Thursday, 25 September 2014

Writing Successful Personal Statements - Top Tips for Medicine Applicants

Medicine courses are amongst the most highly sought after and competitive courses to secure entry onto, however there a number of ways in which your Personal Statement can help you stand out from the crowd.

Because of its vocational nature, any Personal Statement for Medicine should really showcase both your suitability and motivation for a course of study which most applicants hope will ultimately lead to a medical career. In many ways, Medicine Personal Statements differ from others because there probably isn't the same need (or pressure) to focus upon your past academic attainment. In reality, it will be assumed that you are a strong scientist simply by virtue of the fact that you are applying for Medicine, so it's pretty safe to let your referee focus upon your attainment in Chemistry, Biology, and your other studies. Instead, devote your time to addressing your desire to take this academic step head-on.

First and foremost, Medical School admissions tutors will want to know why you want to study Medicine. While it might be tempting to make grand, sweeping statements about how you want to save the world and conquer disease, it is much better to focus on the human elements of Medicine. Admissions tutors are looking not just for strong scientific minds and people who are highly organised, they want to see evidence of humanity and empathy in would-be doctors. The best Personal Statements, therefore, are often just that  - very personal. Try to draw upon your own first-hand experiences of Medicine, and explain how it has influenced your decision. This may derive from what you observed as part of your work-experience (more on that later), or from your actual first-hand experience of being a patient or carer. It may simply be that watching a close friend or loved one be treated for illness has left its mark on you.

The most effective Personal Statements put work experience at the heart of their narrative and are reflective in nature. Try to explain how those experiences have reinforced or challenged your expectations of  studying Medicine - above all, explain what you learned from it. Indeed, what your work experience was counts for far less than what it taught you. Many students make the mistake of assuming that glamorous placements with surgeons and fancy clinics will impress, when in reality you can learn just as much - if not more about the reality of Medicine - by helping out at a care home or volunteering for a charitable organisation. Such placements will show you the unglamorous reality of day-to-day Medicine and will certainly test your resolve to enter this demanding field.

Beyond making the most of your practical or personal experiences, it is also a good idea to show an awareness of the context in which Medicine takes place. On the one hand this may mean showing an understanding of the practical constraints or medical dilemmas that doctors often face - and there are many. This will certainly help to ground your statement in humanity and ethics. On the other hand, it is also a good idea to show an awareness of how Medicine is changing. The ability to talk meaningfully about current medical innovations will be valued - it also shows you are paying attention to the news.

Finally, focus on what you have done, in addition to your work experience and personal motivation, to prepare for your application. What have you read, what courses or seminars have you attended, how have your extra-curricular activities or interested prepared you for studying Medicine? Gone are the days when a good scientific mind was all that was required to study Medicine. What admissions tutors want to see now is both a strong intellect and an ability to engage with people of all ages and backgrounds. An ability to communicate in a way that is both effective and reassuring is just as important a skill for would-be doctors as medical or scientific knowledge. Look for evidence of these skills in your learning and pastimes and flag them up.

Assuming you fit the selection criteria they are looking for (and increasingly this means not just good GCSE and AS grades, but a solid performance in aptitude tests like BMAT and UKCAT), then you should get an interview. Therefore, be prepared to talk about your Personal Statement and to defend - or explain - everything you say. This is no place for exaggeration or fantasy - you will get found out. Instead your Personal Statement should be a springboard to success, so be positive about your aims and aspirations but honest in the claims you make.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Writing Successful Personal Statements - Know What You're Applying For

The Personal Statement is your 'online interview' and, in the absence of a proper interview, is a key element of the recruitment process - so it's important you make the right impression.

A common error with Personal Statements can occur when applicants lack a clear idea of what subject they really want to study at university. This can be a particular problem in subjects like English, where applicants often write copious amounts on how much they enjoy the plays of certain authors and how they have a passion for theatrical productions, thereby begging the obvious question - why are you applying for English when Drama appears to be more your thing?

Little mistakes like this, often unintended and well meant, can make all the difference between securing an offer and missing out on a place, particularly on a high-demand course at a very selective university. By all means convey passion, but make sure you convey passion for the subject you are actually applying for.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Writing Successful Personal Statements- Tips on Quoting

To quote or not to quote, that is the question. Many students make extensive use of quotations in their Personal Statements, quoting from books, plays, poems – the list is almost endless. The real question though, is whether this is a good thing?

On one level, it has to come down to personal choice – it is, after all, your Personal Statement. So, if you want to quote you should. Certainly there are occasions when a good quote can support the point you are trying to make and can provide useful evidence in support of your argument.  

However, if they are overused quotes can become a problem because they disrupt the flow of your prose and make it harder for the reader to fully understand the points you are trying to make. At best, the over use of quotes can become a distraction, deflecting attention away from your own points and ideas. At worst, it may look like you are quoting so much because you have no ideas of your own.

The best quotes, therefore, are the ones which are actually relevant and enhance your Personal Statement, and the best way to use them is sparingly – that also gives them maximum effect.

For more help and guidance on writing your UCAS Personal Statement visit  

Monday, 4 November 2013

Writing Successful Personal Statements - Show Off Your Reading

Evidence of wider reading is a key discriminator for admissions tutors because a student who shows clear evidence of this at AS and A level is one that is likely to make the transition to undergraduate study with relative ease. Showing evidence of wider reading in your Personal Statement is therefore a good way to get noticed - but there is a right and wrong way of going about this.

The wrong way is simply to list all the things you've read (or claim to have read). Herein lies the problem. This proves nothing since anyone can do this. The right way is to show that you have actually read this stuff, and the best way of doing this is by making informed comment on the material in question. What did you enjoy about the book? What did you learn from reading it? Where did you find yourself agreeing or disagreeing with the author? How did it contribute to your passion for the subject and desire to take your studies further? These are just some of the ways in which you can make your reading count and showcase your interest in the subject you are applying for.

Remember, lots of people claim to have read War and Peace and Das Kapital, but if you can prove it by commenting intelligently on the plot and characterisation employed by Tolstoy or the critique of capitalism proposed by Marx, then your Personal Statement will stand out for all the right reasons.

Visit for more help and advice with your UCAS Personal Statement.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Writing Successful Personal Statements - Make it Contemporary

Giving your statement a 'contemporary' feel can really give it added impact. Whatever subject you're applying for,admissions staff want to see evidence of intellectual curiosity and an awareness of the subject in its broader context.

A statement for Law would look odd without any reference to current legal debates (e.g. the impact on civil liberties of counter terrorism measures), while a statement for Biochemistry would seem incomplete without some reference to a current innovation or discovery (e.g. the development of new medical treatments).

Visit for more help and advice with your UCAS Personal Statement. 

Writing Successful Personal Statements - Develop a Theme

One way to write an effective Personal Statement is to develop a central theme. This provides the Statement with a strong spine and allows you to better showcase your subject knowledge and interest, as well as making it easier to deploy evidence of your wider reading.

Don't be afraid to look beyond your AS or A level studies for a theme (in many ways this is to be encouraged as admissions tutors want to see evidence of intellectual breadth and ambition). Pick a theme that interests you - maybe one that links your current studies with something you would like to study further in future.

Some subjects like History lend naturally lend themselves to 'classic' debates which you could develop as a theme (e.g. the role of the individual in history). Other subjects like Economics or Politics probably require a more contemporary theme - something that's been in the news a lot. The same rules apply to the sciences too (in fact to most subjects) since most will have classic debates to you can develop or will have been in the news due to a recent development.

Visit for more help and advice.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Writing Successful Personal Statements - Focus on What Matters

The first step to success is to keep a laser-like focus on the subject or course you are applying for. The purpose of the Statement is for you to explain to admissions staff why you want to study this, what aspects of the course or subject particularly interest you, and how your current portfolio of skills, experience and academic attainment make you ideally suited to its study and thereby worthy of a place.

This focus should dominate your statement and comprise at least 80% of its content. The weakest Personal Statements are often those which get the balance all wrong, losing sight of what they're applying for or never really engaging with it from the start.

Visit for more help and advice.