How to become a GP

The RCGP is here to help you explore and discover the endless possibilities general practice has to offer.

Becoming a GP is incredibly enriching and rewarding, it is a career that offers personal and professional development and the ability to engage in a diverse range of opportunities, all of which make a positive impact on those individuals, families and communities that surround us.

Here you’ll be able to discover all you need to know and do in order to become a qualified GP. If you’d like more information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch via students@rcgp.org.uk.

Stage 1: Applying to medical school

When applying to medical school you need to:

Achieve excellent exam results

  • You'll need excellent exam results throughout your school career

Gain work experience

  • Demonstrate that you have developed an understanding of medicine through relevant work experience
  • Gaining work experience is helpful in deciding if you want to be a doctor. However clinical work experience is not essential; some experience working with other people in a caring or service role is desirable, as is any other voluntary or paid work.
  • It is important to reflect upon your work experience, by taking the time to capture and articulate the skills and experiences you’ve gained. Communicating these will enhance your prospects of entering medical school.

Submit a UCAS application

  • Your UCAS statement should include a strong personal statement

Carry out an admissions test

  • Most medical schools expect you to take either the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) or the BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT), but check entry requirements in prospectuses or through the UCAS website.
  • Rather than testing your knowledge, most admissions tests mainly focus on assessing whether you have the range of mental abilities and behavioural attributes considered important for a career in medicine.

Attend an interview

  • They assess the interpersonal skills that are important for medicine
  • To verify and expand on what you have put in your UCAS application
  • To give you the opportunity to decide on the right medical school for you

Top tips

  • You have a choice of 33 UK medical schools but you are only allowed to put four on your UCAS application. Your fifth choice can be used for a different subject.
  • Experience in healthcare is helpful but not essential. If you’re unable to gain work experience simply talking to your local GP is a fantastic way to find out more information.
  • Getting into medical school is highly competitive so make sure you’re likely to achieve the entry requirements - you’ll likely need grade As and A*s. It’s a good idea to select medical schools with a range of offers in case you don’t get into your first choice.
  • Look at the entry requirements for each medical school carefully and apply to the ones that best match your qualifications. For example; if you know you have a good UKCAT score look for medical schools that place a greater emphasis on this as part of their requirements.
  • If you are a mature student, but haven’t obtained a degree, the entry requirements are similar to school leavers, though some universities will expect you to show evidence of recent study/experience.
  • If you’re a graduate, you’ll most probably be expected to have obtained at least a 2:1 and be aware that some medical schools only accept certain degree subjects.

 

Stage 2: Attending medical school

During medical school you will:

  • Complete an undergraduate course at one of 33 UK medical schools.
  • Learn by gaining relevant skills and experiences in basic medical sciences and practical clinical tasks.
  • Experience all aspects of medicine by gaining initial exposure to a variety of specialisms.
  • Carry out clinical placements. These involve supervised practice in approved clinical situations including teaching hospitals, private hospitals and clinics, community health centres and specialist areas, such as early drug and alcohol services.
  • Be assessed in a variety of ways including exams, essays and presenting to groups.
  • But most of all enjoy it! University life offers many opportunities alongside of your medical degree, including a wide range of student societies, sports clubs and co-curricular activities, where you’ll have the opportunity to meet and interact with others. 

Top tips:

  • You will have to pay tuition fees of up to £9,000 per year whilst studying at university. (Dependant upon your country of birth and the location of your chosen medical school) You will also need to fund all your living expenses for the duration of your time at university. However, there is financial help available. 
  • You’ll receive lots of support from tutors, educational and clinical supervisors, fellow students, GP Societies, the RCGP and many more, so never hesitate to ask!
  • You’ll have opportunities to carry out an elective anywhere in the world! An elective is a period spent away from your medical school, often abroad. Many students say its one of their most memorable experiences. 
  • During your fifth year you’ll apply for your Foundation Training. After completing your undergraduate medical degree, the next part of your training as a doctor involves the two year Foundation Training programme. This is in effect your first paid job as a doctor.

 

Stage 3: Foundation training

The training comprises foundation year one (FY1) and foundation year two (FY2). After successful completion of FY1 you will be able to apply for full registration with the GMC.

The foundation programme usually involves six different rotations or placements in medical or surgical specialties. These rotations enable you to practise and gain competence in basic clinical skills. You’ll also be able to develop non-clinical skills such as communication and team work.

Foundation Year 1 (F1)
  • You’ll gain your provisional registration from the General Medical Council (GMC).
  • Foundation years provide newly qualified graduates with an opportunity to develop their skills and knowledge gained at medical school.
  • After successfully completing your F1 year, you’ll receive your full registration with the GMC.
Foundation year 2 (F2)
  • You’ll continue general training whilst gaining continual exposure to a variety of medical environments.
  • You’ll complete a series of rotations in different specialties, allowing you to discover the area of medicine you wish to specialise in.
  • Upon completing your foundation training you must demonstrate a high level of skill and competency in managing acutely ill patients, team work and communication. .
Top tips
  • You will have to apply through a national application process. The Foundation Programme website has full details.
  • You will need to make an online application in the autumn for a Foundation Programme commencing the following summer.
  • Key dates can be found in the UKFPO Applicant's Handbook.
  • You will need to sit the Situational Judgement Test (SJT). This is a multiple choice exam to assess your professional judgement.
Speciality training (GPST) application
  • During F2 you’ll apply for your Speciality Training in General Practice (GPST)
  • Typically you’ll apply in November before undertaking a series of interviews and exams throughout January.
  • Offers are typically made in April, with training commencing in August. (There are also programmes which commence in February with offers made in October, the NRO website has more information)

Stage 4: GP Speciality Training

  • To become a General Practitioner in the UK, you need to gain entry to the General Medical Council’s (GMC) GP register. For most UK trained GPs, this means undertaking a minimum of three years (full time equivalent) of specialty training on a GMC approved programme.
  • The training usually consists of 18 months in hospital posts and 18 months in general practice.
  • The three year specialty training programme for general practice also includes taking the MRCGP examination.
  • Satisfactory completion of the MRCGP is a prerequisite for getting a Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT).
  • Once your specialty training is complete, you’ll receive a Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT) and gain entry to the GMC GP Register.  
Top tips
  • The RCGP GP Specialist Applications (GPSA) team offers individual advice to general practice trainees. The GPSA Team also works with the General Medical Council, deaneries and Local Education Training Boards to ensure that training programmes meet the statutory requirements.
  • To join a GP training programme in the UK, you will need to apply through the National Recruitment Office (NRO). The RCGP is not involved in the recruitment of GP trainees.
  • For more information about the application procedure and entry requirements, please refer to the NRO website.

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