24 October 2016Last updated

Features | People

Ask the expert: I want to study medicine abroad

In the UK, most medical schools require A Level results in chemistry and biology

Sanjeev Verma
26 Jul 2016 | 02:33 pm

I am in grade 11, pursuing science under an Indian curriculum. How should I apply for a degree in medicine in the UK or Australia?

Medicine, along with engineering, is the most sought-after programme by students from the subcontinent. It also tends to be the most competitive and expensive.

For admission in India, subjects to study in school would include physics, chemistry, biology and maths, but in the UK and Australia, biology and chemistry are mandatory while physics and maths are optional, depending on the university. In the US, medicine is studied after one completes an undergraduate degree.

In the UK, most medical schools require A Level results in chemistry and biology. Qualifying exams such as the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) for medical and dental schools, and BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT) as well as a panel interview must be attended too. The results of these exams, in conjunction with academic grades, determine a student’s eligibility, and both must be taken in the academic year you are applying for. Results are valid only for one year and cannot be carried forward. The UKCAT is available from July 1 to October 5, while the BMAT is held every November.

Students with weaker grades can apply through a foundation course in Ireland or elsewhere in the UK.

For UK universities, students need to apply through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, and deadlines for applying for medicine, dentistry and veterinary sciences is earlier than other programmes – usually October 15.

The UKCAT is a computer-based exam designed to test a student’s skills and faculties to determine if he/she is mentally equipped to be a doctor or dentist. There is no prescribed syllabus and the two-hour exam has five sections that follow a multiple-choice format – verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, abstract reasoning, decision analysis and situational judgement. Twenty-six institutions, including the University of St Andrews, University of Manchester and King’s College London, have made it mandatory for applicants to take the UKCAT.

The BMAT is a two-hour paper-based exam developed by the University of Cambridge to evaluate a person’s skill and knowledge. The results of the multiple-choice test with three sections – aptitude and skills, scientific knowledge and writing – are accepted by institutions such as Imperial College London, University of Oxford and Cambridge.

In Australia, the duration of a medical programme is five to six years, and is available at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Seven of the 19 registered medical schools require prospective students to sit for the Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admission Test. You’ll be evaluated based on critical and lateral thinking, data analysis, problem-solving skills and communication skills. However, each Australian university has its own entry requirements.

To gain admission into this highly competitive programme, good grades are vital and it is advisable to start preparing early. Obtain as much information and understanding of medicine as you can. Seek internships, shadow a medical professional, or volunteer at a hospital or in a health-care setting. The experience will also help you determine whether your temperament and aptitude are suited for the profession.

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Sanjeev Verma

Sanjeev Verma

is a leading international education counsellor