The UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) is a standardized test used as an entrance examination for the majority of medical and dental schools in the UK. Its purpose is to test the likely aptitude of a candidate for a clinical career.
Tag Archive: Admissions
Our recent ferociously cold snap paused for breath today, allowing for a Sunday stroll through Oxford on a sunny and bright afternoon. After the persistent subzero temperatures of the past week or so, today’s several degrees above freezing seemed balmy by comparison. It was also a window of opportunity to relieve a mild case of cabin fever since the forecast is for temperatures to plummet again tonight. On the walk home, I was struck by just how many young people were roaming around town, clutching holdalls and consulting maps.
The reason for all this activity is that tomorrow marks the start of the annual interview season, when over 10,000 nervous applicants descend on the University over the space of a fortnight, to be grilled by their potential colleges as to whether they will be offered a place to read the subject of their choice. Their odds are actually pretty good by the time they get to the interview stage (a lot of the whittling down having been done at the shortlisting stage) but the nervous expressions etched onto their faces are understandable as they feel their entire lives are dependent on how they perform over one or two 20 minute interviews.
It took me back to how I felt when I was in their shoes, which is now rather more years ago than I care to calculate. That year also had particularly bad weather, with snow falling heavily on the day I had to attend. Fortunately the car made it through the inclement conditions and I was able to settle in comfortably before interviews the following day. I was still rather tense but the interviews themselves were surprisingly enjoyable, believe it or not, and it was a relief to feel I’d done my best. A relief which turned to delight a couple of weeks later when I was offered a place.
Nowadays, I find myself in the position of helping young people learn the skills they need to get through the application process, and in fact next weekend I’ll be teaching an interview skills workshop as part of the Get into Medical School courses I run with a friend. It’s always an enjoyable course to teach, partly because we have time to offer each attendee a full-length mock interview, so we can give them feedback on what they do well and the areas they might want to consider improving. That lets us get to know them a bit better than on our regular one-day GeMS course which gives more of an overview of the entire application process. It’s a nice feeling to know that you’ve made a positive contribution towards helping someone talented achieve their potential.
As part of that plan to try to offer something a little extra, we’re also running a Summer School next year, so that international potential medical school applicants (and others who find it tricky to travel to our one-day courses) can also get the benefit. The Summer School will let them combine getting that advice and coaching with the chance to experience what it’s like living in an Oxford college for a week.
It’s not always possible to predict where life will take you. When I first came for interviews here, I had no idea I’d still be living in this city many years later, let alone that I would be helping others get in. The illustration to this post is taken from the much larger fresco of The School of Athens, by Raphael, which is one of four frescoes dominating the Stanze di Raffaello in the Apostolic Palace of the Vatican City. It is thought to feature every major Greek philosopher, though the identities of some remain uncertain. Plato points to Heaven, Aristotle to the Earth, reflecting their different philosophical priorities. Thus, not everyone will find the same path to wisdom, but that the life task facing us all remains the same: finding what is best in ourselves by developing insight, maximising that potential through thought and study, and growing from the experience.