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Exploring different routes to medical school

Posted by Francis O' Toole on October 2, 2015

A place in medical school can seem like an unachievable dream for many, but there are now a number of routes, both in Ireland and abroad.

Medicine at undergraduate level is offered, via the CAO, in five colleges: Trinity College Dublin (TCD), University College Dublin (UCD), Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), University College Cork (UCC) and NUI Galway. In order to progress into an undergraduate degree programme, students must meet the college entry requirements and sit the HPAT test. Students must register for the HPAT by January 20 for the test on February 27. Applicants need a CAO number to register for the HPAT. Mature students may also apply in this way.

Graduate medicine

Students who have already achieved a minimum 2.1 award in their first undergraduate degree in any discipline may apply for entry to graduate medicine. Graduate medicine is available at the RCSI, University of Limerick, UCC and UCD. Application is through the CAO. Offers are based on results achieved in the GAMSAT test. The GAMSAT is a little different from the HPAT in that it is not an aptitude test. It contains a section on scientific knowledge and students would benefit from preparation. GAMSAT testing will take place on the March 19.

Recent research by the RCSI suggests that students whose primary degree is in a non-science-related field (such as arts) are performing no worse than their classmates from a science or engineering background.

Fees are subsidised by the Government but students are liable for a large portion. In 2014 fees for RCSI were about €14,500 per year.

UCAS (the UK’s centralised ­colleges’ admission service) Applications for medicine in Britain and Northern Ireland must be submitted to UCAS by October 15. Students will need to take a test for entry into most health degrees in the UK. This is likely to the UKCAT BMAT or HPAT UK. Registration for the UKCAT has now closed.


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

The University of Groningen, and University of Maastricht in the Netherlands offer undergraduate degrees for €1,984 per year. While they do not qualify graduates to practice medicine, both institutions offer a follow-on master’s degree that qualifies graduates to practise anywhere in Europe. For more information on opportunities in Europe, see

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

Question: My daughter is in fifth year and will do the Leaving Certificate in 2017. When should she apply to UCAS if interested in the UK?

Answer: Depending on what your daughter intends to study, there are a number of different deadlines of which you need to be aware. All applications for medicine, veterinary and dentistry, or to study any subject area at Oxford or Cambridge, should be submitted to UCAS no later than October 15 the year before intended entry. Applications for nearly all other courses should be with the UCAS no later than January 15. The only exception to this are applications to certain art and design courses, which should reach UCAS by March 24.

In the UCAS system early application can result in improved chances of being successful, so the earlier the better, really. UCAS begins accepting applications from September 1. These dates are the same every year so, if your daughter is currently in fifth year, she will complete her application during sixth year for entry in autumn 2017.

Important dates

October 2

Ballyhaise Agricultural College – Teagasc Open Day

Kildalton Agricultural College – Teagasc Open Day

 NUI Galway – open days (2 days)

October 5

UKCAT – booking/rescheduling Closes

October 6

Mountbellew Agricultural College – Teagasc Open Day

UKCAT – last testing date

October 7

National Learning Network – weekly Roslyn Park College tour

Irish Independent


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