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Choosing what to study

Top tips for Veterinary Medicine applications

We spoke with a veterinary surgeon to get their advice for applying to study Veterinary Medicine. Here's what they had to say.

 Veterinarian in latex gloves examining dog paw

1. Ask yourself: is Veterinary Medicine for you?

This may seem a basic question, but you need to be sure you know what Veterinary Medicine truly is, and that it’s what you want to do for the next five or so years. 

Veterinary Medicine is rarely about cuddling puppies and helping kittens. Louise, who studied at the University of Bristol, tells us that the reality includes gruelling work experience, high contact hours in university, weekly tests of your knowledge and regular anatomy lessons (which involve dissecting dead animals). This subject area isn't for the faint-hearted!

2. Be prepared to work hard

As you might expect, becoming a vet doesn't just happen. A lot of work is needed to get onto a course and pass veterinary exams. Louise sat 12 exams in her first year of undergraduate study. Of these exams, some were practical tests, others theory, and others laboratory-based anatomy. She had smaller coursework pieces to complete as well.

The workload is immense, but if you have the passion and determination, there’s no reason for you not to become a top vet.

3. Study the right A Levels

Entry standards are high for all Veterinary Medicine courses, so choosing A Levels that support your application is key. Two sciences are needed by all institutions, preferably Chemistry and Biology, although Physics and Mathematics are also highly valued.

Most institutions allow a third A Level of your choice, and Lousie mentions that a third non-scientific subject can show that your skills are varied and diverse.

4. Do your research

In the UK there are 12 universities and colleges offering degree-level Veterinary Medicine, making it both possible and important to look at your options in a lot of detail. Your university will be your home for the next five years, and it’s crucial you choose not only the best university for you, but also the right location for your needs.

Also, your chosen university may need you to do an entry exam called a BMAT (BioMedical Admissions Test). This is known to be an intensive knowledge, logic and reading multiple-choice exam, needing lots of practice.

5. Get plenty of work experience

This is vital. A broad range of work experience is a key prerequisite for becoming a successful Veterinary Medicine applicant. Before your application, you need to have taken up work experience at a vet practice of some sort, be it in a stable, dairy farm or small, general vet practice. Louise even spent a few weeks in Africa helping vets with livestock.

The work experience doesn't stop there. In the first two years of your course you’ll have to complete at least 12 weeks of out-of-term work experience, and in the last three years this quota increases to 26 weeks. Make sure you’re on top of sorting out work experience so that you have the best chance of gaining a place.

6. Relax in the interview

If you’re successful in gaining an interview with your chosen university (which can run to as many as 500 applicants for 150 places), Lousie advises that a relaxed but concise attitude is preferable. You should avoid making everything you say about Veterinary Medicine to show yourself as a rounded applicant with more than just a love for animals (although that's pretty important). Good luck!

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