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Graduate Entry Medicine: Funding, Applying & Competition

Graduate Entry Medicine: Funding, Applying & Competition

Updated on: December 3, 2023
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Written By Dr Ollie

Every article is fact-checked by a medical professional. However, inaccuracies may still persist.

So you’ve caught wind of the option of a graduate entry medicine (or GEM) course. You like the idea of saving yourself time with a four-year course and getting hands-on quicker.

But do you have what it takes to get into graduate entry medicine? Graduate entry medicine is extremely competitive, there are very few places and the standard of applicants is incredibly high…

Don’t worry, you’re in the right place. We’re going to cover everything you need to know to get you that place at medical school!

Graduate entry medicine (GEM) courses offer a quicker route to becoming a doctor. However, they are significantly more competitive to get into. Graduate entry medicine can be a great route into medicine if you have low grades but the courses are more challenging due to the faster pace.

But what actually is a GEM course? How does it differ from an undergraduate one? How do you fund it and what qualifications do you need to get in?

We’re going to cover all the above in this guide as well as a whole lot more!

What Is Graduate Entry Medicine?

Starting from the ground up then, what does ‘graduate entry medicine’ actually mean?

Graduate entry medicine is going to medical school after already having done a degree. That might be straight after graduating, or it might be a career change later in life. Exactly the same as a normal medicine course, after completing a graduate entry medicine course you become a doctor.

However, just because you’ve done a degree before doesn’t mean you have to apply to a university’s graduate entry program.

Some university’s only offer an undergraduate course. Some only offer a graduate entry course. Some offer both, and let you apply to both.

As a postgraduate, you can essentially pick and choose which courses you like the look of.

Many people do end up applying to a mixture of both undergraduate and graduate entry medicine courses.

What’s The Difference Between Graduate Entry Medicine And Medicine?

So what are the differences between an undergraduate and a graduate entry medicine course?

I’ve summarised the main ones in the table below:

Undergraduate MedicineGraduate Entry Medicine
Most courses offered are 5 years longMany graduate entry courses are only 4 years long
Because of the longer time-frame, they’re more relaxedCondensed courses cover a lot of ground very quickly
Mixture of both undergraduates and postgraduatesYour colleagues will initially only be postgraduates
More spaces are available on these programsSpaces are comparatively fewer and so more competitive
Undergraduate programs are offered at most universitiesOnly certain medical schools have a graduate entry course

There are also other more minor differences such as how the curriculum is taught, intake dates, and exam timelines.

It’s important to remember that in many medical schools their undergraduate and graduate entry medicine streams join later in the course timeline.

This effectively nullifies many of the key differences between them for the latter half of medical school.

Pros & Cons Of Graduate Entry Medicine

Okay, so we’ve got the main differences down. Now, let’s take a bit of a closer look at them:

Courses Are Generally Shorter

Not having an extra year at university means:

  • You get to stop being a student and become a doctor quicker
  • You start earning quicker
  • You don’t have an extra year’s course fees to pay

Condensed Courses Move Quicker

Because you essentially have to cover a five year course in four years, things move a lot faster:

  • You’ll be busier during term-time
  • Holidays tend to be shorter
  • You have to learn more, in a shorter period

Your Colleagues Are Postgraduates

If you’ve applied to a postgraduate only medical school or are on a graduate entry course:

  • At least initially, your colleagues will all also be postgraduates
  • This means you’ll be surrounded by more mature students, with more life experience
  • But it could mean your year-group is not as diverse, as undergraduate courses also have postgraduates on them

Fewer Spaces Available

With not all medical schools offering a graduate-entry program:

  • The number of national graduate entry medicine spots is very limited
  • This means competition for them is extremely high
  • As you’re competing against other postgraduates, the standard of applicant is likely to be much higher

Only Offered At Some Universities

This is an important one to bear in mind if you want to study in a certain part of the country:

  • Your geographical choices may be limited by which universities have a graduate entry program in the area
  • Some medical schools are beginning to shut down& their graduate entry option
  • Some medical schools insist you apply to either their undergraduate or graduate entry course
Students sat in a university lecture theatre

As you can see, the are positives and negatives both ways.

The right choice for you will really depend on how important some of the arguments are to you personally.

Now there’s nothing to stop you applying to a mixture of both courses.

That way you can sort of hedge your bets– this lets you apply to more competitive graduate entry programs while having a ‘back up‘ of undergraduate ones.

How To Fund Graduate Entry Medicine

Trying to understand how funding works for graduate entry medicine can be a real headache.

There’s an ever-changing mixture of loans, grants and self-funding that changes depending on your course, location and personal means.

I’ve tried to lay out in as clear terms as possible your funding options for GEM- so you can concentrate on your application, rather than your finances.

How your funding works will depend on whether you’re on a graduate entry course or if you’ve opted for an undergraduate course.

The following applies to students living in England. If you are normally based in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland you should check with your local student finance agency.

Funding For Graduate Entry Medicine

YearsYou PayStudent Finance PaysNHS PaysLiving Costs
1~£3500
This is towards tuition fees
~£5500
This is a loan for the rest of the tuition fees
£0
NHS funding not available
SFE will provide a means-tested loan of ~£4000
2-4£Depends
You will have to cover some living costs
~£5500
This pays for tuition with the NHS grant
~£3700 + £1000
This is tuition fees + a grant for living costs
SFE will give a smaller loan than before
5-6£Depends
You’ll pay for remaining living costs
£Depends
Maintenance loan only
£9250
All of your tuition fees + a £1000 grant
SFE loan and NHS grant will cover the majority

So as you can see, first year is tough: you have to cough up about £3500 towards your tuition fees and cover any living costs that the Student Finance England maintenance loan doesn’t cover.

Through the middle years you just have to cover your living costs. You get some help with this too. Student Finance England will provide you with a maintenance loan and the NHS gives you a £1000 grant each year.

From your fifth year onwards, you’re pretty much in the clear. The NHS picks up the tab for your entire tuition as well as continuing to give you the £1000 maintenance grant.

You will have to cover some living costs but can still get the Student Finance England maintenance loan to help.

Funding For An Undergraduate Course

YearsYou PayStudent Finance PaysNHS PaysLiving Costs
1-4£9250
Bad news, you pay all of your tuition fees
£Depends
Maintenance loan only
£0
NHS funding not available
SFE maintenance loan and self funding
5-6£Depends
You’ll pay for remaining living costs
£Depends
Maintenance loan only
£9250
All of your tuition fees + a £1000 grant
SFE loan and NHS grant will cover the majority

Unfortunately, you’re in a much tighter spot when it comes to funding an undergraduate medicine course as a postgraduate.

You’re responsible for your entire tuition costs for the first four years. You’ve got to come up with £9250 each year as well as supporting your living costs.

Student Finance England will at least provide you with a maintenance loan towards your living costs. The amount available to you will vary as it’s means-tested.

Once you get into fifth year (and possibly sixth) you can take a breather. The funding situation is identical to a graduate entry course.

The NHS pay all of your tuition fees while also giving you a £1000 grant. Student Finance England will give you a maintenance loan for your living costs and you’ll just have to pay anything remaining.

Graduate Entry Medicine Entrance Exams

Yes, if you’re going back to university I’m afraid exams are no longer a thing of the past. And that includes entrance exams…

If you took the eleven-plus to get into secondary school then you’ll already be familiar with the joys of them.

Timed essays, non-verbal reasoning, mental maths…

The fun never ends!

In this section, we’re going to cover the three main entrance exams used by medical schools for graduate entry medicine and where you can learn more about them.

The UCAT

The UCAT or University Clinical Aptitude Test is an aptitude test favoured by the majority of UK medical schools. It’s a two-hour computerised test that you can only take once per application cycle.

It’s taken in special test centres, the type you might do your driving theory test at. There are five sections, each scored from 300 to 900. Your total score is then all these section scores combined.

You can find out exactly how the UCAT and BMAT differ here.

The BMAT

The BMAT or BioMedical Admissions Test is an aptitude test required by a small handful of UK medical schools.

It’s also a two hour computerised test that you can only take once per application cycle.

There are three sections to the BMAT. Section 1 and 2 are multiple-choice, while section 3 requires you to write an essay. The scoring for the BMAT is a bit confusing:

  • Section 1 and 2 are each scored on a scale that runs from 1 (low) to 9 (high)
  • Section 3 essays are given a two component mark. Quality of content is scored 0-5 and quality of writing is scored A-E.
  • So your score might be Section 1 = 5, Section 2 = 6, Section 3 =4b

There is no pass/fail threshold for the BMAT and every institution uses BMAT scores differently.

The GAMSAT

The GAMSAT or Graduate Medical School Admission Test is an aptitude test used by six of the UK medical schools that offer graduate entry medicine programs.

It’s different from the UCAT or BMAT in that you can take it as many times as you like and you can apply with scores from up to two years ago!

Don’t be fooled though, the GAMSAT is a gruelling test. For one, it takes all day. Like the BMAT, it’s made up of three sections:

  1. Reasoning in Humanities and Social Sciences
  2. Written Communication
  3. Reasoning in Biological and Physical Sciences
  • Section 1 has a reading time of 10 minutes and a writing time of 100
  • Section 2 has a reading time of 5 minutes and a writing time of 60
  • Section 3 has a reading time of 10 minutes and a writing time of 170

There’s no denying it’s an intimidating test. At £265 a pop, it’s not a cheap one either! However, there are ways you can prepare for it and we’ll touch on them later…

Don’t like the look of any of these? Can’t blame you! Buckingham Medical School actually requires no entrance exam at all..!

Which Medical Schools Require The GAMSAT?

The six medical schools that require the GAMSAT for their graduate entry medicine courses are:

  • Cardiff
  • Liverpool
  • Nottingham
  • ScotGEM (Dundee / St Andrews)
  • St George’s
  • Swansea

Much like the BMAT, each medical school then uses the GAMSAT score in different ways.

For example, St George’s has a set number of interview places available each year. For their graduate entry course, this is 300-400 applicants.

To determine who gets interviewed, they rank everyone by GAMSAT score and invite the top 300-400 to interview.

Additionally however, they have a minimum cut-off score of 50 in each section. The overall cut-off score is determined by the score of that 400th applicant.

You can actually see the previous year’s overall cut-off score on their website, here.

How To Prepare For The GAMSAT

To make sure your GAMSAT doesn’t make you GAMSAD, you’re going to have to revise for it.

I know, I know, I’m sorry. But don’t run away screaming just yet..!

You can easily plan out targeted revision for each individual section, ensuring you aren’t disappointed on results day.

A student preparing for the GAMSAT in the library

Being such a wide and varied exam, preparation for the GAMSAT can be a bit of a challenge. ACER (the people who run the GAMSAT) say the best way to prepare for section 1 & 2 is to read widely.

“Candidates should think about and understand what they are reading and look for the implied meaning in what they read. Candidates should practice to form opinions and judgements that they can then apply to create interesting pieces of writing for Section II.”

For section 3, you’re going to have to brush up on your science. The level of knowledge needed is equivalent to first year university biology and chemistry, and A-level physics.

This can present a bit of a challenge if “triglycerides” and “covalent bonds” are distant memories of long-past school days and your undergraduate degree wasn’t science-based.

But don’t worry, you’ll get there. There are also a vast number of online and physical resources that you can make the most of if you know where to look.

Best Preparation Materials For The GAMSAT

The only official preparation materials for the GAMSAT are produced by ACER (surprise surprise).

They currently offer five different e-books and two automatically scored practice tests for the written communication section.

Each of the ‘Online Written Communication Practice Tests‘ allow a candidate to submit two pieces of writing. The pieces are then automatically scored using an algorithm developed from hundreds of responses hand-marked by examiners.

From the e-book side, there are three full practice tests and two shorter publications with practice questions and answers.

Each of the full practice tests should take about 5.5 hours to complete under exam conditions and cost £28 each. The shorter PDFs cost £17 each.

You can find all the above on ACER’s website, here.

Now aside from the official material, there are plenty of other resources. I’ve grouped them by purpose below:

Science

Textbooks– ACER don’t have a recommended reading list but they do suggest getting your hands on some textbooks. These would be biology/chemistry first-year texts and A-level physics textbooks.

Khan Academy– The Khan Academy is a non-profit education organisation that is an absolute gold mine for information. Many of their videos are hosted on YouTube and do a fantastic job of explaining difficult scientific concepts.

BBC Bitesize– BBC Bitesize is the BBC’s free online study resource. They’ve got some really fantastic articles covering key science GCSE topics as well as some great tips for study and revision in general.

Reading & Interpretation

Shmoop Study Guides– Shmoop produce a tonne of hilarious study guides for English literature. Much of their content is available for free too! They can be a great way to explore themes of books or poetry without immediately needing to take a nap.

Read Theory– Read Theory can help you with text comprehension with free personalised exercises. It’s an excellent tool if English is your second language.

BBC Bitesize English Literature– BBC Bitesize’s section on English Literature is particularly valuable. And all completely free too. They’ve got everything from writing and analysing poetry to sample exam questions on Macbeth.

Writing

Khan Academy SAT Writing– Although you’re clearly not going to be sitting the SAT exam a lot of the content covered here by the Khan Academy is directly relevant to the GAMSAT. Again, a lot of it is on YouTube, ready when you are.

Grammarly– Grammarly is an incredibly useful piece of software for checking spelling, grammar and punctuation. You can install it as a free plugin on your browser or go ahead and copy and paste your essays into their webpage for instant feedback.

Expresso– Expresso is a free tool that analyses your writing for weak verbs, filler words, passives and more. The end result being it teaches you how to write more efficiently, be more precise and keep the reader engaged.

Practice Papers

Des O’Neill GAMSAT Questions– The Des O’Neill GAMSAT books were at one point the go-to preparation material. Sadly, they’re now out of print and gradually becoming less and less relevant. If you can get your hands on them though they’ll still be a great addition to your arsenal.

AceGAMSAT Study Course– The AceGAMSAT Study Course is just one of the many courses available online. Being the go-to entrance exam in Australia, a lot of them are run by Australian companies. That doesn’t stop them being incredibly helpful to you though, but they don’t come cheap at $397 for this one.

Gold Standard Full Length Mock Book– These books by Gold Standard have been given rave reviews by past GAMSAT students. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to pick them up for cheap from places like eBay or Facebook.

What Are The Degree Requirements For Graduate Entry Medicine?

If you want to get into graduate entry medicine but you’re not sure if your degree will hold you back then read on.

Are you wondering if you can get into graduate entry medicine with a humanities degree? Did you need to get a 2:1?

For that matter, is there anywhere that will accept any degree classification? 

In this section, you can find the exact degree requirements for every medical school in the UK.

Do You Need A Science Degree For Graduate Entry Medicine?

Short answer, no!

You do not need a science degree to be accepted to study graduate entry medicine. Many medical schools do require you to have a science-based degree but the majority accept degrees of any discipline. The exact requirements can be found on each individual medical school’s website.

You will have to work hard for the BMAT, and probably the first year of medical school (especially if you’re on a graduate entry course), but graduate entry medicine is entirely within your reach!

If you’re from a nursing or paramedic background do be careful as some medical schools specifically disqualify these qualifications.

Can You Get Into Graduate Entry Medicine With A 2:2?

It is possible to be accepted to study graduate entry medicine with a 2:2 classification in your undergraduate degree. The vast majority of medical schools require a minimum of a 2:1 however both Nottingham and Plymouth will consider applications from students with a 2:2.

In fact, I’ve broken down the degree requirements for each medical school below.

Where a medical school offers both an undergraduate and a graduate entry course, I’ve considered the graduate entry course.

Medical SchoolScience RequirementsDegree Classification
AberdeenDegree Any DisciplineMinimum 2:1
Anglia RuskinBio-sciences DegreeMinimum 2:1
AstonDegree Any DisciplineMinimum 2:1
Barts (GEM)Degree Any DisciplineMinimum 2:1
Birmingham (GEM)Life Sciences DegreeMinimum 2:1
Brighton & SussexDegree Any DisciplineMinimum 2:1
BristolDegree Any DisciplineMinimum 2:1
BuckinghamLife Sciences DegreeMinimum 2:1
Cambridge (GEM)Degree Any DisciplineMinimum 2:1
Cardiff (GEM)Feeder Stream DegreeMinimum 2:1
Dundee (ScotGEM)Degree Any DisciplineMinimum 2:1
Edge HillScientific DegreeMinimum 2:1
EdinburghDegree Any DisciplineMinimum 2:1
ExeterDegree Any DisciplineMinimum 2:1
GlasgowScientific DegreeMinimum 2:1
Hull YorkDegree Any DisciplineMinimum 2:1
ImperialBio-sciences DegreeMinimum 2:1
KeeleDegree Any DisciplineMinimum 2:1
Kent & MedwayLife Sciences DegreeMinimum 2:1
King’s College (GEM)Bio-sciences DegreeMinimum 2:1
LancasterDegree Any DisciplineMinimum 2:1
LeedsScientific DegreeMinimum 2:1
LeicesterDegree Any DisciplineMinimum 2:1
Liverpool (GEM)Biomedical DegreeMinimum 2:1
ManchesterDegree Any DisciplineMinimum 2:1
Newcastle (GEM)Degree Any DisciplineMinimum 2:1
UEADegree Any DisciplineMinimum 2:1
Nottingham (GEM)Degree Any DisciplineMinimum 2:2
Oxford (GEM)Scientific DegreeMinimum 2:1
PlymouthDegree Any DisciplineAny Classification
Queen’s BelfastDegree Any DisciplineMinimum 2:1
Sheffield (GEM)Life Science DegreeMinimum 2:1
Southampton (GEM)Degree Any DisciplineMinimum 2:1
St Andrews (ScotGEM)Degree Any DisciplineMinimum 2:1
St George’s (GEM)Degree Any DisciplineMinimum 2:1
SunderlandDegree Any DisciplineMinimum 2:1
Swansea (GEM)Degree Any DisciplineMinimum 2:1
LancashireLife Science DegreeMinimum 2:1
University CollegeDegree Any DisciplineMinimum 2:1
Warwick (GEM)Degree Any DisciplineMinimum 2:1


Can You Get Into Graduate Entry Medicine With Low Grades?

Graduate entry medicine offers an excellent opportunity to become a doctor even if you didn’t get the world’s greatest grades.

So for whatever reason you didn’t get the A-Level results traditionally needed to get into undergraduate medicine.

Maybe you were too cool for school back in the day…

You were too busy hanging ten and ripping kick-flips to be worrying about proteolytic enzymes.

Well, don’t worry! The key to getting into graduate entry medicine with bad A-Levels is careful selection of which medical schools you apply to.

Each medical school considers the individual components of your application uniquely.

For example, when Aberdeen decides whether or not to offer you a place they calculate the following weighting:

  • Academic attainment 30%
  • UCAT score 20%
  • Interview performance 50%

So, would Aberdeen be a good place to apply with bad A-Levels? Possibly, if you’re confident in your interview skills.

Now, I just used Aberdeen as an example. To truly maximise your chances, you need to find medical schools who’s weighting exactly matches your strengths.

Do You Need A-Levels For Graduate Entry Medicine?

What if you completely flunked your A-levels and your first degree? In fact, do you actually need A-levels to get into graduate entry medicine?

Students are required to hold at least some A-level qualifications to be eligible to apply to a graduate entry medicine course. However, these A-levels don’t necessarily have to be in scientific disciplines. The exact requirements vary considerably between medical schools.

So you do need to hold some A-level equivalent qualifications. But your dream of becoming a doctor doesn’t have to be over just because of poor decisions you made while still at school.

A medical student preparing for her placement in the morning

Let’s say you’ve now seen the bright side of learning intricate anatomy all day while having no social life and want to study medicine.

If this is you, then you may want to consider applying to Plymouth.

Peninsula Medical School only uses the UCAT to rank applicants for interviews.

So, if you’re an absolute rock star on UCAT day, you’ll get a chance to explain to Peninsula how you’ve now seen the bright side at your interview.

You take this principle and now apply it to your strengths, for your application. By playing to your personal strengths you’ll significantly increase your odds of getting an offer instead of just applying to the first medical schools that you come across.

Final Thoughts

Graduate entry medicine is an outstanding opportunity to train as a doctor if you’ve changed your plans or weren’t successful getting into medicine as an undergraduate.

Completing medical training in four rather than five years is always going to be a big ask and pose its challenges.

However, the pay-off is an accelerated path to starting work as a doctor- which is entirely worth it in many people’s eyes.

I’m positive with the right preparation you’ll be able to secure a place at medical school, opening the door to a career in medicine and beyond.

About the author
After studying medicine at the University of Leicester, Dr Ollie now works as a junior doctor in London. His interests include medical education and expedition medicine, as well as having a strong belief in the importance of widening access to medicine.