This student applied in the 2018/19 application cycle and therefore the selection process at Southampton may have changed since then. You should read all the information a University sends you about the selection process to get the most up to date details!
Remember to check out the glossary at the bottom of the page for our explanations of all the jargon we medical students like to use!
More about this student
Sometimes students share information with us about their demographics, which may help put their application experience into a bit more perspective.
This student identifies as a white woman and went to a comprehensive school that doesn’t regularly send students to study medicine. They received free school meals.
Course: Standard undergraduate entry
In-person panel interview with group task
Admissions Tests: UCAT.
Before I made my application…
Choosing to study medicine
How did you choose which universities to apply to?
I did my UKCAT (now UCAT) quite early and scored well. Knowing this I applied to schools that ranked for interview based on the UKCAT score. I’m dyslexic and thought I would struggle with the BMAT so did not apply to any schools that required this. My GCSEs grades were good but not amazing so I avoided schools that generated scores based on these.
I research all the universities that I might be accepted into and selected those that had spiral based teaching with early clinical placements that allowed intercalation. I visited a few and applied for a range (top 10, top 20, top 30 medical school). I looked at their history of accepting students with AAB should I drop a grade.
Look at what universities say they look for in applicants. Some do not accept retakes (though this didn’t affect me). Some have more specific requirements such as an A in a language at GCSE.
Completing work experience
What types of work experience did you do?
Customer service role (voluntary), Customer service role (paid)
How much work experience did you do?
I had zero healthcare connections and so applied to med school with zero hospital shadowing. However, I was able to demonstrate all of the transferable skills needed via my volunteering role and my part-time jobs. I had had these roles for >2yrs alongside extracuriculars. I also demonstrated that I had a good understanding of a doctors role and how a hosptial works despite not being able to access work experience in one citing TED talks, documentaries and books that I had consumed to gain better insight.
How did you find your work experience opportunities?
Through a formal scheme or work experience placement
During the application process…
What admissions test did you sit?
University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT): https://www.ucat.ac.uk/
Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT): Southampton doesn’t use the BMAT to select applicants and the BMAT won’t be used after the 2023 application cycle!
How did you prepare for your admissions test?
Medic Portal 1day prep course – I found this very useful.
Free online questions.
What type of interview did you do?
Panel: This type of interview is a ‘traditional’ sit down interview where you’ll be interviewed by a group of people, usually academic tutors and doctors. This differs from an MMI interview, which is based around ‘stations’ which have themes or scenarios attached to them.
Group task: At Southampton, most interviews have a group task, where multiple candidates are interviewed together.
How did you prepare for your interview?
- Interview Style: I knew that Southampton had a panel style interview and a unique group task – I paid attention to any healthcare related news topics and did some reading of UK public health policy. You don’t need to actually know much about the topic (don’t pretend you do or make up facts!) it is more about your engagement with the task. It may be a good idea to suggest that everyone introduces themselves at the start. Be sure to contribute but also listen and allow others to talk.
- Know the university: Having knowledge about the university you’re applying to can really help! Read up of the course structure and teaching style of the university. I had a little flashcard that I’d memorised about the course structure, teaching style and associated hospitals at Southampton and all the things they offered here to demonstrate my interest in this University and attention to detail.
- Personal Statement: It is common to be asked to expand on things that you have mentioned in your personal statement so I was sure to have a good knowledge of/ reasoning for everything I had mentioned in my personal statement.
- Resources: I didn’t have any coaching or guidance on how to interview for medical school but I did purchase the book ‘How to prepare for Medical School interviews’ by Philip McElnay and used that to help me prepare my answers. It can help to find a list of skills/ qualities that are desirable and that might be asked about and see if you can match up some examples where you demonstrate that skill.
- Questions: Practise saying your answers out loud. You want to be understandable, and not speak too fast. You should come across as confident and enthusiastic. Avoid saying um or err. Avoid saying basically or like or using slang (they may not understand the reference). You are able to ask them for a moment to think about your answer!
- NHS Values is a common question – know them!
- Show respect for other healthcare professions – a common question is ‘why a doctor instead of a nurse?’
- Future career plans – you may have zero clue but its good to have an answer for this – you could say that you’d be interested in medical education, clinical research, public health policy, sustainability in healthcare etc. alongside working as a clinican. You could say you have interest in Orthopaedics or another speciality and mention inspiration/ experience/ further investigation. Basic is okay! Helping people is a common and very valid motivation to become a doctor!
What’s your best advice about interviews?
- Preparation: you want to have prepared for your interview! Get some good sleep, shower, dress appropriately in something you are comfortable and confident in; think about your shoes and bag, eat something and drink plenty of water!
- Be friendly and polite to everyone.
- Don’t sit on your phone, put it on silent also!
- Listen to the questions. Take a moment to process them and breath. Square breathing can really help calm you.
- Smile at people and they will smile back. I hope you have a good afternoon or something similar can be a nice memory for them once you’ve left.
- Always thank your interviewers for their time.
Do you have any final advice?
- Be strategic – if you qualify for BM6 then apply for BM6!! If your UKCAT score is low then don’t apply to universities that really value this! The first battle is to get interviews!
- Research: The university literally has to tell you how they assess applicants – you just need to do some digging on their websites.
- Adapt: I had no clinical experience which I acknowledged BUT I used what I did have (lots of customer service experience) to demonstrate that I had the desired skills. Literally any experience of anything can be adapted for this purpose.
- Ask for help: There may be someone at school who can help you, there are bursaries and resources. Ask your GP. There are schemes where doctors offer clinical experience to those who may struggle otherwise.
- You can do it! Doctors should be representative of the communities they treat, your background will only aid you as a clinician.
- Getting into medical school is not your only purpose in life – don’t let it define you.
Spiral based teaching: Spiral curriculums build on previous knowledge and encourages students to revisit previous learnings and lessons. This is quite a common feature of integrated (where you learn the science and clinical skills side by side) and problem-based learning (where you learn by solving problems, without being told the solution beforehand) styles.
Intercalation: Intercalation happens when a medical student takes a year away from their medical degree studies to study for a related degree. For example, some students complete Research Degrees (e.g. MRes) in a topic of their choice, or undertake a Bachelor’s degree (usually a BSc) in a specific medical interest. Not all universities permit this, so if you think you might want to intercalate, this might affect where you choose to apply.
Paid-for resources: Some students choose to pay for courses either online or in person to help them prepare for admissions tests and interviews. There is no evidence that they give you an advantage. There are good, free alternatives for preparation for admissions tests and interviews, and some offer bursaries and discounts to students who come from low income families. Check out our guides and uni websites for more details.
Medify: Medify is a popular website which provides resources for helping you prepare your medicine application. Medify has some free resources online but some are paid-for. There are good, free alternatives for preparation available online, so check out our subject guides and the university websites for details.
The Medic Portal: The Medic Portal is a popular website that provides resources to help you prepare your medicine application. The Medic Portal has some free resources online but some are paid-for. There are good, free alternatives for preparation available online, so check out our guides and the university websites for details.
NHS Values: The NHS Values guide healthcare education and careers. It’s important to know and understand these values to help you be as successful as possible in your application. They can help you answer questions in your interview, or guide what you write about in your personal statement. Find out more here: NHS Values
Books: Don’t worry if you’ve not been able to find this particular book or afford to pay for it. You might be able to find secondhand copies online which are usually much cheaper, or at your local library (sometimes, libraries will order in books that you’ve requested, so check out this as a possibility too!). Bear in mind that some books may become out of date, so make sure you check when they were published, and if any changes to the relevant admissions tests/interviews have been made since then.
Clothes: Usually, the dress code for Medical School interviews is something that looks smart. You don’t need to be in a full dinner suit but it’s worth dressing smartly, whether that’s a nice shirt and trousers, or a shirt and skirt or dress. You don’t have to spend lots of money, and if you need new clothes, take a look in the local charity shops as there’s usually lots of options there!