Everyone comes back from intercalation with different experiences and opinions depending on where and what they choose to study. I did an intercalated BSc at King’s College London in Physiology. My best advice would be to talk to someone who has already intercalated in the course you are interested in for more information and advice. However, speaking to others who intercalated elsewhere there are some main points we all agree we wish we knew before applying.
Do not underestimate your intercalated year!
The idea of taking “a year off” after your demanding 3rd year may seem like a good enough reason to intercalate but the reality is anything but. Admittedly, you will most definitely have fewer contact hours than in your medical degree, however the content you will cover in those hours will be of much higher detail than we have experienced before. Not only will you be expected to learn from your lectures, but independent reading of up to date journal articles and research papers are essential if you want to come out with a decent degree classification, showing evidence of critical appraisal and independent analysis if you’re aiming for top scores.
My BSc was very scientific. The first month of my year was a steep learning curve and I did find it challenging. However if you choose to apply for courses with more of a humanities emphasis Eg. Ethics, Global Health, Accounting and Management, also be prepared for the challenge of very different teaching styles and assessments.
If you are thinking of applying for a Masters degree, bear in mind that these courses are made for people with prior specialist knowledge so you will be expected to already have a variety of skills (or be able to pick them up very quickly!) if you want to keep up.
Do it for the course.
Many people choose a course to reflect the field of medicine they hope to enter when they qualify. I am still pretty uncertain on that front, so chose a course which I knew would keep my options open. On a personal note, I couldn’t recommend intercalating in Physiology at KCL enough if you’re in a similar position. There is so much variety and flexibility in the modules you can choose from so you can really tailor the degree to your interests.
If you do know what subject area you’re interested in and unsure of where to apply, when comparing courses at different universities look at course content and the modules you will be studying for a better idea of if the course will suit you. Once again, just getting in touch with people who have already studied the course to get their honest opinions was most helpful.
Most importantly, intercalating solely to boost your FPAS score may not always be worth it. A year can be a long time if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing.
Different forms of assessment.
When you intercalate you will be assessed in very different ways from what we are used to at BSMS. Very few courses have multiple choice or short answers question exams. Instead they often examine you with essay-style questions. Throughout the year your coursework will also comprise of multiple essays for your modules.
You will most likely have to conduct your own research on your intercalated year for your dissertation. Again, unlike anything we’ve done before you will be required to conduct experiments and use techniques you’ve never heard of. That said, the majority of intercalators found this the most enjoyable part of their course with a few even getting published!
Where do I live?
Moving to a new city much bigger than Brighton can be intimidating. Many universities offer halls of residence for intercalators, however you may need or want to find your own house. For King’s intercalators I would recommend finding a house in the Old Kent Road or Bermondsey area for the best social life in a relatively cheap (for London!) area. For others, talk to students who have intercalated at that university already for advice about the best locations.
On a more personal note, I couldn’t recommend intercalating enough. I have had the best year and it was great to explore somewhere new. I had plenty of time to join new societies, meet new people and explore London. Overall, if you do choose to intercalate I would say just throw yourself into it all and make the most of it, it’s a great opportunity!