Medicine @ Plymouth | Q&A

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These questions have been answered by 2 medical students at Plymouth

Part 1

Can you give an overview of the selection process?

Hello, thank you for the question. I am not quite sure if you’re asking me for just a general overview or what aspects of an application are considered in selection. If you are asking about the former then it is as follows: 

  1. You apply through UCAS to the university. 
  2. University receives your UCAT score a little while later ( I think in November). 
  3. If you meet the requirements then you are invited for an interview. The interview is MMI style. 
  4. If your interview score makes the cutoff for the number of offers the university plans to send out then you are given an offer e.g. 3 As. 
  5. If you get the grades which were asked off you then you start University in September.

However, if your question is about the latter then I apologise. I am not involved with the student interviews in the medical school so I am unsure of current guidelines used by the medical school to select students. Additionally, many things have changed since I applied e.g. panel interviews to MMI therefore I would not be anymore help to you than the information the university provides on its website such as this.

Are there opportunities to get involved in research?

Hello, thank you for the question. Yes, there is a research journal which is run by students from Plymouth and other neighbouring universities such as Bristol and Exeter. One of the research opportunities available every year is through something called the Inspire programme. You can sign up for a taster day where specialists from various fields are available to discuss a summer project you may be interested in. If you have a fruitful discussion with the providers at the taster day, you can then submit the design of the research project you are wanting to do. You can also then apply for funding to do a summer project that is around 4-6 weeks long if the proposal is accepted. You can read more about this here.

Is intercalation popular at Plymouth?

Hello, thank you for the question. Yes, intercalation is popular at Plymouth. One course that a lot of students do each year is BSc Urgent and Emergency Care as it allows students to go back to their hometowns and work in their local emergency departments for a year. However, recently the University has tried to cap the number of students who can intercalate from an external University. From memory the number was set at 4. However, a lot of students weren’t happy with this and there was lots of noise around it. This was around a year ago and in that academic year, the university did allow more than the stated number to intercalate externally. However, I am unsure if the university has reversed the policy. It would have become clearer but everything is a bit unclear due to COVID-19 at the moment. 

How do your clinical years work?

Hello, thank you for the question. Year 3 has three different pathways that are 10 weeks long each. Each week you are on a different specialty. E.g. Respiratory, Cardiology etc. One day in the week is reserved for lectures whereas other 4 are placement days. You see patients throughout the week and present one to a senior Dr/Consultant at the end of the week, you present the case as well as your differential diagnosis and treatment plan. There are 4 progress tests throughout the year and no other exams. There are no ISCEs/OSCEs in Year 3. 

Year 4 is very similar – you go on different placements to ones you went on in Year 3 (except a few) and there are ISCEs/OSCEs at the end of Year 4. These qualify as our ‘finals’ – our cohort rank is decided by the end of Year 4, year 5 plays no part in our cohort ranking. There are also 4 progress tests like before. No other exams. 

Year 5 is different – how you get given which placements in 5th year changes quite a lot. You show preference for what placements you want and the medical school tries its best to accommodate your preferences. The placements are not a week long but take place in longer blocks e.g. 6 weeks. This allows you to work as part of the team on the placement/ward you might be on. It is a taste of how working as an F1 would be. You sit the SJT like all other final year medical students across the UK, you also have the prescribing exam that all other medical students do. There are again 4 progress tests but unlike before there is a set passmark that you need to achieve and you only need to pass 2 (if you pass the first 2 then no need to do the other 2). There is also an Elective that takes place at the beginning of 5th year. There are no OSCEs/ISCEs.

How big is the medical school in terms of number of students?

Hello, thank you for the question.I believe the number of students has grown to around 160 with the increase in the number of places in the UK. Previously (e.g. in my cohort) it was around 80.

How do you find having a lot of self-directed learning?

Hello, thank you for the question. Initially it is very challenging because you are used to being told what to learn and when to learn. Self-directed learning (SDL) however completely changes all of this. The biggest problem a lot of students face is how much they should be learning. Medicine is peculiar in the sense that as you learn more and more, you identify more and more gaps in your knowledge. This can be particularly stressful for new students. However, almost everyone adjusts with time. Other students who are in older years are a great help in this regard, they become an unofficial guide in regards to how much one should learn around different topics. Over time, I have grown to really prefer that the course is SDL based rather than more traditional i.e. lecture heavy. 

Part 2

What are the best places to do some studying around the campus/in Plymouth?

Library: You can book a room at the library whether that is for independent study or with a group of friends. I found that booking a room was particularly helpful when it came to working on a group presentation with your friends/peers. 

There’s also a quiet zone on the top floor where you can be the most productive. 

Local cafes: one of the nicest places to do group work is the Early Bird cafe. It’s about a 5 minute walk from the main campus and does an excellent brunch too! 

What stood out to you about Plymouth when you were applying?

  • The location: Plymouth is based in Devon and is close to the waterfront. I love the location especially with local beaches and Cornwall being 1 hour away! Coming from a big city I was drawn to a smaller town with everything close by. 
  • Early patient contact: I liked that community placements started in first year, this allows you to learn from a clinical setting. 
  • I liked that Plymouth is a mixture of both lectures and PBL. THis stood out to me as it allows you to learn in small groups and incorporate this into your revision. 

What’s the average UCAT score required? Is the top 30 percentile good?

I’m not sure what the average UCAT score is for this year of admission is as it can change year to year. 

On the plymouth university website they have a table which has the UCAT threshold scores for each year of admission. 

https://www.plymouth.ac.uk/study/outreach/medicine-dentistry-biomedical-healthcare/ucat-advice

For 2020 entry the UCAT score to meet the interview threshold was 2390. 

Is the top 30 percentile good?

If the UCAT threshold score for each year of admission falls between the top 30 percentile score then it should be fine as long as you meet the other entry requirements. 

What are the Plymouth interviews like?

The Plymouth interviews are MMI based and have roughly around 7 stations. This guide has mentioned that Plymouth ‘aims to assess core values and skills that you would be expected to have as a training medical student and later on, a doctor. Namely, those are:

  • Integrity
  • Veracity and honesty
  • FlexibilityMotivation and commitment
  • Empathy and being non-judgmental
  • Communication skills
  • Leadership potential
  • Insight into the role and responsibilities of a doctor
  • Ability to be a team player
  • Ability to deal with stress appropriately
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Knowing your limitations, strengths and weaknesses
  • Ability to reflect
  • Demonstrating a suitable approach to life and people’

What tips do you have for the interviews?

  1. Be yourself: it’s normal to be nervous but don’t let the stress of an interview get to you. You’ve managed to get this far, you’ve done the hard part of doing the UCAT and your personal statement. Try to relax and be yourself. 
  2. I found using the medic portal MMI interview questions/scenarios really helpful and allowed me to prepare as well as the ISC medical interview book. 
  3. I would say try to do as many interview questions as you can so you can feel as prepared as you can; I found watching Kharma Medic and Ali Abdaal’s interview tips videos really helpful. 
  4. This guide has really helpful tips on the Plymouth interview, namely some are: 
  • Reflect on your strengths and weaknesses: when talking about your weaknesses make sure you mention that you recognise ‘stated weakness’ and how you will improve upon your weakness. 
  • Practise communication skills: Focus on your non verbal cues e.g. Do you avoid eye contact? Do you say a lot of ‘ums?’ 

What are the exams like? Do you have essays?

There are a mixture of both formative and summative assessments. Formative assessments are like mock exams so you can have a feel of the exam before you sit the summative exam. As a first year before each summative assessment there is a formative assessment. 

There are 4 progress tests throughout the year. For a first year the first progress test is formative and the remaining 3 are summative. The progress test is called the Applied Medical Knowledge exam which consists of 125 questions based on clinical scenarios. 

There is also the End of Year 1 exam that you sit at the end of first year which tests everything that you have learned at the end of first year. 

There are some essays that you do for the SSUs. 


Thank you to you both for answering all these questions!!


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Posted by:Life of a Medic

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