Preparing for selection success: Socio‐demographic differences in opportunities and obstacles

Dawn Jackson, Derek Ward, Juliana Chizo Agwu, Austen Spruce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Downloads (Pure)



There is a growing drive to improve the heterogeneity of medical school cohorts. However, those from lower socio-economic groups remain under-represented. Understanding the methods used by applicants to prepare for medical school selection, and the challenges they face with respect to opportunities and access, may provide important insights to this lack of diversity. This research considered the influence of socio-demographic background on preparation for medical school selection and on the successful offer of a place.

All eligible applicants to a large UK medical school were invited to complete an anonymous online survey (international and mature applicants excluded), detailing demographic data and experiences of preparing for selection and challenges faced (n = 1885). Selection outcomes across all UK medical schools were examined for consenting students (n = 955). Univariate and multivariate analyses explored the associations of preparatory activities and demographic data with subsequent offer of a place at a UK medical school.

The survey response rate was 66.4%. Clinical work experience (hospital or general practice), fee-based courses for admissions tests and school preparation courses for interview were activities significantly associated with the offer of a place (P < .05). Those attending independent (private) schools most frequently reported school support and fee-based courses to support preparation (P < .01). Applicants from state non-selective (SNS) schools and lower socio-economic groups more frequently reported challenges in accessing fee-based support, school interview courses and clinical work experience (P ≤ .02).

Clinical work experience, commercial courses for admissions tests and school-based support for interview represent areas of preparation that are associated with success. However, they also represent areas that are more challenging to access for demographic groups traditionally under-represented in medicine. Addressing complex issues of fairness in highly selective higher education settings can appear an insurmountable task. These preparatory activities represent key areas for applicants, schools and institutions to explore and address.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
JournalMedical Education
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 9 Apr 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


Dive into the research topics of 'Preparing for selection success: Socio‐demographic differences in opportunities and obstacles'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this