Medicine Personal Statement - Common Errors & Pitfalls

Advice & Insight From Personal Statement Specialists

Personal Experiences V Confidentiality

As a doctor, would you tell a new patient that you were diagnosed with cancer at the age of five or would you consider this overstepping the doctor-patient professional boundary? Similarly is it acceptable to mention personal/family health matters on a personal statement which is being read by unknown admissions tutors? This very much divides opinion, however the majority of admission panellists that I have worked with are not fond of personal health matters being mentioned in personal statements. We recognise that spending half of one’s childhood in hospital for regular chemotherapy is a challenge, however openly mentioning this in one’s personal statement does little to improve one’s application and instead it is preferred for such circumstantial challenges to be mentioned in one’s tutor references. ​

Grammatical Errors

Almost 80% of the personal statements that I review have avoidable grammatical errors. These range from English (US) spelling to inaccurate punctuation and inappropriate use of capital/lower case letters. Whilst asking doctors and medical students to review your personal statements is beneficial, the input of English teachers cannot be underestimated.
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(Optional) Extra Curricular

Don’t fall in to the trap of thinking that extra-curricular activities are optional mentions. As medical schools, we are looking for well rounded students who will not only represent us positively academically but also will contribute to our extra curricular clubs and societies. Additionally, differentiating between students predicted 4A* is challenging to say the least, however this is made much easier when one applicant mentions they have represented their county in badminton, whilst the next student only mentions a 5th work experience.

Name-Dropping & List Loading

It’s great that you have done six work experiences and even spent time with the ‘NHS Clinical Lead for Cancer’. Unfortunately, mentioning a long list of hospital and doctors that you have worked with will not secure you a space in medical school. Instead focus on what you learnt from each experience and how it has further motivated you to study medicine.

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Non-Medical Experiences

So you spent every weekend for the last 6 months working in a pharmacy and you’re even planning on applying to pharmacy as a fifth choice ‘back up’. Despite this, avoid the temptation of mentioning these non-medicine work experiences which undermine your motivation to study medicine. As an admission panellist reviewing your personal statement, I translate this as meaning that you’re not fully committed to medicine, nor do you have the full belief in yourself that you will obtain a medical school space. This leaves me with little confidence in your application and ultimately leads to likely rejection. 

A Level Subjects

Needless to say that doing Chemistry or Biology A Level will not differentiate you from 90% of applicants and equally this information can easily be deduced from reviewing your predicted grades. With only 4,000 valuable characters available, don’t waste valuable space explaining your A Level choices and how these have prepared you to be a doctor.

Medicine Personal Statement - Common Errors & Pitfalls

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