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Applying to university

Medicine admissions tests

To apply for a Medicine degree, applicants have to pass specialist admissions tests such as BMATs, UCATs, GAMSATs and MMIs.

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  1. What Medicine admissions tests are there?

  2. Medicine applications: Multiple Mini Interviews (MMIs)

What Medicine admissions tests are there?

To qualify for entry to UK universities, Medicine applicants have to pass one of several tests. Applicants only have to take one, so check to make sure you take the correct test for the relevant university.

BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT)

Developed by Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing, this two-hour, pen-and-paper test assesses an applicant’s prior skills and knowledge. The test is divided into three sections:

  • Thinking skills – 32 multiple-choice questions testing generic skills in problem-solving and critical thinking (60 minutes)
  • Scientific knowledge and applications – 27 multiple-choice questions testing your ability to apply scientific and mathematical knowledge up to GCSE level (30 minutes)
  • Writing task – you choose one question from a choice of three, designed to test your ability to select, develop, organise and communicate ideas (30 minutes)

You should take the test during the academic year in which you’re applying to university. It typically takes place in either September or November depending on which schools you’re applying to. In 2021, there will be no test session in September. There will only be a November test session, taking place on 3 November 2021.

The test costs £71 for EU and UK students. Students outside of the EU and UK must pay £92.

More information about BMAT, including a list of universities that accept the test, is available on the Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing site.

University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT)

The UCAT (previously UKCAT) tests whether you have the appropriate mental ability, attitude and professionalism needed to succeed as a doctor or dentist. The test helps universities make informed choices and differentiates between highly-qualified applicants. It’s divided into five sections, all multiple-choice questions:

  • Verbal reasoning – 44 questions that assess your ability to critically evaluate the information presented in written form
  • Quantitative reasoning – 36 questions similar to verbal reasoning but the information is presented in numerical form
  • Abstract reasoning – 55 questions assessing your ability to think laterally and infer relationships from information
  • Decision making – 29 questions assessing your ability to make informed decisions and judgements using complex information
  • Situational judgement – 69 questions assessing your ability to understand real-life situations and identify appropriate behaviour to deal with them

The computer-based test lasts two hours, with each section having a set amount of time to be completed in. You can sit the test from 26 July to 29 September 2021. Tests taken in the UK cost £75. Test staken outside the UK cost £120.

More information including a list of universities that use this test for admissions is available on the UCAT site.

Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT)

Imported from Australia, the GAMSAT helps universities select participants for their graduate-entry Medicine programmes. The test is designed to assess an applicant's ability to undertake high-level intellectual studies. It’s divided into three sections:

  • Reasoning in humanities and social sciences – 47 questions assessing your ability to interpret and understand ideas in social and cultural contexts, mostly in written format
  • Written communication – 2 writing tasks assessing your ability to produce and develop ideas in your writing
  • Reasoning in biological and physical sciences – 75 questions assessing your ability in chemistry (40%), biology (40%) and physics (20%)

The test takes place in March and September each year. In 2021, the test will take place from 3 to 16 September. You should take it during the academic year in which you’re applying to university. It costs approximately £268 for UK students, €341 for students from Ireland and $515 for students from Australia, based on 2021 figures.

More information including a list of universities that offer graduate medicine programmes is available on the GAMSAT site.

Doctor examining senior male patient

Medicine applications: Multiple Mini Interviews (MMIs)

If you’re applying for Medicine at a UK university, you’ll probably have to complete a Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) to be offered a place. It’s unlikely you’ll have experienced an MMI before, so you may not be sure how they work.

What are MMIs?

MMIs are an alternative to traditional interview formats. The majority of UK medical schools now use them and some universities also use MMI for admission to Law, Nursing, Pharmacy, Pharmacology and Education courses.

How do MMIs work?

MMIs are made up of multiple ‘stations’ (usually between six and twelve). Each station is designed to test your non-academic traits, such as communication skills, empathy and teamwork.

At each station, you’re given a time limit to read the instructions and prepare your response. You then have a set period of time to complete the station before being instructed to move on to the next one. The MMI finishes once every candidate has completed every station.

You may have to complete many types of station, including:

  • Role play
  • Discussion of your UCAS application and relevant experience
  • Ethics question
  • Reading comprehension
  • Data analysis
  • Manual dexterity
  • Interpretation of scenarios/observation of scenes on a screen

You’re given a score based on the strength of your performance at each station. These scores are collated and you’re given an overall score. The strength of your overall score relative to those of other candidates determines whether or not you’re offered a place.

Medical schools should give you details of how the MMI will work before you attend. Familiarise yourself with them to make sure you aren’t caught out on the day.

It’s also important to adhere to confidentiality guidelines. You may be asked to sign a confidentiality statement, meaning you can’t share the specifics of your MMI experience.

Why do universities use MMIs instead of traditional interviews?

They create a level playing field for candidates
MMIs are harder to prepare for because they’re unconventional, so students can’t be coached for them. They’re designed to test for skills for a medical career, not interview-response skills. This means there’s no advantage for students who take professional interview coaching or those who have contacts in the medical field.

MMIs are more realistic
MMIs allow medical schools to better recreate scenarios where students will find themselves during their time as a medical student and a doctor. It’s difficult to test for important traits such as compassion and patience just by asking a candidate questions. Evidence shows that MMIs can better identify students who’ll perform well at medical school, particularly in the later years of the degree when they’ll spend most of their time in hospitals.

MMIs are more fun
Doing a variety of tasks is more challenging and interesting than simply responding to questions being asked by the same person. Your degree is meant to be enjoyable, so there’s no reason the selection process shouldn’t be as well.

What do interviewers look for in candidates?

Interviewers want to see you have what it takes to be a doctor besides academic excellence.

Give or take a grade or two, all candidates at an MMI will have the same predicted or actual grades. Interviewers are looking for you to show you can cope with the challenges of medical school and being a doctor. They want you to show confidence, composure, ethical integrity and good interpersonal skills.

How to prepare for an MMI

MMIs are deliberately harder to prepare for than normal interviews, but there are ways you can be ready for them:

Create your own stations
If you know other people who have MMIs coming up, a good way to get into the mindset for doing one is to make your own stations. This will get you thinking about what skills are required to succeed at medical school and as a doctor.

Know your personal statement
There could be a station at your MMI that gets you to talk about your personal statement and any previous experience you may have.

Know what’s going on in the UK and global health sector
You may or may not be asked about an issue in the health sector, but either way, it’s important to know the key issues that medical staff face today.

Be wary of websites that claim to coach for MMIs
Universities change their MMI stations every year, so any insider information these websites claim to have will be outdated and lead you to practice in the wrong way.

Treat it like an exam
Get to bed early the night before so you have a good night's sleep. Arrive at the MMI venue early to be prepared and get familiar with your surroundings.

You've earned your place at the MMI. If you’ve prepared well, you'll have nothing to worry about.

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