Skip to content
Skip to navigation menu


Medicine with a preliminary year (MBBCh)

  • A104

6 years (full-time) / n/a (part-time) / n/a (distance / e-Learning)

Cardiff School of Medicine is long-established, well-resourced and has an international reputation for teaching and research activities.

We are one of the largest medical schools in the UK, rated among the top 10 medical schools in the UK and the top 100 world-wide (1) and among the top five most rapidly improving medical schools in the UK(2).

The ‘Medicine with a Preliminary Year’ programme has been designed for students who have demonstrated high academic potential but have been unable to meet the subject specific requirements for entry on to the five year medical programme i.e. those students who have taken all non-science subjects or no more than one of Biology, Chemistry and Physics.

As a Cardiff student you will have opportunities that aren't available at all medical schools. We combine the strengths of a Russell Group medical school with the flexibility and cutting edge approach of the most modern institutions around the globe, offering you:

  • a portfolio of courses and a range of opportunities to study medicine
  • a cutting-edge curriculum based on evidence gathered from across the world
  • teaching from internationally-renowned researchers and clinicians
  • excellent teaching facilities
  • the whole of Wales as your classroom, meaning you get a breadth of clinical experience ranging from small, rural GP practices and small cottage hospitals to fast-paced city A&E departments and complex surgical specialties
  • a smooth transfer into the first year of your career as a doctor

(1) QS World University Rankings 2011 (2) National Student Survey 2011

Medicine with a preliminary year

Key Facts

UCAS Code A104
Duration 6 years
How to apply
Typical places available The School admits 284 home students and EU and 25 Overseas each year to its undergraduate degree programmes
Typical applications received Over 3,000
Scholarships & Bursaries
Typical A-level offer AAA
Admissions Tutors Undergraduate Medical Admissions
Tel Number 029 2068 8113
Email address
School website

Our curriculum blends basic medical sciences, pathological sciences and clinical experiences. It is delivered using a variety of teaching methods, including small-group tutorials, lectures and practical laboratory-based sessions. Clinical skills are learned initially in clinical skills sessions, using models and simulators, before being put into practice on clinical placements.

In order to produce the best doctors, we believe that patients must be the focus of a medical degree. Throughout your course you will therefore spend time with patients in clinical settings in order to provide context to what you are learning. As you progress, your exposure to patients increases along with the complexity of your clinical cases and your responsibilities for patients’ care.

Clinical placement teaching takes place at hospitals, community medical centres and over 150 general practices across the whole of Wales, meaning we can offer you a uniquely diverse clinical learning experience.

Your skills and professional behaviours are developed throughout the curriculum so that when you graduate you are fully prepared for your Foundation Programme and postgraduate medical training.

The course structure is as follows:

Preliminary Year (Year 0)

During the preliminary year, you will study twelve modules alongside students from a variety of other science disciplines. The combination of modules you’ll study will depend on your prior qualifications but normally includes modules on biological and chemical sciences, mathematics and a range of optional modules in other subjects such as psychology and languages.

Provided you satisfactorily complete the Preliminary year, you will progress onto Year 1 of the five year MBBCh programme.

Years 1 and 2 - Core Science and Clinical Practice

This phase of your studies will be divided into two stages in which you will be learning core science and clinical practice simultaneously.

Introduction to Science & Health

At the start of Year 1 we’ll introduces you to the core knowledge, skills and behaviour expected of a doctor, to prepare you for the challenging and exciting programme of study ahead.

  • Your Introduction will run for the first 12 weeks, covering the basics of anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, cell and molecular biology, immunology, microbiology and pathology
  • You will also develop the fundamental communication, clinical skills and professionalism required of a doctor
  • This is supported by short clinical experience days, in hospitals and GP practices around Cardiff.

Clinical Scenarios

The remainder of Years 1 and 2 is based on a series of clinical scenarios linking the basic sciences to common clinical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and obesity

  • You will learn to address medical problems from first principles and develop your scientific reasoning skills
  • Small group sessions will be supported by lectures and seminars, access to life science and clinical skills resources, a Doctoring programme focusing on Professionalism, Ethics and Personal Development, and patient contact, all linked to the cases you are working on
  • To give you real experience of such cases, you will spend one day a week seeing patients with similar conditions in local hospitals, general practices and other community based services around South East Wales
  • Initially you will concentrate on normal structure and function but, as the cases progress, you will move on to more complex clinical presentations which focus on abnormal structure and function
  • Whilst on placement you will be working alongside other healthcare professionals and you will benefit from a range of inter-professional learning opportunities
  • Teaching will be based at our state-of-the-art facilities in the Cochrane building (our flagship £18m development on the site of University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff) and at the School of Biosciences as well as rotating through regional Clinical Teaching & Learning centres in Merthyr Tydfil, Bridgend, and Newport.

Years 3 and 4 - Learning to Care

During Years 3 and 4 you will spend most of your time on clinical placements as you learn medicine by following patients through the healthcare system.

  • Each year has three 8-10 week placements, in South East Wales in Year 3 and across Wales in Year 4, offering you a variety of clinical learning experiences and exposure to life as a front line doctor
  • You’ll get broader experience of the healthcare system in your 3rd year by following patient ‘pathways’ through your placements, looking closely at what happens to people as they go through the ‘Hospital Front Door’, as Oncology patients dealing with malignant disease, and when they are suffering from Chronic Diseases such as diabetes and ischaemic heart disease
  • In your 4th year your time will be concentrated on increasingly specialist and complex cases. You’ll continue to focus on Chronic Disease but also explore the specific medical needs of Children, Women and the Family, and of Clinical Neuroscience and Psychological Medicine patients
  • Working as part of a clinical team, you will undertake your share of the on-call duties, learn the essentials of excellent clinical care, become proficient at clinical assessment and come to understand the investigation, management and treatment of common disease
  • Between placements you’ll learn the fundamentals of good medical practice and the science needed as a competent medic, as well as having expert teaching on pathology, therapeutics, social sciences and ethics
  • In Year 3 you will have opportunities for multiple short projects or a single longitudinal study, while in Year 4 a ‘Science in Practice’ block will give you exposure to leading University and NHS experts and researchers.

Year 5 - Consolidated Preparation for Practice

Our unique Harmonisation Programme brings together all of the elements of your course and blends existing knowledge and skills with those required by the Foundation Programme in order to better prepare you for life after graduation.

  • Your integration within clinical teams and responsibility for patient care will increase through this final year of study, which focuses on preparing you for your role as a doctor so that you are in the best possible position to start work within the NHS and ready for your postgraduate studies
  • This year you will focus on the assessment and management of acute and chronic clinical presentations, with increasing responsibility throughout the year
  • There will be two 8-week clinical placements, one hospital based and the other community (general practice) based, where you will be expected to contribute to patient care under supervision
  • Learning will be predominantly based in the workplace, with sessions in the simulation centre and small group sessions designed to refine your clinical thinking and decision-making
  • These placements will be followed by an 8-10 week student elective at a destination of your choice, anywhere in the world, in order to study aspects of medicine that capture your imagination
  • You will also have four 2-week core learning blocks that will address important aspects of a medical career. These Cardiff-based activities, themed “Preparing for Practice”, “Changing Practice”, “Science in Practice” and “Practise for Practice,” will provide you with a better understanding of what to expect when you start work, including team-working, leadership, service improvement, academic research skills, and life as a Foundation doctor
  • The Harmonisation Programme will culminate in the senior student assistantship, allowing you to really work as part of the clinical team by directly managing patients under the supervision of the hospital teams. This will take place in the hospital where you will undertake your first Foundation (F1) job, if it is in Wales. If your F1 job is to be elsewhere, you can choose either to arrange a senior student assistantship at that hospital yourself or else to have us organise your senior student assistantship for you in Wales
  • The final year will ensure that you are ready for your career in medicine, consolidating the skills and knowledge required to perform at the highest level within the NHS.

Tailoring your Studies

Within our programmes we offer a range of opportunities to tailor your learning and study specific aspects in depth.

These include:

  • Student Selected Components (SSCs)
    In all years of the MB BCh programme at Cardiff University there are opportunities for you to explore in depth areas of medicine which are of interest to you. You choose your speciality, location and tutor and you will work with the tutor to design the project, meaning that you will be undertaking study tailored exactly to your wants and needs. Your projects can be undertaken anywhere in Wales and, in your Year 5 Elective module, can take place anywhere in the world.
  • Intercalate
    An intercalated degree will take you much deeper into a particular area of medicine, and will earn you a BSc. Each year approximately 100 Cardiff University medical students get the chance to spend an additional ‘intercalating’ year between Years 3 and 4 or Years 4 and 5, studying in a programme of international academic standard.
    Our popular Modular Medical Intercalated Programme is designed to enhance your life-long learning skills, aid you in developing research based practice and facilitate your career development, especially if you have an interest in medical research.
  • Opportunities to Study Abroad (Elective)
    As your studies progress, you can apply for a placement in the UK or at one of our worldwide partner institutions.

    An elective is a clinical placement designed to ensure the development of your knowledge, skills and attitudes through a work topic not covered by core teaching. The elective module is part of the SSC programme (student selected components), and is a module which allows you to visit any medical institution in the world for a period of up to 8 weeks! You choose the country, you choose the institution, you choose the speciality and you choose your tutor. Spend some time in a modern hospital in California or experience the difficult medical conditions in Ethiopia….it’s your call.

The School of Medicine provides an educational experience based on academic excellence, rooted in world-leading research and scholarship. The curriculum has been developed using evidence-based best practice in order to provide you with the best possible learning experience.


The Medical programme is a modern integrated curriculum providing you with a unique diversity of learning experience. Teaching is delivered in partnership with the Schools of Biosciences, Psychology and Social Science and clinical placement teaching takes place in more than 200 hospitals and General Practices, across the whole of Wales.

The programme uses a blend of teaching methods with small group teaching and case based learning being used extensively throughout. This learning is supported and reinforced by a coordinated programme of lectures, seminars, practicals, lab and clinical skills sessions, and relevant clinical experience.

Central to the course is a programme of self-directed learning, providing you with the opportunity to take more responsibility for your own learning and to tailor the programme to fit with your own interests. As the programme progresses, you will be expected to take increasing responsibility for your own learning, preparing you for a life-time of continued personal development.


Our programme of assessment is designed to be appropriate, fair, valid, reliable and supports student learning. All of the assessment methods we use are evidence-based and employ a broad range of methodologies in recognition of students’ diverse academic strengths and different approaches to learning. For example, Single Best Answer questions are used extensively for testing knowledge and Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OSCEs) for testing clinical skills.

Wherever possible, clinical examinations are enhanced by the use of real patients with clinical problems. The School is also using Workplace Based Assessment approaches for assessing clinical skills, such as portfolios and clinical logbooks to demonstrate reflective learning and professionalism.

At the heart of our assessment programme is the principle of “Frequent review and rapid remediation, and the use of formative assessment, allowing you to use assessment as a learning tool, and to help us to identify those students who are beginning to struggle academically so that appropriate support can be put in place.

Typical A-level Offer

Students should offer three A2 Levels. This Foundation Year is for those students who do not have the depth of subject specialism associated with A100. It is not intended for applicants who have taken but failed to achieve the necessary grades in subjects required for entry into the A100 Programme. The typical offer will be AAA grades at A2 level plus a C grade in an AS Level subject not offered at A2 Level.

General Studies is not accepted and Critical Thinking is only accepted at AS Level.

We welcome students with a broad range of studies therefore your third A-Level subject does not have to be science related.

Typical WBQ Offer Grade A in the Core plus grade A in two A-levels Subjects and a minimum of a grade C in a fourth AS Level. This Foundation Year is for those students who do not have the depth of subject specialism associated with A100. It is not intended for applicants who have taken but failed to achieve the necessary grades in subjects required for entry into the A100 Programme.
Typical Int Bacc Offer Applicants require an overall total of 38 points (excluding Theory of Knowledge and the Extended Essay) for entry. A minimum of 20 points must be achieved in the Higher Level subjects. This Foundation Year is for those students who do not have the depth of subject specialism associated with A100. It is not intended for applicants who have taken but failed to achieve the necessary grades in subjects required for entry into the A100 Programme.

Undergraduate applicants should sit the UKCAT and graduate applicants should sit the GAMSAT.

Applications from those offering alternative qualifications are welcome. Please see detailed information about alternative entry requirements here

Please find here further information about admissions and selection criteria for this degree programme.

In 2010, 89% of the School’s graduates had secured employment within six months of graduation while a further 10% were engaged in further study.

Employers included: various NHS Trusts, HM Forces and the Public Health Service. Career Destinations included: General Practitioner, Registrar, Genetic Counsellor, Environmental Health Officer, Dermatologist plus careers in all the other areas of study.

Next intake: September each year

School Contact

Name: Undergraduate Medical Admissions  

Telephone: 029 20 688113/8073 



School Website:

More information