Applying to UK Medical Schools from the UAE

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Shweta Madhu

Tutor and Author

As of 2020, there are over 10,700 international students studying Medicine or Dentistry in the United Kingdom. A fairly sizable proportion of these students come from the Middle East and more specifically, the UAE. 

While individual medical schools set a quota for international students, they are limited by a government mandated cap at 7% of the available seats. With the UK being one of the most popular options for students wishing to study Medicine abroad, medical schools attract thousands of international applicants each year. All these numbers lend some mind-numbing statistics that may put many talented students off. With that in mind, the remainder of this post is here to guide you through the application process with a specific focus on applying from the UAE. 

British medical school
British medical schools are some of the most established in the world

Why Study Medicine in the UK?

So before you spend hours preparing for the UCAT in UAE and sprucing up your personal statement, is the UK even the right option for you? 

Some of the advantages to studying Medicine in the UK are; 

  1. High quality education – globally lauded education, recognized worldwide and preferred by employers around the world, including top hospitals in the UAE, such as King’s College London-UAE Hospital and Rashid Hospital. 
  2. High employment rates – high employment rates in the UK with 99% of students in approved foundations posts upon graduation. 
  3. Facilities – state-of-the-art research facilities offering students the opportunity to enter research and/or academia whilst completing their degree. 
  4. Diversity – cultural diversity in medical education, thereby equipping students with skills that will transfer to practice around the world. 
  5. Length of course – shorter pathway into medicine as opposed to the USA, Canada etc. 
  6. Visa process – visa processes and immigration are more transparent and user-friendly for international students as opposed to other countries. 
  7. Geographical location – closer to the UAE, with daily flights of roughly 7-8 hours, as opposed to other popular countries for medical education (such as the USA). 

Some of the disadvantages to studying Medicine in the UK are; 

  1. Fee ladder – the fee ladder is different to that of local students with an annual average of around £35K/year, typically increasing in the clinical years. 
  2. Curriculum acceptance – some of the more popular school curricula in the UAE, such as ISC, CBSE or UAE MoE may not be accepted by some of the medical schools.
  3. Weather – the weather can be difficult to acclimate to after years in the perennially sunny UAE. 

Keep in mind that some of the information above as it relates to fee structures and accepted curricula are university-dependent. All of the latest information can be found on the individual university’s website. 

Taking the UCAT and BMAT in Dubai 

So now that you’ve decided to apply to medical schools in the UK; what comes next? One of the more strenuous parts of the international medicine application process is the preparation required to sit the UCAT and/or BMAT. 

The UCAT and BMAT are entrance exams required by the majority of medical schools across the country. Whilst their purpose is the same, that’s where the similarities end. The UCAT is an aptitude test while the BMAT is more of a science-based exam that may mimic science tests at school. The UCAT is also a more popular option with 27 out of 34 medical schools opting to use these scores as opposed to the BMAT. More information can be found at – link MM UCAT v BMAT. 

Booking the UCAT and BMAT in the UAE

Some of the UCAT UAE test centers across Dubai and Abu Dhabi are listed below. There are also UCAT centers in the other emirates but this information is only disclosed to applicants after registering with the UCAT Consortium. Please note, however, that this is subject to change given the current climate. There may also be options to sit the UCAT UAE from your home; please refer to the UCAT Pearson Vue customer service team for more information. 

UCAT UAE Test CenterCategoryCityAddress 
Selem DMCC UCAT Test Centre in DubaiDubaiCluster F, Jumeirah Lake Towers (JLT)
New Horizons CLCUCAT Test Centre in DubaiDubaiThe Business Center Bldg, Bur Dubai 
The Exam Preparation & Testing House FZCO UCAT Test Centre in DubaiDubaiApricot Tower, Silicon Oasis 
New Horizons CLC UCAT Test Centre in Abu DhabiAbu Dhabi Al Ghaith Tower, Hamdan Street 
Al Khawarizmi International College UCAT Test Centre in Abu DhabiAbu Dhabi Near Deerfields Mall, AUH-DXB Road 

BMAT UAE test centers have yet to be confirmed. Following up with the relevant consortium will allow for the latest updates with regards to registration and preparation for the BMAT UAE.

How do I prepare for the UCAT and BMAT in UAE?

In preparing for the UCAT UAE, there are multiple UCAT courses available to you across the country. Many of these are expensive and require in-person learning which may not be conducive to current learning environments. Based on your availability and financial accessibility, UCAT UAE online courses such as those offered by Medic Mind, offer the most comprehensive yet flexible tutoring for the UCAT. If you would prefer to self-study for the UCAT, popular UCAT UAE books and question banks can be found online and via Amazon and Noon. 

As stated above, there are multiple courses available for the BMAT as well but with similar disadvantages. Medic Mind offers one-to-one virtual tutorials for the BMAT and are worth considering in your preparation to apply to medical school. Check out our courses below!

English Language Competency Test in the UAE

One of the additional barriers that international applicants to the UK face is the english language test. The test most widely accepted across the country is the ‘International English Language Testing System’, or IELTS. There are two versions of this test, General Training and Academic, and the latter is the one required by medical schools in the UK.

There are over 50 testing centers across the UAE with many associated with individual schools and/or universities. Consequently, the best place to start would be to visit the official IELTS site and check to see if your educational institution is a licensed IELTS center. If your school is not listed, you can opt to sit the test at the British Council or any other educational institution. 

The IELTS Academic Test has 4 sections – listening, reading, writing and speaking – lasting up to 2 hours and 45 minutes. Typically, the tests will occur on the same day but in some cases, your speaking section may be completed within one week before or after the other sections. The test is scored from 0 to 9 with most medical schools requiring a score of at least 7 or higher. 

The IELTS is not an exam requiring strenuous preparation. A simple understanding of the exam format and practicing a few sample questions will typically be enough. The IELTS tests english competence; most students who have been educated in the UAE will have a strong grasp of the language. Preparation material can be found on the official IELTS website. There are also numerous free resources online. 

Preparing for the Medicine Interview in the UAE 

So you’ve sent your applications and a few weeks later you receive an invitation to a medicine interview with your dream UK university; congratulations! So what happens next? Once you accept this invitation, the UK medical school will have you complete a few logistical steps such as setting a suitable date and location, if applicable. 

A few UK universities (eg: Nottingham Medical School) will allow international UAE applicants to sit their interview at any of their global campuses. This is particularly useful for applicants who may not have the means or the time to travel to the UK. If you can attend the interview at the relevant medical school, we strongly suggest that you choose to do so. This will give you the added advantage of touring the medical school, university campus and city. With the current global situation, interviews may continue to be held virtually. In this case, there is no need for travel and you will be able to comfortably sit your interview from your home. All you will need is a strong WiFi connection!

In preparing for your interview, there are a multitude of interview resources available online. For example, the Medic Mind website hosts various articles outlining the interview process, free interview questions and MMI mocks. Additionally, you can use Medic Mind’s UAE interview tutors; this is particularly useful if you’re sitting your interview online as the tutoring is conducted virtually as well. 

As previously stated, there are a host of medicine interview courses in the UAE. Many schools will also run mock MMI circuits in UAE. Do your research and pick what best encapsulates your learning style. 

Looking forward!

Applying to UK medical schools is an intimidating process that is only amplified in the faces of international students. Ultimately, don’t let your visa status dictate your intellectual worth to any higher educational institution. The UAE boasts tremendous resources and facilities to help students succeed in their medical school applications. From pro-bono college counsellors to private tutoring centers, there are a lot of resources to choose from to aid in your application. Additionally, the world is at your fingertips with virtual resources such as Medic Mind. 

While the move from the UAE to the UK may seem daunting, it is also filled with opportunity and challenge. The only prerequisite is a genuine passion for a career in Medicine. 

Good luck with your applications! 

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