Composing a personal statement for any degree is a challenge but for medicine, this is your chance to illustrate your academic prowess and work experience alongside a genuine passion and fascination for the medical subjects you love. A personal statement can support your application if your exam results are slightly below your expectations or can enhance a strong set of grades for the best chance of acceptance.

UCAS, the admissions service for universities in the UK, describes a personal statement as “your opportunity to sell yourself to your prospective school, college or training provider.” Students are given a 47 line, 4,000 character limit (which roughly equates to 500 words) in which to show off their appeal to the institutions of their choosing. 

Here, it’s important to get into the mind of the member of admissions staff that will be reading your statement – what do they want to see? 500 words may seem like plenty, but you’ll likely find that space is at a premium when you’re trying to find the perfect formula to impress your chosen university.

The key things that medical schools will be looking for are evidence of motivation, explorative work experience and suitability for fitting into their learning environment.

Your personal statement is not only an opportunity to demonstrate your motivations for studying medicine, but also to convey a sense of insight into medicine as a career. It is a chance to reflect on your experiences thus far and outline your personal qualities which will enable you to excel as both a medical student and future doctor.

Developing an understanding about the roles and responsibilities of a doctor will help you prepare your personal statement with ease. Volunteering in your local community and undertaking work experience placements are examples of activities which may allow you to gain a deeper insight into medicine. However, reading official resources such as those produced by the General Medical Council (GMC) before you even begin to think about the content of your personal statement, can help to give your writing a clear focus and direction.

Your personal statement may be used in the selection process for interviews to a varying degree by each medical school. Having said this, on the whole, personal statements do not feature heavily in the selection process for interview. Whilst this is the case for most medical schools in the UK, a few medical schools will utilise a scoring system to assess the personal statement at some point in their selection process; either before interview (for interview selection) or at the interview itself. If this is the case for one or more of the
universities you intend to apply to, play careful attention to any details on their website which discuss exactly what the admissions team are looking for in a personal statement. For example, the University of Oxford place a larger emphasis on showing an interest in medical science and academia.

It is important to check exactly how the medical schools you intend to apply to will use your personal statement both before and during the interview. To access the most relevant and up-to-date information you should check the websites for each of the medical schools you may apply to. If you have any queries about how your personal statement will be used, or if anything you find on their websites is unclear, email the admissions team directly.

Structuring your med school personal statement

The aim of this section is for you to establish a structure that works for you, by deciding what the main components of your personal statement will be about.

Before diving into finding the best structure for your personal statement, it is important to remember there is no set format or
structure. Reading a few example statements may help to give you an idea of where you start, however it is all about finding the right balance that is appropriate for you. This balance will be based on your personal experiences, and what has been important in shaping your journey towards Medicine.

You should start your personal statement with a clear introduction and end with a conclusion.

Developing a structure which works for you

Here, we will focus on developing a structure for the main body of your personal statement. The importance of having a well-thought-out structure is that it will make your thoughts and experiences easier to follow. A good structure will help in reinforcing the key content of your statement, further giving admissions tutors the impression that you have a focused understanding about medicine and yourself. There is no one way to structure the main body, in fact there are many ways! The components you discuss will differ according to your experiences, and the weighting given to these components will largely be based on what medical schools you apply to.

Here is an example of how to divide the main body of your personal statement:

  • Interest in academia and wider reading
  • Work experience and voluntary commitments
  • Extra-curricular Activities

Remember, this is only one example. Alternatively, you could base your paragraphs on the qualities you want to demonstrate, such as:

  • Interest in medicine, science, and academia
  • Compassion, communication skills and empathy
  • Leadership, teamwork and problem-solving

These ideas are here to prompt you, so work around them based on your experiences. If there is a certain valuable quality, such as resilience, that you are passionate about and have relevant experiences in, of course this should be included!