So, you want to become a dentist? To qualify as a dentist in the UK, you must complete a five-year dentistry programme at one of the dental schools approved by the General Dental Council. On completion, you will be awarded a Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) and qualify as a dentist. The dental school application process can be overwhelming and complicated. This article will guide you on what you need to consider before applying for Dentistry.
Each dental school will have its own entry requirements and methods of selecting students for interview. Some schools place more emphasis on the UCAT, whilst others focus more on A-level and GCSE grades. It is best to look at the website and prospectuses of each school. You can also find more information here.
Most dental schools require at least two science subjects, including either Biology and/or Chemistry for your A-levels. The third A-level subject can be anything from English Literature, Design Technology or even a Foreign Language. Many students do the traditional Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics combination, but your subject choice does not affect your chance of getting into dental schools. However, don’t worry if you didn’t take the correct science subjects at A-level. Both Manchester and Leeds offer dentistry courses with a preliminary year for applicants who achieved highly at A-level, but did not take the required science subjects. Most dental schools, apart from Barts and King’s, require at least 3 As at A-level in one sitting. Barts (Queen Mary) and King’s require either A*AA at A-level in one sitting.
Dental schools also accept International Baccalaureate (IB) qualification. You must have taken either Biology or Chemistry and a second science of maths. Dental schools also accept many other high school qualifications from around the world, so check with each dental school before you apply. Most dental schools require 35-37 points for IB. Barts and Kings require 38 and 35 points in IB for Barts and King’s respectively.
Dental schools also accept Scottish Highers if you are from Scotland. Most dental schools require grades AAA or AAAAB, including Biology and Chemistry in one sitting. They also require grades AA in Advanced Highers in two of the subjects offered at Scottish Highers, including Chemistry and/or Biology.
If you haven’t met the grade requirements, it is not at the end of the world! There are many alternative options still available to you. Bristol, King’s, Leeds and Liverpool offer dentistry courses with a foundation year for applicants from a low socioeconomic background, who demonstrate a high ability but do not quite meet the grade requirements. Furthermore, you can also undertake a Bachelor degree in another subject instead, with a view to applying to dentistry as a graduate. Graduate entry options include the regular 5 year pathway, as well as Fast-Track 3 or 4 year courses. Aberdeen, UCLan and KCL, Leeds all offer Fast-Track graduate entry courses.
The University Clinical Aptitude Test or the UCAT is a two-hour computer-based admission test that helps dental schools select applicants with the most appropriate mental abilities, attitudes and professional behaviours required for dentistry. It consists of five sections; verbal reasoning, decision making, quantitative reasoning, abstract reasoning and situational judgement. Each section contains a number of questions in a multiple-choice format. There is no negative marking for incorrect answers and your performance on one question does not affect other questions. Check out the UCAT website to find out more about the exam and how to book your place.
The majority of dental schools, apart from Leeds, require you to sit the UCAT exam the summer before submitting your UCAS application. This means you need to complete your UCAT exam at test centres between 26 July to 29 September 2021 for the 2021-2022 admission cycle.
Dental school have different ways of using your UCAT score or how it is weighted in applications. Some schools also have a minimum score cut-off point and others may prefer band 1 in the SJT section. It is important to compare your UCAT result with respect to how it may be used by each dental school before you apply.
The Biomedical Admission Test (BMAT) is a two-hour aptitude test used as part of the admissions process at Leeds Dental School. It tests your ability to apply scientific and mathematical knowledge, as well as problem solving, critical thinking and written communication skills that are essential in dentistry. Leeds is the only dental school that requires you to sit this test.
As part of your UCAS application, you will need to write a personal statement. The personal statement is a 4000-character essay that helps universities to get to know you better and understand why you have chosen dentistry. You should write about your work experience, extra-curricular activities and voluntary work in your personal statement.
Dental schools are looking at student’s determination, communication, team working, organisation, maturity, resilience, manual dexterity and problem-solving skills. You can include any extracurricular activities you may enjoy, however, ensure you talk about the skills you gained from these activities in your personal statement and during your interview. Dental schools are looking for students who have participated as fully as possible in school and to the outside community.
Traditionally one would gain work experience by shadowing in a dental practice. However, it may now be quite difficult to find dentistry work experience, since the Covid-19 pandemic. Some universities have already updated their admissions policy to reflect these challenges.
There are also many alternatives to the traditional work experience placement. You can complete online courses such as ‘Discover Dentistry‘ by the University of Sheffield to learn more about a career in dentistry. You can also read dentistry-related books or listen to podcasts to learn more about what being a dentist entails. Not to forget this very website, where you can find information on the various career pathways available in dentistry. Many dental schools, including Barts, are also offering virtual work experience, so check each dental school’s website and social media pages for more on these opportunities. You can write about all of these options as a form of work experience in your personal statement if you haven’t managed to find any clinical based work experience.
Finally, dental schools are looking for students who enjoy helping others and have contributed in some way to the betterment of the wider community. Volunteering is a great way to demonstrate this. Furthermore, it will also provide an opportunity to talk about communication skills and empathy you will have developed from volunteering
Applying to dental school can be overwhelming, however, it will be worthwhile once you are accepted and eventually graduate as a qualified dentist.
There are many online resources you can use to help navigate the dental school application process. There are also many dental students sharing their experience on social media platforms, such as YouTube and Instagram, to help aspiring dentists just like you. Reach out to them or senior students at your school and ask for help.
Good luck with your dental school application!
19 MAY 2021
UCAS Undergraduate Apply opens for 2021 entry.
8 SEPTEMBER 2021
Applicants can complete their applications and universities can start making decisions on short-listing. So apply as soon as possible!
15 OCTOBER 2021
Applications should arrive at UCAS by 18:00 References should be completed before the application can be sent. So check with your college for their own internal deadline.