Curriculum Overview
Year 1

Your very first term here at Aberdeen sets the scene for the next five years of the MBChB course. Term 1 starts by providing you with the knowledge and understanding of medical sciences and the disease processes that underpin medicine during Foundations of Medical Science and Disease.

The systems-based course commences in term 2 with the study of two major systems; the respiratory and the cardiovascular systems.

Our integrated systems-based course uses clinical cases to act as a focus for teaching. This means we teach you about the appropriate anatomy, physiology & biochemistry of each of the body systems, as they are explored, as well as the disease processes that disorganise normal structure and function within each system.

The clinical cases that we use illustrate the use of appropriate investigations and treatments that are undertaken. You will learn how to explore patients' symptoms and perform clinical examination for each of the systems studied, in a safe and monitored environment but you will also get the opportunity to practise your newly acquired skills in the hospital setting from Year 1!

The teaching of communication skills is also fully integrated alongside an introduction to the demands of professional practice and patient care.

Beginning in Year 1, students undertake the Foundations of Primary Care (FPC) course  which uses a network of local general practices. The course aims to generate an appreciation of the physical, psychological and social roles of humans as individuals within the setting of society, with particular reference to health.

Towards the end of Year 1, you will undertake your first 4-week Student Selected Component(SSC) which involves project-based small group work.

Year 2

The systems-based teaching and the Foundations of Primary Care continue to develop in Year 2 where you continue to increase your knowledge and skills as you work your way through the next group of body systems. A second 4-week SSC will be undertaken, focussing on molecular mechanisms of disease.

You will also experience a huge variety of weekly clinical attachments working alongside and shadowing various members of the multi-disciplinary hospital team. Some examples include; scrubbing up for a session in theatre; shadowing the minor injuries nurse specialists in the Emergency Department and spending time in one of the busy medical wards.

Year 3

The study of the systems and the Foundations of Primary Care course are completed in Year 3. The SSC in third year provides a unique opportunity to study Medical Humanities for a six week module. A wide range of subjects will be available for students to choose from; recent examples have included History of Art, Spirituality, Health Economics, Disability Studies etc.

Again in Year 3, you will get to experience a wide range of bi-weekly clinical attachments and by the end of the year, you will be able to perform a complete head-to-toe examination of your patients.

The final term in Year 3 will commence with a SSC exploring the wider public health aspects of medicine - Clinical Effectiveness. After a short break, you will start the first of nine five-week clinical rotations that will be undertaken throughout Year 4.

Year 4

In Year 4, students develop their diagnostic and management skills for both individual patients and patient populations of all ages, with medical conditions affecting any of the body systems.

  • Students undertake nine five-week clinical blocks during which experience will be gained in many different clinical areas and disciplines including:
    • General Practice
    • Orthopaedics / A & E / ITU / Anaesthetics / Rheumatology
    • Haematology / Oncology / Radiology / Palliative Care / Endocrinology / Plastics
    • Care of the Elderly / Psychiatry
    • Child Health / Infection
    • CNS / Stroke / Dermatology / Ophthalmology / ENT
    • GI / Renal / Nutrition
    • Reproductive / GUM / Breast
    • Cardiology / Respiratory / Clinical Pharmacology / Vascular
  • At least one of these clinical blocks will be undertaken in Inverness. However, students may choose to undertake the Remote and Rural option for all the blocks in Year 4, and these students will be based in Inverness for the year

During these blocks, students attend various clinical settings including wards, out-patient clinics, general practices, operating theatres and other places of work. First-hand experience will be gained of how doctors in all the specialties actually go about their practice.

Please note that the information described above is the current course structure.  The Year 4 curriculum is currently under review and from 2018/19 a new curriculum will be delivered in this year.  Further information will be published as soon as it is available.

Year 5

Year 5 is very much the apprentice year where students prepare for the competent, safe, effective and professional practice of medicine as a doctor. This year comprises of five courses:

  • A Medical Specialty (student chooses from an adult medical specialty, paediatrics and medicine for the elderly).
  • A Surgical Specialty (student chooses from a surgical specialty, obstetrics and gynaecology and anaesthetics / intensive care).
  • General Practice or Psychiatry.
  • A project-based elective on a medical topic, often undertaken overseas.
  • An advanced Professional Practice Block (PPB) giving you more of the professional skills required of doctors for the practice of medicine in the years after qualification.

All final year students complete Student Assistantships in their medical, surgical and GP/Psychiatry attachments. The focus of the placement is to learn what is required post-graduation when you will be working as a foundation doctor. Within your allocated clinical team and under supervision you will be expected to perform the day to day tasks of a junior doctor. It is hoped that by the end of the placement that you will feel more confident with the knowledge and skills required for successful practice in the early years.

Some students may wish to continue to undertake Remote and Rural attachments for a second year for some or all of Year 5.


MBChB Overview


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Exams are never a popular feature of any undergraduate curriculum, but the Medical School has a duty to ensure that our graduates have achieved a safe and satisfactory standard of performance in all the elements of medical practice.

Assessment is built in throughout the five years of the course, this helps ensure that basic skills are mastered before moving on to more advanced topics.

Since medicine is not simply a theoretical subject, teaching and learning covers knowledge, skills and attitudes so assessment must therefore do the same.  

Formative Assessments

Formative assessments are widely distributed within the course and their purpose is to provide feedback to students on how well they are performing.

There is no sanction or penalty for failing these "practice" exams - they are intended to provide an early warning to students that they are not reaching the required standard. There are extensive support mechanisms within the School and formative exams often help staff to identify students who need help for one reason or another, eg because of illness or personal or financial difficulties.

Summative Assessments

Summative assessments are degree exams, usually at the end of a year. These are the "official" assessments that determine whether a student is good enough to proceed to the next year of the course, or to graduate at the end of the course. Students normally have two opportunities to pass such assessments.

A variety of assessment methods are used to carry out formative and summative assessments including:

Written Exams

These test factual knowledge, but can also test clinical reasoning/diagnostic skills and, to a lesser extent, attitudes. The format of written exams includes short answer questions, extended matching questions and single best answer questions.

Course Work

In some courses, essays or reports are written. Some courses also involve students working in groups to produce posters or oral presentations.

Clinical Exams

Clinical skills include history taking, communication skills and examination technique. Diagnostic skills, knowledge of disease management and a wide range of professional skills including ethics are also encompassed within clinical exams. These are tested in the following way:

Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCE)

  • OSCEs comprise of a sequence of stations, usually between 12 to 18, each of which tests the candidate on his/her ability to perform a specific clinical task or solve a clinical problem in an allotted time period.
After Graduation

Outcome of the Course


At the end of the undergraduate programme you will receive your MBChB degree, which is a primary medical qualification (PMQ). Holding a PMQ entitles you to provisional registration with the General Medical Council, subject only to its acceptance that there are no Fitness to Practise concerns that need consideration. Provisional registration is time limited to a maximum of three years and 30 days (1125 days in total). After this time period your provisional registration will normally expire.

Provisionally registered doctors can only practise in approved Foundation Year 1 posts: the law does not allow provisionally registered doctors to undertake any other type of work. To obtain a Foundation Year 1 post you will need to apply during the final year of your undergraduate programme through the UK Foundation Programme Office selection scheme, which allocates these posts to graduates on a competitive basis. All suitably qualified UK graduates have found a place on the Foundation Year 1 programme, but this cannot be guaranteed, for instance if there were to be an increased number of competitive applications.

Successful completion of the Foundation Year 1 programme is normally achieved within 12 months and is marked by the award of a Certificate of Experience. You will then be eligible to apply for full registration with the General Medical Council. You need full registration with a licence to practise for unsupervised medical practice in the NHS or private practice in the UK.

Although this information is currently correct, students need to be aware that regulations in this area may change from time to time.

There is some discussion about whether to remove provisional registration for newly qualified doctors. If this happens then UK graduates will receive full registration as soon as they have successfully completed an MBChB (or equivalent) degree. It should be noted that it is very likely that UK graduates will still need to apply for a training programme similar to the current Foundation Programme and that places on this programme may not be guaranteed for every UK graduate.

The GMC is currently considering the introduction of a formal assessment that UK medical graduates would need to pass in order to be granted registration with a licence to practise. Although no final decision has been taken as to whether or when such an exam will be introduced applicants should be aware that the GMC envisages that future cohorts of medical students may need to pass parts of a medical licensing assessment before the GMC will grant them registration with a licence to practise.

Postgraduate Foundation Programmes (2 Years)

The Foundation year 1 (F1) enables medical graduates to begin to take supervised responsibility for patient care and consolidate the skills that they have learned at medical school.

The second (or F2) year will allow acquisition of further clinical experience in a broader range of posts allowing, in particular, consolidated development of generic skills. There are a number of criteria which require to be fulfilled and successful completion of FY2 results in the granting of the Foundation Achievement of Competency Document (FACD) which is a requirement for application to Specialty Training.

Foundation programmes will comprise a suite of complementary posts, generally of 4 months duration which will include a number of specialties. Cognisant of our unique opportunities to sample remote and rural aspects of clinical practice, for example in the Northern and Western Isles, many of our Foundation Programmes in the North of Scotland Deanery will include components outwith our main hospital centres.

It is anticipated that Aberdeen graduates will typically continue to undertake their early postgraduate training in the Scottish Foundation School. Applications occur through registration with the UK Foundation Programme Office (a UK wide allocation process). The scheme offers a wide range of programmes, each including a variety of specialties, often in more than one location. You may, of course, choose to work elsewhere in the UK. All UK graduates, no matter their nationality, are entitled under current home office regulations to remain in the UK for the duration of the Foundation Programme.

There are a number of academic programmes available for individuals who wish to pursue an academic career at an early stage. These programmes are advertised and recruited to locally by the relevant Deanery/ Foundation School. Currently, there are academic programmes in the North, South East and West Deaneries in Scotland. This occurs prior to the national recruitment process.

Post-Foundation Training and Career Choice

Foundation Programmes allow a wider taste of different aspects of medical practice than was formerly the case. In addition, taster sessions are available during the programme to try out specialties that you are interested in. This, together with careers sessions within the teaching programme, should help young doctors in choosing a specialty option for subsequent training. The Postgraduate Dean's Staff are always very happy to devote time to doctors who require information about career options for postgraduate training in any branch of medical practice. The Foundation Tutors will play a key role in supporting the doctors at this time and some Foundation Tutors have a specific responsibility for careers.

Specialty Training

The next step in postgraduate medical education, following on from Foundation Programmes, is Specialty Training (ST). There are currently 65 different specialties. General Practice training has also changed and it is now treated the same as other specialties. There have been significant changes in this from the traditional processes. The main difference, is that a doctor applies for training in the speciality of their choice. If successful, a doctor is awarded a National Training Number (NTN) and commences training. On successful completion, the doctor is awarded a Certificate on Completion of Training (CCT). This then allows a doctor to be on the Specialty Register and work as a consultant. The length of time of the training varies from specialty to specialty. In addition, it is competency based so the time served is indicative. In medicine, and only medicine, the doctor will complete a two year "core medical training" and then be allocated to a medical specialty.

Doctors who are unsuccessful in obtaining a Specialty Training post may be able to obtain a Fixed Term Speciality Training Appointment (FTSTA). These are for one year only, do count towards training but do not have a NTN associated with them. Doctors in FTSTA posts will be able to apply to ST posts the following year.

All training is now approved by the Postgraduate Medical Education Board. This includes the training programmes, the approval of the curriculum and the award of the CC.

Academic Medicine

A proportion of graduates with an aptitude for research and teaching follow a career in academic medicine. They will almost invariably proceed on to a degree by thesis eg, MD, ChM or PhD. Individuals who wish to pursue a Consultant appointment in a teaching hospital may also find this form of higher degree invaluable. Potential academics of the future are mentored in Aberdeen and encouraged to apply for the Academic Foundation Programme (

For more detailed career information also see:

Planning your Medical Career

The NHS National Medical Careers website contains lots of valuable information to assist you in planning your medical career

International Medical Graduates

UK graduates from overseas who have completed the Foundation Programme and who hope to stay in the UK for further training, may obtain further information from the General Medical Council website.