We used to say that each medical school has its own individual criterion for evaluating a candidate’s personal statement. However, we now see attempts by medical schools to try and standardise the approach to personal statements. We have noticed the websites of some medical schools have become increasingly vague about what they look for, compared to 2018 entry. Some will point you to an agreement they have made between them about what they look for and direct you to a list on the medical school council’s website. More about that shortly.
Lets start by looking at how medical schools actually use your personal statement: -
- They could simply use it as a screening tool in the process of deciding whom to call for interview. Bear in mind that the personal statement may be evaluated by someone who is not a doctor, and perhaps not even medically qualified. This is another reason why you need to be clear and concise.
- They could score your personal statement and use it as part of an overall score, combined with other assessments, such as your UKCAT score. The overall score can be used before or after interview.
- They may use your statement as part of a MMI station. Here is the chance for the medical school to challenge you on whether you have demonstrated some of the attributes of a doctor.
Remember that list of what medical schools look for in a candidate? Here is the list: -
- Motivation to study medicine and genuine interest in the medical profession
- Insight into your own strengths and weaknesses
- The ability to reflect on your own work
- Personal organisation
- Academic ability
- Problem solving
- Dealing with uncertainty
- Manage risk and deal effectively with problems
- Ability to take responsibility for your own actions
- Insight into your own health
- Effective communication, including reading, writing, listening and speaking
- Ability to treat people with respect
- Resilience and the ability to deal with difficult situations
- Empathy and the ability to care for others
That means each one of these is fair game. Some you may be able to demonstrate on your personal statement, others will be assessed in MMI stations. We have made sure our 2019 medical school interview course covers all these areas.
We have made that list more concise. Here is the Blue Peanut list of what medical schools look for on the personal statement and this is order we recommend you structure your statement: -
- Motivation for a career in medicine
- Your research into the demanding nature and requirements for a career in medicine
- Demonstration of the caring as well as scientific side of medicine, perhaps through suitable work experience.
- Evidence of participation in activities, which demonstrate teamwork, leadership, communication and other skills essential for being a doctor
- Your participation in a suitable range of extracurricular activities and interests
- The presence of awards or achievements outside normal academia
All candidates must include the first five of these. Not having the sixth may put you at a disadvantage. We know of many excellent candidates who do not have any trophies or medals so do not let the sixth criterion put you off if you do not, but we do believe in some medical schools, from past criterion, it may be a distinct advantage.