How Difficult is Graduate Entry Medicine?

Tamsin Dyer

Tamsin Dyer

Senior Writer at Medic Mind

Medicine is long been considered one of the most demanding degrees you can do. Many medical schools now offer an accelerated version of their courses designed especially for graduates. Completing the course in a shorter time is going to be challenging, but how hard is it really?

Should I apply for GEM?

One of the first things to consider when if you’re thinking of applying the graduate entry medicine, is if it would be best for you to apply for standard entry courses? Not only are GEM courses difficult, but they are also extremely competitive to gain entry to. GEM courses are consistently some of the most competitive in the country, often seeing competition ratios 2-3x higher than standard entry courses.

Universities are increasingly open to taking graduate students onto their standard-entry courses alongside school leavers. For example King’s A100 cohort is comprised of almost a third of graduates. If you’re unsure if the pace of GEM would suit you, it’s worth considering if five or six year courses might be better for you. The funding for graduates on standard courses is different to those studying GEM. Take a look at our funding article for more advice.

What does a graduate entry medicine degree look like?

The answer to this question isn’t so straight forward. It is a very university dependant. Course structure varies between medical schools and each take their own approach for integrating GEM students in with the standard cohort.

For example, Barts (QMUL) the first year of GEM is an integration of the first two years of their standard course, so you’re effectively completing two years at once. Whereas, at King’s you will effectively skip the first year and enter directly into Year 2. GEM students are given a short “crash course” in August which covers the most important aspects of Year 1 but from this point on GEM is basically identical to the standard course.

You can see these two universities take very different approaches and therefore have their own difficulties. It’s important to consider your own strengths and learning styles and think about which style of course would suit you best. For example, someone with a strong biomedical background may prefer the King’s course with with a difficult first month but rest of the course being at the same pace as the standard cohort.

There are currently two exclusively graduate medical schools in the UK: Warwick and Swansea. Every medical student at these two universities have previously studied a degree. This means that the GEM curriculum is completely designed for graduates and is not an adapted version of the standard course.

How difficult is graduate entry medicine?

The thought of studying an already difficult degree at a faster pace can be overwhelming. But remember that as a GEM student you will have already studied at university level for at least 3 years. Without even realising it you will have picked up study and life skills that will equip you to study at this level.

It’s also worth remembering that GEM is still an undergraduate degree so the content difficulty won’t be any trickier than the degree you already have. The more difficult aspects will most likely be the volume of content and speed at which it’s delivered. Overall, many excellent doctors have trained through the GEM route and it is definitely do-able and achievable. If you consider your own personal background and learning style, you will most likely be able to find a GEM course that suits you.

Course Comparison Table

Choosing the right UK Medical School for you!
UniversityNumber of PlacesCourse StructureAptitude TestNon-Science Degrees?
Barts (QMUL)39First year is equivalent to Y1+2 of the standard course. GEM students join standard cohort from second year for clinical rotations.UCATYes
Birmingham40First year is equivalent to Y1+2 of the standard course. GEM students join standard cohort from second year for clinical rotations.NoneNo
Cambridge40Pre-clinical studies are condensed into two years with clinical rotations completed in the holidays so that GEM students join the standard cohort (who are in Y4) from their third year. noneYes
Cardiff25First year is equivalent to Y1+2 of the standard course. GEM students join standard cohort from second year for clinical rotations.GAMSATNo
Dundee / St Andrews55Unique graduate curriculumUCAT – Situational Judgement Test and GAMSATYes
Ulster30First two years focused on lectures and small group work. Final two years focused on clinical placementsGAMSATYes
King’s 27Direct entry into Year 2 of standard course after a month long “summer school”UCATNo
Liverpool29Direct entry into Year 2 of standard course after a two week long “summer school”GAMSATNo
Newcastle25First year is equivalent to Y1+2 of the standard course. GEM students join standard cohort from second year for clinical rotations. The first year is extended to allow for additional time.UCATYes
Nottingham113First 18 months is equivalent to Y1+2 of the standard course. GEM students bypass the intercalation stage and join Year 3 of the standard course for clinical placements from the second half of GEM Y2.GAMSATYes
Oxford25The first two years are an integrated course of pre-clinical and clinical medicine. GEM students join the standard cohort for clinical phase in their final two years. BMATNo
Southampton48The first two years of GEM are taught separately from and are roughly equivalent to the first three years of the standard course. GEM students are mixed with the standard cohort for the final two years in clinical placements.UCATYes
St George’s60First year is equivalent to Y1+2 of the standard course. GEM students join standard cohort from second year for clinical rotations.GAMSATYes
Swansea106Unique graduate curriculumGAMSATYes
Warwick193Unique graduate curriculumUCATYes

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Post as “Anonymous”


AnonymousMedic Mind Tutor

26 June 2021

Hi, I am a final year Econ student and am looking to apply for GEM – I have A-levels in Chemistry, Maths, Econ. I have only recently decided I would like to pursue GEM and as such I do not have any clinical work experience – how much of a disadvantage would this be for me?


AnonymousMedic Mind Tutor

5 October 2021

If you don’t have work experience you won’t be shortlisted for interview.

AnonymousMedic Mind Tutor

26 September 2021

This is a little out of date. Not including Ulster university as the 3rd completely graduate course. Taking the Gamsat and currently 70 students with a hope for this number to raise.

ShwetaMedic Mind Tutor

10 May 2022

Thank you for letting us know! We have updated the article accordingly.

AnonymousMedic Mind Tutor

8 October 2021

does anyone have a comprehensive list for non science graduates and non science A-level applicants? as a caveat to some of these uni’s is that they require non science applicants to have Chem A level.