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  1. #1
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    Advice for an Arts graduate beginner, if you'd be so kind :)

    Hi everyone,

    I've been scouring these forums for about 6 months now, and I can't deal with the denial any more! I was hoping the desire to do medicine would fade, as the road seems so long and arduous. However, I really do think it's what I want to do, and it's time to make a plan - and your advice would be amazing

    I have an English degree (starred First, top 10 uni) and am going to do my Master's (with a full scholarship) at Oxford next year. I applied for this last September, whilst still in the denial stage! However, I do enjoy English still, it is fascinating and I'm not going to turn down the opportunity to go to Oxford - it shouldn't, alas, but it might help in some way?! I'm lucky to have always been a natural academic; I got 10 x A*s and 3 x As in my GCSEs (inc triple sciences - last time I did science!) and AAAAa in my A Levels (all arts, and AS Maths), but wanted to be a writer when I was 16...

    After several stints of volunteering and travelling abroad since graduating, I've realised my desire to help other people is overwhelming. I volunteered in a school in Africa and at a day care centre for HIV positive children - this is where the flame of medical desire ignited! Then I went to India and did some community development projects there, and was so inspired by a group of doctors who'd set up a charity hospital for tribal people in Karnataka. Unbelievable people. I felt a little useless, and there were doctors (who'd just finished F2) who were volunteering in my team. They could do so much... After 6 months of travel and such, I came home and got a job in publishing, in an office...and hate it. The meaningless of it all; being stuck in an office all day; processes, flowcharts, corporate jargon....argh! Cue existential crisis, and here I am!

    So that's a snapshot of me! Thanks for reading thus far

    From what I've gathered, the best plan would be to do the GAMSAT and apply to SGUL, Notts and Swansea, where, depending on me being able to revise my arse off and do well, you're nearly guaranteed an interview with a good score? I did used to be really good at science - at GCSE.

    I am still finding it very hard to believe that my arts degree could ever be considered equal to someone with a first in, say, Biomedical Science or Biochemistry?! Just seems crazy. Is it really that much of a leveller?

    So my plan would be:
    - Do Master's next year as planned. Volunteer as much as possible, in a care setting
    - Master's finishes in June. Move home, and study for the GAMSAT -> September
    [alternative - take a year out after Master's, and travel/volunteer abroad some more to make sure for SURE this is what I want/grab some more life experience]
    - Live at home and work part-time in a care home, whilst volunteering in a hospice/shadowing/whatever I can, and study for the GAMSAT
    - Take GAMSAT
    -Also take A Levels to broaden options? Not sure whether this should be done after having a crack at the GAMSAT, as a last option? I live in the north, so it'd be hard to find somewhere to do it... The 5 year is all but out for me - my family is not rich at all. On the bright side, my mum is a full time HCA and works at a GP surgery, so should be able to help with work exp.

    Am I completely mad? I know some people just never get in, despite being insanely clever and motivated and ticking all the right boxes...

    Any words of advice are greatly appreciated!

    Thank you for reading all that if you've got this far, I realise it's a mammoth post but there's months of angst gone into this 'coming out' as a potential medic applicant!




  2. #2
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    Hi,

    I started out from a very similar background to yourself (arts graduate, arts masters, office based post-graduation career, lay interest in science, wanting to find a vocation centred on helping people, et al) so can attest to the GAMSAT + lots of varied work experience route being a fine path to start a medical career.

    So to answer your main question, no you are not completely mad (as far as I can tell).

    The best piece of advice I was offered at your stage get lots of varied work experience as soon as possible - partly as this will be absolutely crucial for showing to admissions teams that you are serious about medicine, but just as importantly for cementing in your own mind that medicine and you fit well together - someone vomiting or bleeding on your shoes is a good way of finding out whether your desire to help people burns brightly enough to tolerate the sometimes downright dirty and depressing aspects of working with people who are ill or hurt!

    Personally I didn't re-take A levels as I was happy with the range of med school options that the GAMSAT opened up, and was happy to get up to a decent level of science understanding through other routes.

    If you haven't already been to medschoolsonline, they have a good chart to show what medical schools would consider you with an arts degree and A level chemistry. I think it would open up Cambridge and maybe a few others, though you'd also need another entrance exam as they don't use GAMSAT.

    I recall Swansea state a criterion of requiring some level of post-GCSE science study, but I do not know if this specifically has to be A levels or whether self-taught or evening classes would be sufficient. The best people to ask are of course the admissions team at that medical school.

    I hope that helps, and best of luck.

  3. #3
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    Also, look out for the unis that use UKCAT and don't require a science degree....eg, Newcastle. I did both UKCAT and GAMSAT and in my opinion UKCAT was a walk on the park compared to GAMSAT.
    Get as much variety as you can in a care setting. It doesn't need to be in a medical setting. I've worked in learning disabilities, with children, mental health, all sorts and it gave me a truly informed decision as to whether, at the age of 40, I was doing the right thing.

    Good luck in your quest.

  4. #4
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    Thank you for your kind replies!

    Mr J, how did you find GAMSAT? How much revision did you do, and with what materials? From what I can gather, I think I'd be able to smash Sections I & II, but III looks positively terrifying. I think it's doable, but it'd be such a long slog. Not that that puts me off - a little fear is better than a lot off regret, right? That is my motto at the moment. How did the process go for you - and where are you studying, if you don't mind me asking? I think Notts would be my first choice - it's closet to home, cheap to live in Derby and I have a friend who's a medic there already and loves it. But to be honest I'd go anywhere that'd take me!

    Scottydoc - I looked at Newcastle, but the entrance guidelines were extremely vague. I see they use UKCAT, which I have heard is a lot easier, but do they favour science grads? Maybe it'd be worth dropping them a line?

    I'm considering having a year out, then coming home and spending a year at home doing AS Chem & Bio, and the GAMSAT. Working part time as care assistant, volunteering and everything, and then applying with these qualifications in hand - to strengthen my app at places like Newc/show commitment to science for Swansea. I hope that sounds good!

    Thank you so much for your help. It's really, really useful and encouraging

  5. #5
    Senior Member dotvicky's Avatar
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    Probably not an option due to funding issues but Bristol do a 6-year course and I know someone with a History degree who did it that way. You'd have everything you need right now to apply there with no extra study.

    Cheers
    Vicky
    --
    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
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    Newcastle will take graduates of all disciplines. I'm starting there in September and know of at least three non science graduates that are starting with me.

    Newcastle don't look at A levels but they do require a high UKCAT score. I think the graduate cut off this year was around the 700 mark.

    The good thing about UKCAT is that you know tour score before you submit your application so you can tailor your choices accordingly.

    I would seriously consider Newcastle if I were you, its got a fantastic reputation, its cheap and the city is so friendly.

    As for sitting A levels, to be honest I wouldn't bother. It's hard to explain but you could do the A level syllabus til the cows come home and still not do well in Section 3 of GAMSAT. It's more about understanding concepts and just basically practicing as many questions as you can. Section 2 isn't as straight forward as you think but there is plenty of guidance out there to help.

  7. #7
    Member Profanius's Avatar
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    Taking A-levels would indeed be a waste of time. From all the Graduate Entry Programmes you can choose from with your degree, only Soton and Cambridge would consider any new science A-levels. Cambridge usually asks for 3 x As and Soton is something of a lottery admissions process. As it stands now you can apply to Notts, SGUL, and Swansea (GAMSAT) and Kings + Newcastle (UKCAT). Get a years worth of paid work experience and you can apply to Leicester (UKCAT) too.

    When universities state they accept any degree then (from experience) there is no prejudice for or against certain degree types. The degree is simply a tick in the box at application, once you are at the interview it is your performance there that counts in almost all cases.

    I can understand your desire to complete your masters (fully paid scholarship to Oxford - who wouldn't?) but it won't help your application to medicine in the slightest. The universities you are applying will be more interested in work experience. Just food for thought but scrapping the masters and getting a full time job in healthcare will most likely make for a stronger application. Normally I would advocate the slow and steady approach to applying to medicine - that's what I did. However, with student funding constantly under review (and unlikely to improve), you might find an earlier application to be beneificial.

    The GAMSAT result is valid for two years and can also be taken in March. You could take GAMSAT this year and if you get a good score, use it in next years application. Knowing you have an adequate GAMSAT score can be a huge help in making your uni choices in October.

    Good luck!
    Warwick (GEP) 2012 entry.

    "And of course you can't become
    if you only say what you would have done."

  8. #8
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    Mr J, how did you find GAMSAT? How much revision did you do, and with what materials? From what I can gather, I think I'd be able to smash Sections I & II, but III looks positively terrifying. I think it's doable, but it'd be such a long slog. Not that that puts me off - a little fear is better than a lot off regret, right? That is my motto at the moment. How did the process go for you - and where are you studying, if you don't mind me asking?
    There's quite a lot of war stories and suggestions for preparation on the GAMSAT section of this forum so that's well worth a look.
    In a nutshell I started by finding a dozen or so example questions free online to get a feel for the style, then used a decent chemistry textbook (Holbrook & Hill's Chemistry in Context) and went through it thoroughly in the few months running up to the exam. This gave a good grounding in chemistry to take into medical school, rather than simply learning trivia to pass the exam. I have a (slightly elderly) biology A level so used an A level revision guide (GCP's) rather than a full bio textbook - mostly to refamiliarise with key terminology and concepts. For physics I trawled the internet finding key equations rather than trying to nail the underlying concepts - time was not on my side by then.

    Halfway through my revision I used one of the official practice exams (just the half exam, not the full one) to test progress, and sat another one about 3 weeks before the actual GAMSAT to see how things had come on.

    Like you I was confident in sections I and II so only did the practice exam questions for section I and refreshed my memory on a simple for/against essay structure. There is no time in the exam to write a beautiful essay but they mark accordingly - just finish it is my advice.

    My recollection on the day was that timing is the biggest factor. It is exhausting trying to get through the sections in the time allowed - this feels intentional though as the exam tries to get you to breaking point. Remembering that was a useful device for remaining calm and focused.

    The other element that I found slightly uncomfortable was that it is impossible to map how practice exam performance equates to the score that ACER calculates for the real thing, as they do not use direct % scores. I.e. 50% in practice doesn't necessarily mean you'll get 50 in the real thing. It's a very different approach to say A levels where you know beforehand roughly what level you are working at.

    I'm not studying yet but start at Swansea this September.

    Re Profanius' as always excellent advice above, I'd just repeat my note about Swansea stating a need for some post GCSE science. Worth checking with them beforehand to confirm what would be acceptable and whether it's an absolute requirement or a 'nice to have'.

  9. #9
    Member Profanius's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr.J View Post
    I'd just repeat my note about Swansea stating a need for some post GCSE science. Worth checking with them beforehand to confirm what would be acceptable and whether it's an absolute requirement or a 'nice to have'.
    Hey Mr.J.

    Sage advice! I'd definitely agree with checking with the admissions department of a Uni before embarking on anything or even thoughts of anything.

    ThatIsTheQuestion,
    Swansea do seem to stipulate post-GCSE chemistry and biology experience, and it looks like it's a must-have. Either way it's good to tick all the boxes. A-levels would suit this criteria but there might be cheaper and easier alternatives. A short OU science course might fit the bill instead, or local college course that isn't necessarily A-level eg. BTEC. It's usually the exam fees and the mandatory practicals which drive up the cost. Best to contact Swansea and see what they accept and weigh this against an application to King's or NCL.
    Warwick (GEP) 2012 entry.

    "And of course you can't become
    if you only say what you would have done."

  10. #10
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    Thank you so much for all your advice. I might reconsider the A Levels... Hmm, will have to have a think. I had thought about skipping the master's, but I don't feel I can justify giving up such a great opportunity (and since it's Oxford it'll only take 9 months). Completely see the point about the funding though, it is something I'm very worried about. I'm going to have to take my chances... I have been living at home and saving over the past year - thinking I might need to fund postgrad study - and luckily scholarship means this hard earned chunk of cash can remain in my ISA!

    But really, thanks again. I told my best friend today I was thinking of medicine. I thought she'd tell me I was mad, but was very supportive. It's amazing how a few words of encouragement from strangers on the Internet can realy make this mammoth task seem so much more achievable. Your kindness is much appreciated.

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