Medicine @ Barts | Q&A

These questions have been answered by Safiya (3rd year) and Megan (1st year) medical students at Barts and The London.

Safiya’s questions + answers:

How much clinical exposure do you get in the first few years?

There is some clinical exposure in the first two years; not a huge amount but I feel it nicely complements the taught content at uni. Personally, I think it is done really well as it tends to tie in with what you are learning about in lectures and other classes, so you can put all of the theory into context and most importantly, talk to patients!

In first year, every other Thursday is ‘MedSoc’ where you go to a GP for the day to have some teaching on a specific topic, related to what you are learning. You will often see patients with the conditions that you have been discussing to see it from a patient perspective and get into the practice of viewing patients holistically. In second year it is slightly more varied, with every Tuesday being a clinical placement. Every other Tuesday you spend half a day at a GP in a similar way to first year and the other Tuesday is the whole day either in a hospital based specialty or a psychiatry placement (you swap halfway through the year). It is really good experience and great preparation for third year when the majority of time is spent on hospital placements!

How much of the course is based on PBL? Do you ever feel it’s too independent?

PBL really helps to consolidate your knowledge and tie it all together! I was worried about PBL when I first started as I thought that it would be too unguided and I wouldn’t end up learning everything I need to. In reality, each PBL is based on the lectures and other taught content, putting it into a clinical context and considering the patient as a whole. The facilitator will ensure you cover all the important bits for each PBL and formative SAQs (practice short answer questions) are given for each PBL to help you to know where you are at upon completion of the PBL scenario.

After the first term in first year, for years 1 and 2 there are two PBLs a week (Monday and Thursday or Tuesday and Friday). The time allocated to this is 2 hours on each day. For the first hour, you do the feedback and discussion of the content from the previous PBL learning objectives. In the second hour a new PBL is started where we brainstorm around the scenario and come up with our own learning objectives, guided by the facilitator if needed. You will need to do your research between sessions in order to be prepared for the feedback session.

Overall I really love PBL. In order to make the most of it, getting stuck in is the most important thing. It helps to consolidate your knowledge and link it to clinical cases, which makes the science of a disease way more memorable for me. It has become one of the highlights of my week and I really enjoy the teamwork aspect of it. In short, the PBL cases tie a large majority of the module content together and the sessions make up around 4 hours of your week and no, I don’t feel it is too independent!

Can you talk a bit about what the campus is like?

Barts and the London isn’t what you would describe as a typical campus! The Whitechapel campus, where you will spend the majority of your time in your early years as a medical student is more a collection of buildings near each other. The building with the lecture hall is opposite the Blizard building (a research institute) and right next to the student union. The library and Garrod building (where PBL takes place) are just a minute away, as is the Royal London hospital! Despite not being a proper campus as such, there are lots of students around and being close to the Barts student union building means there are always other students around.

As a medical student at Barts, you are also a QMUL student. The main Queen Mary campus is a 20 minute or so walk up the road at Mile End. This is a proper campus with cafes, a gym and many departments and accommodation on site. You have access to this campus too so are free to go there to study and will need to go there from time to time for anatomy and physiology labs. It feels much more like a traditional campus. The other campus you might visit as a medical student is the West Smithfield campus up at Barbican. This is on the site of St Bartholomew’s hospital and your clinical skills are taught in a building on this campus.

Which hospitals do you have your placements at?

These are all of the hospitals that you might have placement at during your time at Barts! In pre-clinical years (years 1 and 2) you won’t get any placements at outfirms, but will get GP placements that can be up to 1 hour away (occasionally longer) from Whitechapel on public transport.

  • The Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel
  • St Bartholomew’s Hospital, West Smithfield, London
  • Whipps Cross University Hospital, Leytonstone, London
  • Newham University Hospital, Newham, London
  • Homerton University Hospital, Homerton, London
  • Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford, Essex (outfirm)
  • Southend University Hospital, Southend, Essex (outfirm)
  • Colchester University Hospital, Colchester, Essex (outfirm)
  • The Princess Alexandra Hospital, Harlow, Essex (outfirm)
  • Queens Hospital, Romford, Essex
  • King George Hospital, Romford, Essex

All hospitals are infirms (hospitals within travelling distance of the Whitechapel campus) unless denoted otherwise. All infirms are reasonably accessible with public transport. Currently, students placed on outfirms are given the option of free accommodation.

Because you are in East London do you see a wide variety of patients with conditions you may not see elsewhere?

East London is an incredibly diverse area! The population is very ethnically diverse and there are a lot of complex health needs within the population. As I have just finished year 2, I don’t have a huge amount of clinical experience, so couldn’t say to which extent you might see conditions that aren’t seen elsewhere, however some conditions may be more prevalent amongst populations in East London. The hospitals that you can be placed at range from the inner city to Essex, which provides a huge variety in terms of local populations. Additionally, The Royal London and St Bartholomew’s Hospital are home to some specialist services which can provide great learning opportunities for seeing patients with more rare conditions.

How would you describe the general atmosphere at Barts?

Barts is so friendly! I love being a student at Barts and would not want to study anywhere else. To be honest, I know that everyone says this about where they are studying. I didn’t really believe the student at the open day when they said it was so friendly – to the point where you could ask an older student you didn’t even know or had only spoken to once for advice or even tips for revision notes/ resources. However, I have found this to actually be true – it isn’t just amongst peers but across the whole student community that the friendly and helpful nature shines through. 

I enjoy revising and preparing for exams with friends, as it is way more important for us to work together and help each other out than be super competitive. The kind and welcoming nature at Barts helped me to settle in really quickly, and having a separate student union just for the medics, dentists and allied health students at Barts is definitely a great part of this.

Is there an option to do a PhD?

Unlike some other medical schools, Barts does not offer an MB PhD where students study for 9 years and graduate with an integrated PhD as well as the medicine degree. Barts and the London has around 500 students doing PhDs at any given time, however this is separate to the medicine course. More information on PhDs can be found here.

What are the intercalation options like?

Students are given the opportunity to intercalate after their 2nd, 3rd or 4th year of the medicine course, although most choose after 3rd year (some courses require one year of clinical medicine to be completed).

Barts has a good range of intercalated BSc options, although this may be smaller than some other medical schools. The intercalated BSc options are:

There are a small number of spaces for students to intercalate externally.

There is also the option to take an intercalated masters, although fewer students choose to do this. Find out more information here.

Are we allowed to go to different universities for intercalated degrees?

Yes, however there are only a small number of spaces each year (25-30 places). As well as getting accepted onto the degree of your choice at another university, you will have to be permitted to leave Barts to intercalate externally. In order to be permitted to leave, the spaces are currently allocated based on an internal interview as well as ranking.

Megan’s questions + answers:

What UCAT do you need to apply?

You need to achieve a score that is in the third decile or above, therefore the score does change every year. However there is no guarantee you’ll receive an interview if you do achieve an accepted score.

Do you have any advice for graduate entry medicine?

Unfortunately I don’t because I do not actually know anybody who chose the GEP course since most graduates I know chose to do the full 5 year undergraduate course. However, there is lots of information on the university’s website.

How did you know PBL would suit you?

For me personally, I need to be able to talk things out to learn. Being dyslexic, I find lectures a very difficult way to learn. PBL helps to solidify the knowledge being taught in lectures while providing useful examples of how this information relates to real scenarios.

Is your situational judgement score used?

The SJT scores are not used initially in the application process and are not used to decide who to offer interviews to. However, if you receive and attend an interview, your score from that interview will be combined with your SJT score to decide whether you should receive an offer to study or not.

Are you able to mix with and get to know some non-medics too?

Barts is home to medics, dentists and allied courses so if you choose to accept Barts accommodation or join a Barts society then you will definitely mix with others outside of your course. Also this year an accommodation option was available where you’d be sharing with non-medics. 

All Barts students are also eligible to join any QMBL or QM society, meaning you can mix with non-medics through societies too (for me, I joined QMA Cheerleading which is mostly non-medics).

Is the fact you are in East London a negative?

I personally loved living in East London. Being so close to Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford was a huge bonus for me! But also having the London Underground tube system means that being in east London essentially means you can be anywhere you’d like in less than 20 minutes. 

Yes of course there are some aspects that are quite dangerous when it comes night time but both campuses have security and as long as you are careful and walk with friends then it’s fine!

Do you do full body dissections?

During your Student Selected Components you will have the opportunity to apply for dissection, however from my understanding it’ll only be “the head” or “the torso” etc but the full body is there. So dissection is available to you if you wish, however not mandatory for all of you squeamish people out there!

Are there a lot of lectures?

I would say yes considering you’d have around 60 lectures per module to learn on top of your practicals, clinical skills and PBLs, but unfortunately I think that’s just the con of studying medicine! It’s going to be a lot no matter which university you choose because there just is so much to learn!

Do you have any interview tips?

Please just be yourself! So many people worry so much about having to come across a certain way in your interview and you really don’t. They are looking to see if YOU would be a good fit for the course at their university, not if the person you’re pretending to be is. If a funny story about my interview will make you feel better then please continue reading: 

When they asked me if I had any questions my only question was “can I have a hamster in halls”. Then I literally apologised for wasting their time at the end of my interview because I said “I have no idea what I’m doing”. I still got offered a place so just be yourself it’s fine!!

What are placement years like? Do we have set specialities to go through?

Years 3-5 are placement years. Unfortunately I do not have a massive grasp on what these are like due to only being a first year myself. 

Looking at the timetable for these years I gather that you will have placements which relate to what you’re studying in lectures e.g. Neurology, Psychiatry, Gastrointestinal etc. But you can always choose to do an additional specialty placement via your Student Selected Component. 

Thank you to Safiya and Megan for answering these questions! You can find out more about them below



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Posted by:Life of a Medic

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