Applying to Medicine after A-Level Results
The clock has struck - it's the 8th of August for our Scottish friends or the 17th of August for others in the UK, marking the arrival of those much-anticipated A-level results. Amidst the rush of emotions, whether you're riding high on success or wrestling with disappointment, remember: your medical aspirations are far from dashed. With opportunities such as globally-recognised MD and DMD programmes in Europe and the Caribbean, the journey is far from over. So, let's delve into your exciting alternatives, shall we?
Table of Contents
- 1 Can You Study Medicine with Low A-Level Grades?
- 2 How to Apply for Medicine after Low A-Level Results
- 3 Where can you study medicine abroad in Europe with low A-Levels?
- 4 Interested in studying medicine abroad? We can help!
Can You Study Medicine with Low A-Level Grades?
The thing that’s most important about A-levels is that they’re not global nor universal. Not every country in the world has A-levels - in fact, most of them don’t. Some have an equivalent system, like Germany’s Abitur or Netherlands’ Eindexamen. Others, however, don’t have anything remotely similar to that. The very concept of A-levels does not exist because the high school education system is far too different.
So, what happens when a student from a country with A-Levels wants to study in a country without them? Well, there are options. Sometimes, the A-Level grades simply need to be converted into the most appropriate local equivalent, which is a messy process, but a valid one. Other times, grades are ignored entirely, and the emphasis is placed squarely on an entrance exam. Think of it as the university going, “Yeah, we don’t really care about your A-Levels, we don’t do that here, but we have entrance exams, and we care about those.”
What this means, in practical terms, is that the simplest way to study medicine with low A-Levels is to study abroad in a European country that either doesn’t have A-Levels or has deemphasised them compared to the UK.
How to Apply for Medicine after Low A-Level Results
First and foremost, you need to find a university that suits your needs. Just like in the UK, not every university will be open to you, especially with low A-Level results. You shouldn’t take it as a discouragement because the same is true for everyone. Even the best student won’t get 100% free choice. Think of it as an opportunity to narrow your choices until you pick your one dream university!
Many universities in Eastern Europe would still be happy to accept you even with low grades. That isn’t because their standards are low, but because they’re different. Let’s say you’re a movie director and you need to hire your lead actor - you won’t hire the one with the best grades in acting school. You’ll get the one best suited for your movie's needs. It’s the same thing with admissions!
Obviously, the university you’re applying to should also offer its medical programme in English - but many of them do, so you don’t need to worry too much about that. After applying, you’ll need to take their Biology, Chemistry and Physics tests - the grades don’t matter. The important part is whether you pass or fail.
After that, you’ll also typically need to pass an interview with the university's staff. Motivational letters are still prevalent in the UK, but abroad, they’ve been largely replaced with video interviews in services such as Skype or Zoom. You’ll be asked some medical questions, not unlike those on the test, but the focus typically falls on the student’s motivation, character and beliefs. It’s entirely possible for a student with low grades to still receive a glowing acceptance if they prove they’re sufficiently motivated!
The rest is the boring stuff - paperwork, sending letters and tuition payments, translating and legalising documents (such as your high school diploma), etc. And by the time you’re done, congratulations, you’ll be officially enrolled in a medical university despite your low A-levels. Take that, doubters!
Can you study medicine without an exam?
Yes, it is possible to study medicine without an entrance exam. Many universities will choose not to inconvenience students with unnecessary exams and will merely rely on grades or a motivational interview on Zoom.
As we mentioned already, universities have different priorities. They all have the same goal, to teach as many students as humanly possible to be doctors every year. But some universities prove to be extremely popular, and an entrance exam is a convenient way to narrow down the candidates since not everyone can be admitted.
However, that’s not the case for every university. Some smaller medical schools just don’t have hundreds upon hundreds of candidates to evaluate and can easily teach nearly all of their applicants. The same goes for schools that are so big that now they can literally handle their entire list of candidates - especially if they recently expanded.
This goes double for European universities with English programmes for international students. The simple reason is that there are usually more places for international students at a university than international students looking to study there. After all, most people prefer to stay in their own country for school - this is true no matter where you live and isn’t a matter of one country’s education being better or worse than another’s. It’s just a matter of personal preference or comfort, or simply most people just not being aware of the option. Whatever the case, there are often spots that need to be filled, so cutting students with an entrance exam is counterproductive and doesn’t achieve much.
It’s important to keep in mind that some universities don’t have entrance exams, while others accept students with low A-Level grades, but it’s very rare to find medical schools that do both. Not impossible, mind you - but sometimes, you’d need to choose the lesser of two evils.
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Can you practise as a doctor in the UK after graduating from a different country?
Yes, it is possible to practise as a doctor in the UK or any country after graduating abroad. The degrees from accredited universities are universally recognised by organisations like the GMC and can be used anywhere in the world.
This is one of the best parts about studying abroad - you can go straight back to the UK after graduation and work right there as a doctor! What causes many people to pursue a degree in the UK at all costs (even with the risk of not being admitted into a university at all) is the mistaken belief that they can only practise in the country where they graduated. For example, if they go to study in Georgia, they can only ever work as a doctor in Georgia because the medicine there must be different… Right?
Well, no, of course not! Medicine is the same everywhere and taught the same everywhere. Whether you’re from the US, UK, Italy, Serbia or Japan, human bodies work the same, diseases are treated the same, and you have the same medical equipment.
At worst, the brand names of medicine will be different from country to country. Still, the names of the components that give the medicine their properties are universal, so you can always know exactly what you’re supposed to prescribe even if you haven’t heard the name of a single medicine brand.
So, how does this work in practice? First, you must ensure that the school you’re attending is featured in the World Directory of Medical Schools. This is a list of every legitimate medical school in the world, every single one of which is recognised by the WHO, GMC, AMA and many other health organisations worldwide.
When you graduate from such a school, it’s like you graduated from any school on the list. For a practical example, imagine that you want to attend the University of Cambridge, but oh no, you couldn’t get in! Instead, you decide to attend the Medical University of Silesia in Poland. Since both schools are listed in the World Directory (you can double-check for yourself), once you graduate, your degree from Silesia will be worth exactly the same as a degree from Cambridge and vice versa.
Yep, what you’re thinking is entirely right - even with a degree from an international university, you can become a doctor in the UK in the exact same way you would if you graduated in the UK. That means you can study medicine in Europe and then go back home to work as a doctor without issue.
Granted, this still requires passing all stages of the UKMLA, and there’s no getting around that regardless of where you graduate. But your knowledge, level of education and qualifications will be the same regardless of whether you graduated from the medical school with the strictest entry requirements or one that doesn’t even care about A-Levels.
Is taking a gap year to improve A-Level scores for medicine a good or bad idea?
No, a gap year to improve A-Level scores is not a good idea. Many students agree that it’s best to search for alternative universities in order to avoid wasting a year.
Don’t get us wrong - we’re not saying a gap year is always bad! Some students need it for a variety of reasons. For example, many feel like they need a mental health break in order to avoid burnout, and we totally understand that. Nor are we trying to shame anyone for needing to take a gap year.
However, many students choose to take one not because they actually want or need it but because they think they have to. If they didn’t do well on their A-Levels or failed the UCAT, what other choice is there but to wait a year and try again, right?
But, if you've made it this far, then you probably already know that there are, in fact, alternatives. After all, many European universities don’t require A-Levels or entrance exams, so there’s not much point in waiting.
When you take a gap year, you’re delaying your medical education by a whole year, which means you’re delaying the beginning of your career as a doctor, which is not ideal and should be avoided if possible. And, when there are viable alternatives to it, then why not take advantage of them?
Where can you study medicine abroad in Europe with low A-Levels?
The truth is that there are dozens of European countries which would be happy to accept students with low A-Levels, either because they don’t have A-Levels or because they simply don’t put as much emphasis on those scores. So here are only a few of the recommendations coming from not just us but fellow international students!
Georgia has become a rising star in the world of international medical education in recent years, with its attendance by Western students spiking rapidly over the last few years. And it’s not hard to see why!
Those who choose to study medicine in Georgia will enjoy very low tuition fees, extremely low living costs (about £500 a month) and, of course, a very high standard of medical education. Georgia’s government invested a lot of resources into its education in order to make it genuinely world-class, and the number of international students in Tbilisi alone speaks for itself.
Two of the most prominent universities in the country are Petre Shotadze Tbilisi Medical Academy and the European University of Tbilisi. Both provide high-quality clinical and pre-clinical studies for international students.
Much like Georgia, Serbia has recently become a prime destination for international medical students thanks to its high quality of education and very low living expenses. Those who choose to study medicine in Serbia will have living expenses of about £400-500 a month, depending on their needs and accommodation.
One of the best things about Serbia is that it’s one of the countries that doesn’t have A-Levels - instead, the subjects you study are determined by the high school you’ve enrolled in. This means that grades from A-Levels aren’t really a priority when it comes to international student applications.
While all Serbian universities require an entrance exam, it is considered to be easier than the UCAT, consisting of multiple choice questions in chemistry and biology. Among all Serbian medical school, the University of Nis is the one that has proven to be most popular with international students.
Have you ever wanted to live just a short drive away from a lush forest? Or perhaps study in a university fifteen minutes away from the beach? Well, we have some good news - your dreams are about to come true!
Of course, those who choose to study medicine in Bulgaria enjoy not only the wonderful nature, but also some of the best medical education in all of Europe. Its schools, such as the world-famous Sofia Medical University, are internationally accredited and recognised in the UK and beyond.
Just like in Serbia, Bulgarian high schools don’t have A-Levels, and the curriculum is largely the same everywhere. As such, Bulgaria places less emphasis on grades and more on entrance exams and interviews, making it perfect for international students who have the knowledge, but not the best A-Levels.
If you’re looking for something a bit closer to home, you really can’t go wrong with Poland. A long-standing pillar of European medical education, its medical schools are old, well-equipped and more than happy to accept international students.
If you decide to study medicine in Poland, you should know tha the tuition fees are comparable to the UK for many medical schools. However, the living costs are significantly lower, in the range of £600 a month for rent, utilities, transport, etc. Overall, this makes it a more affordable option than the UK.
The true benefit, however, is that entry into Polish medical schools is significantly easier than it is compared to the UK, or even other European countries. A-Levels don’t matter quite so much, and on top of that, many universities (for example, the Medical University of Lublin) don’t have an entrance exam either.
Bulgaria’s northern neighbour shares a lot of its best qualities, like the beautiful nature and the low living costs, which makes it a very suitable alternative.
Students who choose to study medicine in Romania will enjoy significantly lower tuition fees than in the UK (over twice as low in some cases), without compromising on the quality of education. After all, Romania is home to some of the oldest medical schools in Europe, like the Carol Davila University of Medicine, which was founded way back in 1857 - and doesn’t have an entrance exam to boot!
Of course, it goes without saying that degrees issued by accredited medical universities in Romania will be recognised by the GMC, and will permit you to practise without restrictions in the UK. And all that without the hassle of complicated entry, and at a fraction of the cost. What’s not to like?
Interested in studying medicine abroad? We can help!
Low scores on your A-Levels can be a real bummer - but they don’t have to be.
Hundreds of medical schools around the world place far less importance on A-Level results than you do, so why worry about them too much? There are still plenty of ways to follow your dreams and become a doctor, right on schedule! So don’t waste energy on being upset and focus on your true goal, to help people! After all, everyone needs help sometimes, and that includes you.
That’s why we’re here, to give you a hand and make sure you can still become the doctor the world needs! Over the years, we’ve helped literally thousands of students just like you be admitted into medical schools throughout Europe by negotiating directly with the staff of universities to guarantee your entry, preparing, translating and legalising all the essential documentation, and even helping you cram for your entrance exams, if any!
But our help doesn’t stop there. Once you’ve been admitted, we’ll help you with your transit to your new home, assist with finding you the best accommodations possible and setting up your bills and utilities, even put you in touch with other international students so you can form lifelong friendships.
Don’t know where to start, or what university to even pick? We can give you some advice on that too based on your preferences. Just request a FREE consultation through our application form.
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