Medicine @ KCL | Q&A

These questions have been answered by Qudsiya, Aribah and Tash; 3rd year medical students at King’s College London.

Qudsiya’s questions + answers:

How are GCSEs and UCAT scores weighed?

Officially the entry requirements for Medicine are A*AA (A-levels) and grades B/6 or above in GCSE Maths and English Language. Aside from this, King’s don’t specify any particular grade or subject that is required for Medicine. However, they do value GCSEs and will consider all of your grades as part of your overall assessment. 

In regards to UCAT, King’s uses the average score of the current cohort as a point of reference in the pre-interview assessment. If your UCAT score is above average that increases your chances of being invited for an interview and if it’s below then it may hinder your chances. This does not mean that you will not be invited if your score is below-average as there are many students who are successful despite this. In this instance I would advise you to really work on your personal statement and ensure the rest of the application is at its best by including long-term work experience, volunteering placement and highlighting qualities of a doctor such as good communication, ability to work in a team and leadership skills. 

How diverse would you say your year group and cohorts are?

King’s is a very diverse university with 26,000 students of whom 8000 are international students from over 150 countries! I personally have met both students and staff of all different backgrounds in regards to their ethnicities and religion. This is very visible on campus and the best thing is that the different nationalities are celebrated greatly on campus through societies such as PakSoc, Arab Soc, Islamic society and Hindu Soc, just to name a few. We have a world’s food market on campus every day tuesday, which again is another way diversity is promoted on campus and gives you a chance to experience and learn about different cultures and try out some incredible food! As King’s is in the centre of London you naturally get students and staff from all backgrounds as London itself is a multicultural hub.

Are King’s and UCL similar? Why did you choose King’s instead?

I attended open days for both universities and personally felt a great inclination for King’s and I would definitely recommend doing the same when making this decision. Yes the two universities are quite similar but their Medicine course differs quite a bit. I chose King’s because I found the atmosphere there to be academically challenging but still very friendly with lots of opportunity to develop socially. I also chose King’s because their course isn’t strictly divided into pre-clinical and clinical years but instead follows a much more integrated approach. King’s offers a very early clinical exposure as my first placement started in 2nd year where I would attend a hospital site and a GP surgery once a week each. This was definitely a huge incentive for me as I didn’t want to wait three years to start seeing patients. I believe this has hugely helped to solidify my passion and interest for Medicine even more as speaking to patients and helping to take care of them is a rewarding experience, one that is very much needed to make all the insane study hours worth it. 

Would you say King’s is the best uni in London (not just from an academic perspective)?

YES! I may be slightly biased but I genuinely have loved King’s from the very beginning and compared to all of my trips to other universities, it really stood out to me. I’ve enjoyed my course very much having been on clinical placements since 2nd year and having participated in the incredible dissection sessions since my first week of Medicine. As the medical campus is all in one place, I feel like I know everyone in my year/ course, which can be very comforting as you’re constantly surrounded by familiar faces.

Going beyond the academics, King’s societies have a very strong presence on campus. Since my first year I’ve been a part of many committees through which I’ve had the chance to organise national conferences, meet lots of other students and network with incredible clinicians and surgeons from all over the country. Given that one of our hospital sites, Guy’s hospital, is on campus and another, St Thomas, is 10 minutes away we’re also able to take part in lots of shadowing schemes. This is an incredible way to get involved with research projects and expand your presence in the medical field. 

We now have a Science museum on campus, which holds new exhibitions every few months ranging from many themes in art, psychology and literature. Being at King’s also means we’re spoilt for choices when it comes to food so you will never run out of places to visit with your friends and this includes the well-known Borough market!

Is the EDMP programme more competitive than standard entry?

The entry requirements for the EMDP programme are AAB, which is lower than the standard A100 course, which requires A*AA. However, the number of places this programme has to offer is much lower as it has only 50 places compared to the 400 places in the A100 course. Taking both of these points into account I would say it’s competitive based on the places available but not in terms of the entry requirements. King’s are quite strict with who they invite for the EMDP interviews as they want to prioritise students with lower grades as oppose to students who are just short of A*AA. I personally wouldn’t recommend applying for this course unless your predicted grades match the entry requirements closely as it may be a waste of an option! 

Can you explain the campus structure?

King’s has five campus sites; Guy’s, Waterloo, St Thomas, Strand and Denmark Hill. Most healthcare students, including medics, are based at the Guy’s campus in London Bridge. In your first year you will primarily be based here with a few classes at the Waterloo campus for one of the modules. It is only from 2nd year that you start to venture out into the other campuses for lectures, workshops and placements. Having said this, as a King’s student you have access to ALL of the campuses at any time, which means you will never get bored of your study spot and will always find a seat in the library, which can be a nightmare during exam season!

What’s the main style of teaching used?

King’s follows an integrated style of teaching; in your first year this is predominantly lectures, a few small group sessions, weekly dissection labs and a few clinical skills sessions dispersed throughout the year. I believe this works really for year 1 as there’s a lot of content to cover so learning directly from lectures, which the exams are based on, is the most efficient method. This does shift to a more case-based style once you start your clinical placements as you’re taught on hospital sites where you’re able to learn by discussing patient cases.

Are you taught content via body systems or just through topics separately, e.g. learning Pharmacology as a subject on its own?

We are taught in blocks that aim to cover the different body systems and sometimes multiple systems are grouped into one block for the sake of efficiency. For example, in Year 1 you will cover the pathophysiology, biochemistry, pharmacology etc of a body system whilst also looking at the same body system in your anatomy lectures and dissection labs. This works really well as you’re able to inspect the system that you’re studying in real life, covering it in great detail, which ensures that you have a thorough understanding of that body system at the end of the module. This structure is also carried into 2nd and 3rd year and continues pretty much until the end of Medical school!

What’s the best thing about studying at KCL?

I genuinely believe King’s has a very unique Medicine course, which allows for many opportunities both academically and otherwise. One of the highlights of my first year was participating in full body dissections; this experience is truly unparalleled and made me appreciate the human body in ways I never thought was possible. You get to observe and take part in the dissection, which is an experience I believe all medical students should be given. 

One of the best parts about King’s is the early clinical exposure, which starts from 2nd year. It can be really difficult to foresee the rewards that come with studying Medicine when you’re spending most of your time covering lectures one after the other. However, when I began seeing patients, going on ward rounds and taking part in surgeries, I truly got to experience what it feels like to be a doctor. Early clinical exposure contributes to your motivation and also helps to prepare you for your “clinical” years during which you are expected to know and do a lot, which can be very difficult if that is the first time you’re in clinics!

King’s course also provides many opportunities to explore other topics within Medicine and also outside of it. In our 2nd and 3rd year we have a ‘student selected module’ and a ‘scholarly project’ for which you choose a topic to study and research for an entire term. This ranges from things like Medical humanities, ethics and even includes languages. This is a great way to explore your other interests as well as take part in research projects, which have huge scope for publications. 

Aribah’s questions + answers:

What’s the average UCAT score and what’s been the cut-off in previous years?

The King’s website states that there is no threshold UCAT score. The overall UCAT score averaged over the four parts of the UCAT is said to be given more consideration than the individual UCAT scores. The Situational Judgement Test (SJT) band is also given consideration when shortlisting candidates.

From personal experience and speaking to some students in different years, the average UCAT score for the standard medical degree programme has been around 650+. King’s take a holistic approach in assessing an application, so the UCAT score would be a part of the process.

What part of the application does KCL focus on when selecting applicants – UCAT score, PS etc?

King’s take a rounded look at an application when selecting applicants for interviews. Academic achievement, the personal statement, references and the UCAT score are all considered. King’s state that “examination results and the UCAT score are perhaps the most important factors when considering applications for interviews”, because they provide the “fairest and most consistent method of assessing applicants”.

What are some top tips for the personal statement when applying to King’s? What are they looking for?

King’s look for evidence of commitment and appreciation of the demands of a medical degree and occupation in the personal statement. They would normally expect you to write about any volunteering and/or work experience in a clinical setting, but if this was not the case, they would look for evidence of interactions with the public, such as a job or volunteering in a non-medical setting. 

Examples of where you have worked well in a team or have communicated effectively are valued in the personal statement too.

You can also mention any of your interests and achievements outside of your academia. 

A list of ‘desirable’ non-academic attributes is described on the programme website. These include community activities, sports and music.

How different is the timetable week to week in KCL?

In first year, every day is different! It has its pros and cons, but what I liked the most was that I had more flexibility with my time. Some days I would only have a dissection session which would last two hours, whereas the next day could involve three lectures and a tutorial. Personally, I liked that I didn’t have a fixed weekly timetable, but I know that sometimes individuals can prefer a more structured week.

From second year onwards, the timetable is usually weekly with more structure to each day.

Are lectures compulsory to attend?

Attending lectures is encouraged because it gives you the opportunity to interact with others in your year as well as the lecturer, but they are not compulsory. The lectures are usually recorded so can be accessed later, but the quality may not be the best compared to a live lecture. However, if there are any problems with the recordings, the administrative staff can sometimes provide an older recording if the content is similar.

How easy is it to socialise with students from the other London unis?

There are many opportunities to socialise with students from the other universities in London. There are intercollegiate halls throughout London, and the great travel links means that it’s easy to travel to different universities and campuses! The United Hospitals MedGroup is a representative body of the five London medical schools, and they have a few social events across the year bringing together the London medical schools. Many of the student societies are replicated across different universities, so they can sometimes collaborate on events and introduce students from different universities to each other. University sports groups are another example of how you can meet students from different universities.

What was the biggest factor that led to your firming king’s over potentially other offers?

The biggest factors that led me to firming King’s was the location and the course structure. I live in London, and I wasn’t ready to leave my city behind. King’s is in the heart of London, surrounded by highly regarded hospitals and teaching environments, and I find it to be such an inspiring place. The course is integrated, which means that from second year, you are introduced to the clinical environment alongside medical science. This was important to me because I would have found it difficult to keep focused during two or three years of pre-clinical studies with no clinical exposure on a traditional medical programme. Having completed my second year, I can say that you are eased into clinical practice, and the health professionals are understanding of your abilities and knowledge. 

Does King’s look at anything in specific for international undergrad students?

There is nothing additional mentioned for international undergraduate applications. EU and overseas applications must satisfy the normal entry requirements (such as personal statement, UCAT, academic qualifications) and must be available for interviews in the UK. EU and overseas applicants may have to meet the university’s English Language requirements.

I’ve heard that the MMI interviewers will not have read your PS, so does that mean during your interviews they don’t bring up or directly pick specific points from your PS but rather rely on you to lead mentioning points from your PS?

Around 1200-1400 applicants are interviewed every year, and the nature of the Multiple Mini Interviews (MMIs) means that the interviewers may not have read your personal statement. It is up to you to discuss points from your personal statement wherever relevant to the MMI station, and you can repeat the points in different stations too! I remember talking about the same volunteering experience in two stations. 

Tash’s questions + answers:

Why do you think King’s has such a low student satisfaction rate?

The organisation of the course and the admin is sometimes not the best. We receive our timetables quite often at the last minute often. Other than that though I don’t really understand as my student satisfaction score would be pretty high 🙂 I wouldn’t say that the low student satisfaction rate is a reason not to apply to King’s.

Since KCL is located at the heart of London, would you say the accommodation is very expensive? Is it more expensive than other London unis or are they roughly the same?

I think it’s very similar to be honest. There’s a range of prices from about £150 a week to £300 a week! Remember you get a higher student finance maintenance loan if you study and live in London.

Are there any research opportunities during or after the academic year has ended?

Yes! In your second and third year you have a scholarly project. The scholarly project in your third year is a chance for you to choose a module that interests you and spend some time researching it. The intercalated year at King’s is also very popular after your third year of medicine.

How is tutoring different from PBL which is adopted by Manchester and Glasgow?

In the first year the teaching is very lecture heavy with small group tutorials each week. You are given the worksheet before the tutorial to do and in the tutorial you will go through the answers. From second year onwards you still have lectures but the majority of your teaching comes from cased based learning sessions while you are on placement.

Is the university harsh on their entry requirements?

When I applied my offer was 3As whereas now it has increased to A*AA. Chemistry and Biology at A-Level are both required.

How important in the application process are: the personal statement, grades, extracurriculars, leadership, MMIs?

King’s does not set a threshold score for the UCAT so I don’t think the UCAT is as important as it is when applying to some universities. It’s hard to know what is the most important part but I do believe King’s is looking for a well rounded student. The MMI was a very fair interview I think too. No questions were too difficult and it felt as though they were just trying to get to know you better.

What part of your application would you say determines your interview place the most?

Definitely not my UCAT score! I think it was the combination of my good GCSE and AS grades as well as my personal statement.

How many international students are there?

Lots! That is one of my favourite things about living in London! It is so diverse and you can meet people from all over the world.

What’s the social side of King’s like?

Amazing! Being in the heart of Lonodn there is always so much going on! The SU is also great aka Guy’s Bar.

How did you find your accommodation to be?

My accommodation was very nice! I was lucky enough to have a ¾ double bed and an ensuite! However it was out in Stratford which was quite far out.

Thank you Qudsiya, Aribah and Tash for answering these questions! You can find out more about them following them using their links below:

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Posted by:Life of a Medic

One thought on “What’s it Really Like To Study Medicine at King’s College London?

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