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By Antonia Ward

The differences between undergrad and grad medicine courses

3 min
Antonia Ward standing on mountain with scenic background

In this week’s blog, medical student Antonia Ward shares the differences and similarities between undergraduate and graduate medicine courses. She also talks us through her experience of studying for the ScotGEM.

Applying to graduate medicine

Despite having the right grades, I wasn’t successful when I applied for medicine at sixth form. So, I did a degree in physiology and then applied for graduate medicine. I’m currently studying for the ScotGEM – the only graduate medicine course in Scotland.

What are the differences between the two courses?


Time is usually the most obvious difference. Graduate entry courses are typically four years long, versus undergraduate courses which are around five to six years (depending on the university).

How the content is delivered

As the graduate course is a year shorter, there is much more of a focus on independent learning. On my course, we had lectures and tutorials consistently for the first two years, followed by two years of clinical placements (with the odd tutorial here and there).

Throughout the clinical years, we focused on making sure we had sufficient knowledge to pass our exams, but our tutors were always there if we needed help. This is slightly different to undergraduate degrees, where there are three years of teaching and two clinical years with regular tutorials included.

This kind of self-directed study can be daunting at first, but once I started focusing on the areas I didn’t feel confident with, it wasn’t too different to how I would revise for my undergraduate degree.

Remember – always ask for help if you need to! Your peers are really useful when it comes to practicing for the OSCEs or to run through topics with.

What are the similarities?

Despite the length of the courses being slightly different, the content remains the same. So, any online resources or textbooks will be applicable to both courses.

The funding

If you are on an undergraduate medicine course and it is your first degree, you should be able to access student finance from your home country (England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland). This should also be the case if you are doing a graduate entry medicine course as your second degree.

However, if you are a graduate applying to do undergraduate medicine, this doesn’t typically apply. This is why graduate entry courses are so appealing.

What is unique about ScotGEM?

As well as ScotGEM being the only graduate entry medicine course in Scotland, it also has a focus on GP and remote/rural medicine. With this in mind, we’ve had GP placements from week one of the course and spend our entire third year attached to one GP practice (with hospital placements alongside this).

I found the longitudinal clerkship at the GP practice in my third year very useful, as it allowed me to follow patients through their clinical journeys. I saw a wide range of presentations, which also helped me to structure my revision.

The remote/rural aspect allowed me to visit parts of Scotland I never thought I would see – let alone be sent on a placement to. My main highlights have been going to the Isle of Skye for a two-week placement, as well as Wick, which allowed me to complete the North Coast 500 enroute.

Although the graduate entry path is slightly longer and can be stressful, I have thoroughly enjoyed it.

I also think that having an undergraduate degree before tackling medicine helps you too, as you already know how to study effectively. You also have the added bonus of more life experience behind you – something that definitely helps when it comes to patient consultations.

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