Applying for an MBChB degree in South Africa

Two weeks ago we published an article titled “So You Want to Be a Doctor” detailing where you can study, available scholarships and specializations that are in demand in Swaziland. Now that applications have opened for Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBChB) programmes in South African universities, we have decided to write a follow up article detailing how you can get into an MBChB Program. Always remember; the earliest bird catches the fattest worm so the sooner you apply, the better your chances of getting into a Medicine Program. Wishing all the best to our future doctors!


Getting into medicine

There are three ways in which students can get into medicine in South Africa;

  • Enrolling straight into an MBChB from High School: this option is for those who are sure they want to study medicine after graduating high school.

To get into medical school under this condition, you need to have excellent SGCSE results well as A’levels in three subjects which must be inclusive of Mathematics and a Physical Science (preferably Biology/ Life Science). You also have to do really well on your NBTs. Admission is not based solely on results, most universities also consider; leadership qualities, work experience in related fields, civic engagement and more. Students taking gap years fall into this category.


  • Starting with a foundation BSc: this option is for students who are not able to pursue A’levels; do not qualify for medical school and decided to study something relevant to medicine instead; or students who had very little or no interest in medicine, but developed the passion during their pursuit of a different major that is still relevant to MBChB. If you fall under this category, your best bet would be to transfer to medical school halfway through your first year or at the beginning of your second year.

This process is facilitated by the universities and being allowed to transfer to medicine is based on your academic performance while doing the BSc at university. Universities will typically tell you how many places will be available and what kind of marks you will need in order to transfer to medicine. This gives you clear goals to work towards during your first few months at university. While this process is also extremely competitive, it gives you an idea of what kind of work you will be doing and it will give you the chance to confirm that medicine is really what you want to study before you’ve committed to a 6-year degree.


  • Pursuing Medicine after completing your BSc: A third alternative route to pursing a medicine degree is to complete a Bachelor of Science degree and then enrol for a MBChB programme. Historically, one would have had to enrol into the first year of an MBChB but the University of Witwatersrand recently introduced a Graduate Entry Medical Programme (GEMP) which allows entry of suitably qualified candidates who meet certain minimum requirements into the third year of the MBChB degree. This gives them the opportunity to complete their undergraduate medical studies in a period of only four years (a total of 7 years) after which they enter their internship and government mandated community service period.


  • The National Benchmark Tests (NBTs): These are assessments for first-year applicants into higher education institutions. The NBTs were designed to measure a writer’s ability to transfer understanding of various subjects to the demands of tertiary coursework. 


  • NBTs for Remote Writers: A remote writer/student is someone who is unable to write at an institution that generally facilitates the national benchmark test sessions. Usually it is a writer who is in another country or in an area too remote to be able to make a trip of a reasonable distance to the nearest testing centre. Send an email to to register as a remote writer.


  • Matric exemption certificate: A matriculation exemption is a legal requirement for first-degree study at a South African university. Foreign students wishing to register for first-degree studies in South Africa must have their school qualifications evaluated by the Matriculation Board that will then issue a certificate of exemption to those who qualify.

The Board forms an integral part of Universities South Africa’s (USAF) service. It advises the Minister of Education via USAF on the minimum general admission requirements for first bachelor’s degree studies. It also regulates admission to Bachelor degree studies by requiring all applicants who are completing or have completed their schooling outside of South Africa or through a system other that the South African National Senior Certificate (NSC) examinations to fulfil the criteria that has been set for that system.


Important dates

The earliest closing dates for most medicine programmes is May 2018, so make sure you are well prepared for submitting (if you have not yet submitted) a complete application form in the days leading to May, with all the proper documentation and all requirements satisfied.

Do check individual institutions for the exact deadlines.

For more information, please visit:


On-going Opportunities

The Swaziland Young Leaders Fellowship Program. Deadline: 5 April 2018. Link;

The Standard Bank Africa Derek Cooper Scholarship. Deadline: Varies by Institution. Link; 

The ALU Mandela Centennial Undergraduate Scholarship Programme. Deadline: 31 March 2018. Link;

The Anzisha Prize Fellowship. Deadline: 31 March 2018. Link;

The Mandela Rhodes Foundation Masters Scholarships. Deadline: 15 April 2018. Link;

The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program at KNUST for undergraduate studies. Deadline: 11 May 2018. Link;


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