Medicine @ Aberdeen | Q&A

These questions have been answered by Niamh (“medic_irl”), 2nd year medical student at Aberdeen University.

Do you find lectures an effective method to learn Anatomy?

In Aberdeen, we use a systems-based approach and in first year we learnt about the Respiratory and Cardiovascular systems. We had several lectures on the embryology, location and structure of the specific system followed by the practical session. We also have post-mortem lectures where we can see the effect the disease has on the anatomy. I personally really like the use of lectures for anatomy prior to the practical sessions as it introduces the concepts of a specific topic and allows you to visualise the anatomical structures before entering the lab. It effectively allows you to understand the theory before putting it into practice.

Is third year at Aberdeen considered “pre-clinical”?

In Year 3, we complete our systems-based learning; meaning by the end of the year, we should be able to do a head-to-to clinical examination of a patient. There is still a mix of lectures, tutorials, anatomy and clinical sessions like the first two years, however, as you enter 4th year, there is a drop in the number of lectures and a significant increase in the amount of clinical time.

What would you say is a good UCAT score for Aberdeen?

As far as I am aware, Aberdeen use the UCAT in combination with academic grades and personal statement to determine who is selected for interview. On being asked this question, I sent a survey out to my entire year group to determine the average UCAT score for my cohort. I found that the average result was 2730 and band 1. However, the scores ranged from 2480 to 3140.

How would you recommend preparing for the MMIs?

I think everyone prepares for medical school interviews slightly differently, so I can only tell you what seemed to work for me. I like to prepare things in advance so I put everything I thought would be relevant down on a sheet of paper.

I looked at the work experience opportunities I had gained and used the STARR method (situation, task, action, result and reflection) to go through each one. This allowed me to identify work experience which was significant to me that I would feel comfortable talking about at the interview. Although some people say it is not best to pre-prepare answers, I personally felt more comfortable knowing I had a bank of examples which I could draw upon when I was under a bit of pressure.

I also used resources such as ‘The Medic Portal’, ‘Medicine Answered’ and Youtube to source some practice questions and model answers. 

Get teachers/tutors/university services to perform a mock interview for you! This allows you to get an idea of what an interview feels like and you can identify areas where you need to do a little bit more research!

Learn about the university and the medical school you have the interview for! Do some research into the societies/sports clubs on offer and know ones that interest you. Universities pride themselves on their support services for their students, especially the Medical School, so it is useful to know what options are available to you if a time comes that you need it. 

RELAX – I know it is easier said than done but you DESERVE to get to interview. You have worked really hard to get to this point and they have picked you for an interview for a reason. Show them how great you are and how much you want to be a doctor.

Do you know if Aberdeen reserves a certain portion of places for Scottish students?

I’m not entirely sure on this question. However, what I can answer and something that I love about Aberdeen is that they will give you an offer based on your ranking after interview, regardless of your background i.e. if you’re a post-graduate, school leaver. For example, around a third of my year are post-graduates, like myself, which is much higher than most other universities. I am also aware that The University of Aberdeen received funding for an additional 40 students last year which may have impacted their quotas as such.

What’s Aberdeen like as a city?

I love Aberdeen and way more than I expected to! I was fortunate that I was able to  commute for my previous degree meaning I had the luxury of staying at home with my parents in a city I loved. However, when I got my offers for medical school I knew I would have to leave home, so the type of city I would be moving to was a significant factor in making my final decision. 

Aberdeen has 3 huge shopping centres as well as a main shopping street, Union Street. It also has lots of places to go out to eat & socialise; perfect for a student! 

I think Aberdeen is the ideal place to study as you have the luxury of the city, tourist attractions, beach and countryside all a maximum of 30 minutes from your halls. One of my favourite ways of relaxing after a long week of university, is to go for a walk along the beach and maybe even see some wildlife along the way

Which medical societies would you recommend joining?

The MedSoc is the main medical society who organise most of the Freshers events as well as the MedSoc Ball which happens once a year. I would recommend joining the MedSoc and paying a one off fee which gives you lots of benefits educationally and socially, including discounts in food places and some book shops.

There are lots of different medical societies which focus on different specialities of medicine such as; surgery, obstetrics & gynaecology, paediatrics, general practice…so choose a few that interest you!

It is also good to join societies and sports clubs outside the medical school as it allows you to meet other students from different courses!

Do a lot of students choose private accommodation as the halls are far?

Most of the accommodation in Aberdeen is in the city centre and is directed for students who aren’t studying medicine. Hillhead, which is the main student accommodation is located 3 miles from the Suttie Centre in The Foresterhill Health Campus, which is where you will spend most of your time; however there is a free university shuttle bus that can take you from the halls to the hospital. I chose to stay in private accommodation last year (Student Roost) which was closer to town, but still a 40 minute walk to class; I would walk to the library and take the shuttle bus to get to university. The only way to get accommodation closer to the campus would be to rent privately which is what most people in second year onwards do; however, to get the full university experience I really would recommend staying in some sort of halls!

Does Aberdeen use any form of PBL or small group teaching?

Aberdeen uses small group teaching in the form of tutorials and some clinical sessions. The whole year group is divided into smaller groups of around 10 people, which are used to practice taking a history with a patient partner and to work through case-based problems.  For the history, each member of the group is allocated to a section of the history, which changes weekly, the remainder of the group and the tutor then give feedback on your technique and offer areas where you could improve in future.

What are the exams like in first year?

In first year, we have formative (fake) and summative (serious) exams at Christmas and in May time. In December, you have exams on Science for Medicine & Principles of Disease, these are classed as exemption exams; meaning if you sit them and pass them in this exam diet, you don’t need to sit them later…equalling 2 less exams in May! However, if you fail these exams you have another chance to sit them in the May diet without it being counted as a re-sit. In addition to these summative exams, you also have a mock OSCE which is a clinical exam where you can be asked anything you’ve learnt in the clinical lessons up until this point; this is a good opportunity to get feedback from an examiner and develop your skills before the real thing in May. There are normally 4 exams (excluding SfM/PoD) in May, these are: Systems, Foundation of Primary Care (GP course), Anatomy spot exam (OSPE) and an OSCE. Due to the current pandemic, my year did not sit any of these exams, however we did do formative versions online to gauge our knowledge.  

Useful links:

The University of Aberdeen ‘Our Course’

The University of Aberdeen ‘Medical Student Life’


A huge thank you to Niamh for answering these questions! You can find out more about her on instagram!


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Posted by:Life of a Medic

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