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How To Choose a UK Medical School: International Student Version

Updated: Jul 25, 2021

How do you choose a UK medical school out of 40+ of them? How do you decide which 4 to put down in your UCAS application as an international student? 

When we applied, narrowing down our choices was a tough process since we not only had to consider what applications to specific medical schools entailed but also the nature of the course and the city itself. On top of that, we had to worry about how to maximise our chances of acceptance due to limited places for international students.

Looking back at it now, we realized there were 4 main areas we considered while choosing:

Below is a summary image of these factors, feel free to skip if you prefer reading about them by clicking on the subheadings! 

How to Choose a UK Medical School: The Application

The very first step to choosing medical schools involves looking at the application requirements of each. This should be done as soon as you know you want to study Medicine.

The questions you should be asking are:

  1. What subjects do you need for A-levels/IB? What grades should you aim for so that you meet requirements for as many medical schools possible?

  2. Most medical schools require students to take the UCAT and some the BMAT. You need to consider whether you want to take the UCAT, BMAT, or both. Some people are better at one test over the other; while some may only want to take one test. You need to play to your own strengths and account for preparation times of each test!

  3. Are you aware that some medical schools have earlier interviews? (e.g: Cambridge does overseas interviews in September instead of the usual December-February)? 

  4. Overseas interview! Does the medical school offer this? It can be very costly (time and money-wise) to fly to the UK multiple times for interviews! A number of medical schools including Manchester, Sheffield, and Cambridge offer overseas interviews. Note that the format of overseas interviews might be different to the ones in the UK!

After considering the requirements and sitting the admissions tests, you’ll need to consider which schools you choose to maximise your chances.

However, you should consider whether you are someone who adapts well to any course style or whether you would prefer a certain style (such as PBL)?. If you adapt well, we suggest you look at the Selection Process section before looking at Course Style. If you have a preference for course styles, keep reading.

How to Choose a UK Medical School: Course Style 

Different medical schools offer different styles of teaching. Some of the styles include PBL, CBL, Traditional/Lecture-Based, etc.

  1. Do you have a course style you prefer or dislike? If so, you can narrow down schools by which style they offer. Then, look at their Selection Process to apply strategically.

  2. How long is the course?  Some medical schools including Imperial, UCL, etc incorporate an intercalated degree into the medicine, making it a 6 year course. It’s a good opportunity to study an area of interest in depth, but for those of you who want to get through the degree quickly, these schools may not be for you. 

The Selection Process

You’ve probably heard many students talk about “applying strategically”. This means to maximise your chances by carefully choosing schools that are most likely to interview you based on your results/test scores. This is where the selection process comes in:

  1. Medical schools have different methods of choosing applicants for interviews. Some solely use cutoffs for UCAT/BMAT while others look at the whole application including grades and personal statement. You need to play to your strengths. Have a high UCAT? Apply to schools that only look at UCAT for interviews. Have a great personal statement and grades? Apply to those that prioritise this.

  2. As an international student, you might also want to look at the number of international student places available and competition ratios for each medical school. Some schools offer more international places than others! We’ve linked a very useful document by the UK Medical Schools Council with information on this (click competition ratios to access it!). 

How to Choose a UK Medical School: The Location 

Lastly, you need to consider the location of the university. After all, you’re going to be spending a few years there and university wouldn’t be fun if you live in a place you detest!

  1. Do you like the atmosphere of the city? What are living costs like?

  2. How about the university itself and what it offers? For example, what attracted Jean to Manchester included Manchester Museum (amazing place if anyone hasn’t visited yet!), the Alan Gilbert Learning Commons (24/7 study space!) and Sporticipate (a programme offering free sport to students)!

The best way to find out about a city/university is to do a lot of research about the university/city and to visit yourself if possible! If you’re going for an interview there, you’d likely be given a tour of the medical school and university by volunteers. If not, contact the medical school and arrange for one! 

But, if you can’t visit, fret not! Some universities now offer virtual tours and there’s a lot of information from current students of that university online! Youtube, blogs like ours and country-specific societies eg the Malaysian Society might be of help! 

Now moving on to the last few points…

  1. Cost: A Medicine degree is costlier than most; the longer duration also contributes to that. International student fees for Scottish schools are more expensive since they have to pay the ACT levy (contribution to NHS teaching costs). Will this be an issue?

  2. An airport! Does the city have an international airport? An often overlooked point that is really important. It can be very tiring if you have to take an international flight, then take a train to get to your city!

  3. What about transport links within the city? Is it easy to get around, especially when you have placements? Are there supermarkets nearby?


To sum it up, these are all the factors we considered when selecting our UCAS choices. Think about it in terms of application requirements, the course itself, selection process, and the location. It’s now up to you to do further research into each medical school, university, and city! Make sure to share this if it was helpful! Like always, we’re available on Instagram 🙂 

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