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  1. #1
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2009

    Recommend best admission route to take for this graduate?

    Hi all,

    This is my first post to these forums, which have been very helpful already! I'm interested in studying medicine and wondering if it's too late for me, now at age 26.

    My background: In 2005, I graduated with BSc Computer Science with 1st class honours and have since been working for the Foreign Office - and more recently, the University of Edinburgh, as a software/systems engineer. I am having a re-think about my long-term career and for many reasons (which I won't bore you with), trying to understand the feasibility of returning to study medicine in 2010, 2011, 2012...

    At A-Level, I studied Chemistry (A), Biology (B), Mathematics (D) and General Studies (B), finishing in 2000. The unfortunate mathematics grade is a sorry story... I re-sat some modules to try to improve my grade and unfortunately performed poorly on the day.

    Does anyone have any thoughts on my best route to admission? Initially, I thought it best to re-sit my A-level mathematics now, as I'm confident I could achieve a grade A. However, upon investigating several university admissions policies, many require A-levels achieved in one sitting, or degrees received within 5 years.

    Feeling a bit stuck (and old!), and as I suspect many do, frustrated that I'm already locked out of the system! I'm willing to study virtually anywhere, take access courses or re-sit A-Levels - and I'm certain I have the enthusiasm and commitment required. Just want to know that the route I take is the most effective.

    Many thanks in advance, all thoughts an opinions welcome!

  2. #2
    Senior Member latestarter's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    you have the required degree and the required a-levels for most graduate medicine courses...
    check out: Medschoolsonline - Medical Course Guide for Graduates - Graduate Entry 4-Year Courses

    most of them entry exams too, so you'll need UKCAT and/or GAMSAT.

    I think you could possibly go straight for it, just make sure you have some good work experience behind you i.e. in a caring role.

    It's really up to you if you want to consider access to med starting this year, like COWA or MANCAT but you'll have to be quick about it as I think they are already recruiting.

    You would already be able to apply to:
    Soton 4yr - UKCAT
    Kings 4yr - UKCAT
    Newcastle 4yr - UKCAT
    St Georges 4yr - GAMSAT
    Notts 4yr - GAMSAT
    Swansea 4yr - GAMSAT
    PMS 5yr - GAMSAT
    Barts 5yr - UKCAT
    and I'm sure lots of other 5 year courses...

    you haven't mentioned finances, so you may need to check out the difference between 4 and 5 year courses (5 year for a grad is expensive).

    btw, you are not old... check out the 'oldies' thread
    Newcastle 3rd year (accelerated)

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2007

    I'm in a very similar situation to you although having not done the A-Level Chemistry! I too also have a BSc Computer Science (1st Class) and a MSc in Computer Science (with Distinction). I am also 26! As you can see from my signature, I actually applied to 1 (4 Year), 1 (5 Year) and 2 (6 Year). In reality I am blocked by the lack of A-Level Chemistry. If I were you, an applicaiton with a combination of 4/5 years would probably ensure a reasonable shot at a place next year! As you can see I got interviews for 3/4 of my places.

    There are great ways to talk up the comp science stuff for med school in particular the problems solving and diagnostics type stuff, hell these are some of the main reasons I change path to apply for Medicine (along with wanting to help people in a caring capacity)!

    What you do need is to get some work experience under the belt, stuff like St John Ambulance, Samartans (I'm involved in both), Red Cross, and maybe some shadowing of Doctors or a place volunteering at your local hospital! You need to prove you have made this decision based on knowing what it's all about!

    Good luck.

    Newcastle Medic (Year 3 - Phase I Durham)

  4. #4
    Member runnerbean's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Hey Joe

    We did similar ALevels. I got an E in A-Level maths due to 2 disastrous exams so know how you feel about that subject

    You could add Keele 4yr GEM course on to Latestarters list as they do make some allowance for ALevel grades although there are limited places so its a risky choice and I expect you will have other courses open to you as you have a BSc (I did an arts degree so had fewer options). As noted, its more expensive to go for 5yr courses. The 4yr grad courses have an NHS bursary to cover tuition fees in years 2-4 which helps a lot.

    With science A-levels it is feasible to study for and sit the GAMSAT exam. You could do that and apply for uni this year for the 2010 start. You would need to register to sit the exam by summer (check their website for dates) and you have to apply to uni through UCAS before hearing what your result is - which is a bit of a killer if you use GAMSAT uni slots but then dont get the marks. It is a hard exam and a bit of an endurance test as it takes hours! I did an OU chemistry course S205 to remember all the things i'd forgotten from ALevel. That course has already started for this year though. If you feel confident about your science knowledge you might be fine to take the exam anyhow and some people I met had studied at home using ALevel and 1st year university texts. You can find out more about the exam on the GAMSAT website and you should definitely try past papers which will help you figure out if this would work for you(GAMSAT UK - Home). Notts and Georges give interviews automatically if you get their cut-off score on GAMSAT. I hear that the UKCAT is an easier test but I didnt sit it! I have been lucky enough to get 3/4 GEP course interviews so far.

    Ive read good things about access courses from other people on this site but as you have a job it might be difficult for you to do that. It wasnt an option for me which is why I went for distance learning. There are also companies which do crammer revision courses specifically for medschool applicants (I looked at Gradmed but decided against on cost!) and that might work out for you though they arent cheap. As everyone here has said, work experience is really important and if you are applying for some volunteering you should do soon as the red tape and police checks can take months (a post I applied for 4 months ago still hasnt been cleared).

    I am just about to turn 29 so you have plenty more years on me!

    Good luck!

  5. #5
    Senior Member dotvicky's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    The only thing I would add to this is that I was indeed told that I needed to sit multiple A levels in one sitting (I have ABBbb already but not in the 'right' subjects) however, with a bit of (very polite!) badgering and pointing out that I was working full-time, did a bunch of volunteering and was also a mum, they have said that doing 2 AS levels in a year should be enough.

    Of course, I haven't been given an interview or an offer yet so they could still turn around and reject me but at least I've proven that the rules can sometimes be bent a little bit if you get talking the right person in the admissions office.

    Year 4 of 5. Definitely feel like I'm on the home straight now... must. keep. going!

    Wife, mother (6 and 4 years old) and Med Student - yay!

  6. #6
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Wow—a big thank you to all for your encouraging posts. Great to find a forum full of really helpful people!

    I do now feel more like I have time on my side – and would like to improve my qualifications and hence chances of admission over the next couple of years. At the same time, I can save some money!

    So now my question is:
    Does anyone have any thoughts on my priorities leading up to the October 2009 admission and then (more likely) the October 2010 admission?

    My current thinking is that my first priority should be to retake A-level mathematics to get a much higher result. Upon investigation, it's cheap to take the exams – and I can do so at a local college. At the same time, I could take another A-level (to get around the one-sitting rules and requirement to have recently been in academic study). Perhaps A-Level Human Biology. Anyone done this? ...I'm currently struggling to find a distance-learning centre that runs the course and trying to understand how the practical module is possible privately.

    Alternatively, I have been looking at the OU Diploma in Health Sciences. It comprises of four modules: Human Biology, Biological Psychology, Infectious disease, Signals and Perception. The modules start Oct 2009 and Feb 2010. So, just about within the correct timeframe. I could probably just about take AS maths before-hand!

    I'm keen to get started on a programme of study – but want to be as sure as I can be that I'm taking the correct route to give me the best chance at success. So, sorry for another plea for careers advice, but any more opinions would be fantastic!

    Additionally, I am now considering undertaking study for a Certificate in Medical Terminology from BSMSA. (British Society of Medical Secretaries and Administrators) any opinions on this? I have written to my local hospitals for volunteering and shadowing opportunities, as well as one or two other activities. I am also considering taking the UKCAT or studying for the GAMSAT, pretty much as a trial run... I assume one can re-take these each year?

    ...I could try to do it all!

    —thanks again!

  7. #7
    Senior Member dotvicky's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2008

    You've got a lot of options there that sound really good. If I were you, I would ring up the universities that you're interested in and chat to the admissions staff about what they'd suggest.

    And I'm not sure why Human Biology is not available next year but that does seem to be the case. I think straight Biology may be available which (while less interesting IMHO) would certainly do the job for you.

    The OU course sounds really interesting and my own experiences of distance learning A Levels vs. OU courses, the OU courses are *much* better organised and run.

    Good luck with it all!

    Year 4 of 5. Definitely feel like I'm on the home straight now... must. keep. going!

    Wife, mother (6 and 4 years old) and Med Student - yay!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
    Hi Joe

    Not sure what I can add, you've had some excellent advice, and my circumstances are rather different to yours (I am a graduate applying to 5 year courses, with an arts background).

    Your A at A level chemistry is a huge asset. You don't say if you want to do graduate entry programmes or would consider 5 year courses - the position is likely to be quite different, but don't rule out 5 year courses, it gives you more options and the competition can be less fierce, not to mention the workload more manageable.

    The advice to contact admissions offices is excellent - find out what they are looking for before you make any commitments. Your education has a strong science bias, if you are considering A levels something like psychology or sociology might add more to your repertoire than doing more of the same. I don't think there would be much point doing A level biology again, you have a good grade in it already.

    Are you currently based in Edinburgh? aspirant doc on these forums is a 30-something graduate in his third year at the medical school there and knows a bit about the admissions policies. He might be able to give you some advice.

    Finally, I think most matures start out doing what you did - starting a thread asking how to start. I did this a couple of years ago - I really want to do medicine, what qualifications do I need to get, is this an unrealistic dream, etc. Within a year or two people are getting places. You musn't worry about your age - I am 38. As I said, I have an arts background, and have done Chemistry and Biology AS and am doing the A2s this year. I applied to 3 medical schools - Kings, Barts and UCL. I have conditional offers from UCL (AB) and Kings (EE) and am waiting to hear the outcome of my Barts interview which was a fortnight ago. So it can be done. I'm really glad I took the plunge and can't wait to start in September.

    The points people have made about work experience are very good. This is critical for mature students, it demonstrates commitment. It's important to be able to talk about what you learned from work experience. It's not quantity of work experience that matters, but quality. You need to be able to demonstrate that you understand the realities of a medical career. More 'glamorous' WE like shadowing surgery is fine, but showing that you are prepared to engage with the more mundane (and dare I say it depressing) aspects, like working as a healthcare assistant, in a care home or a hospice are looked on very favourably. I did a few days GP shadowing, a year's voluntary work in a hospice (one morning a week) and went out with an ambulance crew a couple of times. The stuff with the ambulance was pretty high octane, and the work at the hospice was the opposite really, but it all gave me plenty to talk about.

    Good luck with it all. I've put in a couple of links to useful sites.

    Medschoolsonline - Where do I start: medicine for graduates and mature students

    Graduate Entry and Mature Applicants to Medicine FAQ: A guide for the chronologically challenged


  9. #9
    Member Airtones's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    To the OP, I would avoid 4 years like the plague in your position, as despite what previous posters have said, you wouldn't really fall into the prime spot for those courses. The vast bulk of 4 years will be made up of Biomed, Biochem and similar graduates with 2:i or first class degrees, probably graduates within 1-2 years.

    Retaking A-levels is a backwards process. Personally I would look into mature access to a 5 year course. In the long run if you stick it out, its probably the best chance of getting a place you will have.

    BSc (hons) Biochemistry
    3rd year medical student

    Useful sites: - med school stuff - financial stuff - exam stuff

  10. #10
    Member runnerbean's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Hey Joe

    Re GEP/GEM courses, they are very competitive as Airtones points out but how good your chances are will depend on your application as a whole including your entrance exam scores, the uni's criteria and your work experience, recent academics and motivation etc. Some courses encourage a more diverse background of applicants than others so you would need to choose wisely and do research on them.

    Re the GAMSAT, its expensive but you could take it as a trial run though you could probably tell from looking at past papers whether it will be likely you can pass it. I did it as a trial run this year to see how far off I would be from the cut-off but surprised myself by doing far better than expected so applied a year earlier and so things may happen sooner for me if I am lucky.

    Re OU, I have been studying with them for a few years. I took their Human Biology course and its a good one although only adding a bit more onto ALevel so its useful as an update but not much more. Dont underestimate how much time it will take to do the courses, in my opinion, if you work full time you can only do 60 points max in one year so it would take 2yrs to get the diploma i believe. If you want to know more on OU stuff feel free to PM me.

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