In recent years, 'Straya (translates roughly to 'Australia' in English) has become the destination of choice for Singapore students looking to study medicine.
Australia offers a number of undergraduate medical courses, several of which are recognised by the Singapore Medical Council (list here) and a number of which are also ranked among the world's best. It even has a fairly similar educational system to Singapore.
Considering Australia also offers a more streamlined application process (as compared to the UK) and a slightly more encouraging admissions rate, it's not hard to see why the land down under is luring some medical hopefuls to its shores. And we haven't even mentioned the mystical appeal of barbecues, beer, and breathtaking...beaches.
Be warned though: getting a spot at one of Australia's schools is no cakewalk. Use the information below to set you on the right path towards snagging one of those coveted seats for yourself!
Six Australian universities offer undergraduate entry medical programmes recognised by SMC:
- Monash University (5 years)
- University of Adelaide (6 years)
- University of Newcastle (5 years)
- University of Tasmania (5 years)
- University New South Wales (6 years)
- Flinders University (6 years)
Three more Australian universities offer integrated bachelors + Medical Degree (MD) programmes, guaranteeing a spot in the MD course at the time of application, assuming successful completion of the bachelors:
- University of Sydney (7 years)
- University of Queensland (7 years)
- University of Western Australia (6 years)
The integrated options give students a more theoretical and holistic background of medicine, comprising 3-4 years of undergraduate study and 3 years of medical training.
Australian schools operate on a simple 1/3 system. Your admissions decision is determined 1/3 based on your grades, 1/3 based on your standardised test scores, and 1/3 based on your interview performance. And that’s it! No personal statement required.
1. Application form
Applications to most Australian universities must be placed through local agencies. Some however give you the option of either applying yourself online or through an agent. Check the website of universities you are interested in to find out what your options are.
2. Academic record (IB/A Level scores)
Entry requirements are slightly lower than those in the UK. However, applications to Australian medical schools are still highly competitive. Though Students with 37-38 IB/AAB GCE might technically meet the minimum cut off, typically students should only expect to see an offer with a 40+ IB or AAAA on their Singapore-Cambridge GCE A Levels.
The ISAT is required for students from overseas applying to medical schools in Australia. It is a surprisingly enigmatic test, with the company administering it being quite tight-lipped about its contents and even more miserly with preparatory materials. Save for a single practice test made available for purchase each year, no other preparatory materials are commercially available. As such, engaging a qualified tutor is highly recommended, because self-prep for this test is next to impossible.
Schools Requiring ISAT
The ISAT is widely required by universities in Australia. Nearly all well-known SMC recognised undergraduate pathway schools will ask for it, with the exception of University of Newcastle and University of Adelaide, which require PQA, and University of Sydney, which doesn’t require a test at all.
The ISAT also has a unique structure. The test is broken into 100 questions, which are an unorganised combination of mathematics and verbal questions. Students have three hours to complete the test. Breaks are permitted at any time; however, the clock does not stop during breaks.
Except for a two-week period in late February into early March, the ISAT is available year-round. Students can register for it anytime online. The ISAT has a two-year test validity.
Students receive a raw score out of 100 and a scaled score out of 200. Typically, students who score above 180 or in the 85th percentile or above are likely to be shortlisted for interviews.
The PQA is required by only two schools in Australia. Billing itself as the “test that cannot be studied for,” the PQA aims to quantify the intangible personal qualities that set promising prospective doctors apart from the rest. In spite of this imposing claim, the PQA is, like any test, fully beatable.
Schools Requiring PQA
The PQA is required by Newcastle University and the University of Adelaide.
The sections of the PQA are as follows:
a. Mental Agility Test – similar in content to the ISAT
b. Interpersonal Traits Questionnaire
c. Personal Characteristics inventory
Descriptions of the test segments can be found here.
The PQA is only administered by invitation as part of the interview process. As such, students should first submit their applications to the relevant universities, and then they will be given instructions on completing the PQA should they be shortlisted to take it.
As a personality based test, the PQA does not have scores in the traditional sense. Lower numbers indicate the tendency to value the rights of individuals whereas higher numbers indicate the tendency to value social norms.
4. Interview (if shortlisted)
Interviews can come in one of two formats: panel interviews and multiple mini interviews (MMI).
Panel interviews are the traditional format. Candidates will sit in front of a group of 5-6 individuals, who will ask the student questions evaluating their grasp of scientific concepts, their commitment to medicine, and their personal values.
The MMI is a variation on this, where panel members are split up into separate rooms, and students will rotate through each of the stations. In each room, students will be asked one or two questions. They will have 5-10 minutes to answer before moving on to the next room.
This format has become increasingly popular in recent years, as it is considered fairer; students can collect themselves again should they stumble in one of the rooms, and interviewers do not have the ability to influence one another’s opinions as they would in the panel format.
As Australia’s academic calendar runs on a different timeline, so do Australia’s application deadlines.
The Australian academic year begins in February. Most Australia programmes have rolling applications, with the 1st round deadlines falling between 13 April (Monash) to 30 June (Adelaide) of the year before matriculation. Applying by these early dates is encouraged for Singapore students, as doing so might allow you to have your interview at home in Singapore rather than in Australia. However, applications do remain open until October or November.
Check the website of universities you are interested in to confirm their application deadline.
Cost and Financial Aid
You will have to consult the individual web pages of the programmes for specific fees of each university. On average, however, expect tuition at an Australian medical school to total 60-70,000 AUD per year. Although these numbers might seem intimidating, they are actually relatively on par with the fees for the UK, once the exchange rate is taken into consideration.
In addition to the school fees, you should budget an additional 20,000 AUD per year for living expenses. In Australia, the government does not offer financial support to overseas students. As such, funding for your studies will have to come from local government support, scholarships, or private loans.
The more organised you are, the better you can make choices that serve your goals.
Do you want that brand name school on your resume, or are you looking to get your medical degree in the shortest time frame possible?
Knowing what your options are can help to narrow down what you actually want. Now that you have the information, get to thinking!