Shadowing a Doctor

September 23, 2014

Get up close during a surgical procedure Having read the prospectus and spent copious amounts of time researching your university and course of interest, you’re feeling pretty clued up. You will have gained a lot of useful insight from these sources, but you shouldn’t leave any stone unturned; the literature you have read won’t tell you everything there is to know! It is important to keep an open mind and your wits about you when you are attending medical school open days. What do you need more information about? Are you fully aware of the ins and outs of the application process?



The following suggestions just scratch the surface of the abundance of questions pre-med students should keep in mind when attending medical school open days, but we feel these are among some of the most important. 


  • How is the course delivered – what is the balance between lecture contact time and clinical practice? 

This is an important question to ask if you are in a particular mind set about the teaching style you prefer. In the UK, there are three main teaching methods that vary across the board in terms of clinical practice time. The problem based learning (PBL) approach will suit a practical learner, as this approach is patient-centred seeing students working in a clinical environment from day one. An integrated approach is the most common in the UK with a fairly even split between academic learning and clinical practice. Thirdly, the traditional approach adheres to theory-based learning first, followed by clinical practice later in your degree. Spend some time considering which method is best for you.


  • What clinical placement opportunities does the course offer?

Take advantage of the open day and ask questions about this. Are you able to choose your own placements or does the university place you? How far can you be expected to travel for placement? How long are placement periods and at what stages do they occur throughout your degree?


  • What clinical training facilities does the university offer? 

With so many universities offering such state of the art facilities, make sure you check out what they have to offer. Most, if not all universities will offer a tour of the medical school facilities to students on open days so have in mind the questions you would like to be answered. Do they have an anatomy suite? Which local hospitals are they affiliated with?


  • What will you be looking for in my UCAS application? 

It is important that you know what the university holds in high regard when completing your UCAS application. Discuss what they will be looking for aside from the mandatory entry grades. What work experience should you call upon to give your application the required stand out? Examples of such could be a volunteering stint at a local care home or an overseas placement in a developing country.


  • Will I have to sit any admissions tests? If so, what advice can you offer on preparing for these?

In applying to study a medical degree, you can expect that a large proportion of medical schools will ask you to sit an admissions test. But don’t let this spook you, as there is also a fair few that don’t, so always make a point of asking! The most common medical school admission test is The UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) along with others such as BMAT. Lecturers and admissions staff at university open days will be more than happy to offer more information and advice on how to appropriately prepare for these. 


  • When will admission interviews by held and what can I expect? 

In applying to any medical school, this is a simple but integral question. You will need to know when you can expect to be invited for interview to ensure your availability and to prepare for this in as much depth as you can.


  • What social opportunities will I have to meet like-minded undergraduate medical students?

Despite the undeniable workload that comes with a medical degree, it won’t be all work and no play! Make sure there are plenty of opportunities for you to socialise with like-minded students. Are there any social societies that appeal to you? Does the university have a lively, active students union?


An open day is your one chance to ask all those underlying questions so make the most of it! Always remember to book a place to avoid disappointment and go armed with a notepad and pen to jot down all the important details.