Many Israeli students who go abroad to study medicine have first of all tried to get in to a medical school in this country. As you will no doubt know by now, there are far more students who wish to study medicine than there are places available. Even the best exam results you could ever achieve may not be enough to get you a place and a lot of young people miss out for reasons that are not a reflection on their ability or passion for the profession. Students who miss out are often encouraged to reapply; this just adds to the pressure for places year on year and while it may be an advisable strategy as it gives you time to gain additional experience, it is not the only one. You don’t need to put your life on hold because of the Israeli university admissions system.
If you are passionate about becoming a doctor and you want to get straight on with your studies, there are universities abroad that can help you. You need to be careful in your choice of university but there are some highly reputable medical schools that can help you achieve your dream and your objectives.
What grades do I need to get in to medical school abroad?
Good ones, at least a full Bagrut. And often these will not be enough. The main reason why we say this is because it is tough to study medicine abroad and you must be academically capable. Otherwise, you will be wasting your time. Some medical universities will accept you with less than perfect grades if they perceive that you have a passion for the subject and you can demonstrate your ability in other ways.
The actual entrance requirements can vary quite dramatically. Universities in Central Europe often have their own entrance exams although apparently in Bulgaria and Romania these are not always required. This is also true for Caucasus International University (CIU) in Tbilisi, which does not require any entrance exam.
Because CIU does not have an entrance exam, students are assessed on their Bagrut grades as well as their performance at interview. This university is the only medical school that places value on work experience or military service and extracurricular activities in the selection process.
What else should I bear in mind?
There is usually a disadvantage involved in studying medicine abroad: language. If you go abroad, you will be able to study in English but you cannot expect your patients to speak English. This is not an issue in the pre-clinical years but you will be expected to learn the local language by the time you enter your fourth year (at the latest). Most universities will ensure that a translator is present during any patient consultations but you will be expected to communicate with your patients and take medical histories etc. Learning the local language is not a problem as you will be “living” in that language and will find yourself speaking and understanding the language long before you start to speak with your patients.
You should also bear in mind that getting into medical school is one thing but actually graduating is something else altogether. Many medical schools will over recruit at the beginning of the cycle, knowing full well that students will drop out, fail or transfer throughout the process. It is also worth paying attention to the average time it takes for students to graduate because this may be longer than the five or six years you would be expecting to study.
Can I start my medical studies abroad and transfer to an Israeli medical school later?
Yes, it is possible but it can be very difficult to transfer between universities. If you are planning on starting your medical studies abroad with a view to moving to an Israeli medical school for the final three years, you may be disappointed. In some cases, transferring is impossible because of the different ways in which medicine is taught.
Where should I look for a medical degree abroad?
Medical schools in Central Europe have developed an excellent reputation over the last 25 years of offering education in English. Some of these locations may seem a little run down but the teaching methods are often world class. There are currently around 25 universities in Central Europe offering medical qualifications in English and CIU is one of them.
Other areas offering medical degrees abroad include:
Medical schools in the Caribbean often follow the American education system and many students there go on to do their residencies in US hospitals. These universities are considerably more expensive than studying in Eastern Europe. The total tuition costs of a five-year program at a medical school in the Caribbean are likely to be around US$250,000. This is still considerably cheaper than studying medicine in the USA.
There are an increasing number of options for studying medicine in Western Europe and the Mediterranean.
Elsewhere in Southern Europe there are a number of universities in Italy, Malta and Cyprus that offer the chance to qualify as a doctor. There are seven public universities in Italy that teach medicine in English (Milan, Turin, Pavia, two in Rome, Naples and Bari) with means-tested tuition fees of between €800 and €4,000 per year. However, the entry requirements can be quite complicated and the number of applicants far exceeds the number of places available. Currently the public universities select students by using the IMAT exam (international version of BMAT). The exam in 2015 took place in September, just before the course itself started. In 2015 there were 3,918 applicants for 204 places.
Private universities in Italy might offer an easier route to a medical qualification. Their fees are higher (€6,850-€15,000 per year) but they are also means-tested. International students usually end up paying around €10,000 a year.
It is now possible to study medicine in Spain partially in English. There is no possibility to study entirely in English at this time. Cardenal Herrera University in Valencia offers students the chance to study in English for two years before completing the next four years in Spanish.
Studying medicine in Australia or New Zealand is possible but it will be expensive and your chances of getting in are very low. Medicine is mostly offered at postgraduate level in Australia. Fees are likely to be around €40,000 a year.
Most countries in the Anglophone world have a shortage of places in their medical schools. Some universities in Australia are able to accept a limited number of international students but tuition fees will be similar to the cost of studying in the Caribbean.
In the USA most students complete a general science or pre-med undergraduate degree and then go on to medical school at postgraduate level. This is an incredibly expensive route to follow – the estimated total cost for students at Johns Hopkins Medical School is around $300,000 for the four years you need to study there. Medical schools in the USA are extremely unlikely to accept students who have completed their undergraduate studies at a non-US university.
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