Should I choose a Medicine Course with a Pre-Med Year?

Should I choose a Medicine Course with a Pre-Med Year?

9 months ago by Chris

A common question asked by medicine hopefuls is, “Should I choose a medical course with a pre-med year?” This blog answers this question.


What is the difference between 5- and 6-year medical courses?

First, we need to understand the difference between 5- and 6-year medical courses. 6-year courses have a pre-med year where you develop a science foundation before you begin studying core medicine subjects such as anatomy and physiology in your second year. In contrast, the 5-year courses do not have a science foundation year, and begin with medicine-specific subjects straight away.

 There are five universities in Ireland offering undergraduate medicine. The following table outlines which universities offer 5- and 6-year courses:


5-year course only (no pre-med year) 

6-year course only (compulsory pre-med year) 

5- and 6-year course options 

Trinity College Dublin (TCD)

University College Dublin (UCD)

National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG)

University College Cork (UCC)


Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI)


 As you can see, RCSI and NUIG have both a 5- and 6-year course option. However, you are not able to choose which of these course options you would like to apply for. If you accept a place in NUIG or RCSI, you will be placed in one of the two courses depending on your leaving certificate subjects. If you have studied one science subject you will be placed on the 6 year course. If you achieve eligible grades in two or more science subjects, you may be placed on either of the courses.


Can I skip a pre-med year?

 If you have credits from another third level course, you may be able to skip some or all of the pre-med year. In UCD you can apply for Recognition of Prior Learning which may allow you to bypass some or all of the pre-med year. NUIG and RCSI may take your third level credits into account and you may be eligible for the 5 year stream even if you didn’t reach the minimum subject requirements. This is generally only possible to arrange once you have accepted your place on the course. If you are interested in this option, you should contact the Admissions Office of the particular university in advance about your particular situation and obtain advice.


How should I choose which medical school to study at?

 While the pre-med year is one factor to consider when selecting your medical school, there are many other factors to consider. You can read about these in our blog on how to choose a medical school in Ireland.


Should I choose a medical school with a pre-med year?

To help you decide whether a pre-med year is right for you here are some factors you may wish to consider:


  1. Your Leaving Certificate Subjects 

How many science subjects did you undertake in your Leaving Certificate? If you only completed one science subject, you may not be eligible to apply for the 5-year courses. In this case a pre-med year would be a good option, as you will be given time to develop a strong foundation in science before diving into medicine. This means you should consider applying to UCD, NUIG and RCSI.


  1. What You Will Learn

In your pre-med year you will develop a foundation in Biology, Chemistry and Physics. This is especially useful if you only completed one science subject in your leaving certificate. However, even if you studied all three you won’t be bored. New applications relevant to medicine will be discussed and will go beyond what is learnt at Leaving Certificate level. Conversely, you may be eager to get started with subjects relevant to medicine (such as anatomy and physiology) as soon as possible, in which case you might enjoy undertaking a 5-year course.


  1. The Cost of a Pre-med Year 

University fees and the cost of living in Ireland are not cheap and an extra year of university can be costly. Finances could be an important factor in your decision regarding whether to study pre-med or not. An additional benefit of undertaking a 5-year course is that you will graduate a year early, allowing you to start working as a doctor and begin earning a salary. Graduating earlier has many other advantages, such as giving you an extra year to apply for competitive speciality training positions and providing the opportunity to undertake relevant clinical research.


  1. Burn out

The Leaving Certificate is a long, difficult year and jumping straight into medicine could be stressful. Taking a year to make friends and develop a strong scientific foundation, without the stress of medicine exams, could help you avoid burn out. University is very different from secondary school, and you will be expected to undertake independent learning. A pre-med year can help make this transition a little easier.


  1. Fun 

A pre-med year is a chance to experience everything college has to offer. Medicine is an intense course and you may find in later years that you don’t have as much time as you would like for college societies and clubs. In addition, you spend some of your later years in hospitals which means you won’t spend as much time on campus. A pre-med year is a great way to get fully involved with all aspects of university.



The decision regarding whether or not to undertake a pre-med year is a very personal one, and there are many factors to consider. Remember also that a pre-med year is only one factor to consider when deciding which medical school to apply to, and other considerations are often more important.

If undertaking a pre-med year is important to you and/or you have not studied the required science subjects in your Leaving Cert, you should consider applying to UCD, NUIG and RSCI. On the other hand, if you want to get stuck into medicine straight away and undertake a shorter course, you should preference TCD and UCC higher on your CAO application. 

Remember, medicine is a very competitive course so you should make sure you put all courses you are eligible for on your CAO form. Regardless of where you end up studying, college is an exciting time and you are sure to enjoy yourself once you get started!



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