As a British student studying medicine at an Eastern European medical school, I’m inclined to say yes, medical school is easier in Europe. But this opinion is entirely contingent on my personal experience. Comparing it to that of the US, Canadian, UK and Australian med students that I most often read about.
Of course difficulty, as I mention in a few of my articles on individual medical science courses, is subjective in itself. What’s “easy” for me might be hard for the next person. So it’s important to take what I write here with a grain of salt.
But I do still think it’s interesting to talk about!
So here’s where I expand more on my personal point of view, knowing what I do about how med schools work and are structured inside this part of the continent.
Here are my main arguments for why I feel studying medicine in Europe (as an international medical graduate (IMG)) could be considered “easy”:
- Admissions process (grade requirements are generally lower making it less competitive)
- Entrance exams (most are University-specific making them again less competitive and slightly easier)
- General medical school exams (some European schools give multiple chances for students to pass where public schools have more stringent policies)
- English aptitude (the better your English fluency the easier to impress in exams and navigate challenging questions)
An Introduction to European Medical Schools
When most people ask this question, they are generally referring to private European medical schools. Those that have individual entry criteria specific to the Universities themselves. And not those like public medical schools – those inside Germany, Italy, France and Spain etc – that require national examinations (and certificates) for entry.
There are many schools inside of Europe that fit this bill. The more popular countries however – and those that run international programs that teach in English – include places like Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Romania, Bulgaria (where I’m based), Serbia and many more.
These places cater to thousands of students from all over the world keen to become internationally-qualified doctors. With each school separate in the way it accepts, processes and trains their fee-paying students.
One thing to note is that a lot of these applications for these European med schools occur through agencies. These are private businesses that arrange your application to a specific University; translating and notarising relevant documents, applying for visas, offering in-country support etc.
Related: Is Studying Medicine in Bulgaria Good?
Entry Requirements for European Medical Schools
I’d certainly argue that entry into European medical schools is easier and less competitive. But this is also evidenced by most University’s individual entry criteria; where they ask for lower grades in core science subjects compared to UK or US medical schools.
Case in point; my university, Medical University Varna. A direct review of their admissions criteria shows that they expect A-C grades for students following a British curriculum (UK and some Asian countries).
Compare this to your average UK medical school, that, according the British Medical Schools Council, expect “minimum entry requirements” of “three A’s at A level or equivalents” and you’ll see that entry into certain European medical schools, at least, is easier.
But this is also broadly true of non-UK students also. Especially colleagues of mine from Germany, Austria, Ireland and elsewhere, that suggest the policy is broadly the same. Being much easier for students with lower grades to enter than it would be for medical schools in their home countries.
More evidence for this also exists on many of the European medical school guide websites that exist out there on the web. A simple Google search will show you how grade thresholds are generally lower for students wishing to study at private European med schools.
Are the Entrance Examinations for European Medical Schools Easy?
As entrance examinations for European medical schools, at least the private ones, are internal to the school’s themselves, I’d say they are generally easier and less competitive.
My experience is tempered by sitting for the IMAT, the Italian medical school admission test, used to select IMG’s for English-based programs at public Italian Universities.
This exam is a national exam, sat by applicants across the world at various testing centers. It’s also used to centralise the selection process for each school itself (there are over ten).
It’s also much more challenging, I’d argue, than your average independent private European university medical school test. Sat under strict examination conditions and spanning may different aptitude areas; spatial reasoning, text analysis and general knowledge.
The same could also be argued of the MCAT, the US-based medical school admission test. As well as the UK’s BMAT and UKCAT. Students of European med schools aren’t obliged to do these more challenging entrance exams to gain access to a course.
Another thing to consider is the format in which these tests are done. Do they really count as an “entrance exam” when students are provided with all possible questions and answers beforehand?
That’s a reality for certain European private med schools.
Are Medical School Exams Easier for European Medical Schools?
This question is tough to answer. Anecdotally I’ve heard reports of internal exams at some private schools being more difficult than public. It really seems subject specific.
Furthermore, a lot depends on the medical university curriculum. Schools working on a traditional programs, like most European medical schools do, can have quite intense final exam periods at the end of each semester or term. So this could be different to other schools too.
One potential argument for exams being easier in Europe comes down to the question of retakes.
At my med school at least, students get many attempts to pass an exam. Making outright failure rare. And deferment or suspension of study (until that exam can finally be passed) the norm.
My understanding is that more reputable schools, or those that are more competitive to get in, don’t tolerate repeated failure rates so easily. Removing those students permanently from their course instead.
Is Studying Medicine In Europe Easier For Native English Speakers?
Obviously studying in English, if you’re a native or high-level speaker, is going to come much easier to you than it would someone with lesser abilities. Studying medicine in Europe then, on international programs that use English as their instructional language, could be a lot easier the your better grasp of the language.
Certainly this is the case in the oral components of medical school exams. Where your ability to describe and detail answers to a professors’ question is integral to your final grade.
But it could also be applicable in MCQ’s or written parts of examinations too. Not to mention the day-to-day comprehension involved in understanding directions or explanations in lectures or lab/seminar sessions too.
Can studying medicine ever be “easy”? That’s a problematic question in itself.
Studying medicine in Europe however, at certain institutions at least, can be easier than it might be studying at other schools.
As subjective as my opinion might be, hopefully this article provides some interesting things to think about.
And if you’re keen to share your own experiences studying medicine, no matter where you find yourself, I’d be interested in hearing from you!
Born and raised in the UK, Will went into medicine late (31) after a career in journalism. He’s into football (soccer), learned Spanish after 5 years in Spain, and has had his work published all over the web. Read more.