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Specialist Medical Sciences Programme at RIC

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Dr Philippa Thorpe

My school told me I would never be a doctor. I took my A levels at RIC and proved them totally wrong. I am now a Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at Liverpool University Hospital. I can think of no better recommendation for the College that gave me the confidence and grades to succeed.

Dr Philippa Thorpe
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Rochester Independent College has been helping prepare students for medical, dental and vet school entry since 1984. Our teachers and UCAS Advisors offer a support programme that will help you increase your chance of winning a place, to build on your academic and personal strengths and help you develop confidence as a potential medical professional.

We offer intensive one-year A level Science and Maths courses that have been successfully taken by highflying international and mature students preparing for medicine, dentistry and vet science. We also offer conventional two year A level and successful retake programmes.

Rochester Independent College is part of Dukes Education and as such our students also have access to some of the best specialist university applications advice available as well as UCAT and BMAT preparation courses through The Medic Portal which like RIC is part of Dukes Education. 

Many of the College’s former students are now successful practitioners working locally and many of the local GPs, surgeons and consultants send their children to us. This gives RIC a real wealth of experience to draw upon when advising students about who to approach when planning their work experience and volunteer placements. Our parents also help with the mock interviews we organise for all our applicants aiming for these courses.

One of our top performing one year A level students in 2021, Sean from Malaysia who took A levels in Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Maths from scratch, secured 4A*s and is off to University college Cork Medical School.

2020 was a record year for Medical School entry for RIC students with nine confirmed places at universities from UCL to Sheffield, Plymouth to Southampton. Six of these students retook their A levels, demonstrating that it is possible for students retaking their A levels to win places at medical school second time around. There is no secret to how to make a successful medical school application and the universities themselves are increasingly transparent about the process. They tend to point score applicants on each aspect of their application- academic performance to date, work experience, personal statement, UCAT or BMAT score and interview performance. Different universities though weigh these aspects differently. The UCAS team works closely with all of RIC’s prospective medics, dentists and vets and we keep up to date with the constantly changing entry requirements at different institutions so students can make strategically targeted applications.

Rupert Cochrane-Dyat from Sevenoaks was one of the year’s medics with his A*A*A* grades in Biology, Chemistry and Maths winning him a place at Southampton Medical School. Rupert says: “What helped me most was the individual attention which helped me get a much more rounded understanding of my subjects. That five-minute informal chat after lessons really helps. My study skills improved exponentially; my time management got better and I really realised the importance of dedication and taking responsibility for myself and my own learning. I had lots of help with my UCAS form, and it was great to have input and advice from so many different people when I was writing my personal statement. All in all, I had never really believed before that I could get these grades. RIC was fantastic in everything they did to help me through.”

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Conor, joined RIC from Gravesend Grammar, Destination: Medicine at Newcastle

RIC’s use of testing and reflection mirrors a lot of what I use at medical school and I am particularly thankful that I learnt these techniques when sitting my A levels. Passionate and engaging tutors encouraged me to take a mature approach to learning that not only made A levels, dare I say it, enjoyable, but also equipped me with the skills set to tackle the challenges I have faced in my first year at Newcastle. RIC also offered me constant, personalised and quality advice, guidance and support when applying for medical school, ensuring my personal statement and interview preparation was the best it could be. For this I am very grateful.

Conor, joined RIC from Gravesend Grammar, Destination: Medicine at Newcastle
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Obviously the most important A level subjects for potential medics are Chemistry, Biology and Maths, all subjects that Rochester Independent College has an established track record in. Options chosen in the A levels at RIC are often geared towards medical school entry, for example the Sociology of Health and Medical Physics. Some of our successful medics however do take a contrasting third A level subject alongside two Sciences, choosing for example English Literature or Philosophy. As well as Medicine, RIC students also have an outstanding track record of securing places on medically related courses such as Pharmacy, Audiology, Optometry and Radiography.

Students attend lectures and events designed to broaden their knowledge of medically related issues, helping their personal statements shine.

Aspiring medics last year visited the The Royal College of Surgeons Sixth Form Careers workshop where they experienced helpful hints and tips on how to create a great university application, a Q&A with current surgical students about life in medical school, the opportunity to take part in basic suturing skills and surgical knot-tying and laparoscopic simulator sessions.

Students on the medical programme at RIC also benefit from the College's programme of visiting speakers. Recent speakers included Cancer research scientist Dr Tim Fenton from UKC and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.


Useful background reading for medicine

  • Roy Porter’s Blood and Guts- A Short History of Medicine
  • Raymond Tallis’s Hippocratic Oaths: Medicine and Its Discontents
  • Roger Taylor’s God Save the NHS
  • Nathan Wolfe’s The Dawn of a New Pandemic Age

Students aiming at Medicine at RIC enjoy a rich programme of events. A group of yr 12 and 13 potential doctors this year took a trip to the Vaudeville Theatre, London, to see Adam Kay’s hilarious – and moving – one-man show ‘This is Going to Hurt – Live’. Based on the bestselling book of his diaries when working as a junior doctor there was much laughter as Kay recounted stories and sang songs about medical conditions as diverse as yellow fever and OCD and described in gory detail episodes from his years in Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

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Medics at Medway

A new local medical school opened its doors in 2020. Kent and Medway Medical School offers first-class medical education and research, combining the strengths and expertise of two universities: Canterbury Christ Church University and University of Kent. The medical school will offer a five-year Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degree with medical placements in Primary, Community, Mental Health and Secondary Care settings across Kent and Medway.

A group of RIC Year 12 students enjoyed a fascinating morning on a guided tour round several of the departments at Medway Maritime Hospital this term. Sadly, cameras were strictly forbidden as we were allowed privileged access to the wards and behind-the-scenes areas. While some of the students were interested in Medicine others were interested in allied careers such as Dentistry, Physiotherapy, Pharmacy and Biomedical Engineering. Seeing the CT and Ultra sound scanners in operation was fascinating, but what seemed to catch everyone’s imagination was the robot in the Pharmacy Department! No one predicted that this would be the students’ highlight of the day. Many thanks indeed to Felicity Lucas at the Medway Trust for helping to organise such an informative visit. We hope to take another group of aspiring medics next term and see even more departments in operation.


Young Person’s Medical Conference

RIC's partners at Dukes Education run the Young Person’s Medical Conference in London each year and our RIC's prospective doctors attend each year as part of their medical programme. It’s the only medical conference in the UK aimed entirely at students aiming to apply to Medical School. Designed to emulate the global conferences doctors and medical staff attend worldwide every year, the Young Person’s Medical Conference offers students a taste of the ever-evolving world of Medicine, the new advances in technology and care changing the way we treat patients today, as well as expert guidance on how to begin on your own path to becoming a medical professional. Students are immersed in the world of Medicine from the minute they walk through the doors of the conference, which is held in London’s famed medical district. Talks from leading medical practitioners are complemented by hands-on medical exercises such as learning to stitch a wound, and workshops from medical admissions tutors and consultants on how to make a successful application to medical school.

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Alternative routes to medicine

With up to 10 applicants per place at UK medical schools it is inevitable that every year there will be students with top grades and good work experience that are left disappointed. With international students there are additional challenges in preparing applications. The medical schools operate a quota system for overseas applicants so it is particularly important that applications are targeted strategically.

With so few UK universities welcoming A level retake students it is more usual for students determined to study medicine at undergraduate level to consider overseas options such as those available in Spain, the Caribbean and Eastern Europe. These courses however also require good A level grades and convincing work experience. Also growing in popularity are graduate routes into medicine and undergraduate courses that allow students the opportunity to transfer to medicine such as at Exeter where the Medical School allows up to ten per cent of Medical Sciences students to transfer to the first year of the BMBS Medicine programme after completion of their first year. Such transfers are also competitive- the Exeter option is for students with AAB at A level who achieve high average scores of 1st or 2:1 level. These students will be invited to attend a selection interview but no UKCAT scores will be required. At RIC we offer intensive one year A level Science and Maths courses that have been successfully taken by mature students and graduates changing direction.

There are also some emerging private options for aspiring doctors but only those with deep pockets as well as top A level results need apply. The private University of Buckingham has launched a new medical school with fees for UK, EU and Overseas students set at £35,525 per year while London’s well established Queen Mary University are charging £25,500 per year for their new private medical training venture on the Maltese island of Gozo.

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