Medical student-selected components (SSCs)
This page explains what SSCs are and why they are important. It also lists the types of SSCs available.
The GMC report Tomorrow’s Doctors (2009) states that a minimum of 10% of the medical undergraduate curriculum should comprise optional modules known as student selected components (SSCs).
SSCs may have other titles including student selected units, selected study components, special study units or special and selective study modules.
SSCs or their equivalent offer medical students an element of choice in their undergraduate studies, either within or beyond the core curriculum.
Each medical school designs its own programme which results in variation regarding the timing and content of SSCs. Some medical schools arrange their SSCs into four or five week blocks, whereas others might be timetabled into one half-day session for a number of weeks.
Some medical schools offer SSCs from year one onwards, whereas others offer them from year two or three onwards. The longer blocks are often timetabled later in the medical degree.
What are the aims of SSCs?
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The aims of SSCs include:
- enabling the development of research skills
- encouraging the development of self-directed learning, and therefore assist future life-long learning
- to enable medical students to move beyond the medical core curriculum
- to improve students’ self confidence
- to enable students to make verbal presentations and to present work visually or in writing
- to encourage exploration of possible career paths
- to assist with decisions regarding the choice of intercalated degrees
If you have a future specialty in mind then taking a relevant SSC can really enhance your application for core or specialist training later on. This is particularly true for very popular specialties such as surgery. So it’s important to choose your SSCs carefully.
Choosing options and teaching methods
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The range of options under SSCs varies but may include:
- a specialist area of medicine or surgery, such as palliative care and oncology or A&E/intensive care
- topics from a psychological or social sciences perspective, such as counselling skills, medicine and spirituality or homelessness, drugs and crime
- modern foreign languages such as French or Spanish
It may also be possible to undertake a research project, which is particularly beneficial if you are plan to apply for an academic foundation programme. The content of the research could vary, but might include a structured literature review or original research using qualitative or quantitative data.
SSCs offer a variety of teaching and learning methods which may include:
- guided self-study
- problem-solving scenarios
- role play
- group work
- e learning
- patient based learning
SSCs may also be community-based.
SSCs are assessed just as other aspects of your studies are, and you will need to pass in order to progress.