5 min read

My Long (but Worthwhile) Journey to Becoming a Doctor in Australia

Published on
May 2, 2024

What Is The Journey To Become A Doctor? 

So you want to study medicine? Maybe you’re in High School and are researching the pathway to becoming a doctor in Australia. Or maybe you’re a seasoned medical school applicant waiting to hear about Interview offers. When I was applying to medical schools, hearing about how other people navigated through the Med School Journey was really helpful. 

Here is a bit about my journey to becoming a doctor with some lessons I learnt along the way! 

Fresh Out Of High School I Wondered: ‘What To Study?’

Like many people, coming out of Secondary School I was unsure of what I wanted to study. I had developed a preliminary interest in becoming a doctor, sparked initially from popular culture. No, I’m not talking about Grey’s Anatomy. My personal introduction to the idea came through reading Jodi Picoult’s novel ‘My Sister’s Keeper’. Moreover, I really enjoyed studying health and  science subjects in Year 12

Despite this, I did not enrol to sit the UCAT exam (then known as the UMAT) in Year 12. The UCAT is the examination used to distinguish candidates for entry into Australian Undergraduate Medical Schools. UCAT scores are based on a UCAT percentile. If you rank highly enough on the UCAT and receive a sufficient ATAR, you may be invited for an Undergraduate Medical Interview. Despite many of my friends enrolling to sit the UCAT and some of them actually scoring highly enough to get into Undergraduate med courses, I didn’t feel ready to commit to a career in medicine - I wanted to explore my options.

My Introduction To The GAMSAT Exam

I was in my first year of a Bachelor of Science at The University of Melbourne, when I was first introduced to the GAMSAT. I learned that getting a sufficient score on the GAMSAT exam is required for entry into Postgraduate medical school. While there are some universities that offer pathway programs that allow candidates to get around it, the vast majority studying medicine as Postgraduates will have had to have passed the notoriously difficult GAMSAT exam

Like many GAMSAT sitters, I decided to try my hand at sitting the GAMSAT exam without doing any structured preparation. Whilst I did complete the official ACER GAMSAT practise resources and looked over some materials that I had inherited from friends, I did not have any form of GAMSAT tutor. Considering this, I felt reasonably happy with my performance. 

GAMSAT Attempt No. 2

One year later, I was ready to attempt the GAMSAT again. This time, I decided to enrol in a Fraser’s GAMSAT Tuition Course. This gave me access to GAMSAT example questions, mock exams, Section 2 private tuition and more. I certainly went into my second GAMSAT exam feeling much more prepared and having done many more GAMSAT practice questions

Accordingly, I did see a slight improvement in my overall GAMSAT score. Whilst I did submit a GEMSAS medical school application later that year, I did not receive any interview offers. I was disappointed that my GAMSAT study efforts and - more importantly - potential to be a great doctor were not translating. Knowing that I owed it to myself to try at least one more time, I enrolled to sit GAMSAT the following year. 

Third Time The Charm? 

Having been pleased with my Fraser’s GAMSAT Tuition experience the previous year, including the quality of the GAMSAT practice test materials supplied and the guidance and structure my tutors gave me, I decided to enrol again. Walking into my third GAMSAT I felt I had all the background knowledge, even the dreaded Section 3 physics. I was so nervous walking into the exam hall. 

Would the third time be the charm for me?

I open up the dreaded results page. Repeating in my head “please by near 70, please be near 70”. I finally dare to look at the overall number: low 60s again. Frustrated doesn’t even begin to describe it, I was furious. I can remember going down to tell my parents “If they don’t want me in medicine, well I’ll go and do something else then!” And they agreed with me. I had spent three consecutive Summer holidays dedicating all of my spare time to preparing for this marathon exam, including spending thousands of dollars for preparation programs. 

I felt defeated and ready to direct my attention elsewhere. I was actually starting to entertain the thought that medicine may not be for me. 

Undertaking An Honours Year

During my BSc, I unexpectedly discovered a new passion: research. This inspired me to pursue a lab-based Honours year in Microbiology and Immunology. The bitter taste in my mouth regarding the GAMSAT was starting to tarnish my whole view of the medical profession. A career in research was looking like a viable alternative. 

I really loved my growing skills and independence in the lab as well as the opportunity to combine my love of writing with science/academia. Research is challenging but so supportive - I loved working collaboratively with people who shared my passion in the lab. I was being encouraged by my supervisors to commence a PhD the following year. A career in research would allow me to have flexibility to design experiments around interest areas, develop new protocols and - quite appealingly, I wouldn’t have to deal with difficult people (maybe just difficult mice). 

Confirmation That Becoming A Doctor Is For Me

While I loved completing both my research projects, there were some obvious red flags regarding a career in research. Namely, the short-term employment contracts and the constant need to prove yourself (through grant applications as well as the publish or perish culture). In an ideal world where these factors weren’t reality, I may be writing a very different blog. However, I saw great scientists be made redundant and spend years drafting a single paper. I was passionate but knew that the harsh reality of life as a research scientist wasn’t what I wanted. 

Just because I didn’t want to be a researcher, how did I know I wanted to be a doctor? Well, I live with two chronic, invisible illnesses which have required me to have a lot of interactions with healthcare professionals; good and bad. One condition got so bad during my Honours year that I almost had to drop out for medical reasons. These experiences inspired me to want to be a clinician so that I can mirror those really amazing doctors that helped me.

Equally, I wanted to make sure that other people who are fighting for recognition and treatment with their invisible illnesses are heard and seen, unlike so many doctors who dismissed me. It was reflecting on this that helped me reach the conclusion that a career as a doctor really was what I wanted to do. If that meant sitting the GAMSAT one last time, then I would have to do it… 


Burnt-out after Honours, I decided to take a gap year to focus on my health, the GAMSAT and having fun. Unfortunately it was 2020 and the pandemic not only compromised my gap year, it greatly complicated the GAMSAT experience. Only one week before the exam was due to be sat, the test was postponed indefinitely. Keep in mind, this is after I had been intensely studying for about 3 months (under the guidance of Fraser’s). It felt like all that work was for nothing… would we even get to sit the exam? 

After much anxious waiting, we found out that we would sit the exam but in a completely different format: online, proctored and the exam would now be much, much shorter! Despite all of the unfamiliarity surrounding this new format, I somehow felt better. I was working with my tutor to change my exam strategy and mental approach to questions. 

On the day, I was able to move through the exam faster, tried to let go of the fear of getting questions wrong and stuck to my strategy (even when questions were hard). Despite experiencing technical difficulty in Section 2, I stayed calm. 

And it paid off, I jumped from around the 75th to the 90th percentile! 

My Medical School Interview: 

Even with my improved GAMSAT score, I still wasn’t sure if I would receive an Interview offer. Four years into this medical applications process, it was fair to say I doubted that this would ever happen for me! The Interviews were also complicated by COVID, as they moved online for the first time. We weren’t sure what the platform would be: Zoom, Sonru? Knowing that I now had competitive scores, I decided to enrol in a Fraser’s Interview Course - if I did get the chance to interview, I wanted to make the absolute most of it!

When I did receive an Interview offer at ANU I felt elated. Although the first interview was only 8 days away, I felt really well prepared having worked through difficult medical school interview questions from the Fraser’s Online Atlas and went on to do three Mock Interviews which I found extremely useful. I felt confident in my tone and approach to answering common medical interview questions

Moving Interstate For Med School 

I can still remember the moment I found out I had been offered a place at medical school - I was doing a weird type of sob. It felt so surreal. I was extremely excited that my dream of being admitted into a Doctor of Medicine and Surgery (MD degree) was finally coming true. At the same time, I also felt apprehensive about moving interstate to the ‘bush capital’ of Australia. 

Indeed, Canberra can certainly feel a bit quiet at times when compared to the lively Melbourne I was used to. In fact, regardless of where you’re going to and from, leaving behind your support network and the familiarity of home is difficult. Alas, this is amplified in COVID times, with border closures and lockdowns making planning trips back home even harder. 

Nonetheless, moving interstate to study medicine has been so worth it. It has forced me to make new friends and explore new places. Moreover, I get to treat Canberra as my study place. Here, I am a med student and when visiting home in Melbourne, I get to enjoy that separation, forget about med and switch off!

Reflecting On My Pathway To Becoming A Doctor

Despite my journey being so difficult, to the point of almost giving up on a career in medicine, looking back now, I wouldn’t change anything. I know that struggling with the GAMSAT made me appreciate this opportunity to study medicine so much more. If I had gotten in with ease, I would not have had to question if medicine is really for me. While the path to get here was difficult, as is the path ahead, that is what makes this career so fulfilling. 

Where To From Here?

The journey to becoming a doctor is obviously not a piece of cake. It takes courage and perseverance to overcome the many obstacles throughout your life. For starters, the psychometric GAMSAT exam and medical interviews may seem challenging in itself, but the goal is to realise its true intention and build confidence to excel through medical school and future practice.

We hope that this personal reflection can be beneficial to you and highlights important components of becoming a doctor. Remember that the moral of this story is to never give up on your dreams!

We at Fraser’s are aware of the complexities one faces when pursuing medicine, hence, most of our Free Resources and Tools are designed to help you every step of the way, until you begin medical school. So, be certain to check out our informative blogs and podcasts!