Hello to all the teeth lovers! I’m here to help you through the dental application. Here’s some of my advice.
Work Attachment / Job Shadowing
Work attachment is of utmost importance, not only because it can be one of the university’s requirements, but also because the valuable experience that you gain from it can help you to decide if you really like dentistry. Unfortunately, it could be pretty hard to find work attachment opportunities, especially in government hospitals. Instead, you can try to contact private clinics or even volunteer in the dental department. It would be best to do a two-week work attachment as some universities make it a must. During the work attachment, make use of this opportunity to the fullest to observe and LEARN!
- Bring a small notebook and jot down the interesting things that you have observed.
- Try asking the dentists some questions if you want, for instance, about dental stuff, their work experience, etc. But of course, this must be done when there is no patient.
- Try talking to the dental nurses during break as they are the ones who work closely with the dentists. From there, you will realise the importance of good teamwork.
Writing personal statement could be tedious because if you want to stand out from thousands of applicants; it’s no easy task.
- Some might tend to use all those very bombastic words to make it impressive. I would advise you to keep it simple and show yourself clearly in your personal statement. Let the admission tutors feel your passion and picture you.
- Avoid redundancy as the admission tutors might get bored as they read your personal statement.
- Avoid letting too many people to check your personal statement. Too many opinions will definitely distort the originality of your personal statement.
- Avoid faking experience or achievement. You can’t really fake it when it comes to the real interview.
- Be yourself.
This admission test is all about timing, I would say. Practise your speed! You can buy books, get some practice online for free or buy the online practice.
- Verbal reasoning – Practise speed-reading as it would be of great help because the time provided is very limited. Get the gist of the questions and then answer them.
- Quantitative reasoning – Practise your speed again! Get used to the PC calculator as provided during the test. Always make use of the UKCAT mock exams as the format is entirely the same. Let me remind you that you can actually use keyboards to key in numbers and for me, it is way faster. Do mental calculations if possible to save time. To be honest, the real exam questions are rather straightforward compared to what you find in some UKCAT books such as the 600 UKCAT Questions book. So don’t worry if you score very low for this section during practice.
- Abstract reasoning – Do as much practice as you can. You will figure out the common patterns (number of edges, vertices, etc.) after a lot of practice. During the real test, if you get stuck at one question, skip the question and flag it. The clock is ticking. Get back to the question after you’ve completed all the other questions. You can just randomly choose one answer first, in case you don’t have time to get back to this question later.
- Decision Analysis – Read the code carefully and there shouldn’t be any problem as the time provided for this section is quite ample. Nonetheless, don’t take it lightly. Link the codes and think carefully.
- Situational Judgement Test – There’s not much practice for this new section. Just do your best!
Overall, focus and don’t panic.
There are UKCAT and non-UKCAT universities. You can make your decision based on your UKCAT score. Try to check out on how each university uses UKCAT score in the selection process. The weightage might vary between universities. All in all, you must choose the universities that you like as you’re going to spend five years there.
Once you’ve gotten an interview offer, congratulations, you’re almost there to step into your dream university. Please note that some universities hold their interviews in UK so you have to fly over to UK for your interview. If you have more than one interview in UK, you can contact the universities and try to reschedule your interviews. Make all the interviews in one trip as travelling to UK would be quite exhausting and expensive. Normally, the interviews start from November up to April. Some interview preparation tips are as below:
- Have a look at normal interview questions (“Why dentistry?”, “Tell me about your work attachment”, etc.) as you can expect these questions in most interviews.
- Read up on dental ethics. You will be given a scenario and asked what you should do in this case and why. Remember to discuss it from different perspectives.
- BASIC dental knowledge. I couldn’t stress more that it is BASIC dental stuff that you should know unless you’ve stated some other dental stuff in your personal statement.
- Have a glance at the dental care system in UK and your home country. Sometimes, you might be asked to compare them.
- Revise your personal statement and know them inside-out. Some interviewers will ask you questions solely based on your personal statement. So again, don’t try to fake any experience or achievement. It would be very obvious during the interview.
- Do some research on the university before interview. You might get asked “Why this university?”. Before interview, try to walk around the campus to have a look at the environment and maybe talk to the current dental students there. It is your only chance to get to know the university better.
- During the interview, be confident and just be yourself!
- Keep in mind that your interview performance is very important. For some universities, it is the sole determinant to decide if you can actually get the offer. So rest well on the day before your interview.
Waiting for the universities’ reply can be very torturing. Nevertheless, honestly there’s nothing much that you can do at this moment. Focus on your studies now and go all-out for your A-levels! If you got an offer, congratulations! What you need to do now is to meet the conditions offered by the university. Study hard! If you got rejected, don’t give up! You can always take a gap year and reapply next year if you’re really into dentistry. Utilise the gap year to the fullest by volunteering, doing more work attachment and so on.
To sum up, the whole dental application is not easy but it is not “mission impossible” either. Don’t feel intimidated by the limited international places. If dentistry is really what you want, go for it and you will have no regret! All the best in your application! ☺
Chong Xue Mei is currently a second year Dentistry student at the King’s College London School of Dentistry and Medicine.