Wednesday 21 February 2018

How to study medicine in Ireland and abroad

Going to college

Aoife Walsh, guidance counsellor. Photo: Tony Gavin
Aoife Walsh, guidance counsellor. Photo: Tony Gavin

Aoife Walsh

Medicine is linked with high CAO points, which seem out of reach for many young people who dream of a career in this area. The introduction of the HPAT added another challenge. There are, however, other options. With entry to medicine via UCAS (the UK equivalent of the CAO) one week away, now is a good time to explore different routes to medicine, both in Ireland and abroad.


The most direct route into a career in medicine is through the CAO. Medicine at undergraduate level is offered in five institutiosn across the country: TCD, UCD, RCSI, UCC and NUI Galway, for which students must meet college entry requirements and do the HPAT. Students who have only one science subject in their Leaving Cert may apply for NUI Galway, RCSI or UCD, which offers a six-year programme.

Students must register for HPAT by January 20 (test takes place on February 25) and complete their CAO application by February 1. A student needs a CAO number to register for the HPAT, so it will not be possible to do this until November. Mature students may also apply in this way.

Graduate medicine

Students who achieve an award of 2.1 or higher in their first undergraduate degree, in any discipline, may apply for entry to graduate medicine, which is available at RCSI, UL, UCC and UCD. Students should apply through the CAO.

Offers are based on results achieved in the GAMSAT test. The GAMSAT is a little different from the HPAT as it contains a section on scientific knowledge and students would benefit from preparation. GAMSAT testing will take place on the March 25.

Colleges report that students who have studied a non-science related field (such as arts) in their primary degree are performing no worse than their classmates who enter from a science or engineering background.

Fees are subsidised by the Government but students are liable for a large portion. For 2016/17 fees were €16,940.

A number of financial institutions provide products specifically to finance this course, including a four-year moratorium on repayments.


Applications for medicine in the UK and Northern Ireland must be submitted to UCAS by October 15. There is a test for entry into most UK health degrees. This is likely to be the UKCAT, BMAT or HPAT UK. Registration for UKCAT, the required test for Queen's University Belfast, has now closed. BMAT is accepting applications up to October 15. Post Brexit, EU students entering UK colleges in 2016 were given a guarantee on fees, but clarity is awaited on the situation for those entering in 2017, and beyond.


There are many opportunities to study medicine through English in Europe. Courses often have lower entry requirements, similar or lower fees and are recognised by the Medical Council. They include the Doctor of Medicine and Surgery course at Universita degli Studi di Milan and seven other courses in Italian universities.

The University of Groningen and University of Maastricht, The Netherlands both offer undergraduate degrees for €1,984 per year. While graduates are not qualified to practise, both offer a follow-on master's degree, which are recognised for practice anywhere in Europe. More information on

Aoife Walsh is a guidance counsellor at Malahide Community School, Malahide, Co Dublin

Important dates


National Learning Network Information Sessions - Roslyn Park College, Dublin

UKCAT testing ends


Teagasc Open Day - College of Amenity Horticulture, Botanic Gardens and Gurteen Agrucltural College

Institute of Guidance Counsellors Careers and Courses Fair - Ormond Hotel Kilkenny


Teagasc Open Day - Ballyhaise Agricultural College and Kildalton Agricultural College

Open Day (2 Days) - NUI Galway


Open Day - UCC


Open Days (2 Days) - College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) Loughry Campus, Cookstown, Co Tyrone

Careers Fair - Limerick IT

Law Open Evening - UCD

Zeminar - RDS


Teagasc Open Day - Mountbellew Agricultural College

Q. I am studying higher level maths. I got a D3 in my fifth year exams but it took a lot of work and I am not sure I will be able to keep giving this subject as much attention this year. Should I drop to ordinary level?

A Last week, we considered the impact of aspects of the new points system on student consideration of whether to continue with ‘honours’  maths in the hope of achieving the 25 bonus points awarded for a minimum 40pc. Previously, weaker students may have been advised to abandon higher level  and give the time to other subjects, with a view to picking up an extra 25 points elsewhere.

But, the risks have lessened, mainly because a mark of 30-39pc on a higher level paper (H7) will attract 37 (rather than zero) points, and the grade will also be accepted as the equivalent of a pass at ordinary level.  

Also, seeking to achieve the extra 25 points by putting more effort into other subjects will become more difficult. Previously, students received an extra five points for every 5pc increase in results. From 2017, the grading bands stretch for 10 points, so a student will have to improve a result by 10pc to push themselves into the next grade bracket and receive more points. Discuss with your  maths teacher.

Irish Independent

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