Medicine @ Imperial | Q&A

These questions have been answered by Aleksandra, a 2nd year medical student at Imperial College London.

How much emphasis do Imperial place on the BMAT?

Imperial sets a cut-off for the BMAT each year (usually around 4.5 for Sections 1 and 2) and as long as you are above this score, you have a chance to be invited to interview (NOTE: this score is not released until after the application cycle, but it’s usually similar to the previous year)! Of course, the higher your BMAT score the more favourably your application will be assessed. Although there are some people who go ridiculously high scores, there are many who scored only just above the cut off. Once you get to the interview stage, the BMAT score doesn’t matter anymore!

How important are GCSEs? Will good GCSEs give me an advantage over others?

Having amazing GCSE results will probably give you a slight advantage, but it’s definitely not a requirement. It’s important that you meet the requirements and once you’ve done that, there are many other ways to set yourself apart from other candidates! Having said that, make sure to focus on your grades and aim to get the best GCSEs you can!

What are the Imperial interviews and questions like?

When I did my Imperial interview, it was a panel interview with 3-5 people and lasted only 8 minutes (on average). However, the interviews are now conducted as MMIs and from what I’ve heard, they are very similar to how they are conducted at other universities. I cannot share any of the questions I was asked, but they’re definitely not trying to trick you out! Make sure you are familiar with the basics of medical ethics/law and know how to answer questions about the scientific/research side of medicine!

What kind of work experience do they like as it’s very hard to find anything at the moment?

There is no one-size fits all answer for this. I’ve spoken to friends that had no clinical work experience but volunteered in a care home and learned many transferable skills from this. Others, including myself, had predominantly research-based work experience. The most important thing is to highlight what you learned from the work experience, rather than just what you did!

Am I likely to get rejected due to a lack of work experience as a result of Covid-19?

Imperial has been extremely helpful and understanding of our situations as students during the pandemic, so I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t extend this to prospective applicants. As long as you show that you have been actively doing something to further your understanding of the subject you are applying for, such as reading around your subject, you should be fine. Hopefully, you would have already had some volunteering or extracurricular that you can discuss in your personal statement and/or interview.

What kind of things count as academic to put on my personal statement?

Many things! I would count anything that is related to the subject you are planning on studying as academic. For medicine this can include going to lectures/masterclasses, reading books, watching documentaries, reading the news/journal articles, conducting research projects and so much more! Although you can mention the subjects you are taking at school, it’s important to show that you have been proactive about your subject and have wanted to learn as much as possible about it in your free time too!

I live around 1 hour away from the university and wanted to know is the experience of going to imperial different if you live with your parents and go to university in contrast to having your own accommodation?

The experience probably will be different, but it doesn’t have to be worse or better than for other students. I have many friends who lived at home during first year and/or second year and loved it! The main difference is that you have to be a lot more proactive about making friends as halls typically have many events throughout the year for students to meet one another. However, the biggest benefit of living at home is the financial aspect, so you are likely to have more money to go out and meet people anyway! Some people who live close to campus chose to live in halls during first year and then spend the next 3-5 years living at home – it really depends on your own preferences!

Does Imperial have a library, and do you like to study there?

Yes – there is a main library at the South Kensington campus, which is very large and modern. I really like studying here, but it can be very hard to find a space in the run up to exams! There are also libraries at each of the other Imperial campuses, including in Hammersmith and Paddington, which are both primarily designated for medics. These libraries have less of a modern feel and are more cosy (e.g. with sofas), which I personally prefer.

Are the lecture halls and classrooms modern/nice to be in?

Yes I would say so! They are definitely more modern than in some other departments e.g. Physics as the medical building is one of the newest on campus. There are lots of pictures online of the lecture halls if you want to decide for yourself if they look nice. The medical building is called the ‘Sir Alexander Fleming’ building if you want to look it up!

Is it true that some people give out incorrect lecture notes as a way of staying ahead?

I haven’t heard of this happening, but it wouldn’t surprise me if this was the case! 

Although medical students are no longer told their rankings, the atmosphere is still very competitive and many people aim to get a merit or distinction in their exams!

What time do your days start and end?

This varies hugely, but in pre-clinical years days generally start at 9am and end between 3pm and 5pm, but we often have large breaks in between. However, some days will be much shorter or completely free! Our timetable is completely different each week, so there are some more and some less busy weeks!

How can I organise a research work experience placement?

The first step is always to find a supervisor and contact them. It’s best to email a few people as academics are often very busy and may not reply to you. From there, you can discuss what the possibilities are and get started. It’s really not as complicated as it seems and just requires you to be very proactive! This will be the same at every university and is not specific to Imperial. I’m happy to answer any more specific questions about conducting research, so be sure to DM me on Instagram.

Does the university allow students to do research and publish it?

Yes, the university not only allows students to do research, but it actively encourages it and there is a lot of support for students interested in conducting research or audits. There is a scheme known as the UROP, which stands for the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme. It allows students to spend around 8 weeks doing research over summer and there are even bursaries available for students! With regards to publishing research, this is also highly encouraged, but definitely depends on your supervisor and how much work you put in.

How regular are clinical placements?

At Imperial, Years 3, 5 and 6 are clinical years (we do our intercalated BSc in Year 4). During clinical years, almost every week is spent entirely on placements, which is generally scheduled from 9am to 5pm (except Wednesdays when we have a half day for sports). In Years 1 and 2, the main teaching style is through lectures/tutorials and there is about one clinical placement every fortnight/month and a slightly longer (3 week placement) once in each year.

Is it easy to commute to hospitals?

London is very easy for commuting provided you live fairly close to one of the main tube lines e.g. the Central line. Most halls are conveniently located, so commuting in first year shouldn’t be a problem. There are some ‘close’ hospitals and some ‘far’ hospitals and we have placements split 50:50 between them, so sometimes you may be commuting longer distances and other times there may be almost no commute! However, many of the hospitals in London are huge and well resourced, so the teaching is very good and it’s worth the commute for me!

How much would you typically spend a day commuting around London?

This very much depends on where you live. In my first year, I was living about 45 minutes from campus so the minimum commute time was 1.5 hours each day. Some days we were split across two different campuses, so this could be as much as 2-3 hours. However, in second year I live much closer to campus and spend less than 20-30 minutes commuting each day!

Are the topics you can study when you intercalate interesting?

Yes! There are about 15 different options avaliable, which are all listed on the course description on Imperial’s page – most of these are related to medicine, but you can also study in a different department e.g. Business or Engineering. If you don’t like any of the topics offered by Imperial, there is also an option to study at another university for the intercalated degree!

How difficult is it to get on the PhD programme after 4th year?

Yes it is, although the process of applying is being changed together with the new curriculum being implemented and in the future, it will be much easier. The most difficult part is finding a supervisor and funding for your PhD. Some people stick with the supervisors they worked with during their BSc or summer research projects, while others have to look for opportunities specifically for their PhD.

Do medics tend to keep to themselves?

Mostly yes, especially since we have our own campus, student union and societies. Unless you make a conscious effort to join non-medic societies or meet non-medics in halls, it is very easy to find yourself with only medics as friends (not that this is necessarily a bad thing!).

How did you know living in London was for you?

I was in a unique situation because I have relatives living in London and I visited them 1-2 times per year. Through regular visits, I became very familiar with the city and I could tell whether or not I would enjoy living there. I have also lived in a variety of cities, some bigger and some smaller so I know that I prefer big, busy cities! 

However, for those who haven’t/can’t visit London, I highly recommend reading as many student experiences as you can and trying to get in touch with current students to answer any more specific questions you have. There are also many YouTube videos by students (both medics and non-medics) in London which are very helpful.

Thank you to Aleksanda for for answering these questions! You can find out more about her on her instagram and blog:

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Posted by:Life of a Medic

2 replies on “What’s it Really Like To Study Medicine at Imperial College London?

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