You know you want to be a doctor.
You know it’s going to take many years of hard work before you can actually operate on a patient.
You know you need to go to med school.
But do you know what it actually takes to get into the top medical programs in Australia and New Zealand?
Do you know what extracurricular activities you should participate in?
What subjects you should take in high school?
What UMAT score you need to accomplish your dreams and how to achieve it?
It’s crucial for you to answer these questions (and many others) before you apply in order to have a great shot at fulfilling your medical school dreams.
What are you waiting for? It’s time to find out what the prerequisites for medicine are in Australia and New Zealand!
Great Extracurricular Activities For Medical School
First thing’s first, if you want to get into a top medical school in Australia or New Zealand you better get to work on your extracurricular profile!
Hate to break it to you, but just focusing on your grades and exam scores isn’t going to cut it.
Although your written application will rarely ask you about your extracurricular activities (unlike in the US and the UK), the more diverse and in-depth your extracurricular profile is, the better you’re likely to perform on your med entrance exams and interviews.
If you and another student get interviews based off your ATAR and UMAT result, you will be able to handle a range of interview questions regarding your character traits (e.g. leadership/teamwork) due to your extracurricular activities; whereas, candidate #2 would struggle with these types of questions if they had not participated in any extracurricular activities.
So, let’s be clear on what I mean by “extracurriculars”. There are three major criteria you should ensure your extracurricular activities hit:
+ Medical Experience: i.e. shadowing a doctor in a hospital or general practice clinic or volunteering on medically-related activities. If shadowing a doctor, pharmacy/dental/physio work is less impressive because taking part in actual medical ecs demonstrates a specific passion, not just an interest in “health sciences”
+ Service: Volunteering, community work for people with disabilities or low socioeconomic background
+ Passion: Sports, music, debating, or something that you’ve accomplished a lot in outside of school/medicine
Some universities, most notably James Cook University, have very specific extracurricular qualities they look for in applicants.
James Cook has a heavy rural focus and prefers students who have rural or indigenous extracurricular involvement, so if you’re planning on applying to James Cook, make sure you hit this requirement as well.
As for the rest of you, it really doesn’t matter what extracurricular activities you participate in as long as you hit the three aforementioned criteria and get involved early enough to make an impact and stand out.
What Subjects Are Needed to Become a Doctor?
The good news is it doesn’t matter whether you do IB, NCEA, CIE or any other curriculum – you can get into New Zealand/Australian med school!
The bad news? There are a few subjects you should take to increase your chances of getting into your dream med program. Usually, unis want to see chemistry and a mid-level maths subject but let’s let the uni requirements speak for themselves.
Required or recommended subjects:
+ University of Otago: Recommended courses: Chemistry (year 13), Biology (year 13), Physics (year 13), Statistics (recommended) or Calculus (useful), Language-rich i.e. English, History, Classics and History of Art etc. is useful
+ The University of Auckland: Recommended: Final year of high school or NCEA Level 3: Biology, Chemistry, Physics and a subject that enhances literacy: English or Humanities-based subjects
+ The University of Notre Dame: N/A
+ The University of New South Wales: N/A
+ University of Newcastle and University of New England (combined degree): No subject prerequisites
+ Western Sydney University: N/A
+ The University of Sydney: Band 4 in NSW HSC Maths (not general maths) or similar result in alternative curriculum such as IB
+ The University of Wollongong: N/A
+ Monash University: Chemistry is required
+ Deakin University: N/A
+ The University of Melbourne: Pass Year 12 English or equivalent
+ The University of Queensland: N/A
+ James Cook University: Chemistry is required
+ Bond University: N/A
+ Griffith University: Maths, either Biology, Chemistry or Physics
+ Flinders University: N/A
+ The University of Adelaide: SACE Stage 2: Biology or Chemistry or Mathematical methods or IB biology or Chemistry or Maths or equivalent
+ Charles Darwin University: N/A
+ The University of Western Australia: N/A
+ Curtin University: N/A
+ The University of Tasmania: N/A
+ Australian National University: N/A
As you can see, you do not need to fill your schedule with all science and maths courses in order to get into your dream medical school – no matter what your friends say!
If you’re interested in Australian medical schools, you should be good to go as long as you take chemistry and a mid-level maths. Then, you can fill the rest of your schedule with subjects you’re passionate about and focus on getting the best scores possible!
As for New Zealand unis, it would be wise for you to take the highest level of chemistry, physics and/or biology you can, as well as either statistics or calculus, and a language- rich class as described above. The rest of your schedule should be filled with subjects you’ll do well in to ensure you get the highest scores possible.
Speaking of scores, let’s talk about what you need to get into AU/NZ med schools!
If you are interested in Australian med schools in any state/territory except for Queensland, you’ll need an ATAR, a.k.a. an Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank.
How do you get an ATAR if you’re not from Australia?
Easy! The unis you apply to convert your grades into an ATAR for you.
However, if you’re interested in checking out what your ATAR might be, take a look at our handy-dandy calculators:
P.S. If you’re applying to an Australian med school from New Zealand, check out this blog to learn everything you need to know about the process.
To be safe, anyone interested in AU med schools should aim for an 98-99 ATAR at a minimum; that being said, if you’re chasing top unis, your ATAR needs to be closer to 99.95. In fact, the USyd direct entry program only accepts people with a 99.95 ATAR so if you’re keen on attending that program, you better start studying!
In Queensland, on the other hand, you need an OP or Overall Position, which is similar to an ATAR, just presented differently.
If you’re applying to The University of Queensland you need an OP of 1.
Another quick tidbit: if you are in year 10 or below and are studying in Queensland, you’ll receive an ATAR. Surprise! Queensland is eliminating OPs and replacing them with ATARs in 2020.
If you are in year 10 or above and/or don’t study in Queensland, the breaking news above is neither relevant nor interesting to you. On that fun note, let’s keep going!
New Zealand med school grade requirements are a bit different because there’s no direct entry into medicine. If you are applying directly from high school you’ll need to apply to and complete a First Year program in either health sciences (Otago/Auckland) or Biomedical Science (Auckland).
Because of this system, The University of Auckland and University of Otago use your GPA score from your first year to assess your candidacy. Auckland has a GPA cut-off of 6.0 while Otago mandates that you receive a minimum of 70% in all of your first year papers, which equates to a GPA of 5.0, but realistically you’ll need a much higher GPA to have a shot due to the number of students vying for a place.
Still unsure about medical schools in New Zealand? Check out this video to learn about a day in the life of a medical student at Otago.
On to the next prerequisite for medicine: the UMAT.
What is a Good UMAT Score?
If you’re applying for an undergraduate med degree in either AU or NZ, you’ll have to sit the UMAT. There’s pretty much no way around it.
The UMAT is this fun little exam that doesn’t actually test you on any academic knowledge.
Yeah, you heard me right.
So, what does it test?
Your logic! Sort of.
The UMAT has three sections
1. Logical reasoning and problem solving
2. Understanding People
3. Non-verbal reasoning
You’ll be assessed on your ability to draw logical conclusions, understand and identify people’s feelings and thoughts in specific situations, and solve problems in non-verbal settings. This is where your extracurricular activities come in handy, remember?
Not to say that you can’t study for the UMAT, because you certainly can... and should.
Sound confusing? Luckily, we’ve covered the UMAT extensively in this blog. Plus, you’ll learn awesome tips and tricks to getting a top score!
For now, let’s dig into when you need to sit the UMAT and what score you need to make your doctor dreams a reality.
If you want to go to medical school in Australia, you need to sit the UMAT in your final year of high school and your score will be highly important in your admission decision.
The earlier you start studying, the less it’ll interrupt your normal studies and extracurricular activities (because you’re definitely 100% participating in extracurricular activities, riiiight?)
Take a look at these sample study schedules of someone who starts studying on January 1st in year 11 (second to last year) vs. year 12 (last year).
Year 11 start (82 weeks)
Year 12 start (30 weeks)
Once, Mon-Fri 4hr/day. 20hrs total
Practice questions, drills
1hr/week, 60 weeks total (holidays etc.)
2hrs/week every week
Revision of tutoring session
4/year, 3hr exam+2hr revision
4, 3hr exam+2hr revision
Approx. 2 hours, 25min
Approx 5 hours, 20min
We see that the year 12 student has put in twice as much work each week for three-quarters of the total reward.
Not to mention, the year 11 student has done most of their preparation during their less busy school year, as opposed to the busy year 12 student.
Be smart, don’t leave your studying to your last year of high school. You’ll thank me later, promise.
If you want to go to medical school in New Zealand, on the other hand, you can forget everything you’ve just read!
There’s no UMAT in high school for you!
Before you start celebrating, you still need to sit the UMAT.
However, you’ll most likely sit the UMAT in your first year of uni.
Sorry to burst your bubble.
As I mentioned above, there’s no direct entry into medical school In New Zealand so you’ll need to sit the UMAT during your first year of uni, in addition to completing your insanely competitive papers.
Doesn’t sound so fun anymore, right?
At least you’ll have more experience to draw on! (Maybe)
That being said, many students applying to med school in New Zealand will sit the UMAT in year 13 for practice.
Better safe than sorry!
Regardless of whether you’re applying to medical school in Australia or New Zealand, you should aim for the 90th percentile to be competitive; although, the higher your score, the better your chances of getting in.
For example, if you are interested in the top tier unis like The University of New South Wales, you need to be around the 98th percentile, so if you aim for the 95th percentile you should be very competitive.
Tired of reading about the UMAT?
Fine, let’s move on to the next entrance prerequisite for medicine... the GAMSAT!
What is a Good GAMSAT Score?
If you’re only interested in New Zealand unis or only in undergraduate medicine you can skip this section entirely (yay!).
If you’re interested in graduate med programs in Australia, listen closely!
Instead of the UMAT, you’ll need to sit the GAMSAT.
The GAMSAT is an entrance exam that tests you on:
1. Humanities and social sciences
3. Biological and physical sciences
Yep, those are actually academic subjects – no logic crap.
Not to say that either UMAT is easy! It’s not... the GAMSAT’s just harder.
For the GAMSAT, you should aim for a score in the mid 50s to high 60s to be competitive for most grad programs.
Want to learn more? Read this blog to learn everything you need to know about the GAMSAT!
Medical School Interviews
Last but not least, your final prerequisite for medicine is... the interviews!
Dun, dun, dunnnnn.
There are a three different types of interviews:
+ Multiple Mini Interview (MMI)
+ Semi Structured Interview (SSI)
+ Unstructured Interview
The most common interview is the MMI, which features a series of “mini” interviews set up through eight different stations, including one role playing station. At each station, you’ll read a prompt and then respond to questions about that specific situation. Then you’ll rotate.
It’s sort of like speed dating except much harder (and hopefully more rewarding).
The MMI gives the uni the chance to assess you in a variety of situations and see how you react in specific scenarios that you’re likely to encounter as a doctor.
This is where your medical extracurricular activities come into play. While the MMI can feel quite confronting and may push you out of your comfort zone, the more experience you have in the medical field, the more comfortable you’re likely to feel during an MMI interview. You should also set up mock stations with your friends and/or family to get used to the format.
Don’t worry! It’s not as scary as it seems.
Universities That Use MMI
+ The University of Auckland (after your first year)
+ The University of Sydney
+ The University of Wollongong
+ Australian National University
+ The University of Melbourne
+ Monash University
+ Deakin University
+ Griffith University
+ The University of Notre Dame
+ Bond University
+ The University of Western Australia
+ Curtin University
The semi-structured interview is the second most popular interview. Think of it more as a traditional job interview with two interviewers. This interview process analyses your character by asking more typical questions such as “what is a challenge you’ve overcome?”.
By participating in service and/or leadership extracurriculars, you’ll have plenty of challenges and leadership opportunities to draw on to ensure you leave a lasting impression on your interviewers.
Universities That Use SSI
+ Flinders University
+ James Cook University
+ The University of Adelaide: A mix between MMI and SSI
Last but not least, the unstructured interview. This interview is only used by the USyd’s double degree program, so if you’re not planning on applying to this particular program, please feel free to skip ahead!
Here’s the unstructured low down. This interview consists of a very casual group interview that tests your personality and how you interact to other applicants.
Any and all extracurricular activities will help you do well in this interview style.
Universities That Use the Unstructured Interview
+ The University of Sydney Double Degree Program
Now that you know all about the prerequisites for medicine in Australia and New Zealand, it’s time for you to get to work.
Start by picking extracurricular activities you’re passionate about, then pick the right courses, study for either the UMAT or the GAMSAT, crush your interview and you’ll be good to go.
Fly, future doctor, fly!