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Top 5 Hardest UK Medical Schools To Get Into

Top 5 Hardest UK Medical Schools To Get Into

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.

What is the hardest medical school to get into in the UK?

Medicine applicants, medical students and doctors all love a challenge. So, if you’re planning on applying to medical school this year then you probably do too.

The hardest UK medical school to get into is the University of Oxford. The University of Oxford interviews less than a quarter of candidates who apply to its medicine program, from which fewer than 200 receive an offer each year. Statistically, students who apply have about a 1 in 12 chance of success.

However, there is a bit more to this answer than just the University of Oxford.

Depending on your own personal strengths and weaknesses, the hardest medical school to get into can actually vary from applicant to applicant.

In this article, I’ve broken the question down into five different sections, looking at the hardest medical school for each of five distinct aspects of a university application.

Which UK Medical School Has The Highest Academic Requirements?

To have any chance of becoming a doctor, you need to first meet the academic requirements of your offer from medical school.

Traditionally, a student would only need three As to get into medical school, however, over time this grade boundary has been creeping up and up and up.

A growing number of medical schools are now actually demanding A*AA from their students at A-level, in addition to an almost perfect set of GCSEs.

Medical SchoolTypical Offer
King’s College LondonA*AA
Examples of medical schools that demand more than just three As at A-level

As the number of applicants to medical school grows, students are having to further distinguish themselves by achieving ever more impressive grades.

Plenty of medical schools even have restrictions on whether you can do resits, being able to select only the highest quality candidates who achieve top grades in their first attempt.

#1 The University Of Cambridge

You knew that both the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford were going to feature on this list and here’s the first of them.

The University of Cambridge is currently the only medical school in the UK that regularly asks for A*A*A from its applicants. Only one grade boundary off a perfect trio of A*s at A-level.

A student sitting one of her A-level examinations at school

Cambridge requires A-levels in chemistry and one of biology, physics, or mathematics. Although most applicants have at least three science/mathematics A-levels and some Colleges actually require this.

For 2017, 2018 and 2019 entry, the majority of entrants from an A Level background achieved at least grades A*AA (77% of entrants).

The University of Cambridge

Of course, Cambridge’s rigorous academic standards aren’t just limited to A-levels. Although Cambridge doesn’t actually have a set bar set for applicants’ GCSEs, the average successful applicant will hold more than their fair share of 9s and A*s.

If you’re interested, I’ve actually developed a medical school offer calculator where you can plug in your own personal exam results and see what your chances of receiving an offer this year are.

Which UK Medical School Has The Highest Competition Ratio?

The competition ratio for a spot at medical school is essentially how many people you’re going to have to beat to get that space. The higher the ratio, the more people applying for a single opening.

The UK medical schools with the most number of applicants each year are:

Medical SchoolNumber of Applicants
Medical schools with the highest numbers of applicants each year

This data is a couple of years old (it was the most recent I could find) but it should act as a guide for numbers in this year’s application cycle.

While it gives us some idea of how competitive a medical school will be, we need to combine it with the data from medical schools that have the fewest number of spots on offer.

In this 2022-23 application cycle these will be:

Medical SchoolNumber of Places
University of Central Lancashire15
Edge Hill University30
Lincoln Medical School80
Anglia Ruskin University100
Aston University100
Medical schools with the fewest number of places each year

Now, by combining these two data sets we can calculate the number of applicants per place available.

This is the competition ratio for a medical school and represents your chances of getting an offer. Unfortunately, data isn’t available for every medical school in the UK- so I could only calculate what I could with what was available.

The medical schools with the highest competition ratios from the 2019/20 application cycle were:

Medical SchoolCompetition Ratio
St George’s8:1
Medical schools with the highest competition ratios

As the data is slightly out of date and I wasn’t able to find the right information for every institution, there may be a couple of dark horses missing from this leader board. But on the whole, these are your most competitive medical schools.

#4 The University of Leeds

The University of Leeds tops the table as the medical school with the highest competition ratio in the UK!

In 2019/20, the University of Leeds received 2,965 applications from medicine hopefuls but only gave out a mere 236 offers.

Leeds offers a five-year, integrated curriculum that teaches students using a combination of problem-based learning, traditional lectures and clinical placements.

It’s a BMAT university and uses applicants’ BMAT scores in combination with academic performance to rank candidates in order to select the top portion to interview.

Leeds’ holistic selection approach may go some way to explain why it’s such a popular choice. Students who have a strong all-round application are ideal candidates for Leeds and generally fare the best.

Which UK Medical School Has The Most Applicants Per Interview?

Without an interview, you’re never going to get into medical school. So it could be argued that instead of competition ratios, medical schools that have incredibly high competition for interviews might actually be harder to get into.

Gone are the days when students were able to get an offer for medicine based on their grades alone.

I’ve actually compared how hard it is to get a medical school interview for every university in the UK in this article. But today, we’re just focussing on the most exclusive institution.

#3 The University of Edinburgh

Edinburgh only interviews 23% of the people who apply to its medicine program- making it an incredibly tough application process.

I suspect it only interviews such a small percentage because, as we saw, it receives the third largest number of applications each year- and so probably doesn’t have the manpower to get through so many candidates!

If you are interviewed though you do have a decent chance of walking away with an offer. Of the 762 applicants it interviewed in 2020, 527 of them subsequently received an offer.

Edinburgh takes into account your academic performance, UCAT score and SJT banding when considering who to shortlist for an interview. So I’d only apply here if you’re a well rounded applicant looking for a challenge.

Which UK Medical School Has The Highest UCAT Requirements?

Some medical schools use a minimum UCAT cut-off score. For example, home applicants to Keele University with a total UCAT score below 2,280 or with a situational judgement band 4 would not be considered for an interview.

Other medical schools use a more fluid cut-off. For example, Barts will only evaluate applicants who have scored in the 3rd decile or higher in that year’s UCAT testing cycle.

A student practicing for her upcoming UCAT at home

More common than both of these methods however is a medical school choosing to rank all the candidates who have applied in order of their UCAT score. They then use this ranking list, sometimes in combination with academic performance, to decide who to interview.

#4 Bristol Medical School

For 2022 entry, Bristol Medical School actually had the highest calculated UCAT cut-off score used to invite candidates to interview.

The score you’d have needed to bag an interview at Bristol was a whopping 2870 for home applicants and 2910 for overseas applicants. This translates to an average of 717.5 per section!

Once you’ve met their minimum academic requirements, they also don’t put any weight on your grades.

It’s all entirely down to your UCAT.

A good medical school to apply to then if you’re confident you’re going to achieve that cut-off, or already have, but otherwise a real shot in the dark if your UCAT might not be able to pass Bristol’s very high bar.

What Is The Hardest Medical School To Get Into In The UK Overall?

So, with everything considered, which is the hardest medical school to get into in the UK?

For this final selection, I’ve tried to take into account all the different factors we’ve covered so far.

From academic requirements to competition ratios to how they use entrance exams… The exact opposite of what I did when researching the easiest medical school to get into.

#5 The University of Oxford

Yes, you knew it was going to feature on this somewhere and here it is.

I think the University of Oxford is probably the hardest medical school to get into in the UK.

In 2019/20, the University of Oxford received 1,864 applications, interviewed 430 students and only gave out 161 offers. Giving you about a 1 in 12 chance of success if you’d applied.

Both Oxford and Cambridge are notorious for their interview styles, often throwing complete curveball questions at candidates, aiming to throw them off guard and test their raw intellect.

Oxford runs a six-year course, with every student undertaking an intercalated degree as part of the curriculum.

It’s one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the world, with alumni having won the Nobel Prize for Medicine an incredible seventeen times!

Oxford is undoubtedly a world-class institution and so rightly has the privilege to select the highest-quality candidates- making it a real achievement to be offered a place.

Final Thoughts

As much of an ego boost as it could be receiving an offer to study medicine from the ‘hardest’ medical school to get into, it certainly shouldn’t be your only motivation for applying to a university.

If, for no other reason than, it will drastically decrease your chances of receiving an offer as they’ll likely uncover your shallow motivations at interview!

Equally, I wouldn’t be put off if your dream medical school is on this list.

If your motivations are genuine and you’re on track to meet their academic, entrance exam or any other application requirements, then there’s no reason why you’re not just as deserving to study there as the next person.

Every comparison of medical schools like this is always going to be subjective so don’t let it put you off your goals… and best of luck!

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.