiple Mini Interviews (MMIs). Make sure to prepare well by practising common interview questions and understanding the structure and content of the interview at each university.

These may be online, or you might be asked to come to the campus for a face-to-face interview; once again, this will be at the university’s discretion.

Stage 8: Receiving Offers from Universities

After the interviews, you might receive university conditional or unconditional offers.

A conditional offer means you must achieve specific grades in your NCUK International Foundation Year, while an unconditional offer means your place is secured regardless of your final grades. Carefully consider your options before accepting any offers.

Stage 9: Be Patient!

The waiting period can be nerve-wracking, but do not worry!

You have worked hard and done everything you can. It is time to focus on achieving those grades if you have a conditional offer. If you get a place, brace yourself for an exciting and challenging journey. Remember, earning a medical degree is just the beginning. Becoming a doctor in the UK takes 5-6 years, but many more before you complete your specialist training.

The Importance of a Backup Plan When Applying for Medicine

Pursuing a career in medicine is a commendable aspiration, but it is essential to acknowledge the high competitiveness of medical school admissions. With numerous applicants vying for limited spots, having a backup plan is not just a safety net; it is an intelligent strategy.

A backup plan does not signify a lack of faith in your capabilities or ambitions; instead, it shows foresight and preparedness. It means you are considering all possible outcomes and are ready to adapt if necessary. Your backup plan could involve applying to biomedical sciences, pharmacy, or nursing. These programs align with healthcare, allowing you to gain relevant knowledge and skills. These courses could provide a solid foundation if you still wish to transition into medicine later.

Alternatively, consider broader science fields like biology or chemistry, which offer versatile career paths. You could also explore gap year opportunities, such as research roles, healthcare-related volunteering, or internships that strengthen your profile for future medical school applications.

Remember, a backup plan is not about settling for less—it is about maximising your opportunities and ensuring you continue moving forward, no matter what. Regardless of your path, the key is to keep learning, stay resilient, and maintain your passion for healthcare. After all, numerous ways exist to make a difference in people’s health and lives.

Applying to medical school is a rigorous process, but you can navigate it successfully with determination and thorough preparation.

Good luck on your path to becoming a doctor! If you want to learn more about the NCUK University Partners that accept students onto their medical degrees, click here.