Getting onto any dentistry course is very competitive, but you can increase your chances for getting a university interview, and hopefully of gaining a place.

Dentistry is an academic challenge, a practical one (you must have sufficient manual dexterity to be able to treat patients), and you must enjoy working with people. How these factors are assessed at an interview vary, but you should be prepared to be able to be talk about and possibly be able to evidence how you are developing them.

In order to be considered for a place on a dentistry degree, you must have (or be predicted to achieve) excellent grades at A level (or equivalent). The minimum requirement for entry is usually AAA including chemistry and biology, although this does vary. You should check the specific criteria for the universities you want to apply to.

As a student dentist you must also develop the clinical, scientific and patient skills you need to stand out as a rounded professional. All clinical students, who study for a university degree, are exposed to all aspects of the clinical environment and will have access to patient records and confidential and sensitive information.

It is therefore essential that all dental students undergoing clinical training are aware of and fulfil the requirements of the General Dental Council, as published in Standards for dental professionals (, which explains the standards of behaviour and professionalism expected of all dental professionals including students.

Standards for dental professionals

Student fitness to practise

Health clearance

All new students entering a programme which involves exposure to human blood or other body fluids and tissues must conform to the national guidelines for the protection of patients, healthcare workers and students. If you are undertaking a clinical course you will be expected to achieve a satisfactory level of immunity in respect of hepatitis B before admission.

You will be tested for hepatitis C and HIV on commencement of your course and if you are found to be hepatitis C antibody positive or you are an infectious carrier of HIV, then you will be unable to continue. If you have serious health problems, or know that you are infected with hepatitis B, C or HIV, you must disclose this information when you apply.

Disclosure and Barring Service

Depending on your chosen course of study, if you are a UK resident, places may be subject to a satisfactory Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

If you are an overseas applicant, your application may be subject to a satisfactory check from your local police station (sometimes referred to as a Certificate of Good Conduct) along with the Disclosure and Barring Service Check (DBS).

UK Clinical Aptitude Test

Nine UK dental schools currently require applicants to sit the pre-admissions test – UKCAT (the UK Clinical Aptitude test) before they apply. The UKCAT supplements traditional measures of achievement. It will only form one part of the selection process and each school will determine the weight given to results.

Registration for the UKCAT usually opens around May of the year that you are submitting your application and closes near the end of September. You must register for this before application (if you are applying to a university that has the UKCAT as an entry requirement), and there is a cost for sitting the test, although bursaries are available.

Check individual university websites to find out whether you will be required to sit the test. You will also find this information on the UCAS website.

Work experience

Most universities consider it essential that applicants have completed some work experience (or work shadowing) prior to application, to show they have sufficiently explored their intended career.

It is not possible to state a minimum requirement, but you should aim for at least two weeks in total, and try to get experience from more than one location or service, for example: NHS practice, private practice, hospital, or dental laboratory.

During your visits try and understand how the practice works, how the dental team works together to provide patient-centred care, how the dentist is paid amongst other things, and not just being able to recall the most interesting case you saw.

Gaining work experience can be difficult, and at times frustrating, particularly if practices aren’t open to taking on students. However, it is important to persevere, and to try as many avenues as possible, as this will pay off in the long run. You can initially try approaching your own dentist and local practices and make use of contacts that friends and family may have.

It's a good idea to visit the practice in person, but be prepared to leave a formal letter in the instance that the practice manager is unavailable to speak with you. School teachers/tutors should be able to provide a suitable reference for this should it be deemed necessary.

Taking part in work experience is not just essential for application to dentistry courses, it is also important to decide whether or not dentistry is the right career choice for you.


Upon submitting your UCAS application you will be contacted by each university for the course you have chosen regarding the outcome of your application. If you meet their entry criteria and your application is to a standard that they would expect, they may then decide to invite you for an interview.

The purpose of holding an interview is to find out more about you, and for the panel to decide whether you would be a suitable candidate for their dentistry course.

During the interview the panel will be assessing you in various categories, and will usually be following guidelines so that they can compare candidates from different interview sessions.

Most dental schools hold interviews for prospective students, and these would usually be either a panel interview (traditional), or multiple mini interviews.

Panel interviews

A panel interview consists of you (the candidate) and a panel of interviewers, who could be a mixture of dental professionals, dental academics and students. This is a face-to-face interview, where you will be asked a series of questions by the panel who will judge your suitability for the course based on your answers and your personal statement.

Usually the panel will be looking for the candidate to demonstrate a level of commitment to the course, a knowledge and understanding of the profession and the course and evidence of work experience and how you can reflect on this experience.

Many universities will also ask for your opinion on ethical issues, so do as much research as you can prior to any interview to ensure that you are as prepared as you can be.

Multiple mini interviews (MMIs)

These are used increasingly by dental schools, and although there are some similarities with the traditional panel style interview, there are also some significant differences. For example, the applicants might participate in a number of small tasks and activities over a longer period of time, rotating from station to station.

There is an argument for using MMIs as opposed to traditional panel interviews and some universities suggest that the tests are designed for students to demonstrate a number of skills and attributes that may not be apparent from a face to face one-off conversation. This potentially allows the dental school to build up a bigger picture of what the candidate is like, and whether they are suitable for the course.

MMIs are difficult to prepare for as universities are under no obligation to disclose what the tests will be. However, they would usually test attributes such as your communication skills (both individually and within groups), motivation for the course, responding to situational and ethical scenarios, manual dexterity and key points from your personal statement.


It is important to know that most dental courses will interview, and this is a key part of the application process to think about and prepare for as fully as possible. There are many resources available that will help you prepare, and much of this is freely available on the internet.

Although it can be a daunting thought to have an interview, remember that everybody has to go through it, and this is your opportunity to shine, so make the most of it!

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