Advice for Referees

Advice for Referees

This page is designed to help Teachers and Careers Advisers deliver appropriate advice to potential medical applicants, such that students understand how to achieve the research and understanding of a medical career, which underpins a successful application. We also offer suggestions on what information we are searching for within the reference about a potential medicine applicant.

Successful UCAS Form Completion

We recommend that the process of planning and research into a medical career be started many months prior to completion of the UCAS form. A late change in career aspirations is perfectly acceptable, providing it is made following appropriate research and the implications of a medical career are clearly understood.

Planning Ahead

Wherever possible, students should study subjects that they will need to take forward to the higher levels, upon which we make our offers.

If there is any concern about the suitability of a subject choice, then please contact the Medical Admissions Office for advice.

If your school has difficulty in timetabling certain subject combinations, please inform the Medical School Admissions Lead and ask for written advice upon how to proceed. It is important to us not to discourage talented students for such reasons.

Unusual or Extenuating Circumstances

Any circumstances which prevent the student from undertaking or completing their university entrance examination syllabus should be explained, either on the UCAS form or by separate letter, to be received by the October deadline. Please see our EC policy for more information.

The UCAS form should be marked indicating whether academic results are under appeal.

Late Decision or Change of Career Path

Applications from candidates who have taken longer to commit themselves to applying for medicine are quite acceptable, providing the decision is made for the right reasons. If the student has clearly not been able to complete the appropriate research, then their application will be disadvantaged.

Should students also later find that they have not undertaken the appropriate academic qualifications, then please ask for advice for the best course of action.

Backup Plan

Should a (Scottish) candidate not achieve our minimum requirements in S5, please contact the Admissions Office for advice, as it is may be possible to make a higher conditional offer upon S6 studies. It is therefore important that the appropriate studies are undertaken to allow a candidate to be considered.

Re-sit candidates can only be considered should there be extenuating circumstances. These should be stated in the Reference and supporting documentation may be required from the student's doctors.

Finally, committed students who clearly have not achieved our minimum requirements could consider application to medicine as graduates, which requires an Honours 2:1 degree. They should NOT be advised that it might be possible to transfer into medicine having commenced the first degree.

Student Research and Completion of the Personal Statement

Rather than just list all the work experience that has been undertaken, it is more revealing if students can tell us what they have learned about a medical career and its implications.

If students have had difficulty in undertaking research, e.g. there are no medical placements available for them locally, then they should inform us of these difficulties and concentrate on researching their careers in other ways.

Completion of the Reference

At Aberdeen, UCAS forms are processed in three stages, where an objective scoring system is used throughout, to assess different aspects of the application:

  • An academic score, based upon our minimum academic requirements (contributes up to 30% of total score).
  • A UCAT score. The score allocated is based upon an applicant's overall performance in the UCAT compared with the performance of all other applicants to Aberdeen. (Contributes 20% of total score).
  • An interview score. Only the top 800 applicants based on the above are likely to be asked to attend for an interview, where the above attributes will be further explored. In addition, the interview will assess communication and interpersonal skills (contributes 50% of total score).

The reference provides us with invaluable information about certain aspects of the application not covered elsewhere in the UCAS form. Given the above outline, we hope referees will inform us about certain key qualities a student may possess:

  • Good personal organisation and time management, allowing for academic achievement, as well as leading a full and balanced life.
  • A good sense of social responsibility, including evidence of caring for others, compassion and empathy. Contribution to school-based activities, particularly those of a mentoring nature.
  • Demonstration of good communication skills, both in listening as well as speaking.
  • Honesty, reliability and trustworthiness.
  • Evidence of the ability to work with peers and teachers, ie in teams.  Are students able to take on a leadership role if needed, as well as integrate, be flexible and co-operate with their colleagues?
  • Early indications of students' ability to take responsibility, which will be expected of them as postgraduates.
  • Evidence that the student is a well-rounded individual, rather than simply an academic. A range of outside interests, e.g. sporting, creative, musical, etc. will allow for relaxation in a busy course and career, as well as developing a sense of identity with one's future patients.
  • Whether the student is a sociable individual, clearly enjoying the company of their peers?

We do realise the pressures that are put upon teachers, particularly as references are no longer confidential.  However, should there be certain aspects of an application that you feel the Admission Lead should know about, it is important we recognise your concerns.

Further Points to Note:

  • We include the S5 Scottish Highers plus S6 study predictions as part of our academic scoring system, along with predictions for other qualifications not yet completed, e.g. GCE A-Levels, degrees and international qualifications. We cannot process the forms without these.
  • If the candidate has needed to repeat some studies (e.g. a whole year), please inform us of this and the reasons why this was deemed necessary. This is more helpful to the student than for us to note a discrepancy in the times that examinations were undertaken.
  • If a student has taken an atypical academic pathway, we should be informed of the reasons why our required subjects and grades have not been undertaken or achieved.
  • A reference that simply describes students' academic studies is not helpful. We value referees' comments on students' other abilities and personal attributes.