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Australian vs United States Medical Schools

Published on
May 11, 2024

When planning to study medicine abroad, the universities at the top of the list are typically US medical schools. This seems fair, considering the level of research output these universities produce. However, Australian medical schools are unique in their own ways, especially when it comes to higher employability rates and strong clinical ward internships.

Instead of looking at research, as you can look at the QS rankings for that, we will instead compare entry requirements, interview formats and tuition fees to help you to see their similarities and differences.

Let’s dive right into it!

Is an Australian Medical Degree Recognized In America?

The Doctor of Medicine in Australia is a recognised medical degree in the USA, despite considerable differences in their healthcare systems and hospital functionalities. In fact, In 2009, the University of Queensland School of Medicine established its 9th collaboration in the United States through the Ochsner Health System (OHS) to encourage global medical education. The programme allows for US students to undertake their initial 2 years of  pre-clinical education at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, before returning to the US for their final 2 clinical years at Ochsner Clinical School, New Orleans. The partnership also provides students with the opportunity to secure clinical internships in the US after completing part of their medical degree in Australia.

Often, when we draw an analysis between universities, we tend to use academic reputation and research impact to judge the medical school’s potential. As per the QS World Ranking System, Harvard University (USA) holds the top spot, followed by Stanford University, (USA) and the Johns Hopkins University (USA ). In contrast, the University of Melbourne and University of Sydney (Australia) rank in the top 20, maintaining a strong reputation for medical schools down under.

Difference In Australia And USA Medical Schools

Entry Requirements to Undergraduate Medicine, Australia

Medical schools in Australia provide entry at both Undergraduate and Postgraduate levels.

Students that are aspiring to study medicine after year 12 or during undergraduate degrees are required to sit the UCAT. The UCAT has a score validity of 1 year and is a 2 hour, computer-based exam with five sections assessing attributes and qualities deemed important for the pursuit of medicine.

The UG programme offers Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery as award qualifications.

Entry Requirements to Postgraduate Medicine, Australia

GAMSAT is the pathway to pursue medicine after earning a Bachelor's degree from any accredited university course. Organised and managed by GEMSAS, GAMSAT scores are valid for 2 years, meaning that you can have two application attempts at medicine for each time that you sit the GAMSAT. The GAMSAT can be undertaken an unlimited number of times.

The GAMSAT exam duration is 4 hours and 45 minutes, with three sections that test the applicant’s language comprehension and communication skills, along with reasoning within Biology, Physics, and Chemistry. The postgraduate medical programmes associated with GAMSAT entry typically award the Doctor of Medicine degree.

The exam scores are accepted around medical schools in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, US, Poland, Ireland.

Entry Requirements to Medicine, USA

Unlike Australia and New Zealand, American Medical schools provide a medicine programme at the postgraduate level only.

Instead of undertaking the GAMSAT exam, the US entry pathway requires an exam called the MCAT, alongside a 4 year ‘pre-medical degree’. Medical admissions are managed by the AAMC for most American Medical schools with the exception of the state of Texas, where TMDSAS is the affiliated portal.

The 7 hours 30 mins MCAT exam has a score validity of 3 years, longer than GAMSAT’s 2 year validity. One obtained, the MCAT score is considered for medical entry in the United States, Australia, Canada, and Caribbean Islands.

Only two Universities in America, the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and the American University of the Caribbean accept the GAMSAT exam score for applications in medicine.

Application Process In Australian vs US Medical Schools

Australian Medical Application Process

The majority of postgraduate medical schools in Australia are in affiliation with the GEMSAS, with the exception of USyd, Flinders University, Notre Dame, and Monash Medical school. The admission process follows for a similar framework across GEMSAS medical schools. This includes the combination of a candidate’s GPA and GAMSAT to rank students for a medical interview.

In the case of undergraduate medicine in Australia, fresh school leavers are gauged on their high ATAR and performance in an aptitude test, such as the UCAT or personalised university assessment score to be invited for a medical interview. Each undergraduate medical school in Australia is under a state-authorised academic committee that processes applications and calculates their UCAT scores in that particular region.

The following is the list of admissions committees for tertiary education in Australia:

  1. Victoria Tertiary Admissions Centre VTAC
  2. Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre (QTAC)
  3. South Australian Tertiary Admissions Centre (SATAC)
  4. Universities Admissions Centre (UAC)
  5. Tertiary Institutions Service Centre (TISC)
  6. University of Tasmania (UTAS)

United States Medical Application Process

In contrast, students interested in studying at an American medical school should submit their applications through AAMC, a centralised admission committee that is similar to GEMSAS. The American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) is a recognised AAMC centralised portal that processes student’s applications and delivers the MCAT scores to a student’s preferenced university.

The AAMCS is an independent portal whose function is limited to processing applications and does not interfere with the medical school’s decision on choosing prospective students for medicine.

Timeline For Application In Australian And US Medical schools

Admission Process Australian Medical Schools US Medical Schools
Frequency GAMSAT - Twice a year MCAT-Multiple times between January - September
Documents Proxy transcripts, Original Transcripts, English Language Competency (if required) Transcripts, LORs and a finalised list of prefered schools.
Application April - May May
Submission of Additional Documents June and July are the period for submission with applications closing by the end of July Primary and *Secondary Application to be submitted by September
Interview Offers September - Early November September to March
University Offers September to December After Thanksgiving with fill-ups or delayed interviews

*Secondary applications include supplementary essays and prompts that are delivered by universities after verifying the primary application. Some schools don’t send the prompts individually and require them to be actively searched for.

Interview Process

Now, at the interview stage, it comes down to demonstrating to the interviewers that you are a mature applicant with the qualities required for entrance into medicine.

The interview format across Australian and US medical schools is quite similar. The medical schools in both of these countries have adopted the traditional panel or Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) formats. 

The MMI interview format is often preferred as a modern test to select capable applicants whose interpersonal skills are better suited for medical school and future practice. Hence, across Australian and US medical schools, MMI interviewers assess a range of skills around various topics such as teamwork, public health and medical ethics.
One important characteristic about the MMI interview format is that you as an applicant will be greeted by a fresh interviewer at each MMI station. Hence, you will not only face a new interviewer but will be assessed independently on scenarios at each station, so your performance remains unaffected as you move through the MMI circuit.

Medical School Tuition Fees

Australian Medical Schools

Domestic students in Australia are eligible for Commonwealth Supported Places (CSPs), where the government offers a part of the tuition fees as a subsidy. This subsidised amount is meant to cover a part of the student’s tuition and is not considered as a payable loan amount. 

Besides the CSP, another prominent scheme is the Bonded Medical Place scheme that is available to Australian medical students. This scheme requires students to work for up to 3 years after completion of the medical degree in a district of workforce shortage defined by the Australian government.

Besides these government funded schemes, Australian medical schools have the general Domestic Full Fee Places, where the student needs to pay the full contribution towards their medical school fees.

US Medical Schools

The average cost of attendance in US medical schools is extremely high, including tuition fees and health insurance. However, both public and private medical schools tend to increase their fees from year to year, so it is important to keep track of fees for all of your preferenced medical schools.

To help students with the hefty sums there are student loans, scholarships and exchange programmes available, which may or may not be administered by AAMC.

Schemes such as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) provides 2 types of loans. Direct Unsubsidized Loan (6.21%) and Direct PLUS Loan (7.21%), which accumulate in interest at the end of the study period.

More of the financial aids include Military scholarships, Health Professions Scholarship Programs (HPSP), and the Medical and Dental Student Stipend Program (MDSSP), National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Scholarship, which also includes Dentists and Professional Student Exchange Program (PSEP).

All in all, it is expensive to attend medical school in the US, and nigh impossible without suitable financial backing or loans. Ensure that you have considered this fact carefully before going to apply.

Where To Next?

Hope you found this article informative and useful, explore your options with some insight into US and Australian medical schools. For more understanding of the Australian application process go to GEMSAS and ACER, compare the GAMSAT and MCAT or learn about the UK medical School admissions.