Medicine @ Manchester | Q&A

These questions have been answered by Holly, a 2nd year medical student at the University of Manchester.

Does Manchester have a year abroad option?

While there isn’t a dedicated year abroad option that I am aware of, there are a couple of ways in which medical students at Manchester can spend time during their degree abroad. The first and most noted would be during your elective placement in which you can decide to do an overseas placement in unfamiliar medical practice between the summer of 4th and 5th year. 

The less well known route is to complete European Studies alongside your medicine degree, in which during 5th year there is a compulsory 4 month placement at a European partner medical school. Such European partners are in the locations of France, Spain and Germany.

What can you do if you don’t have many hobbies and interests to put in the NAI form?

Like they say on the website, try and think of the NAI form as an extended version of your personal statement where you can talk more about other things you want them to know about you! 

Hobbies and interests aren’t always what you might think – yes, some people have things like playing football and Girl Guiding to include, but hobbies also include reading books, spending time with friends/family, going on walks in nature and drawing. I can imagine that most people have something they enjoy doing but don’t class it as a hobby when in fact it is!

Think about what you do in your spare time and discuss that in the form – how has it shaped you as a person? Is there anything that can be taken forward as a medical student? The university won’t be looking for who has the ‘best hobby’, but instead that you have things you do apart from studying!! 

What makes Manchester different to other medical schools?

For me there are certain features of studying medicine at Manchester that make it special! We gain extensive clinical experience from day one, both in the form of placements and with regards to sessions in the Communication Skills Learning Centre (CSLC) with dedicated stimulated patients. 

Manchester is also one of not many medical schools in the UK that still have full cadaver dissections as part of their curriculum – this feature alone should help sway you to choose Medicine at Manchester. Anatomy is a difficult concept to grasp, but with the amazing donations we have from people wanting to help our learning, we are fortunate enough to be able to learn first hand from bodies. This ensures that we progress with knowledge of systems individually and are able to consider them with regards to other systems as a whole, as would be seen in the clinic. 

The European studies option I think is another great feature that makes us stand out – to my knowledge not many other medical schools offer this and so if you are someone that loves medicine but also enjoys languages then Manchester really is for you! 

As the biggest medical school in the UK, there isn’t a lot that Mancheser doesn’t offer which makes it stand out to me! Plus the medical society alone boasts a huge array of extracurricular activities, meaning there really is something for everyone!

What’s dentistry like – do the medics and dentists interact?

I cannot say what Dentistry is like – unfortunately, there isn’t much interaction between the two degrees (or there hasn’t been up to this point for myself) with respect to sharing lectures etc. It might be something that would be good for medical schools to look into! MDT work in medicine is hugely important and hence implementing this from the stage of degree level with other healthcare degrees would be beneficial!!

Does Manchester regard GCSEs very highly?

Like most medical schools in the UK, Manchester has specific requirements regarding GCSEs. According to their website, they ask for at least 7 GCSEs at grade A*-A with English Language, Maths and two Sciences at grade B minimum.

Do you work alongside other students such as physician associate students?

I can only really speak on behalf of pre-clinical years, and to my knowledge and experience so far we don’t work alongside other healthcare students. I think this is likely to change on entering clinical years due to the nature of being on placement in hospitals which pride themselves on MDT work. I think maybe something that all medical schools should look into is integrating learning from all stages of the degree with that of other healthcare subjects so that students can learn to work in such MDT’s as will be the case on entering hospitals for both placements and work.

Is it overwhelming being on such a large course with 400+ people? How do you find a good friend group/socialise if you’re meeting new people every day?

It can be yes, especially when you attend your first lecture and every seat in the lecture theatre is filled with unfamiliar faces. BUT, medical students are one of the most welcoming groups of people I have ever met and there has been no point that I have felt out of place or belittled. 

I think personally, the fact the course is so large at Manchester is a great thing – it makes for the chance to meet new people on a daily basis from which you can learn. Yes, meeting new people all the time can be nerve-wracking and a little hard to deal with at first, but ultimately it makes for a great friend network. There is literally someone for everyone, and while it might take you a little longer than others to find your ‘group’, at Manchester you will without a doubt find them. 

I would say a big tip is to put yourself out there – no matter how shy a person you are, just remember that when you start out everyone is feeling the same. It just takes one person to have a little courage to introduce themselves and the rest of the people around you will follow. 

I have made some friends for life already on my degree, yet I am still meeting new people everyday. It is honestly so great and so humbling to be able to make new friends constantly while studying!!

What are exams like during first year?

Read this blog post for a detailed overview of exams at Manchester.

We have exams both in January and May at Manchester, with a progress test and semester test at both these times. In addition to this, we have an OSCE in May (although this year mine was cancelled due to lockdown) and during the middle of both semesters we have a formative semester test (much like mock exams) to test our knowledge up to that point. 

The semester tests are as they appear – they test all our knowledge from that semester with regards to PBL, lectures, Anatomy, Evidence Based Medicine (EBM), Ethics & Law, and Histology.

The Progress Test is a test which is sat by all years (yes, 1st years sit the same exam as 5th years) to test our clinical knowledge. As a result, for first years this means a lot of the content is completely new that we have yet to touch on. This test is therefore is graded based on each cohort’s scores so that the pass mark dictates the level of knowledge we are expected to have at that point in the degree. Each time we sit the exam, it will be expected that we make improvements as we gain more clinical knowledge and understanding.

Are there any other assessments during 1st year apart from the semester test, progress test, OSCE, PEP?

While it isn’t an exam, there is the PPD (Personal Professional Development) portfolio which is reviewed by an every at the end of every year. This is essentially a portfolio of reflections you have to maintain to show you’re improving your clinical abilities. In year 1, the review is treated like a “mock” and doesn’t count, however, in the years after that it important that you pass your review to continue on to the future years.

Is there a foundation programme for international students?

Yes, Manchester has a 6 year option which includes a foundation year. This isn’t only available for international students, but any students that don’t hold the specific qualifications required for the standard 5-year route. You can read more about the foundation year programme here.

How far away are the placements from your flat and how do you get to them?

The placements take place all across the North West of England, meaning that sometimes placements may be close to home and other times travelling a little while will be involved. For pre-clinical years, you’ll have 6 one-day placements each year and you’ll be sent to different hospitals/GP practices for each one.

Once you start clinical years, you’ll be allocated a base hospital. Most students move out to live close to their base hospitals so that they can access the teaching/learning locations more easily. There are 4 base hospitals (Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust Oxford Road, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust Wythenshawe, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals and Salford Royal Hospital). You’ll have placements at hospitals associated with the trust as well as GP practices nearby. This is a really good feature of Manchester’s programme as you’re able to generally stay in one area and not as much travelling is required to get to your placements from years 3-5.

Should I buy any textbooks beforehand?

There are always those that tell you to invest in everything before starting and then others that say you will not need to buy any and to instead use the books in the library. I have to admit, I was one that invested a lot in the big-name textbooks. Some have been very useful to have my own copy of, and others I would have been better saving my money and using those available from the medical school. 

I would say, don’t invest before you start as you don’t really know what you need. Instead, listen out to what your lectures recommend and make the decision from there. You can use the library to try out books and see which you prefer and then make the decision to buy or not. Ultimately, with medicine there are hundreds of textbooks and you may only need a chapter of some so buying them all is pointless. Give it a few weeks and if you keep going back to the same one, then consider investing. 

Read: Pointers to help you prepare for starting medical school

Do you get recommended specific textbooks? For example with A-levels we get a textbook that we will be tested on – is it like that?

We are provided with a recommended reading list at the beginning of first year, but the is a huge list of 50+ textbooks. They do tell us the list is merely a guide so you don’t need to actually go out and buy these textbooks – most people don’t. Lecturers tend to base their lectures on specific textbooks anyway, so any important content will be covered in the lectures. If you feel like going into further depth in a certain area you can always get the textbooks that are recommended by lecturers as they’ll be more relevant than the broad reading list.

We are not tested on a specific textbook in our exams, but instead exam content is more based on what’s covered in our PBL cases and in the lectures.

I completed the Manchester Access Programme and hence have MAP benefits like reduced grades entry but I was rejected this year for my poor UCAT. Manchester has always been my dream med school and I spent the past year there, doing workshops, the medicine summer school and falling in love with the facilities. I currently have an offer for another med school which I’ve firmed and another med school as my insurance both which are far from home. I was planning on re-applying to Manchester if I don’t get into my firm choice. Would that be irresponsible of me?

I think ultimately, although a very hard decision to make, is one that you must come to on your own – being swayed by other people can cause problems down the line if you aren’t fully happy with the decision.

What I would say is medicine is a long degree and you really want to be studying somewhere that you will be happy. You not only need to thrive in medicine, but you also must enjoy the other aspects of being a university student. Make sure you are making a decision for the right reasons!!

What’s the teaching like on clinical placements in clinical years?

Answered by lifeofamedic. In clinical years teaching is done in the form of “bedside teaching”. Depending on the speciality you’re in and the hospital you’re in the frequency of the bedside teaching sessions will vary, but it tends to be a couple a week. Each session of teaching will often be done by a a different doctor so the methods used in teaching vary widely. Some sessions you’ll be asked to take a history, present back and then you’ll discuss the management of that particular patient. Other sessions you might go round in a group whilst one of you performs an examination and you receive feedback. Other sessions are more “talking” sessions where you discuss interesting cases on the ward or you might go and have look at any interesting signs patients have. So it’s really varied!

The idea of bedside teaching is to consolidate your learning and refine your techniques. You’ll have the opportunity to ask questions and see the theory put into practice. It’s not like a lesson so you’re not told everything you need to know but instead get the opportunity to understand real cases on the ward better.


Thank you to Holly for answering these questions! You can find out more about her on her social media + website:


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Posted by:Life of a Medic

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