CHOOSING THE RIGHT MEDICAL SCHOOL FOR YOU
Apply to your strengths and thrive when you arrive!
Each medical school will place weighting on different aspects of your application. Some strongly value extra curricular activities whilst others use specific cut offs on admission exams such as UCAT. Work with me to ensure you can apply to your strengths and boost your chances of success.
Perhaps more importantly, allow me to help you choose the medical school where you can thrive. Identify your learning styles and which course structure will suit you the most so that you can enjoy and flourish in your course.
A lot of words (and letters!) get thrown around in relation to Medicine curriculums - but what is the real difference between a CBL and a PBL course? What would suit you better, integrated or traditional? How do you choose between a 5 year course and a 6 year course? Which course structure suits your learning style best?
Well let’s dive into it.
The main curriculum styles in the UK are:
Divided into ‘pre-clinical’ and ‘clinical’ years, with a clear separation between the two. You will begin by studying medical sciences (pre-clinical) before moving into hospital and community placements in the NHS (clinical). This course tends to involve a subject based approach with a high number of lectures and tutorials, and little to no patient contact in the early years whilst you focus on the science, anatomy, research and evidence that underpins medical practice.
Examples: Oxford, Cambridge.
Who does this suit? Students who enjoy learning facts and academic skills to feel more confident before entering clinical work. Tutorials involved in these courses are often intensive and allow for vast amounts of learning and exploring.
As it sounds, in these courses there is less of a clear divide between the pre-clinical and clinical stages and more of a seamless movement into clinical practice, weaving it in from the get go. Teaching methods can vary from lectures to problem-based learning to practical skills sessions. Frequently, these courses take a systems approach, taking one bodily system at a time and considering all relevant parts - from anatomy to pathology to pharmacology. These courses encourage early patient contact and emphasise self-directed learning opportunities.
Examples: Brighton and Sussex, King’s College London, Newcastle, Leeds
Who does this suit? Students who enjoy a fairly hand-on learning approach and are looking for early patient interactions.
PBL, CBL and EBL courses tend to have originated from integrated courses (with very blurred lines between the different course types). It can be hard to categorise a university course strictly into one box, since it may overlap between a few types of learning.
PBL (Problem Based Learning)
Problem based learning presents students with a problem, to which they must form their own questions. Students will work in groups to explore and research these points, involving a large amount of self directed learning and minimal tutor facilitation. Learning objectives are created by the students themselves. Group work allows for improvements in communication, teamwork and problem solving skills - all skills required when working in healthcare. Pure PBL is not very common, most courses are more blended with the provision of lectures, seminars etc.
Examples: Bart’s and the London, Hull York, Keele, UEA
Who does this suit? Students who enjoy taking charge of their own learning, using initiative and working in small groups. This suits those who are effective communicators, listeners and those who have good time management skills.
CBL (Case Based Learning)
Using virtual cases, this course uses group work to consider the knowledge and skills required to work through areas of the curriculum. There tends to be more guidance from supervisors and more focus on learning in clinical environments. This will be reinforced with interlinked learning opportunities, including seminars, lectures, dissection, patient focused learning in the community and clinical skills practice. Each case (which may be spread over two weeks for example) will conclude with a wrap up session, reviewing what has been learnt and how it will apply to their practice.
Examples: Cardiff, Liverpool
Many of the qualities that suit a PBL course also suit a CBL course.
EBL (Enquiry Based Learning)
This poses questions, problems or scenarios that are facilitated by a tutor. The emphasis is on the student learning, rather than a teacher, teaching. Students are encouraged to self identify and research issues and questions that arise. It is very similar to and includes PBL. It is often used as part of a course, such as in special projects.
Why are some courses six years and some five years?
Six year courses can either be an extended medical degree or those that include a compulsory intercalation. An extended medical degree involves a one year foundation course before beginning, aimed at students who may not have studied chemistry or those who need assistance to be better prepared for the undergraduate medical degree. An intercalating degree is a chance to explore another related topic, gain skills in research and academia and take a step away from clinical practice. Some universities have this included in the course (and compulsory) whilst others will give you the chance to apply for this as an optional extra.
Don’t be afraid to drop me an email or reach out on Instagram if you have any further questions!