In recent years there has been a big change underway in the medical profession. Faced with the ever increasing demands being placed on the modern doctor coupled with ever increasing patient expectations both from the health system as a whole and from doctors individually the NHS has been quietly modernising the way it selects student doctors for training.
In the past all doctors followed a familiar and well trodden path. Science A levels at school then entry to medical school and finally starting work in the NHS as a junior house doctor after qualification.
In recent years however there has been increasing recognition that this pathway, concentrating as it does on academic ability alone, may not equip doctors with all the necessary skills for the modern workplace. In particular soft skills such as communication skills, empathy and other "life skills" demanded from the modern doctor.
As a result a new pathway to medicine has been created - the graduate entry route.
Under this route, graduates of other disciplines can now also apply to study medicine. Whether they finished their prior degree several years ago and are now working in a career or whether they are still completing their other degree makes no difference.
Also a science background is no longer essential. Your prior degree was in economics or philosophy? No problem.
You will however still have to study some science off your own bat and demonstrate your ability in a grueling 5 hour exam known as the GAMSAT.
This beast of an exam has no fixed pass mark. Instead the universities which have medical degree programs which use it, simply select the top 20% highest scoring candidates every year.
In other words it is a competitive test, you are competing against all the other candidates who are equally desperate to become doctors. It is common for people to end up sitting this dreaded exam three or four times before eventually scoring a high enough mark to be considered for entry to medical school.
Unsurprisingly a whole industry has grown up with the sole aim of helping candidates to pass the GAMSAT as quickly and easily as possible.
Dr Peter Griffiths the creator of Griffiths GAMSAT Review one of the most popular courses aimed at helping people achieve success in GAMSAT says:
"Gamsat is a highly competitive and high stakes test. Having to retake it just once can be extremely expensive not only due to the test entry fees etc, but also due to the opportunity cost of lost income from a year or more delayed start to actually working as a doctor. As a result students are highly motivated to invest in resources which can help..."
Whatever the difficulties the system does seem to be working with more and more universities in the UK, Ireland and Australia now using the GAMSAT test to select trainee doctors and with more being added every year.
It seems that this may well be the future of medical education.
If you're interested in sitting the GAMSAT, Dr Griffiths has his own blog where you can find further information and lots of free Gamsat resources.