New Zealand Student’s Guide to Getting Into Australian Medical Schools
The road to becoming a doctor is long and tumultuous.
You'll spend thousands of hours studying, thousands of hours in training and after a long 10+ years, you'll finally become a doctor.
Once you've committed yourself to this intimidating but rewarding journey, your first step is to pick a medical school.
With only two medical schools to choose from in New Zealand, it can't be that difficult.
That is, until you realise that Australian medical schools are also knocking at your door. Australia has 20 medical schools, so you're bound to get into one of them, right?
Not to mention, many Australian medical schools offer a graduate-entry program, which allows you to select a major of your choice as an undergraduate, and then go into a four-year graduate medical school program based on your undergraduate GPA, GAMSAT score and interview.
Now the question is, how do you get into an Australian medical school as a Kiwi?
Medical School in Australia Requirements: High School
Australian medical schools consider two aspects of your high school education: your courses and your ATAR.
There's only one mandatory high school subject you need to complete in order to apply to medical schools in Australia: Year 13 chemistry. Although no other subjects are technically required, you should take biology, physics or maths as well as Year 12 English.
You will need to work really hard in all of your courses because most undergraduate Australian medical schools have ATAR cut-offs.
ATAR stands for Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank and is a rank of your academic achievement compared to every single Australian student in your year.
As a New Zealand student, you don't have an ATAR… or do you?
When you apply to an Australian medical school, your curriculum (NCEA, CIE or IB) will be converted to an ATAR score so that the medical schools can accurately assess your performance against other applicants.
Thankfully, we have conversion calculators that do all the work for you so you can figure out where your ATAR stands and which medical schools may be the best fit for you.
Now that you know how to find your ATAR, let's take a look at the ATAR cut-offs for each university that offers medicine in Australia.
+ The University of New South Wales: 96 (median ATAR of successful applicants: 99.55)
+ Western Sydney University: 95.5
+ University of Newcastle & University of New England (combined degree): 94.30
+ The University of Sydney: 99.95
+ The University of Melbourne: 99.90
+ Monash University: 90.00
+ Griffith University: 99.70
+ The University of Queensland: 99
+ Bond University: 97
+ James Cook University: 96
+ The University of Adelaide: 90
+ Flinders University: 95
+ The University of Western Australia: 99
+ Curtin University: 95
+ Charles Darwin University: 90
+ University of Tasmania: 95
Are you surprised by how high most of these cutoffs are?
You shouldn't be! Medicine is one of the hardest programs to get into in Australia, just like in New Zealand.
If you're really worried about the high ATAR cut-offs, there are two different streams you could enter through that may lower your academic requirements slightly.
Bonded Medical Place (BMP):This scheme allows you to have a slightly lower ATAR and UCAT result; however, you must spend a year practising in rural Australia after graduation. While this may not sound ideal, practising in an area that lacks enough doctors will give you a more hands-on experience and more responsibility than you would receive at a large hospital with many qualified doctors.
Identify as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait: If, by chance, you're an Australian native then you're subject to lower cut-offs.
If neither of these streams apply to you, you will need to work hard in high school and achieve exceptional results.
UCAT or GAMSAT for Australian Medical Schools
One of the biggest differences between Australian medical schools and New Zealand medical schools is flexibility.
Unlike in New Zealand, where you need to study one year of health or science before applying for a place in medical school, Australia has a few different pathways you can take. Whether you need to take the UCAT or GAMSAT will depend on the pathway you take.
- Undergraduate: Directly from high school, UCAT usually needed
- Postgraduate: After gaining an undergraduate degree in any subject, GAMSAT usually needed
- Conditional Entry: Directly from high school into any Bachelor's program and then guaranteed entry into a graduate medical program
For New Zealand students interested in applying to Australian universities, you would sit the UCAT during Year 13, which means juggling your UCAT preparation all while maintaining your grades!
For the UCAT, usually a 90%+ is required to be competitive at most universities but if you are interested in the top tier universities like UNSW, you need to score around 98%. Your best bet is to aim for 95% - this should make you very competitive.
Now that you know about the undergraduate UCAT requirements, it's time to find out more about the graduate pathway.
If you apply to graduate medicine in New Zealand, you'll either be admitted into the second year of the six year medical programme or the first year in which case you'd need to complete the entire six year programme, even if you already have a bachelor's degree.
In Australia, on the other hand, many medical schools have adopted a four-year graduate-entry programme, created by Flinders University.
This programme allows you to complete an undergraduate degree in pretty much any subject you are passionate about, and then apply for a four year medical school programme based on your undergraduate GPA, GAMSAT and interview.
This creates a more diverse medical cohort of students. Your colleagues' undergraduate backgrounds can range from law to communications to chemistry and they'll all have unique life experiences that they can call upon to become better doctors by relating to their patients in creative ways.
Before you get too excited, remember that you'll still need to sit the GAMSAT regardless of what you study in order to be eligible for medical school in Australia.
Unlike the UCAT, the GAMSAT tests you on your academic knowledge including Uni Year 1 biology and chemistry as well as high-school-level physics so if you study a subject such as communications, you'll also need to take the subject requirements above.
Check out a brief GAMSAT guide below. Keep in mind that these are the absolute minimum scores you need to apply. You need to score in the high 60s to actually be competitive.
+ Australia National University: 55 with a minimum of 50 in each section
+ Deakin University: 50 with a minimum of 50 in each section
+ Flinders University 50 overall with a minimum of 50 in section I and III and a minimum of 46 in section II to apply
+ Griffith University: A minimum of 50 in each section
+ University of Notre Dame: A minimum of 50 in each section to apply and around an average of 62 to be offered a place
+ The University of Melbourne: 50, with a minimum of 50 in each section to apply and around an average of 68 to be offered an interview
+ University of Wollongong: A minimum of 50 in each section to apply
+ The University of Queensland: Around a 70 to be offered a place
+ The University of Sydney: 69 (average cutoff for MD applicants) with a minimum of 50 in each section to apply
+ The University of Western Australia: 68, average overall score
Monash University also offers a graduate medical program but you have to complete a bachelor's degree at Monash.
There are a small number of universities, including The University of Sydney, that don't require you to take the UCAT or the GAMSAT because they offer a "conditional entry" program.
However, getting into medical school through this stream is extremely difficult. You'll need to apply as a secondary school leaver and have a top ATAR. This process guarantees you a spot in a postgrad med degree after you complete a non-medical undergraduate degree.
For USyd, Melbourne and Griffith you do not need to take the UCAT or the GAMSAT to receive conditional entry but you do need to sit it for Queensland and Western Australia's conditional entry programs. Be sure to check that you don't need to sit the UCAT before applying to a conditional entry program.
If you plan on pursuing this option, you'll need to work extremely hard in high school to ensure you get the highest possible ATAR (or equivalent) and maintain a high GPA while you study your Bachelor's degree.
Medicine Interview Preparation
The last part of getting into Australian medical schools is the interview.
There are three different types of interviews:
1. Semi-Structured Interview (SSI)
2. Multiple Mini Interview (MMI)
3. Unstructured Interview
The Semi-Structured Interview is sort of like a traditional interview, which lasts for 40 minutes to an hour. You'll likely be faced with two interviewers who will ask you a series of questions, such as "why do you want to do medicine?" and then follow up based on your responses. Some universities, such as UNSW, ask you to fill out a form when you apply with a couple of questions that the interviewers will then reference if you make it to the interview round.
SSI Study Tip
Prepare answers for each "typical" questions and practise responding to them while still being authentic.
"Why do you want to study medicine?"
"What are your strengths and weaknesses?"
"How would your friends describe you?"
"How have you dealt with a challenge in the past?"
Universities That Use SSI
James Cook University
University of Adelaide (a mix between MMI and SSI)
Multiple Mini Interview
The Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) is a series of separate "mini" interviews consisting of eight different stations. At each station, you'll have about two minutes to read a prompt and then 6-8 minutes to respond to questions about the situation from an interviewer. Then you'll rotate stations. The University of Auckland uses MMI and it's growing in popularity in Australia as well.
The role playing station is the most difficult station in the MMI. In this station, you'll be given a specific situation that you may face as a doctor and need to act out how you would respond given the scenario.
MMI Study Tip
Set up different stations and time yourself running through them using actual scenarios and interviewers. You need to learn how to manage your time and do your best under pressure. MedView offer 1-1 tutoring and in person courses to help you prepare for the MMI.
Universities That Use MMI
The University of Sydney
University of Wollongong
Australian National University
The University of Melbourne
University of Notre Dame
The University of Western Australia
Last but not least, the unstructured interview, which consists of a group interview with about 10 other applicants. The interview tends to be very casual and relaxed because the interviewers simply want to see that you can talk and react to other people. You may also have a written assessment.
Unstructured Interview Study Tip
Get together with a group of your friends and discuss why you each want to go to medicine, what your strengths and weaknesses are, etc. Practise responding to their answers in a thoughtful and concise way.
Universities That Use the Unstructured Interview
- The University of Sydney Double Degree Program
The interview can be up to 40% of your application weight so you need to take it very seriously and prepare based on the type of interview the university you're interested in conducts.
Cost of Australian Medical Schools
Okay, so now you know how to prepare in high school, what exam you need to take and how to prepare for the interview, but how much do Australian medical schools cost?
You've probably heard all of the rumors about Kiwis not getting domestic (Commonwealth Supported) fees anymore which would mean that it would cost over $350,000 NZD to study medicine.
No, thank you! It would only cost you about $15,384 NZD a year to complete the same course at The University of Auckland so you'd be insane to go to Melbourne instead.
Even if you were eligible for Australian student aid, no sensible person would choose to spend that much money on an education that you could get for much cheaper at home.
Well, you're in luck, since the Australian government decided to put an end to this potentially damaging piece of legislation and will review it again in 2020.
For now, your Commonwealth Supported fees are safe. Take advantage of these prices while you can!
As a Commonwealth Supported student, your student contribution amount will be around $11,416 NZD a year regardless of which university you choose thanks to loads of government subsidies.
The only university that is slightly (or rather, extremely) more expensive, is Bond University. The entire medical program will cost you about $384,170 NZD so unless you're keen to spend loads of cash, pick a different university!
Easiest Medical Schools to Get Into
The truth is, all medical schools in Australia are very difficult to get into. However, different universities emphasise different parts of your application which allows you to apply to universities that play to your strengths.
If you're a great test-taker but hate interviews: The University of Queensland
The University of Queensland is one of the easiest places for you to get into because, you guessed it, there's no interview process!
If you want to get in as a school leaver, you need to crush Year 13 English, have an incredible ATAR of 99 (or equivalent) and a top UCAT score.
Not to mention that if your ATAR is above a 99, your UCAT counts for 100% of your entrance weight.
If you're a great test-taker, you're bound to gain admission!
Once you're accepted, you'll need to complete a Bachelor's degree at UQ and maintain a minimum overall GPA of 5.0. Then, you'll begin your doctorate of medicine.
Sounds like a dream if you hate interviews.
If you hate taking tests but are very sociable: University of Adelaide
Not everyone is great at taking tests and that's okay, the University of Adelaide is here to save the day!
At Adelaide, the UCAT is only weighted 20%, while the interview and academic results are weighted 40% each.
Sounds perfect if you didn't crush the UCAT! You can focus on your strongest skills and charm the interviewers with your great personality and passion for medicine.
If your ATAR (or equivalent) isn't "that" high: Monash University
Technically, Monash University's cut-off ATAR is 90, which is very low for a medical school.
But before you jump up and down, keep in mind that you'll need a much higher ATAR score to be competitive.
That being said, you can apply with your 90, hope your UCAT score is much higher and kill it in the interview and perhaps you'll still get in!
As you can see, there is no "easy" way into medical school so the best thing you can do to get into your dream Australian med program is work hard, get good grades in high school, crush your UCAT and nail your interview.
Other than that, nothing is guaranteed.
Life After Medical School in Australia
Completing medical school may take you between four and seven years in Australia, depending on which program you enter. After you graduate, you'll need to complete a year-long internship, a one- to two-year residency and a three- to seven-year period as a registrar after which you'll become a fully fledged doctor.
There is no downside to staying in Australia to practise after you graduate; however, it can be much more competitive to find training positions.
That being said, graduates of Australian medical schools tend to publish more papers, conduct more research and be more qualified/experienced than graduates of New Zealand medical schools so going back to NZ after you complete your medical education may give you an advantage over your Kiwi peers.
Regardless of what you choose to do after you graduate, there's no doubt that going to medical school in Australia can be extremely beneficial because you have a greater chance of getting into the best medical school for you when you are choosing between 20 medical schools, not two.
And now that you know you don't need to worry about tuition fee hikes until at least 2020, there's nothing holding you back, so spread your wings and fly to Australia where the weather's great, the doctors are well prepared and the medical school options are plentiful.
What are you waiting for? It's time to start crushing your classes – your medical school future depends on them.
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