Great things never come easy
Medicine is an incredibly rewarding, secure, well paid and respected profession in the United Kingdom.
It is also the hardest course to get into.
Furthermore, the final years of secondary school are a stressful and demanding time for your son or daughter, and the need to sit UCAT and face interviews places additional pressure on them during this time.
Thankfully there are ways you, as a parent, can provide valuable assistance to your child to ensure their success.
Understand the importance of UCAT and interviews
Unlike most other courses, entry into medicine is based on much more than just high marks in secondary school. In fact, even those with perfect scores can miss out on a place in medicine. Universities also consider UCAT score and interview performance, and at some universities, these two criteria are weighted more than secondary school! Yet many students neglect UCAT and interviews, and focus their efforts on secondary school, only to find that they do not obtain a place in medicine.
The first step is to recognise the importance of UCAT and interviews, communicate this to your son or daughter, and then work out a plan to ensure adequate preparation time is allocated to these crucial criteria.
Encourage your son/daughter to start preparing early
UCAT is very different from school exams and is not a knowledge-based test. It is a test of generic skills over five subtests:
- Verbal Reasoning
- Decision Making
- Quantitative Reasoning
- Abstract Reasoning
- Situational Judgement
It takes two hours and is highly time-pressured so that most students will not finish every question. Most practicing doctors would agree that it is the hardest single test they ever sat in their career. It is therefore important to start preparing early, as the skills required to succeed need to be developed over time.
It is also important to think about interviews. Interviews tend to take place after final exams, so it is tempting to ignore them until later in the year. However, interview skills also need to be developed and practiced over a period of time. Furthermore, medical schools look very favourably upon work experience, volunteer work and paid work in a hospital, General Practice or community health based setting. Your son or daughter should therefore be encouraged to engage in these activities before interviews take place.
Avoid missing important deadlines
It is important to be organised so that important deadlines are not missed. You can help your son or daughter by researching these requirements for them.
It is strongly suggested that students who are interested in studying medicine apply to as many universities as possible. Interviews are by their nature subjective, and therefore entry into one particular university cannot be guaranteed. If your son or daughter obtains entry into a medical course that is not in your area, there are various options available such as transfer after first year, deferring and attempting re-entry into a local course etc.
An example timeline for a student in secondary school is shown below (note that exact dates will vary depending on the particular year and university):
Registrations open for UCAT
Closing date to register for UCAT
Final date of testing
It is advised that you create your own specific timeline relevant to your son or daughter and record important dates in your calendar.
Provide encouragement and support
The final year of secondary school is a stressful time. Add in UCAT and the pressures of getting into medicine and stress levels can rapidly skyrocket. Significant stress can impair performance and lead to burnout. It is therefore important that your son or daughter feels encouraged and supported, especially when important exams such as UCAT are near. Ensure that they are eating well, sleeping well, exercising and engaging in appropriate stress management strategies. Make yourself available to listen to them when they feel stressed or overwhelmed. Do what you can to lighten their load – for example, read through relevant UCAT information, redistribute chores to younger siblings, create a quiet working environment and drive them to important exams. Your actions can have a significant positive impact on their wellbeing and performance.
Choose a trusted preparation provider
There are many UCAT preparation companies available, and unfortunately many of them offer poor quality or outdated materials. Many are run by medical students. It is vital to choose a provider who is trusted among doctors, teachers and those successful in entering medicine, and which has a proven track record of success.
If you would like further information, please explore the MedEntry website, where you can find a free UCAT practice exam, information about entry into medicine, blogs about UCAT and much more. You can also contact us.
Helping your son or daughter get into medicine is an invaluable gift to give, and one which will secure their success and happiness in years to come.
From the parents at MedEntry
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