The Ultimate Guide To Medicine Clearing

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.

As you navigate the medical school application process, you may find yourself considering medicine clearing as an option if your initial choices don’t work out.

Medicine clearing offers a unique opportunity for those who didn’t receive an offer from their preferred medical schools or missed their grade requirements on results day.

While it’s often thought of as a last resort, it can also be a valuable chance to secure a place at a medical school that you may have simply overlooked during the initial application process.

In this ultimate guide, I’m going to provide you with all the information you need to understand and successfully navigate medicine clearing when the time comes.

What Is Clearing?

Clearing is a process within the UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) system that allows students to apply for university course places that haven’t been filled yet.

You may want to consider clearing if you’ve received no university offers, or if you’ve changed your mind at the last minute about what or where you’d like to study.

Guide To Medicine Clearing Pixel Image

It offers students who haven’t been successful in securing a place during the main application cycle a second chance to apply for a medical degree.

Does Medicine Have Clearing?

In the context of medicine, although the competition for places at medical schools can be fierce, some universities do have spaces available through clearing.

However, there are typically very few places available.

This is primarily due to the high demand for medicine courses and the limited number of medical school places each year, resulting in almost no unfilled seats.

Since competition for spaces at medical schools is so strong, it is rare (but not unheard of) for spaces to become available through clearing.

If you find yourself in this situation, it’s a good idea to start thinking about other subject areas you might like to study.

Why Might You Need To Go Through Clearing?

If you recently made a UCAS application and were unsuccessful in receiving any offers, clearing can help you secure a place at a university that still has available spaces.

This might happen if your predicted grades were not met or you had received conditional offers but were unable to fulfil the necessary requirements.

Additionally, clearing can be an option for those who have only just decided to apply for university courses.

If you missed the main UCAS application deadlines, clearing allows you to find and apply for courses that are still available.

This is especially helpful if your circumstances have changed or you have made a last-minute decision to pursue higher education.

When Does Clearing Open?

Clearing essentially opens as soon as your A-level results come out, generally in mid-August. It then remains open until mid to late October.

During this time, you can explore available options and potentially find open spots at medical schools that may have gone into clearing.

To make the most of this period, you’ll need to be proactive and vigilant in your search for a potential place.

Keep a close eye on updates from medical schools, UCAS, and universities’ social media accounts to identify potential opportunities.

You’re able to add a clearing choice on UCAS Track from 2pm on results day. However, should never do this until you’ve got a confirmed offer.

Considering the fact that medical schools almost always interview clearing applicants, it’s likely to be at least a week from results coming out to receiving a clearing offer.

Although this can be an extremely stressful time, try to remain positive and keep your options open as opportunities can arise at any point during this period.

How To Make An Application Through Clearing

Here’s how you can make an application through clearing for a medicine course:

Step 1: First, check your eligibility for clearing. You’ll be eligible if you haven’t received any offers, you’ve declined all your offers, or if your results don’t meet your conditional offers. Make sure to register in UCAS if you haven’t already done so.

Step 2: Use the UCAS search function to find Medicine courses with vacancies. Keep in mind that these courses may not be at your preferred universities, but clearing is an opportunity to find alternative options. Be quick, as the vacancies can be filled rapidly.

Step 3: Before contacting the universities, have your UCAS Personal ID and A-Level results (or equivalent qualifications) handy. You may also need your UCAT test score, depending on the universities’ requirements.

Step 4: Contact the universities with medicine vacancies directly. You can do this either by phone or through the universities’ websites. Be prepared to answer questions about your results, your motivations for studying medicine, and any relevant work experience.

Step 5: Once you’ve received a verbal offer, make a note of the details – course title, university, and start date – and ask for a written confirmation by email. You will need this information for your UCAS Track account.

Step 6: Log in to your UCAS Track account and click on the ‘Add Clearing choice’ button. Enter the details of the course you received an offer for, and confirm your choice. Make sure to do this within the deadline provided by the university, as the offer may be withdrawn if you don’t respond quickly.

Which Universities Go Into Clearing For Medicine?

Essentially, there’s no way to predict which universities (if any) will offer places for medicine through clearing each year.

Unfortunately, the trend seems to be that fewer and fewer places are coming up through clearing as time goes on.

The only way to really predict which universities might have places available is to look at which have offered spots in the past. In recent years, these include:

  • The University of Buckingham (note the fees)
  • St George’s
  • King’s College London
  • Hull York Medical School
  • Queen Mary’s (Malta- note the fees)
  • UCL
  • University of Sheffield
  • University of Leicester
  • University of Sunderland
  • University of Central Lancaster

If you are attempting to get a spot for medicine via clearing, it’s not a bad idea to ring round any university that you’d want to go to even if they haven’t publicly advertised any spaces as far as you can see.

The worst they can say is no and you really aren’t losing out on anything just by asking!

How To Prepare For Medicine Clearing

Before embarking on the medicine clearing process, it’s crucial to understand what it entails and how to navigate your options.

To make the best use of the system and secure a place in a medical school, follow these steps:

  1. Research medical schools and courses: Get well-acquainted with different universities and the medicine-related courses they offer. Pick a handful of universities as your top preferences, and familiarise yourself with their entry requirements.
  2. Have your UCAS details ready: Medicine clearing is facilitated through the UCAS system. Ensure that your UCAS profile is updated, and have your UCAT scores, A-Level/IB results, and UCAS Personal ID at hand.
  3. Be quick to act: Medicine clearing slots can fill up rapidly. Be prepared to act right after receiving your results. Prior to the clearing process, familiarise yourself with the UCAS clearing website, the clearing contact number for your preferred universities, and keep an open line of communication with your school’s career adviser.
  4. Prepare for interviews: Some medical schools might require further interviews or additional assessments. Make sure you’re prepared through adequate practice and know what to expect.
  5. Keep an updated CV and personal statement: Make sure you’ve got an up-to-date personal statement reflecting your motivation for studying medicine and showcasing your relevant experiences. This will be crucial when applying through clearing.

What Do You Need To Get A Clearing Offer?

While clearing might seem like a bit of a backdoor into medicine, unfortunately, many of the same entry requirements will apply as for the main application cycle.

Reapplicants

It’s important that you’re not a reapplicant from the same application cycle for a university’s clearing places.

Clearing is meant for candidates who haven’t secured a place at a university through the regular application process.

If you have already applied to a medical course in the same cycle, and been rejected, you likely won’t be eligible for their clearing process.

Academic Requirements

To get a clearing offer, you still need to meet the academic requirements set by the university.

These requirements may vary among medical schools but typically include achieving three As in relevant subjects such as biology, chemistry, and maths.

Make sure to review the specific entry requirements for each medical school you’re interested in.

UCAT Or Other Entrance Exams

Most medical schools require applicants to complete an entrance exam, such as the UCAT, BMAT, or GAMSAT.

A girl preparing for the UCAT on her laptop
The UCAT is required by a majority of medical schools

If you want to apply for medicine through clearing, you need to have already taken the necessary exam or be prepared to take it on short notice.

Check each university’s website for information about their exam requirements and keep in mind that entrance exam scores are often an essential factor in receiving a clearing offer.

Interview

During clearing, medical schools may still conduct interviews as part of their selection process.

You’ll need to be prepared for this and be able to demonstrate your motivation and passion for studying medicine.

Practice your interview skills and be ready to discuss your qualifications, interests, and any relevant work experience you have.

Keep in mind that interviews can take place within a week after you receive a verbal or written offer from the university.

Tips For Making A Medicine Clearing Phone Call

Before making a phone call for medicine clearing, it is essential to be well-prepared and organised. Here are some tips to help you make a successful call:

  1. Gather all essential documents: Have your clearing number and UCAS Personal ID number ready, as these will be required during the call. They can be found on your UCAS Track account under ‘Your Choices’.
  2. Be prepared for UCAT and BMAT requirements: Keep in mind that most medical schools will maintain their UCAT and BMAT cutoffs, so you will need to meet them in order to be considered for a place through clearing.
  3. Find the appropriate phone number: Look for a specific clearing number on the university’s website. This number may be released on the day or available beforehand. Alternatively, you can call the university’s regular number and follow the instructions to be directed to the clearing line.
  4. Have pen and paper ready: When you’re on the phone, you may need to jot down important information, take notes, or record any follow-up actions.
  5. Stay calm and composed: Remain confident and knowledgeable during the call, as well as clear and concise in your communication. Remember that the person on the other end wants to help you, so it’s in your best interest to maintain a neutral tone of voice.

How Many Clearing Places Are There?

The truth is that the number of available clearing places for medicine tends to fluctuate each year.

This is due to a variety of factors, including the number of applicants, the number of students who secure places through the standard application process, and university capacities.

Clearing placements for medicine are generally very limited though, as medicine is a highly competitive and demanding field of study.

Unlike other courses, medical schools tend not to lower their academic standards during clearing. So, it’s crucial to maintain a strong academic record.

Who Can Offer You Help With Clearing?

When you’re navigating the complex world of medicine clearing, it’s essential to have a support system in place.

With so many steps to follow and important decisions to make, here are a few key sources of assistance that can make all the difference:

Your School or College: They are your first point of contact for clearing-related advice. They have experience with the entire UCAS application process, and their knowledge of available resources can be invaluable. Even more importantly, they will have a thorough understanding of your academic history, making them well-equipped to provide personalised advice.

UCAS Clearing Helpline: UCAS offers a dedicated clearing helpline to assist students with any questions they may have. By dialling their number, you can speak with trained advisors who can guide you through the process, from eligibility to application.

University Admissions Offices: When it comes to specific courses or institutions, the admissions office at your prospective university is the best source of information. They can clarify entry requirements, confirm available places in the medicine course, and explain the application process in detail.

Careers Advisors: For those still unsure about their path in medicine or considering other options, a careers advisor can play a vital role in clearing. Their knowledge of different medical fields, along with general career development advice, can help you make informed decisions about your future.

Online Forums and Student Platforms: Sharing your experiences with other students navigating clearing can provide useful insights and valuable advice. Platforms like The Student Room and Reddit can offer a space where you can discuss your situation, receive tips, and find support from those in a similar position.

What Are The Alternatives To Medicine Clearing?

If you find yourself in a situation where you need to explore alternatives to medicine clearing, there are several options available to you.

Gap Year

Taking a gap year can be a valuable opportunity to gain relevant work or volunteering experience in the healthcare sector, helping to strengthen your application for future medicine courses while also allowing you to reflect on your career path.

With a year to plan, you can:

  • Volunteer in a healthcare setting
  • Work on your personal statement and application
  • Prepare for required medical entrance exams

Additionally, a gap year can provide a much-needed break from education, allowing you to focus on other interests and develop personal skills before returning to a demanding medical course.

Graduate Entry Medicine

Graduate Entry Medicine (GEM) programmes offer an alternative route into medicine for those who have completed an undergraduate degree. These accelerated courses typically last four years but offer a condensed programme, focusing on building on your existing knowledge.

To apply for a GEM course, consider the following steps:

  • Research GEM courses and entry requirements
  • Evaluate your undergraduate degree and related experience
  • Look into funding options for GEM

Studying Medicine Abroad

Studying medicine abroad can be an excellent option for those unable to secure a place through clearing.

Many countries offer highly regarded medical courses taught in English, providing you with an opportunity to experience a different healthcare system and broaden your horizons.

To explore studying medicine abroad, you should:

  • Research reputable institutions and courses in other countries
  • Investigate entry requirements, language proficiency, and any visa requirements
  • Calculate the financial costs of studying abroad, including tuition fees, living expenses, and travel

Allied Health Course

If you are passionate about healthcare but unable to secure a place in medicine, an allied health course can provide an alternative career path.

Allied health professionals work alongside doctors and nurses, often with a more focused specialisation.

Some popular allied health courses include:

  • Physiotherapy
  • Radiography
  • Occupational therapy
  • Speech and language therapy

A Clearing Success Story

Getting an offer through clearing is definitely somewhat more of the exception rather than the rule.

However, it can very much be done.

One of my best friends actually managed to get a medicine offer through clearing for the University of Leicester and spent five years studying there with me.

He was insanely lucky, managing to get a spot secured on results day, and I doubt he’d wish the stress of that results day on anyone, but it does go to show that it can be done.

He’s now a junior doctor and has just entered a public health training scheme.

If you think you may end up going into clearing, all you can do is set yourself up for success with the preparation tips I talked about above and then hope for the absolute best!

Final Thoughts

In summary, medicine does have clearing, but the opportunities for securing a place through this process are limited due to the high demand for medical courses and the limited number of available spots.

However, although the clearing process can be competitive, it’s an invaluable opportunity to secure entry into medical school if you weren’t initially successful.

If you are considering clearing as an option for entry into medicine, it’s crucial to remain flexible and be prepared with alternative plans, such as pursuing other subject areas or reapplying the following year.

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.