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Undergraduate Medicine Application Guide

Published on
May 11, 2024
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How They Work and Why it Matters To Get Them Right

Undergraduate Medicine Orientation

How Do I Apply To Medical School?

If you are finishing off year 12, and want to study Medicine in the future, the application process can seem incredibly intimidating. Despite this, you can apply to study medicine just as you would any other degree - through preferencing the course on your state Tertiary Admissions Centre (TAC). However, on top of this, there are a few extra steps you have to take! 

First, you need to be sure you satisfy all of the pre-requisite subjects and requirements. These vary across different medical schools but usually involve having completed an English subject, a Mathematics subject, and Physics or Chemistry. For some universities these are requirements, but for others, they are just ‘highly recommended,’ so it’s important to check the website of each school you are applying to. We’ve made a handy summary of the pre-requisites at every university found later on in this guide.

Secondly, you need to ensure that you sit the UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test) test if the school you are applying for requires this score. This test is run online each year during July and is designed to assess the abilities and professional behaviours of a student to determine aptitude for a medical career. Students often find this test quite difficult and unique compared to other assessments that they have completed before. It is recommended that you prepare early, and familiarise yourself with the style of questions asked in this exam.

Are you looking for useful resources to help you prepare for the UCAT exam?

Check out the comprehensive courses we offer to help you with all the information you could need!

In general, entrance into undergraduate Medicine is based on three elements:

  • Your high school results, or ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank)
  • Your UCAT scores (University Clinical Aptitude Test)
  • Your score in an interview or oral assessment (note: some universities also require a written application)

Unfortunately, not all universities treat these elements equally. In some cases, they are equally weighted and at other universities, one element may have more of a contribution. Two universities, JCU and Bond don’t use the UCAT scores at all. The specific requirements of each university will be discussed at length later on.

To physically apply, students need to register using the Tertiary Admissions Centre of the respective state e.g. VTAC for Victorian universities, and preference the medical degrees first.  Some universities also require you to apply directly to them, such as the UNSW online portal and the JCU written application. In short, the application process is lengthy, so it’s important to get your head around it early so you don’t overlook any crucial elements.

It can certainly be very confusing to navigate, but this guide will walk you through every step of the application process!

What Is The Difference Between Undergraduate And Postgraduate Medicine?

An undergraduate degree is one that you commence straight after completing high school. In comparison, a graduate medical degree requires you to first study an undergraduate degree in another area (such as science) and then apply to do Medicine afterward. Your entry to a postgraduate medicine degree would rely on maintaining a good GPA (Grade Point Average - your scores in university), scoring highly in the GAMSAT (the postgraduate admissions test), and performing well in the medical interview

Obviously, the undergraduate pathway is shorter and arguably less stressful to get into. It also allows you to enter the field and commence work earlier than postgraduate students. In saying that, postgraduate students often benefit from the extra years of teaching and experience and of course ultimately arrive at the same goal of a degree in medicine! 

Where Can I Study Medicine As An Undergraduate?

There are currently 12 universities that offer an undergraduate Medicine course across the country. Many students who are set on Medicine for their career apply broadly, including interstate universities. The universities per state have been summarised in the table below.

Table 1. Universities that offer Undergraduate Medicine Courses

State

Universities that offer Undergraduate Medicine

New South Wales

University of New South Wales, University of Newcastle / University of New England (JMP), Western Sydney University, Charles Sturt University

Queensland

James Cook University, Bond University

South Australia

University of Adelaide

Tasmania

University of Tasmania

Victoria

Monash University

Western Australia

Curtin University, Flinders University, University of Western Australia

What Is A Tertiary Admissions Centre?

For undergraduate medicine, students have to apply to the Tertiary Admissions Centre of the respective state. These are the administrative bodies that handle the university applications of all students to all university courses. This is the place where you submit your preferences and register your application. The list of tertiary admissions centres and their websites have been summarised in the table below.

Table 2. Tertiary Admissions Centres by state

State

Tertiary Admission Centre

Contact Details

New South Wales/ ACT

Universities Admissions Centre (UAC)

www.uac.edu.au

Queensland

Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre Ltd

www.qtac.edu.au

South Australia

South Australian Tertiary Admissions Centre

www.satac.edu.au

Tasmania

University of Tasmania

www.utas.edu.au

Victoria

Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre

www.vtac.edu.au

Western Australia

Tertiary Institutions Service Centre (TISC)

www.tisc.edu.au

Tertiary Admissions Centres are responsible for matching candidates to universities based on the students’ preferences and how they rank at that university degree. They are not responsible for selecting applicants or making decisions regarding their qualifications.

If you are applying for Medicine at multiple universities, you will need to register for every respective Tertiary Admissions Centre. Each center has slight differences including the number of preferences you can submit and the timelines, so it’s best to apply for each one carefully.

Be mindful that the closing dates for each state also vary, and often close earlier than students expect, (ie. 30th September for VTAC).

Timeline Of Your Medicine Application

To make the process a little easier, we’ve tried to break down the key steps and dates that you need to consider in your medicine application.

Table 3. Important dates for Undergraduate Medicine Applications

Date

Task

March 2

UCAT registration opens.

June 1

Final UCAT registration closes.

July 1 - 31

Sit the UCAT test online. Results come back instantly.

August

Tertiary Admissions Centre applications open (exact dates vary by state)

September 30

Written applications for JCU and UNSW close

Tertiary Admissions Centre applications begin to close ie. VTAC closes

ATAR

What Is An ATAR?

Hopefully, by now, you will have a good idea of what an ATAR or Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank is. In short, the ATAR is the final score that a year 12 receives upon completing high school and represents the position that they sit within the cohort. For example, a student who receives an ATAR of 90 is ranked above ~90% of the cohort. An ATAR of 99 puts you in the top 1%.

The ATAR is calculated slightly differently in each state, but in essence, it represents the performance of a student during the year in school-based assessments as well as their performance in their final state-based examinations. Ultimately, to perform highly in the ATAR, a student needs to be ranked well within their school for each of their subjects and then be among the top scorers in each of their exams.

What About Other High school Qualifications From Abroad -  NCEA, IB, and A levels?

If you are a New Zealander, or an Australian living abroad, you can still apply to medicine in the same way that you would if you were an Australian school leaver. New Zealand students, for instance, are considered to be domestic applicants in Australia and are eligible for commonwealth-supported places (more on that later). Australians living abroad may similarly also have British A level or IB qualifications. In the table below, you will find a rough conversion guide for the aforementioned high school qualifications and the ATAR that they should likely fall around. 

Table 1. 

Conversion guide for ATAR

The main difference between these external qualifications and the qualifications obtained from Australian high schools is that you’ll have to provide original high school transcripts from the examination board to verify your performance. So ensure you have this ready at the time of your application or it may not be able to be considered.

UCAT

What Is The UCAT?

The UCAT stands for the University Clinical Aptitude Test. It is a test that you will have likely completed prior to arriving at this stage of applications. It is important to note that every domestic medical application to Medicine must have a valid score in the UCAT in order to be considered for admission into any undergraduate-entry medical program. This excludes James Cook University and Bond University which are the only universities that don't use the UCAT as part of their application process. The UCAT runs in July each year and students sit it online. You can choose to do this from the comfort of your own home using an online proctoring service or on a computer at a local UCAT center.

How is the UCAT scored? The UCAT is scored out of 3,600 and is spread across four sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Abstract Reasoning, and Decision Making. Your results in each of these sections are scaled to a score between 300 and 900 and then added together to give your overall UCAT score. 

In addition, there is a section called the Situational Judgement Test (SJT) which measures a student’s ability to understand real-world situations and respond appropriately. Previously, this score was provided as a ‘band’, with 1 being the highest tier and 4 being the lowest. In 2020, raw marks in the UCAT SJT will be converted to scaled scores, which also range from 300 to 900. This change may make the SJT increasingly important in 2020, as the SJT scores will become a better discriminator between students.

Unlike the ATAR which can be used for 2 years (ie. you can finish high school in 2020 and apply again in 2021), the UCAT score is only valid for one year. This does allow students with a high ATAR but a low UCAT to resit the UCAT in the following year and apply to medicine again to hopefully have a higher chance at receiving a place.

How Do Universities Use The UCAT?

If you’ve already done some digging around the web, you’ll find all universities within the consortium have no current specifications as to what score is needed to gain an interview. So it’s really important that you do your best on the exam day to get that high score, preferably above the mean scaled score of 2485 – remembering that the UCAT is scored between 1200 and 3600. A score around 2810 would put you in the 90th percentile, giving you a good shot at scoring an interview.

To give you a rough indication of how such scores have been used in the past:

  • Monash University had cut-off UMAT (the predecessor to UCAT) scores, requiring students to achieve a minimum of 50 for each of the three sections of the test to be considered. Interview offers were then based on a combination of ATAR and UMAT.
  • The University of Adelaide used to rank applicants from highest to lowest according to UMAT scores and would offer interviews to the top-performing students.

Written Applications

What Are Written Applications?

Written applications are an essential component of the James Cook University (JCU) and the University of New South Wales (UNSW) written applications. In order to perform highly in written applications, you need to know what the universities stand for, what qualities they look for, and how you can contribute to the university as an individual. Have a look at Fraser’s Guide to Written Applications for more information! You can find it here: 

Below are introductions to each of the universities in order to get an idea of what the written applications look like.

James Cook University

James Cook University (JCU) is based in Townsville, Queensland, and offers a 6-year undergraduate MBBS degree. JCU does not use the UCAT to determine interview offers but instead requires students to provide a written application in the form of a number of short answer questions. As interview offers are based on the JCU written application and ATAR, it is crucial that students put considerable effort into this aspect of the application process. They also require students to send up to 3 written references with this application. Finally, a ‘predicted ATAR’ form is also required to be sent with this application, completed by a teacher at your school.

Each section is part of a form that requires students to hand-write their responses in the space provided. This means there is no strict word count, but space varies between 15 and 19 lines (approximately 215-275 words). 

University of New South Wales

Unlike JCU, UNSW doesn’t use their application questions to determine interview offers. Instead, they are only used to help guide interview questions on the day. Despite this, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put effort into your application! If you are successful in receiving an interview, these questions will help guide your interview - so set yourself up for success! The questions are all short and simplistic but change every year. It is strongly recommended that you make an early start so that you can put some thought into your answers and get the wording right within the word limit. In 2020 these questions included ‘Tell us about someone who has had the greatest influence on you’ and ‘Tell us who you are’.

Types Of University Place

It can be a real challenge to get your head around the types of places available. Below you will find a breakdown of the types of places that are offered. 

Commonwealth Supported Non-bonded Place (CSP)

Put simply, a Commonwealth-supported non-bonded place (CSP) is a no-strings-attached medical place. The price is heavily subsidized by the Commonwealth government and there is no demand whatsoever to practice rurally unless you choose to do so.

Commonwealth Supported Bonded Medical Place (BMP)

Commonwealth-supported places also come in a bonded variety, termed the BMP. The BMP is the same cost as the CSP with the addition that you are expected to practice rurally for a predefined period.  For the 2021 intake (and likely going forward), the bonded rural period will be 3 years with flexibility when and how that time is allocated. It is believed that by encouraging future doctors out into the country, the government can address the current and future workforce shortages that exist around rural and remote Australia. For anyone with a hesitation to apply for this place, please be assured that most doctors fulfil this quota naturally. It is very common for doctors to spend various amounts of time rurally to upskill and receive the hands-on training experience that rural areas can provide. 

Full-Fee Place (FFP)

A ‘FFP’ or full fee-paying position means that a student is required to pay all of the costs associated with their position in medical school. The government will not provide any contribution to this payment. A large portion of these applicants are traditionally international students for any given university. Domestic undergraduate FFPs are only offered for medicine at Bond University. 

Other Places (ERC / Rural / Indigenous)

There are a number of other places that are specific to a number of universities. The first type are special categories such as the allocated places for rural students or indigenous students. Other universities have a third tier of CSP places such as Monash University, where there is an Extended Rural Cohort (ERC) place. This is at the same cost as the CSP but requires a student to spend most of their clinical placement rurally during medical school. There is no bonded requirement following the completion of medical school. To find out more about these unique programs, it's best to check with each university's website before submitting your preferences.

Relevance To Internship

A common myth is that a BMP will not be ranked equivalently to a non-bonded CSP. The COAG agreement stipulates that an internship is guaranteed for every domestic place. This guarantee is not extended to FFP students, however domestic FFP students traditionally receive an internship every year as assured by their State. 

Guaranteed and Provisional Pathways

How Does A Guaranteed Or Provisional Pathway Work?

Many of you may be wondering about the elusive guaranteed and provisional pathway that is often mentioned when exploring undergraduate medicine courses. Essentially, a guaranteed or provisional pathway is one where a student is offered a provisional place in a graduate medicine degree given that they continue to maintain a strong academic performance as an undergraduate. These offers are only made to very high-performing school leavers and are no less competitive than an undergraduate place.

Which Universities Offer Such Pathways?

We have summarised all of the guaranteed/provisional pathways by the state in the table below.

Table 4. Guaranteed and Provisional Offer Pathways by state

New South Wales/ ACT

The University of Sydney - Provisional entry program with ATAR 99.95 for Bachelor of Science & Doctor of Medicine OR Bachelor of Arts & Doctor of Medicine


The University of Wollongong - Provisional entry program with 95+. 

Queensland

University of Queensland - Provisional entry for minimum ATAR 99 and competitive overall UCAT score. Must complete their first bachelor’s degree at UQ.


Griffith University -  Provisional entry program for ATAR 99+ and enter via Bachelor of Medical Science.

South Australia

Flinders University - Limited provisional places (25) into Bachelor of Clinical Sciences / Doctor of Medicine based on 90% ATAR and 10% derived UCAT.

Victoria

University of Melbourne - Guaranteed entry into Postgraduate Medicine if  ATAR > 99.90 for CSP & ATAR > 99 for Full Fee with GPA. 

Western Australia

University of Western Australia: Assured pathway course for ATAR 99+. Final ranking based on ATAR, UCAT and interview weighted 1:2:2 respectively.

Selection For Interview

How Do Universities Determine Interview Offers?

As, unfortunately, is the case with much of the medical application process, interview offers to differ greatly between different universities. To keep it simple, interview offers are made on the basis of ATAR and UCAT performance (or ATAR and written application for JCU). Every university weighs these elements differently. We have summarised all of the pertinent information about receiving an interview in the table below.

Table 5. University Specific Selection for Interview

University

Interview offer information

Adelaide University

  • ~800 interview offers for 129 domestic places
  • 90+ ATAR, no defined prerequisite for UCAT
  • Prerequisite subjects: Biology, Chemistry, Maths Methods

Charles Sturt University

  • 99.95 ATAR (91.5 ATAR rural pathway)
  • Adjustments made for Rural, Indigenous, and Charles Sturt University pathway
  • 50% places prioritized to Rural or Indigenous background

Curtin University

  • 95+ ATAR
  • Adjustments for rural and indigenous applicants
  • Prerequisite subjects: Chemistry

Flinders University

  • 95+ ATAR
  • Adjustments for rural and indigenous applicants
  • Offers based on 90% ATAR 10% UCAT

University of Western Australia

  • 99+ ATAR or 96+ for Rural or Broadway applicants
  • Adjustments for rural and indigenous applicants
  • Faculty interviews 2-3 students per interview place

James Cook University

  • 95+ ATAR
  • Adjustments for rural and indigenous applicants
  • Pre-requisites: English, Maths Methods, Chemistry
  • Must submit a written application which is used with ATAR to determine interview offer

Bond University

  • 96+ ATAR
  • Pre-requisites: English and one of Maths Methods, Chemistry or Physics
  • 500 offered psychometric assessment and ~250 interviewed from shortlist

University of Newcastle / University of New England

  • 94+ ATAR
  • Adjustments for rural and indigenous applicants

University of New South Wales

  • 96+ ATAR
  • ~450 interview offers for 189 domestic places
  • Adjustments for rural and indigenous applicants

Western Sydney University

  • 96+ ATAR (91+ for Greater Western Sydney applicants)
  • Adjustments for rural and indigenous applicants

Monash University

  • 97+ ATAR
  • Pre-requisites: English 30+ (or 35+ EAL), Maths Methods, Chemistry 30+
  • Adjustments for rural and indigenous applicants

University of Tasmania

  • No interviews but criteria for the offer are:
    • 95+ ATAR
    • Pre-requisites: English, Chemistry
    • Adjustments for rural and indigenous applicants

International Students

How To Apply

Similar to domestic applicants, international applications will have similar components to the assessment of their application; these being high school leavers certificate grades, aptitude tests, and an interview. It is also worth noting that you will need to have proof of sufficient English language requirements. Therefore, if you did not take English in your final year of study you may need to take an additional test such as the IELTS test to prove proficiency. For more information, visit https://www.ielts.org/

High school grades need to be sighted by the university to be included in the application. You can find more information about the nitty gritty of this on the university’s website in which you wish to apply. Aside from the University of Adelaide, which uses the PQA aptitude test, all Australian undergraduate medical schools require the International Student Admissions Test (ISAT). The ISAT is a 3-hour computer-based exam, administered by ACER. The last important thing to note is that you may only take the ISAT once in any 12 month period.  You can find more information about the ISAT test here: https://isat.acer.org/

What To Submit:

  1. International application form
  2. Certified Copies of academic transcripts
  3. Certified Proof of English language proficiency
  4. Certified Copies of ISAT or PQA results
  5. Portfolios and supplementary forms (if required)
  6. Additional documents outlined in the international application form

All applications are sent directly to the medical school or through a specified agent representing the university in the applicant’s home country. 

FAQs

  • Do I need a really high ATAR / high school result to get into medicine?

No, the ATAR is not the sole determinant of a medicine offer. Whilst every university does their offer calculations slightly differently, it is generally a combination of the ATAR, UCAT, and interview score and thus there are multiple opportunities to excel. As a general rule, the higher the UCAT score, the lower the ATAR score that might be required for an offer (and vice versa). 

  • What if I don’t do well in the UCAT?

As mentioned above, the UCAT is not the only element considered for your Medicine offer. In saying that, a ‘low’ UCAT score will likely be a limiting factor to being able to receive an offer. However, if you did not achieve the required UCAT result but have performed well in your ATAR, another option is to resit the UCAT and re-apply the following year. Many students consider this an easier alternative than commencing the postgraduate medicine process. Keep in mind that some universities will not accept students who begin a degree elsewhere ie. you cannot transfer to Monash University Medicine after starting a science degree as Monash only accepts ‘school leavers’. There are only a limited number of places into undergraduate medicine for non-school leavers.

The alternative option is taking a gap year following high school and re-sitting the UCAT as this allows you to still be considered a ‘school leaver’ and all universities offering undergraduate medicine will still consider you, with no limitation on places.

Finally, two universities in Australia do not require UCAT for entry into medicine, James Cook University (JCU) and Bond University. You can thus still apply for JCU but you will also have to provide a written application (which we will discuss later). Keep in mind that JCU has a focus on rural and tropical medicine and the application is targeted towards students with a genuine interest in this field. Bond University is a full-fee paying degree (discussed later in this guide).

  • What is the most helpful high school subject that I can study?

There is no secret cocktail of high school subjects that you need to get an offer into Medicine. As previously discussed, all that you need to ensure is that you have studied the pre-requisite subjects required for some universities (such as English, Mathematical Methods, and Chemistry). Rather than picking subjects that you think are ‘best, you should be selecting subjects that you enjoy for year 12. These are more likely to be the subjects that you will perform best in to hopefully guarantee your highest possible ATAR score.

  • What is a HECS Loan?

When you apply for an approved tertiary education provider, you are able to utilize a ‘HECS-HELP Loan’ to pay for your studies. This only covers the cost of the course and does not cover other related costs such as accommodation or technology purchases. You are not required to commence paying back this loan until you begin earning above the threshold which currently stands at $46,620 a year.

To be eligible for a HECS-HELP Loan you need to be an Australian Citizen or a New Zealand Special Category Visa (SCV) holder and be studying in a Commonwealth supported place (CSP). Of note, International applicants or students applying for Bond University which is not government-subsidized.

  • Does it matter where I go to Medical school?

One of the wonderful aspects of studying medicine is that the courses are highly regulated and thus are all held to a very high quality. Where you study medicine will not impact where you are able to work or have any influence on your future medical career. 

On the other hand, there are differences between each school that might help you preference your applications accordingly. For example, JCU has a strong focus on rural and tropical medicine, UNSW has a year dedicated to research, and Monash University offers an accelerated MD-PhD pathway.

  • If I move interstate for Medicine do I have to stay there forever?

As previously mentioned, the university in which you study medicine will bear no influence on your medical career. If you move interstate to study, you can apply for a job in your home state as soon as an internship - and many students return to their home state each year! 

It should be noted however that Victoria offers internships (first year of work after medical school) slightly different to every other state. For this reason, it is slightly more difficult to receive an internship in Victoria as an interstate medical graduate. It is by no means impossible, and even if you do not successfully receive a Victorian internship, it is much simpler to apply for a job in Victoria from the second year out! 

Ultimately, you should not let moving interstate stop you from applying broadly to Medicine. If you are confident this is the course you are wanting to study, you should take any opportunity you can get!

  • I have an interview offer, now what?

Here at Fraser’s, we have created plenty of resources to help you through your interview preparation. Check out https://www.frasersinterview.com.au for plenty of free resources, including university-specific guides and an MMI question generator.

Thank You!

We hope that you found our application guide useful. Many of us at Fraser’s Interview Training know this process and understand how it can seem prohibitively overwhelming. However, now that you have the information, you’re already halfway there. 

We wish you the best of luck with your upcoming application and look forward to seeing you again, whether that be at upcoming workshops or on the wards. 

All the best,

The Frasers Applications Team