Since you are all reading this blog, I must assume that you are considering applying to medical schools in Italy or have indeed sat the IMAT and are awaiting a potential confirmation of a place. So, I’d like to share my story to help those of you who have just embarked on this eventful journey.
I am currently a second year student at university in the UK, and due to personal circumstances I began researching medicine in Europe. I became aware of Italian medical schools through a friend who had gained admission the previous year. However, it was not until the end of July that I began researching, and once I had made the decision to give it a go, I was fortunate enough this was on deadline day (one hour before registration closed!) — without my knowing. Until this point, Italy had never crossed my mind, and may never have, had I not known this person.
Despite the increasingly large number of candidates sitting the IMAT, I personally feel that Italian medical schools are underrepresented by UK students. I have encountered few who are aware of this. However, over the past two years, this has definitely increased. Most consider Eastern European countries such as Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, if looking for an alternative, which is now surprising, considering the international reputations and quality of teaching alongside cheap tuition fees in Italy — not to forget the opportunity to study in a culturally rich and historic country.
Moving onto the exam itself: since applying to Italy was a very last minute decision, I did not have very long to study for the IMAT. Initially, I was very confused in regards to the content and the extent to which certain topics were required for the exam. There is very little material available in the UK which is specific to the IMAT itself, and I think a course held in London would prove very popular. (There is one held in Italy, but personally I could not cover the cost of the course and living expenses.) Anyway, I used my old GCSE and A-level textbooks to study for the science and maths sections, and I purchased a Cambridge thinking skills book to help me with section one (a purchase which ultimately was useless). I found the IMAT specification on the Cambridge assessment website, and I made sure that I covered each section, making notes and practicing questions. I subsequently used past papers to identify areas with which I struggled, so I could improve on them.
I am familiar with Cambridge Assessment, who write the IMAT, because I have previously sat the BMAT exam for medical schools in the UK. So, I knew to expect a challenging exam. The most difficult aspect for myself was section one, physics and maths. I think the best way to prepare for section one is to practice, practice, practice! — whether this be from past IMAT papers, BMAT or from elsewhere. In hindsight, and considering my results, I would not have wasted any time on physics and maths due to the diversity of content which can appear and the limited number of questions which are actually asked. I did do maths and physics for A levels but since this was two years ago, I was very rusty! I found biology and chemistry the easiest because I have studied beyond the level required at university.
My main piece of advice to those preparing for the IMAT would be to work on your strengths and practice questions. If you have sufficient time to prepare, then focus on areas in which you are weaker. However, in my case I did not have that time, and I felt that I had wasted the time spent preparing for maths and physics.
When the day comes around, I would highly recommend arriving in London (or any test centre) the night before. This will reduce the possibility of being late, and it’ll mean you get a good night’s sleep which is really important!
The run up to results was very nerve-wracking, but do your best to put it out of your mind, because nothing more can be done now (always easier said than done!). Also, get a move on in preparing your DVs, if you haven’t already done so.
Erik Campano is a graduate student in Umeå, Sweden, studying the ethics of artificial intelligence in medicine. He formerly was an academic consultant to the English-language medical school of the University of Turin. Erik completed his Bachelor’s of science in Symbolic Systems (cognitive science) at Stanford University, and then he worked for about eight years as a radio news anchor, before moving to biomedical scientific study and research at the University of Paris and Columbia University. Erik grew up in Connecticut, is a citizen of the United States and Germany, and his family is a mix of Filipino, Italian, and German.
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