Medicine @ Keele | Q&A
These questions have been answered by Sara (5th year) and Nat (3rd year) medical students at Keele.
Sara’s questions + answers:
How much clinical exposure do you get in the first few years?
So in first and second year you’re sent on placements about once a week for half a day. This can be on the wards or a clinic and are pretty random in terms of speciality. However this is mostly just to introduce the hospital environment to you.
In third year your time is split between seminars/CBL and wards. Depending on the unit you’re on, for example paediatrics, general medicine, surgery etc you’ll be assigned ward time and clinics to go to. During your time in the wards and clinics you’re expected to find cases to present in CBL and discuss them. Once exams are over, you have a student selected component (SSC) period which lasts 3 months. Two months are spent on placement in your chosen specialities and one month is spent in a GP practice.
Year 4 is similar except ward time increases a lot more and it’s the first time you do women’s health. Your SSC period in fourth year is 1 month long.
How much of the course is based on PBL? Do you ever feel it’s too independent?
In first year PBL isn’t massively important because the majority of what you’re meant to learn is taught through anatomy, labs and lectures. However it does become important in year 2. It can feel a bit independent but the best thing I learnt is that group study sessions are vital in the first two years! There will always be something you didn’t know or something you may have missed whilst studying and there is always something you can teach others. So having regular teaching sessions together either in your PBL groups or with your friends throughout the year is really helpful to ensure you cover the main concepts. Also, your PBL tutors are there to ensure that the learning outcomes you set each week are relevant and in line with the curriculum.
Are there any negatives you’ve noticed associated with being a small medical school?
Honestly can’t think of any particular disadvantages of a small medical school. Perhaps we have less people/diversity in medical societies compared to other medical schools but frankly haven’t noticed anything that has seriously bothered me over the years.
How far do you have to travel for placements?
So the majority of placements take place in Royal Stoke hospital and if you’re living on campus or living in one of the houses near the hospital then your placement will be very close. However, some GP placements can be quite far, maybe an hour away. However the university asks you at the start if you have a car or not to take into consideration any students who may not be able to travel really far.
Generally though, the main policy on GP placements for year 3, 4 and 5 is near, near, far or far, far, near. So what that means is you could either have GP placements close to Royal Stoke in years 3 and 4 when they are 4 weeks long (near, near) and then you get a year 5, 10 week GP placement that is further away (far). On the other hand, you could be placed in far practices in year 3 and 4 and then somewhere near in year 5. This doesn’t always work out perfectly but gives you a rough idea.
For either year 4 or 5 you will be placed in shrewsbury which is where most people end up living too. However there are some placements in princess royal hospital in Telford which is a 30 minutes drive away from shrewsbury. If you don’t drive there will always be someone who does and people tend to car share and split petrol etc.
Lastly, even though there’s some travel involved the school of medicine provides a travel bursary which is paid to every student at the end of the year based on where their placements were in relation to the base sites.
How many undergraduate students are there compared to graduate?
From my understanding, this has been pretty much split 50:50 for the last few years!
If you’re a graduate student (like myself) this works out really well because you tend to have more people in a similar situation to you!
What’s the social life like as the campus is far from Stoke?
I won’t lie, there’s not a whole lot going on in stoke itself. The campus itself has a student’s union that has good events and every now and then you’ll have well known artists performing (not sure how things will run post covid though!). Also, if you get involved in any sports you’ll probably have set nights out with them too! There’s also a pub/bar called the KPA which is nice to go to with a small group of friends.
As a medical school you’ll have your own social events throughout the year which starts off with the medics pyjama pub crawl which is something you have to do at least once in the 5 years you’re there. There is also a medics ball that happens close to christmas.
Moreover, stoke is in between Manchester and Birmingham and takes about an hour to get to either city so if you fancy a change you can always head to one of them.
What sort of UCAT score is required?
Currently anyone scoring below 2280 and SJT band 4 are excluded. However applicants aren’t ranked according to their score. The university uses a range of aspects of your application and one of the most important things is your roles and responsibilities form. This is where you put down any volunteer work, extra curricular activities etc
Have a look on their admissions page for any further information on admissions requirements!
Nat’s questions + answers:
How is anatomy taught? Do you do dissection?
At Keele, anatomy is taught using full body dissection. In first year you have a 2.5 hour anatomy session most weeks, and slightly less often in second year. You are split into groups of around 10 people and each group will be assigned a cadaver for the year. Your tutor rotates every few weeks, after each block, but your anatomy group remains the same for the whole year. There are also lots of models and textbooks in the dissection room to aid your learning. We have whiteboards in the room too which we use alongside dissection- I find this really helpful!
Are there good public transport links to Stoke?
There are very good public transport links to Stoke. You can get trains to many different places and it takes less than an hour to get to Manchester, and 1 hour 25 mins to get to London! You can also get direct trains to Birmingham, Bournemouth, Oxford, Southampton, Bristol and more. There is a good bus route going from Keele Campus to Newcastle-under-Lyme, Royal Stoke Hospital, Stoke Station, and to Hanley (the main Stoke city centre where intu Potteries is located).
Why did you choose Keele?
My main reasons for choosing Keele were the PBL-based curriculum and the early clinical exposure. From Year 1 you get to learn clinical skills and practice these on your longitudinal GP placements, where you attend the same GP practice for 3 sessions in the year. In first year I also had a half-day placement in critical care which was amazing! I was also extremely impressed when I visited Keele on the open day- all the students and staff I spoke to were lovely and really demonstrated the community feel that there is at Keele Medical School! We are a relatively small med school, of around 140 in each year group, so you get to know everyone in your year quite easily.
Do you have any advice for filling out the roles and responsibilities form?
Try to write about something unique that will stand out compared to other applicants. Remember that Keele will be receiving hundreds of these forms, many of which will be about similar kinds of experiences. Think how you can write about your experiences to make them stand out! Really reflect on your experiences and go into detail about what you have learnt and skills that you have demonstrated. When it asks you to provide details of what you’ve done, don’t just write a long list of experiences- one really detailed reflection is much better. Keele loves an in depth reflection!
Is your personal statement used to assess your application?
When I applied back in 2016, I don’t think the personal statement was used at all in selecting candidates to interview. However, I think there was a personal statement station in the interview itself, where the interviewer would ask questions about what you had written, so make sure you know your personal statement well before this! Although be aware this may have changed since 2016/2017!
Can you describe the structure of the campus? Are shops and accommodation within the complex?
Keele campus is situated on the outskirts of Keele village, about a 5-10 minute drive away from Newcastle-under-Lyme. The campus itself is very large, containing both student and staff accommodation (these are separate don’t worry!), a library, the Student’s Union, restaurants, and shops including a costcutter, Blackwell’s, and a post office. It also has very good bus links to Newcastle and Hanley where there are many more shops! Keele campus is beautiful with a big woodland area and a lake. It also has a massive squirrel population!
What are first year exams like?
In year 1 you have exams at 4 different points in the year. Keele likes to do this so that each exam is of a lower weighting, meaning that if you have a bad day and one exam doesn’t go well then you have the chance to make up for it in the next sets of exams! In November there is a short mock knowledge exam to get you used to the exam format at Keele. Your next exams are in January, where you have a knowledge paper consisting of multiple choice and short answer questions. You also have some practice OSCE stations (practical exams) to get you used to the format of these. Then in March you have another knowledge paper, and in June you have both OSCEs and knowledge papers. I am not sure how long each exam is or how many OSCE stations as this has changed since my first year! To progress to year 2, you need an average of around 40% (I think). However, to progress to Year 3, you will need an average of around 50% from your Year 1 mark combined with your year 2 mark. If you don’t meet the progression score, then you automatically get the chance to resit the year.
Thank you to Sara and Nat for answering these questions! You can find out more about them both on Instagram!
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