This article will give you 10 practical tips on how to avoid going over the UCAS Medicine personal statement character limit. We start off with 4 tips which are writing and grammar techniques to reduce unnecessary characters from a sentence. We then include 6 tips about your approach to writing your personal statement which will help you write your personal statement in a more concise manner.

What is the character limit for a UCAS Medicine personal statement?

A UCAS Medicine personal statement must meet the following two criteria:

  • It must not be more than 4000 characters, which includes spaces and blank lines
  • It must not be more than 47 lines on the UCAS system

This equates to about 500-600 words. This entire article is around 1200 words. UCAS suggest that you use a word processor to write your medical school personal statement and then copy it onto their website. On the UCAS site, you can see if it meets the character limit, make changes and save drafts before submitting your final statement.

Writing technique 1 – Use the active voice not the passive voice in your personal statement

 Unedited example (passive voice) – 40 characters:

The speech was delivered by my co-worker

Edited example (changed to active voice) – 33 characters:

My co-worker delivered the speech

As you can see above, the active voice first writes about the subject (the person or thing doing the action; in this case the co-worker) and then writes about the object (the person or thing which is receiving the action – here it is the speech). This is the opposite of what happens in the passive voice – the object is written first and then the subject is written.

The active voice not only uses less words, it also sounds more powerful than the passive voice. The passive voice can also frustrate readers who have to read the whole sentence before finding out who or what did the action. Use the active voice in your personal statement as it will use less characters and have greater clarity and impact.

Writing technique 2 – avoid pleonasms; redundant words and phrases

By eliminating redundant words and phrases you avoid saying things twice:

“HIV Virus” should be “HIV”

“AIDS syndrome” should be “AIDS”

“12 noon” should be “noon”

“exactly the same” should be “the same”

“Personal opinion” should be “opinion”

“Completely revolutionise” should be “revolutionise” – revolutionise implies massive change. There is no reason to say completely.

“Completely unanimous” should be “unanimous”

 “A period of 3 weeks” should be “3 weeks”

“Absolutely fantastic” should be “fantastic”

“A total of £2000” should be “£2000”

“They arrived one after the other in succession” should be “they arrived in succession”

“A person who is intelligent” should be “an intelligent person”

Writing technique 3 – replace phrases with words:

“The reason for” can be replaced by “because”

“Due to the fact that” can be replaced by “since”

“In the event that” can be replaced by “if”

“At the present time” can be replaced by “now”

“As a matter of fact”, “All things considered”, “For the most part” usually do not need to be said at all

Writing technique 4 – eliminate unnecessary qualifiers

Common examples include:  really, very, generally, simply, basically, essentially, probably, somewhat, practically, extremely

Unedited example – 257 characters:

Because practically all of the students had no previous first aid experience whatsoever, we essentially had to teach them these things first. This meant we were somewhat limited in how many of the advanced techniques we could practically fit into the course.

Edited example – 169 characters:

Because most of the students had no prior first aid experience, we had to teach these first. This limited the number of advanced techniques we could fit into the course.

We also changed a few words such as “previous” to “prior” as they use less character

We now give 6 general tips to prevent your personal statement going over the character limit.

General Tip 1 – Don’t worry too much about the word limit initially

When brainstorming your personal statement, the word count is irrelevant. You should not try to limit yourself at the ideas stage as it hinders creativity. After brainstorming, when you start to write draft content for your personal statement; have some sense that you shouldn’t be writing huge essays but do not worry too much about the word count. You can cut down text later.

General Tip 2 – Avoid waffling by knowing what you want to say before writing it

Good writing reflects good thinking. You will find it hard to convey your views clearly if you do not fully understand your own position. Waffling is often due to a candidate being unclear on what they want to say and not planning out their sentences and paragraphs. They are writing before knowing what message they are trying to communicate and hoping that some meaning will come together if sentences are put onto paper. Properly planning a sentence and paragraph before you start writing will make it more meaningful and concise, significantly improving its impact and clarity. What point do you want a sentence or a paragraph to make? Our blog article on an example of a successful medicine personal statement may be useful for you.

General Tip 3 – Use your reference

Remember that you have a referee who will write a reference. The reference should not simply parrot what you say in your personal statement. Instead, it is a space for the referee to enhance your application by including content not in your statement and providing a different perspective and confirmation of content which is in your personal statement. Sometimes certain things may be more appropriate to put in your reference rather than your Medicine personal statement.

General Tip 4 – Don’t repeat yourself

Structure your Medicine personal statement in a way so that it covers the main things you want in a logical structure. For example, paragraphs can have themes such as teamwork, extracurricular activities. That way you will not repeat yourself or waffle.

General Tip 5 – Don’t use quotes

Quotes are frequently cited by admission tutors as their biggest turn off in a personal statement especially when they begin a statement or are included without explaining why they are there. Admissions tutors need to read about your thoughts not that of someone else. Quotes are a waste precious characters and are very difficult to include without sounding unoriginal and cliched.

General Tip 6 – Avoid repeating obvious biographical information

Admissions tutors can see most of what is on your UCAS application including your qualification, grades and subjects. You don’t need to mention that you study a certain A-level. You can, of course, talk about the subject and what interests you and so on but you don’t need to list it.

How can Medicine Answered help your Medicine personal statement?

Medicine Answered offer one of the highest quality Medicine personal statement review services available. A professional editor and a fully qualified doctor, who themselves received all four UCAS offers to study Medicine, will both check and correct your personal statement. This unique level of expertise puts us a step ahead of other providers, some of whom use untrained students or people with no medical or admissions background and who do not have professional proof-reading skills.

We go beyond the typical reviews of just grammar and structure like other services. After making enhancements to your statement, we comment on the strength of your application, we can consider your UKCAT, academic grades, work experience and extracurricular activities and suggest ways to enhance your application further. We suggest things which may come up at interview specifically as a result of your personal statement.