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    • The personal statement is your opportunity to demonstrate why you want to study Medicine, what you did to research it, and how you arrived at the conclusion that you’re an ideal candidate with the right qualities/attributes.

    • The focus should be on your learning and reflections.

    • Many personal statements fall foul of listing various medicine-related activities (volunteering, work experience, etc), however, fail to demonstrate any form of learning, and only draw weak/generalised conclusions.

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    The personal statement is not the be-all and end-all for your application, but it can be a useful tool to show that you are one to watch. There is no perfect personal statement and ultimately it comes down to your own personal experiences and motivation for applying to the particular degree. Submitting a personal statement is an achievement in itself. Do remember to read back over what you have included in your statement and be proud of what you have achieved up to now.

    Keep it unique to you

    • The interviewers will have seen hundreds of personal statements and interviewed dozens of students.

    • Make sure your statement is as unique to you as possible.

    • Stay truthful to your own ambitions.

    • Don’t lose sight that this is a ‘personal’ statement, and should therefore be a reflection of you.

    Don’t make things up

    • We can all agree that the personal statement does involve a lot of selling yourself, but make sure you can back up what you are saying. A lot of medical school interviews will ask you about specific experiences or hobbies that you mention in your statement.

    • These questions could test if you know the subject or activity. For example, if you say you have a keen hobby for scuba diving, would you be able to describe what happens during ‘the bends’?

    Avoid generalisations or clichés

    Endlessly listing extracurricular activities

    • Extracurricular activities are an important part of your statement and demonstrate that you are an all-rounded student.

    • Make sure that you tie these in with the overall narrative of your statement, rather than just listing them out of context.

    • Saying ‘I captained my school football team’ means nothing to the interviewer if you do not explain it in the context of your personal statement.

    • When writing your statement, be sure to include the activities that can demonstrate your soft skills. What did you learn from doing this particular activity? Will it set you apart in your overall application? If the answer is no, then it is best not to put it in.

    Refer to extra reading

    • If you have been particularly struck by an academic book or essay related to the subject, it may be a good idea to write a few lines about it.

    • It does not need to say much, but writing a little bit about why you found it particularly interesting/surprising will give the reader an insight into how you think.

    • This is also a good way to move interview topics toward an area you know about or are interested in, and that can only be a good thing!

     

    Spelling and grammar mistakes

    • You will have all heard the advice from your peers about showing your personal statement to trustworthy friends and family.

    • It is also a good idea to have your statement seen by someone who can really make it sparkle.

    • The biggest help I received when writing my personal statement was from my school librarian. She was able to make the statement much more interesting to read and help the overall flow. This is really helpful especially if the personal statement seems a bit like a list.

     

     

    Print out your statement before submitting

    • You would have read your statement countless times on your laptop and think you know it inside out. However, reading a UCAS Personal Statement back as a living, printed document can help you hone your eye for detail.

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    The key to a successful personal statement is structure + content + efficiency, and we’ll look at each of these in more detail.

     

     

    Structure

    • Think of your PS as five distinct sections / paragraphs, each with a very clear purpose: introduction, academic achievements, work experience / volunteering, extracurricular activities, conclusion.

    • I will detail these below, and use % indicated as a rough estimate of what portion of your PS should be dedicated to each section, but of course you can shuffle things around.

     

    1. Introduction (20%):

    Personal experience that led to decision about wanting to study medicine, and demonstration of traits that make you the right candidate

     

    2. Academic achievements (30%):

    The main focus is demonstrating what was done above and beyond the required syllabus in the interest to gain familiarity with anatomy / physiology / pharmacology / basic medical science, or any additional prizes / achievements / projects undertaken (be it at school or outside)

     

    3. Work experience (30%):

    Skills / reflection / insight gained from shadowing/volunteering / working - focus is not on what you did, but what you learned (Covid: make use of alternative ‘virtual’ work experience platforms!)

     

     

    4. Extracurricular activities (10%):
    Any interests beyond school, and ideally how they relate to medicine / make you a well-rounded candidate

     

     

    5. Conclusion (10%):

    Summative sentence or two on why you make a good candidate for medical school

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    Logbook

    • As general advice, I would recommend keeping a logbook of any placements / activities you undertake (see the templates included at the end of this guide), as this will help keep track of the nuances of your experience – and as we know, devil in the detail!

    • This is very much a similar idea to the portfolio that you will be required to keep as a medical student / doctor, and the earlier you get in the habit of reflective practice, the better.

    Reflective practice

    • Good reflective practice has the potential to really set you aside from other candidates in any application at any stage of your training including this one!

    • Familiarise yourself with the reflective cycle.

    1. Describe the event:

    • Most personal statements I have read over the years get bogged down on this bit. This should be a brief but informative description of the setting and participants of an encounter.

    2. Feelings:

    • The mental / emotional response you had to the situation

    3. Evaluation:

    • What was good / bad about the encounter

    4. Conclusion:

    • What did you learn from the encounter

    5. Action:

    • What did you change / would you do differently in the future as a result of your learning experience

    Use your PS to demonstrate what you possess in terms of the ‘Qualities of a good doctor’.

    The best examples can illustrate multiple of the following skills:

     

    • Communication

    • Ability to work well as part of a team

    • Strong work ethic

    • Compassion / empathy

    • Good listener

    • Motivated to teach others

    • Comfortable taking the lead

    • Organisational and time management skills

    • Academic diligence

    • Stress management and building resilience

    • Professionalism and  integrity

    • Genuine enthusiasm for medicine

  • Consider the word limit of your PS:

    • Remember, you physically cannot exceed 4000 characters (spaces included) on your PS when you enter it on UCAS.

    • This translates into about 600 words in which you have to convince a complete stranger that you are the candidate they want for their medical school. Make every word count!

     

    Consider the drafts of your PS:

    1st draft:

    Write out your PS focusing on structure & content, don’t worry if the word count is over the limit

    2nd draft:

    Carefully go through your PS and remove any excess - get rid of anything repetitive / inefficient that doesn’t further your point, but preserve content

    3rd draft:

    If you are still over the word limit, maximise efficiency with simpler sentence structure, cutting excess adjectives / unnecessary bulking words – simple, efficient language is your friend!

    4th draft:

    If you’re still struggling, consider cutting content as a last resort

    Your mentor is there to support you with each of these steps, make sure you involve them and work closely with them when writing your personal statement.

    A very quick recap on things to avoid in your PS:

    1. Too short (most candidates have the opposite problem!)

    2. Lack of detail / use of generalised statements (the most common mistake!)

    3. Negativity (you want to demonstrate unwavering enthusiasm)

    4. Using stock / cliché phrases

    5. Demonstrating unrealistic expectations of medicine as a career

    6. Being boastful / condescending in attitude

    7. Discussing earnings

    8. Being untruthful (in an interview you’d get caught out)

    9. Using words / phrases you don’t fully understand

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    Writing your personal statement:

    • Below are some example sentences / structures for your personal statement.

    • They should serve more as guidance, rather than to be used verbatim, but can provide a starting point if you’re struggling with writer’s block.

    • Remember to refer back to STAR structure (situation, task, action, resolution) and the reflective cycle.

    Introduction:

    Having experienced [...] made me explore [certain aspect of medicine]. Through learning / further reading / research about [...], I discovered [this interesting thing] and this has inspired me to want to study Medicine. I can see how this is applicable to the day-to-day lives of many patients struggling with [medical condition], which opened my eyes to [...].

    My background has made me face [certain challenges], which I was able to apply to [certain aspect of Medicine]. Through this I learned that I have [skill set], which has set me up well to study Medicine.

    Through my learning I discovered that I am [insert three qualities], which I believe are qualities of good doctors.

    Academic achievement:

    • State achievement and expand on it with STAR

    At school I learned about [certain thing] / participated in [certain event]. This made me interested in [...], and I furthered my knowledge with [...].

    I excelled at [...] / presented a poster on [...] / participated in [academic society] / submitted an essay on [...] / won a prize for [...] / undertook experiments or research beyond the curriculum on [...] / wrote a blog on [...] / engaged virtually with [...] / attended online student conference or webinar on [...] / engaged with initiatives such as [...] / participated in teaching of others on [...].

    Work experience / volunteering:

    • State experience / action, make reference to which ‘quality of a good doctor’ it illustrates, and expand on it through reflection.

    1. Insight into procedural skills. I observed a procedure / operation, and as a result I can appreciate the diligence and academic rigour that are needed for clinical excellence, given the degree of skill and level of responsibility. Then reflect.

     

    2. Insight into soft skills / patient experience. I observed a consultation / MDT / discussion with patient in which [describe event]. I witnessed the excellent communication / empathy / candour / professional integrity. Then reflect. In the course of my volunteering, I was able to implement what I had learned through [example of skill in action] and build on it by [description of experience at volunteering].

     

    3. Insight into challenges / medical ethics. I came across a challenging situation in which [describe conflict]. I understood from this how the doctors and patient’s priorities might differ, and witnessed [describe the resolution of the incident]. This demonstrated to me the importance of medical ethics and professionalism at practice, and I furthered my knowledge through reading the GMC guidance on good medical practice.

     

    Extracurricular activities:

    I understand the importance of work-life balance and stress management given the demanding nature of Medicine.

     

    To this end I [do this activity], which impacts me positively [in this way] and helps me maintain my physical / mental health in a holistic manner.

    Conclusion:

    I believe given my achievements [academic and extra-curricular], I am [three descriptors], which makes me well-equipped to undertake the challenges of studying Medicine / becoming a doctor with patient-centred care.