The different routes into studying medicine

There are many different routes into being a medical student. You don’t have to apply straight out of school to get in, and there are now many different options to widen participation in medicine.

This guide will detail all the different routes into medicine you might be able to take, and the eligibility criteria for them.

Standard undergraduate entry

This is the most common way to enter medicine and most medical schools offer this pathway. To enter at standard undergraduate level, you will need to apply via UCAS to the A100 course to your chosen 4 universities.

Usually, standard undergraduate entry has strict grade entry requirements, although some universities do make contextual offers to students from disadvantaged backgrounds, or perhaps to those who have participated in Access/Widening Participation schemes.

Students who have already received a degree can enter medicine at Standard undergraduate level, as long as they have the right A-levels. However, you cannot receive any student finance if you enter this way.

If they do not have the correct A-levels, then they may be able to enter via a Graduate Entry pathway (GEM).

Contextual offers for those who meet WP criteria

Many universities make contextual offers to students according to their personal information and if they meet certain criteria. This is usually done for students who have been in care; are young carers; have refugee status; come from a low-income household; are from underrepresented communities.

You can check with individual universities what their criteria might be, and what the reduced offer might be to get in, but usually it’s around the AAB or ABB mark.

For example, Access Sheffield is a scheme that makes certain applicants an offer of one grade lower the standard entry requirements (depending on their personal circumstances) as long as they make Sheffield their firm offer.

⭐ 🔗  Realising Opportunities: Realising Opportunities is a national programme for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Some medical schools make reduced offers to those who are Realising Opportunities participants.

Accelerated process for programme participants

⭐ 🔗 Discover Medicine, University of Sheffield: a scheme for students local to Sheffield; a prolonged scheme across Year 12 and Year 13. If you successfully complete the scheme, you will be given a conditional offer to study medicine at Sheffield as long as you meet certain criteria, such as passing an interview.

Graduate entry medicine

Graduate entry medicine is a pathway for people who have already received one degree who have decided they want to become a doctor. Graduate courses are accelerated and usually take four years to complete.

They may have completed a life sciences degree prior to this or have an entirely different degree background.

Some universities which offer GEM do accept non-science degrees, including:

  • Barts’ London
  • Cambridge
  • Chester (which is currently only open to international students)
  • Dundee/St Andrews
  • Newcastle
  • Nottingham
  • Southampton
  • St George’s
  • Swansea
  • Worcester (which is currently only open to international students)
  • Warwick

Graduate entry can be much more competitive than undergraduate entry because there are less places available across the country.

It’s also important to bear in mind that graduate entry medicine accrues further student finance costs; you can receive a partial tuition fee and maintenance loan (as a UK student) but have to self-fund the rest.

Gateway year entry

Gateway years are designed to widen participation at medical school for students who have the ability to become doctors, but there have been other circumstances affecting their academics. They usually have a reduced entry requirement and they are only open to UK students. They are 6 years long.

⭐ 🔗 MSC Information on Gateway Years: You can find out about all the Gateway Years available here, including their entry requirements, competition ratios, and more!

Foundation year entry

Sometimes Medicine with a Foundation year is referred to as Medicine with a ‘Preliminary year’. There are lots of different Foundation Years available for Medicine, and they have different criteria.

Some Foundation Years target disadvantaged young people who may not ordinarily apply to study medicine for various reasons. These Foundation Year courses have specific criteria about the background of students who are given offers, e.g. ⭐ 🔗 the Leicester Uni Foundation Year

Some Foundation Years are designed for students who don’t have the correct grades to enter medicine at standard undergraduate level, but still have the potential to be a great doctor e.g. ⭐ 🔗  the Nottingham Uni Foundation Year

And some Foundation Years are designed for students who don’t have a science background (e.g. no science A-Levels). e.g. ⭐ 🔗 The Manchester Uni Foundation Year

⭐ 🔗 Blog post about Medicine with a Foundation Year: In this blog post, Hafiza talks about her experience of applying to study Medicine with a Foundation Year.

Transferring from a different course

Some universities have opportunities to transfer from different courses into Medicine. This is very competitive and might depend on:
1) How many spaces are available at the medical school for transfer
2) How well you do in your first year in your different course

Usually, you need to be studying a very similar degree, such as Biomedical Sciences, or sometimes, be completing a Foundation Year course in something relevant.

⭐ 🔗 Summary of transfer opportunities: this article by The Medic Portal neatly summarises the eligibility criteria for all the transfer options in the UK.

⭐ 🔗 Blog post about transferring from Bradford to Sheffield: In this blog post, Sudha talks about her experience of transferring from the Foundation Year in Clinical Sciences/Medicine to studying Medicine at Sheffield.

⭐ 🔗 Blog post about transferring to Medicine to Biological Sciences: In this blog post, Louise talks about her experience of transferring to study Medicine after completing her first year of Biological Sciences at Leicester University.

Thank you to Sudha who contributed some of the content and material for this guide!