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Graduate entry health courses

Being a medical student

This increasingly popular option allows those graduates without a degree in medicine or nursing to progress into a number of healthcare-related careers.

Graduate entry medicine

These courses last four years as opposed to the traditional route embarked on by school leavers which last for a minimum of five years. It's worth noting that competition for places is particularly fierce – many medical schools report well over 1,000 applications for only 50 places.

As a graduate, you could also apply for the standard five year medical courses, but you should consider the cost involved in embarking on a medical degree, as this can be considerable.

Graduate entry nursing

Nursing is becoming a popular career choice for graduates from all degree disciplines. Not only is it a career in itself with all sorts of development opportunities and career progression, but it can sometimes be used as a springboard for other career areas including counselling, genetic counselling and midwifery.

These courses last for three years. As a graduate, you could also apply for the standard three-year undergraduate courses.

The application process

In addition to securing work experience, you'll need to write a personal statement, apply via UCAS and attend an interview.

If you're looking to secure a place on a graduate medical course, then you'll also need to take an admissions test.

Gaining work experience is a key part of preparing to apply for these courses. It can be used to demonstrate evidence of skills, particularly those essential to a doctor, such as dealing with people and working in teams. It is an opportunity to show you have a real understanding of the NHS and the role of a doctor and have looked beyond the stereotypes portrayed in the media.

It can be difficult to get work shadowing with GPs or hospital doctors because of issues of confidentiality. Medical schools are aware of this and consequently, this is not a prerequisite of being accepted onto any course.

Useful work experience might include working:

  • as a care assistant in a home for the elderly
  • as a care assistant with adults with learning disabilities
  • in a doctor’s surgery as, for example, a receptionist
  • as a hospital porter
  • with children, particularly children in need of some extra support – the Students’ Union has some very good voluntary schemes.

Essentially, you need to prove to selectors that you have had exposure to working with the patient and that this exposure has given you an insight both into the needs of the patient and the skills needed to work as a doctor or nurse and that you have reflected on your experience and realise why this has been valuable.

Before writing your personal statement, think about what makes a good doctor or nurse (the General Medical Council has a list of attributes and qualities). You must convince the selectors that you do know what it takes and that you have done some thinking about the skills necessary to do so.

We recommend that you include evidence about:

  • work experience
  • insight into the medical world
  • teamwork
  • good communication skills
  • ability to give opinions and make decisions
  • respect for others, empathy or an interest in people
  • breadth of experience – sport, hobbies, travel, etc
  • motivation and drive to complete the course
  • leadership and initiative.

Find out more about writing a personal statement for a postgraduate study application.

To gain entry onto a graduate entry medicine courses, you may also have to take a test.

These can include:

In preparing for GAMSAT, or the other tests that individual institutions may require you to take, do look at some practice questions in books and on websites. If you need them, we have test books available from our office at 51a Park Place.

If you graduated with a degree that wasn't science-based, you may need to read additional books to prepare.

During the test, follow the instructions and work steadily. There are three sections, two multiple choice and one written paper. There are no deductions for wrong answers and all questions have the same value. The writing test will be marked on thought and content, organisation and expression and will be assessed by several independent assessors.

You'll need to apply via UCAS, and the deadline for this is usually mid-October. The graduate entry requirements will mainly be based on your degree not A level results.

Make sure you check the skills and competencies requirements for all the courses you apply for as, for example, The University of Nottingham, The University of Liverpool and St George’s, University of London use problem-based learning rather than traditional teaching methods.

Graduate entry medicine

Interviews will usually consist of a panel, which will often include a current medical student. The University of Warwick sends a supplementary form before the interview. King’s College London gives a further questionnaire and then does not ask about those questions.

An ethical issue will also be discussed. The panel will be looking for motivation, personality, an understanding of medical careers or issues and communication skills.

Last year, the University of Nottingham introduced a speed interview process – think speed dating, but getting a place on a course instead. This is increasingly becoming known as MMI – Multiple Medical Interviews. Feedback from this suggests that it is a difficult process.

It’s important to always research the interview style of each institution – different organisations try different methods each year in an attempt to make the interview process as effective, as focussed and as informed as possible.

Graduate entry nursing

Interviews can vary between institution – from very casual affairs where you would be asked to talk about yourself and your motivations to quite structured sessions where preparation on skills and motivations would be essential.

Typical questions that all have been asked at interviews for Cardiff University and University of South Wales courses include:

  • why do you want to do adult/mental health/sick child nursing?
  • there are many ways to care for people, why have you chosen nursing in particular?
  • how do you think your best friend would describe you?
  • in your nursing placement, what sort of things would you expect to be doing?
  • can you give an example of when you have worked well in a team?
  • can you tell me what you know about the role of the district nurse?
  • what do you know about the structure of the course?
  • nursing can be a very stressful career – how would you cope if a patient you were caring for died?
  • during the course you will be expected to work night shifts; how do you think you will manage?
  • why have you chosen mental health nursing as opposed to learning disabilities nursing?

Some interviews may include an essay question and a maths test – you will be told about this when you are invited to interview. An example essay question for Cardiff University is 'Why do you want to do this particular branch of nursing?' The emphasis is on the structure of the essay as well as the content.

Contact us

If you need help with any aspect of the application process, please get in touch:

Careers and Employability