• MSO wishes the best of luck to all users with upcoming interviews! For those interviewing at universities that do not have applicants sign an NDA, it would be greatly appreciated if you could send me (Crow) a PM with your interview questions to help future users. These will not be shared publicly until all interviews for that university have been completed. Cheers! ETA: Please check out our new Interview Portal!

Registered members with 100+ posts do not see Ads

Common pitfalls to avoid for year 12 school leavers and other medicine applicants

Mana

there are no stupid questions, only people
Administrator
Alternate title: "Ways to screw yourself over as a medical school applicant that you didn't know about"

Hi everyone,

As I suspect my activity on the site is likely to decrease a whole lot starting next year, I thought I would put together a whole lot of what I believe are a lot of important responses to questions frequently asked on this site.

As you know, finishing your high school education is an achievement, but for those who want to get into medicine, it often comes with a lot of uncertainty in regards to your future. If you happen to be successful in getting into medicine - well done - (I hope you know what you are getting yourself into.)

For most people every year though, after year 12, the overwhelming oversupply of applicants for medical school will leave the vast majority disappointed.

This is covered in many other threads but by virtue of the fact that undergraduate medicine entry tends to require ATARs in the 98-99 range, as well as usually requiring a UMAT score in the top 5-10% of the population - at least 90% of the population taking UMAT are removed from the pool this way as well. This makes for one hell of a lot of people who applied for medicine and don't get in. Using the student numbers from the Medical Deans website www.medicaldeans.org.au/statistics/annualtables/ , there are, as of 2016, fewer than 1000 places for Australian year 12 leavers in Australia, and just over 500 in New Zealand (not accessible to year 12's, only accessible after one year of university study). A few extra are accounted for through provisional pathways.

Given that nearly 20000 people take the UMAT every year a rough estimate of your chances of entry if you sit the UMAT is around 5%. This means that if you want to do undergraduate medicine, you're in a pool of applicants whereby around 95% of you will fail to get in.


Now what happens every year on MSO is we have a lot of people asking about other pathways into medicine, or degrees to do prior to medicine. This is where I see a lot of people make decisions that end up being very costly in terms of time and/or money as well as opportunity cost. I will cover each in an individual post to make it easy for people to link to this; in order of worst things to do first.

Disclaimer: There is not a lot of academic evidence surrounding some of these statements (I suspect no university would ever let people collect data about how ridiculously high their rate is of not getting their medical science graduates into medicine, ha) so many of these statements are based on my observations during my time at MSO and my experiences at two separate medical schools, as well as the experiences of a large number of students from many different backgrounds (especially medical science) from MSO. If further evidence comes up regarding this, feel free to send me a private message or simply to reply to this thread.
 
Last edited:

Registered members with 100+ posts do not see Ads

Mana

there are no stupid questions, only people
Administrator
Common and DISASTROUS pitfall #1:
Doing medicine overseas as an Australian or New Zealander Citizen/Permanent Resident (other than in NZ, for Australians, or Australia, for Kiwis and other flightless birds).

This is the biggest no-no that I can think of (unless you are already an international student who is going back to your country of citizenship to study medicine there - that is fine.) Why? Several reasons:

1. It's bloody expensive.
Fees for international students, here or in another country, usually cost a crapload; there are usually no government loans for you to be able to afford this. We're talking in the order of 250k AUD here, give or take a few 10k or so, or around 50k per year. Compared to the cost of a CSP or BMP Australian medical degree (10k per year), this will really hurt you in the long term. But sure, if you can afford it, then the second reason to not do this is...

2. The internship crisis.

In Australia, New Zealand, and pretty much everywhere, after you finish medicine, for your degree to be useful, you need to spend the equivalent of one (or more) years supervised practice as an intern/junior medical officer. These internships are accredited by the medical council of whatever country they are in. However, in Australia, New Zealand, and most "developed" countries (the UK, Canada, most of the EU, etc) there is a shortfall in internship places due to the oversupply of medical graduates. If you finish your medical degree but you don't manage to secure an internship, you can't practice as a doctor, so your medical degree is pretty much useless for all intents and purposes of practicing medicine.

However, each country will always prioritise its own citizens who are graduates of their own medical schools, over international graduates of their own medical schools (thus you will be very unlikely to get an internship at the overseas country you do medicine at), and then last priority of all are those graduates from medical schools outside the country (thus you will find it impossible to get an internship in Australia.) That is, the priority list for Australia is:

1st. Domestic students from Australian/NZ unis
(further subdivided into students from uni in same local state, then interstate domestic students)

2nd. International students from Australian/NZ unis
(a very large proportion of these miss out on an internship in Australia and this will continue to grow)

3rd. Anyone else (i.e. students from non-Australian/NZ unis)
- this category is guaranteed to NOT GET AN INTERNSHIP in Australia or New Zealand.
Don't say I didn't warn you.
(for more information about internship priorities, see https://anumss.org/sites/default/files/internship_table.pdf - this lists each state's intern priority lists).


As an example of the current situation in Australia (New Zealand's situation is even worse):

www.amsa.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/160107-InternCrisisOpenLetter.pdf

This illustrates the internship crisis as experienced in South Australia of recent, which is projected to grow. Other states are likely to follow - but in any case, by the time that first SA domestic student misses out on an internship, ALL international students from EVERY state in Australia will have missed out on an internship.

Update, 25/1/17: the Australian Medical Students Association has released a publication stating that 235 graduates of Australian medical schools missed out on internships (all of which would have been international graduates). Link here: AMSA: Australian-trained doctors unable to fully qualify as internship shortage hits | Australian Medical Students’ Association

Now to clarify why going back to a country of citizenship to do medicine as an international student is okay - you will be classified as a domestic student in that country doing a local degree at a local university. Thus, you will be priority 1 to get an internship in that country. Furthermore, you won't be an international student at that uni - you will be a local - so you won't be paying fees that are as extravagant as for international students.

So tl;dr for this section: If you are a Australian/NZ citizen or permanent resident, if you go overseas to do medicine you will pay craploads in uni fees for a degree you won't be able to use because you won't get an internship.

What about the Competent Pathway?
This has been discussed at length - medstudentsonline.com.au/forum/threads/competent-pathway.31488/
However, for the sake of completeness of the argument, lets explain what it is. The Competent Pathway is a pathway whereby overseas medical doctors (from the UK, Canada, USA, NZ, or Ireland) can apply to have their medical degree recognised in Australia. To qualify for this, you need three things:

1. A medical degree that is recognised (and later verified) by the Australian Medical Council (from the above stated countries)
2. An offer of employment as a doctor in the Australian medical system (as a resident).
3. To apply and be accepted for provisional registration with the Medical Board of Australia

Sounds easy enough right? WRONG - this is actually quite a Catch-22. Why?

There are loads of junior doctors applying for residency around Australia. In some states there are very few places for resident positions (PGY2) owing to the fact that they are given 2 year contracts (such as in NSW, for example) - this means that most of the resident positions are already taken by people interning at that particular hospital network. However, there are states that don't pre-allocate their PGY2 offers. In this case, the interns will have to apply for a residency. However, in this case, most hospitals would be likely to hire from their own pool of staff (except in rare cases, such as the intern from the previous year being dangerous or incompetent). This saves them from having to retrain and re-acquaint them with the hospital system as well as knowing that they are competent to practice as a resident because hey, they just proved their competence last year right there.
Other positions are likely to be filled by other Australian junior doctors (of which there is no shortage owing to the increasing number of interns graduating every year).

Finally, there is that student who is applying through the Competent Pathway. To do so, they need to have 1, then they need to secure a job - that is, they need to be hired in preference to someone who just finished their internship in Australia. However, they are faced with the problem that they are now much less competitive for the job because they haven't got provisional registration with the Medical Board of Australia.
So the hospital has a choice of hiring an Australian intern who has practiced in an Australian hospital in the last year or to hire that person applying through the competent pathway who doesn't even have registration yet (and they can't until they get the position). Of course the hospital will hire the Australian - and the competent pathway applicant can then kiss goodbye to their ability to apply for registration.

Hence, it's a catch-22 - only in very rare cases would one nowadays get admitted through the competent pathway. Don't expect to get in with this pathway - you won't.

So tl;dr for this section: You won't get back into Australia via the Competent Pathway. Don't take a medical degree overseas assuming that you will get in through this pathway.


Edit to add:

@iStudent posed the question, which is a valid one:
What about the pathway whereby you do your medical degree in a country like India, get your internship and specialty training there, and then apply to Australia as a specialist?

While this has been a pathway that many doctors have used in the past, it's going to be very difficult to use this in the future, and it will come with very significant disadvantages.

1. The first is that your specialty training is, in most cases, unlikely to be recognised in Australia. While Australia does have reciprocal agreements with other countries (the ones listed above with hard to get internship spots, not countries like India) to recognise part of the fellowship training in that country as going towards the requirements for fellowship in Australia, they are not directly convertable to an Australian fellowship.

A specialist from India would have to come to Australia and find a registrar position to retrain in if they were to be a specialist here. Judging by the number of Australian applicants for specialist positions in Australia, this is becoming further out of reach and likely to be near impossible by the time you, the reader, graduate from medicine, if you are not currently in medical school.

2. Furthermore, due to the number of specialists that are now being trained as a result, it is unlikely that, even if your specialist fellowship was recognised in Australia, that you would find a position over an Australian who completed an Australian fellowship. Again, while this has been the case in the past, if you were to commence medical school in a country like India now, this will essentially be impossible for you to do.

The only reasonable way that I could see for someone to come to Australia and practice as an Australian specialist would be if that specialist happened to be a world leader in that area, recognised by the top Australian specialists.
But hey, if you were in that position, you could probably work in your specialty area anywhere.
 
Last edited:

iStudent

Member
What about doing a medical degree in a country that is not as developed (say, India) and doing internship locally - which rumours has it - is easy to obtain. Or to stretch the argument - doing residency, specialist training and even becoming a qualified specialist in that country. Is it not possible, at one point in that medical journey, to come back and practise in Australia? Naturally, there would be extra sets of exams to come back, but it is possible isn't?

edit by Mana: question answered above in the relevant post
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Mana

there are no stupid questions, only people
Administrator
Common and DISASTROUS pitfall#2:
Doing a degree without it's own merits for the purposes of getting into graduate entry medicine - commonly Medical Science, Biomedical Science, Health Science, etc.

This is by far the most common mistake I see with people who want to get into medicine and fail to get in after year 12.

**Note that this is NOT referring to the NZ pathways into medicine through the OLY1 in Auckland or the HSFY in Otago (as these are only one year in duration and, at least in the case of HSFY, can be used for another career pathway); nor is it referring to provisional medicine offers where you are required to do a degree at that particular uni which would then *guarantee* you entry (Griffith, UQ, UWA, Flinders, and from 2019 onwards UTas). **

This is in reference to all those degrees which come with NO GUARANTEE whatsoever that you will get into medicine at the end of it and which also do not offer much in terms of employment possibility post-graduation. I've named the biggest culprits of this above - Medical Science being the most common of these. From here on in if I refer to Med Sci I mean all of those degrees, not just Med Sci.

Why is this such a bad idea? Let's begin with some context:

Every year, there are 13000+ people who take the GAMSAT and apply for medical school. There are around 1500 or so graduate entry places by rough count (not counting the spots reserved for provisional entry medicine, which is a perfectly good pathway if you qualify for it.) This gives you a chance of around 12% of entry into graduate entry medicine - assuming the GAMSAT only has applicants from that particular year. However, we factor in the fact that the GAMSAT is in fact valid for TWO years (rather than the UMAT which is valid for only one), so in reality there are a lot more than 13000 people applying for graduate entry medicine each year. Your chances as a grad entry applicant then are closer to 10% (or even less) during any given year.

So since the entry rate is still really low as a percentage of the total number of people applying, you can reasonably safely assume that once you complete your undergraduate degree that you are probably not getting into graduate entry medicine (at least not knowing how well you have performed in your degree and the GAMSAT).

However, if you look at the above degrees, and you do your research - you will note that jobs in Medical Science/Biomedicine are so few and far between and the number of graduates so numerous that you can pretty much count on not being able to get a job in Medical Science/related field.

This then leaves the Medical Science graduate with around a 90% chance of not being employed in Medical Science-related fields at the end of their degree. These are terrible odds by any standards, just for that 10% chance of getting into medicine.

But wait - who said you had to do Medical Science/Biomed to do graduate entry medicine?

Was it possibly... the university offering the course who you and the government are going to be paying money to? I see this at every single university Open Day for universities that offer Med Sci/Biomed - "use this as a stepping stone into medicine" - but they don't tell the applicant that the successful graduate of these degrees has only a 10% chance of making it into medicine when they apply at the end of their degree. I wonder how many people would sign up for that if they knew?

Oh also... who do you think comprises the cohort of Medical Science students?
Every single Medical Science cohort I have ever seen is filled with students who - you guessed it - didn't get into undergraduate medicine and want to try for graduate medicine. Thus - it's often hard to get good marks in Medical Science owing to the fact that you're competing against a whole lot of med wannabes. As a result of the competitive culture in Medical Science, it's often not a very friendly place to be (many people will tell you this).

Compare this to a degree with an obvious career pathway (lets take nursing, my favourite example for this purpose) - in those degrees, and in a whole lot of others, the saying goes - "P's get degrees" - that is, all you need to do is finish the degree to have a very good shot at a job in the field somewhere; your marks don't count. This works for you two ways; firstly - it's easier to get a high GPA than in a cohort filled with competitive people all caring about their GPA - and secondly... you have a degree with a career pathway which you can use if you never get into medicine. Which brings me to the second point:

What if... you could do ANY degree and use that as a stepping stone into medicine though? But wait - that's already the case!
There are people in graduate entry medicine who were physios, pharmacists, speech pathologists, nurses, lawyers, engineers, investment bankers...


And not only were they able to do medicine using those degrees as a "stepping stone" but they were also able to help fund themselves through university by doing those jobs on the side.


This is the best of both worlds and by far the superior choice for people who want to get into graduate entry medicine - do something that you are interested in as a career. This does not mean that you are necessarily "giving up" on medicine per se - you still have the same 10% per year shot that everyone else has - it just means that you have made progress towards your backup plan. That and it's often easier to get a good GPA in those other degrees than in a cohort of Medical Science students all trying to get into medicine.

So really I present two possibilities here for a student trying to get into graduate entry medicine:

a) Do medical science, have a 90% chance of not getting into med, get screwed for job prospects after in that 90%, also have to compete with all the other med wannabes for GPA
b) Do some other degree with a career pathway you are interested in, have a 90% chance of not getting into med, be able to work in that field after not getting in, be able to apply again the next year having worked a whole year, be able to work during the medical degree in that field to support yourself through it, and not have had to compete with med wannabes for GPA

How anyone could possibly choose the first choice over the second one is beyond me. How to choose which course to do the second option in? Simple - just assume the case that you never get into medicine, then choose what you would do instead. Then do the degree that leads to that thing you would do instead.

Oh, but what about the quotas/subquotas for Med Sci? Such as the 5-10 people per year that get into UNSW Med from their Med Sci cohort?
Subquotas for medical science entry into medicine exist for one reason, and one reason only. That reason is to attract people into doing Med Sci at that particular university (and thus for that university to gain the fees from you and the government for that degree).

The universities don't *need* to set aside places for people in Med Sci to get in - there is an oversupply of applicants every year anyway. Med Sci is a money spinner for those universities - there are no expensive clinical placements etc for the university to arrange and pay for; all they need is academic resources (and some medical science courses are starting to run out of this due to oversubscription to Med Sci, such as anatomy wetlab time). So the reason they set aside those very small quotas is so that they can generate demand for the Med Sci degree, which as I have stated above, has little to no real job prospects going for it.

Some universities (Monash, Flinders) set aside a very large quota of places (the majority) for students of their own university. This might very well be the proverbial middle finger to all those who have done degrees at a different university (and it also artificially generates more demand for degrees at those universities... which of course, means more money). While these quotas are large as a proportion of all the candidates, it's very small compared to the total number of people applying, and as a chance for you as an applicant, it's a very small quota of places. To put it in perspective, Monash has set aside all 75 places in its Graduate Entry stream for Monash students. However, as a proportion of ALL graduate entry places that would be available to the student graduating from Monash (the approximately 1.5k for 15000 places plus 75 Monash spots for ~1000+ Monash applicants) vs someone who did it at another uni (1.5k for 15000 applicants = 10%) all you are doing is adding a few percent and in doing so you are making a career changing decision based on a few extra percent chance.

In these cases, you should avoid these pitfalls:
1. doing Medical Science at those unis.

Why not do the degree with a career you are interested in ... at those unis? Monash is certainly big enough to offer a very wide range of those, and Flinders is reasonably similar.
2. doing a degree at THAT uni just for a very small additional chance that you get a spot in medicine through their quotas.
If you were going to go to that uni anyway for the alternate career pathway that you wanted, sure, nothing wrong with that. But don't change your uni preference just for this minuscule additional chance at those spots - do what you actually would want to do if you never got into medicine.

tl;dr for this section:
Don't do medical science and its ilk.
You won't get a job and you disadvantage yourself in your attempt to get into medicine by competing against all the other wannabe meds for a GPA. You also won't make any progress towards your backup career.
Do a degree that leads to the career you want if you never got into med, and you'll increase your chances of getting into med overall while you're at it.


Edit to add: I have recently been made aware of a few articles that are an interesting read and somewhat relevant to this topic, though these articles may be less accessible to the year 12 applicant in terms of readability. These are left here for reference:

Presentation from the PQA
http://www.pqa.net.au/slides/PQA_Selecting_medical_students.pdf - this presentation is a great read and quotes the following source:

Science as superstition: selecting medical students. Donald A Barr, The Lancet, 376, 2010, 678-9
"I found no scientific evidence that supported the power of performance in undergraduate science courses as a way to predict clinical or professional quality as a physician."

...
Writing in the 1970s, Witkin found students who were most successful in the sciences, “have an impersonal orientation: they are not very interested in others”. Tutton’s studies of medical students in Australia in the 1990s found that students who did the best in the premedical sciences scored lower on standardised measures of empathy and tended to be “shy”, “submissive”, “withdrawn”, or “awkward and ill at ease socially”, characteristics the author suggested are, “the antithesis of what most of us would want in a clinician”.

which quotes this source:

Field dependence and interpersonal behavior. Witkin, Herman A.; Goodenough, Donald R.
Psychological Bulletin, Vol 84(4), Jul 1977, 661-689 - accessible via Google Cache at Field Dependence and Interpersonal Behavior - quite a heavy read, especially when poorly formatted in the google cache, heh

as well as:

Tutton PJ. Psychometric test results associated with high achievement in basic science components of a medical curriculum. Acad Med 1996;71:181–86.
"The results indicate that students with high achievement in many components of the [science] curriculum tend to have personality profiles that seem inappropriate to their chosen careers as physicians. Medical schools espousing humanistic qualities in their educational objectives may be offering a contradictory message to their students by rewarding those with inappropriate personal qualities."
Basically the suggestion is that the students with the best performance in the sciences in the medical field (i.e. medical science) tend very much to not be suited to medicine at all. This offers yet another argument for not doing this kind of degree if you wanted medicine (it doesn't make any difference to your performance as a physician), and arguably, not selecting students from this degree who perform at the highest levels based on their likelihood of not being suited personality wise.

How this might be relevant to you is that if you find yourself scientifically inclined (and therefore wanted to do medical science), you may very well need to think about whether you are actually medically inclined, or whether your personality is inappropriate to the specialty, especially if there is such a high prevalence of inappropriate personalities for the specialty among the highest academic scorers in the sciences. Personally, I believe there is a place for people who want to do medical science - but it's not for those who want to become doctors. By the fact that you are on this site, you more likely fall into the latter category. I do think medical science degrees need a lot of reform - they need to be more tightly regulated and they definitely need to not be advertised as a pathway into medicine. I'd like to see medical science places cut significantly but also to have them have placements that help with a career; I'd love to see medical research continue to progress at rapid rates as it is today, just without all the jobless medical science graduates. My opinion of that degree may change with reforms to it - but for now, stay away.
 
Last edited:

Registered members with 100+ posts do not see Ads

Mana

there are no stupid questions, only people
Administrator
Common and DISASTROUS pitfall#3:
Repeating year 12 for the purposes of getting a higher ATAR and/or UMAT for the purposes of getting into medicine

While a lot less common than doing Medical Science (which tbh is worse), I still see this happen a fair bit.

This section does NOT refer to taking a gap year for other purposes, such as travel, working, taking a break, etc, and taking a gap year is a perfectly valid choice for people provided it is not solely for the purposes of getting into medicine.

Why is repeating year 12 a bad idea? The entire purpose of this decision is based on the following two premises and resulting (invalid) conclusion:

1. You didn't get into medicine
2. Your ATAR and/or UMAT could be improved

Therefore, if you repeat and get a higher ATAR and/or UMAT, you will get into medicine.


The above conclusion is a load of crap, because of course there is no guarantee that an improved score will get you into medicine. Furthermore, you'd be using a whole year not progressing in your career. But there are other, overwhelmingly good reasons why you should never repeat year 12 to get into medicine:

1. It's way easier to get good marks at uni than in year 12 - at the top end, anyway, which is the relevant bit for medicine
It's way easier to get a 7.0 GPA (even in a competitive/cutthroat degree like Med Sci) than it is to get a 99.95 ATAR. This is because to get a 7.0 GPA, you don't need to be scoring perfect scores, you just need to be getting straight High Distinctions, which are usually the equivalent of 85/100 as a mark. If you contrast this with a 99.95 ATAR, you would need to be getting much higher in all your subjects (generally the high 90's).
Furthermore, at university, you often have some leeway as to which subjects you can pick and the subject area, by virtue of the fact that you chose that degree. Compare this with year 12, where often you are forced to take subjects (an example is HSC English in NSW which MUST COUNT towards the ATAR) to qualify for an ATAR.

In terms of equivalence of uni marks to ATAR - a 7.0 is the same as a 99.95 for pretty much every degree that isn't restricted to school leavers (more on that later in this post). However, even if you don't get a 7.0, it's much easier to score a high equivalent mark than it is to score that equivalent mark as an ATAR.

2. You get closer to finishing a degree and thus closer to pursuing a career secondary to that degree
In terms of progressing your career or getting closer to a place you would like to be career wise, it makes no sense whatsoever to not commence university. Or, to put it another way, after you finish year 12, these possibilities will lead to these outcomes:

a) You do year 12 again and you then apply for first year at university (including doing the UMAT again and applying for medicine)
b) You do first year of university and you continue on to second year, or use those uni credits towards a different degree, or whatever.
(as well as doing the UMAT again and applying for medicine)

I can't see any reason why anyone would ever choose a) over b), including the loss of access to medical programs that only accept school leavers (Monash, Adelaide, and the provisional entry courses). Why? Because of reason 3, which is...

3. You get one year closer to graduate entry medicine
Graduate entry medicine accounts for the majority of medical school places in Australia - by at least 500 places more than undergrad medicine. Furthermore, more and more schools are moving to the graduate entry model, so this will only make this reason to not repeat year 12 better over time.

Okay... but what about the GAMSAT? Isn't that hard? Don't you have to study for that?

Bear in mind that while the GAMSAT is different to the UMAT, it tests a lot of similar skills. However, in terms of performance in the GAMSAT - you will find that it's much easier to score well in the GAMSAT compared to the UMAT, purely by statistical terms. This is because you don't need to score as high a percentile in the GAMSAT to get an interview as you would in the UMAT. As to not step on the toes of those from Paging Dr, who have collected graduate entry medicine admissions data over many years, I suggest looking at their forums as to how much easier it is - signing up to their forums is also free (HI CHINASKI) - you can find them at pagingdr.net or their collated data at www.ellipsoid.org/gmi/admissions-info/history

As a rough guide though - a recent general cutoff for interview is a raw score of 60 in the GAMSAT (some even as low as 54), which equates to a 75 percentile. That's right, instead of having to score in the top 5-10% of the UMAT cohort you only have to be in the top 25% of the GAMSAT cohort to get an interview.

Furthermore - once you are at the interview stage for graduate entry med, you have approximately 75% chance of getting into medicine somewhere around Australia through the GAMSAT pathway. This is huge compared to the tiny rates of people that get into undergraduate medicine after year 12. The scores that are required to get an interview are achieved by over 39% of all GAMSAT takers - (source: GAMSAT: A 10-year retrospective overview, with detailed analysis of candidates’ performance in 2014 | BMC Medical Education | Full Text ), meaning that, provided you have a good GPA (and remember it's generally easier than a 99.95 ATAR), your chances once you have that score are much, much higher than through the undergraduate pathway. Most universities use a combination of GPA and GAMSAT (whereby if your GAMSAT is low you could make it up with a 7.0 GPA). Nonetheless, the rate of people getting into graduate entry medicine is significantly higher than into undergraduate medicine.

What about the time cost? It's comparable, actually, to go the graduate pathway if you don't get into undergrad medicine the first time (just don't do the things in Pitfall #2 above). This is because the time cost of going the grad entry pathway is:

3 years undergrad degree + 4 years graduate entry medicine degree (7 years, with a much higher chance of admission)

Compare this to if you repeated year 12, which would be
1 year repeating year 12 + 5 or 6 years doing undergraduate medicine (6 or 7 years, with a much lower chance of admission)

Another analogy I use often to describe the difference between the difficulty of getting into graduate entry medicine and undergraduate entry medicine (and as someone who has actually been admitted to undergrad medicine after year 12 and then graduate medicine later on, I feel I am reasonably qualified to make this analogy):

Imagine you get to run a 100m race and the top 3 people will get a medal.
Now after this race, there is a 200m race whereby the top 3 people will get a medal... but anyone who has ever won a medal cannot race in this race.

Which race is easier to get a medal in? Arguably there are differences in the candidature for each - but the analogy stands; the second is easier.

So, tl;dr:
Don't repeat year 12, either in its entirety or individual subjects.
You will get worse marks than if you went to uni and put in the same effort.
You will not get any closer to a career by repeating year 12.
You will be further from graduate entry medicine, which is by far the easier, less competitive pathway with more places in Australia.


Regarding entry to medicine in NZ:
It's not possible to get into medicine in NZ without doing a first year of uni at either Auckland (OLY1) or Otago (HSFY) anyway, so why anyone would ever repeat year 12 (or year 13 in NZ) is beyond me (unless you somehow didn't make a high enough ATAR to go to uni anywhere, in which case, medicine probably isn't for you). Furthermore, the cutoffs for those degrees are reasonably low (75 for HSFY). There is the possibility for graduate application to both the Auckland and Otago medical degrees but again you need a degree... so repeating year 12 is silly here.
 
Last edited:
Could you elaborate on the pitfalls of a gap year? What if my ATAR was competitive and I just fell short of the required UMAT for an interview? I don't like the prospect of having to undertake tertiary studies and having its marks to interfere with my undergraduate entry. I was going study engineering but that is quite difficult to score high in. And say I do decide to take a gap year and my new UMAT led to an interview. Do the interviewers look down upon gap year applicants who "study for their UMAT" or "did it all for medicine"?
 

Mana

there are no stupid questions, only people
Administrator
Could you elaborate on the pitfalls of a gap year? What if my ATAR was competitive and I just fell short of the required UMAT for an interview? I don't like the prospect of having to undertake tertiary studies and having its marks to interfere with my undergraduate entry. I was going study engineering but that is quite difficult to score high in. And say I do decide to take a gap year and my new UMAT led to an interview. Do the interviewers look down upon gap year applicants who "study for their UMAT" or "did it all for medicine"?
Sure.

If your ATAR was competitive and your UMAT was not (even by a small amount), then, given that:

1. past performance is the best indicator of future performance in the UMAT (it's possible to improve of course but more likely to obtain a similar score)
2. cutoffs have been following a slowly rising trend over the last few years (probably due to a larger number of students graduating from year 12)

taking a gap year just for the purposes of trying the UMAT again and with the assumption that you will improve the second time around and the improvement will be enough to offset rising cutoffs is placing the value of the entire year on your performance in that 3 hour exam. Especially considering that the most likely outcome is that you don't get an interview again.

This is a significant gamble of your year's worth of effort - that year (and each year) should be put to good use. As I've elaborated above, for your case, if you were to do a year of engineering instead of gap-yearing, you would be closer to finishing your engineering degree at the end of the year by a whole year AND you would be closer to having a completed degree for the purposes of applying through the GAMSAT pathway which is an easier pathway as it comprises more medical school places for fewer applicants each year. That and it doesn't stop you from doing the UMAT again anyway in that first year (and/or all the other years) of engineering.


As I've elaborated above, it's generally easier to score well in university than it is in high school (7.0 GPA is much, much easier than 99.95 ATAR but they are both equivalent) so "having marks to interfere with your undergraduate entry" is not likely to be a problem and is more likely to *improve* your overall score.

If you were going to study engineering by all means go for it. It's easier to get good marks in subject areas that you like. Also, given that engineering leads to an obvious vocation as an engineer at the end, a significant proportion of people studying engineering with you will be attempting to just pass rather than score a perfect 7.0, so your competition for GPA is not as bad as in one of the typical "pre-med" degrees.

If you were to take a gap year and score well enough in the UMAT for an interview, you'll find that
a) no one ever asks you in the interview anything about the UMAT, including whether you studied for it or not - the interviewers won't know your UMAT marks and honestly don't care, and
b) the fact that you decided to "go all in on medicine" by taking another year is not going to make any difference whatsoever; as an interviewer, what I would like to know is if you took a gap year how did you use it to improve yourself as a person (including why that year couldn't have been better spent doing a year of engineering, clearly one of your interests).
 
Last edited:

Eddy1993

Member
Hey Mana,

Aussie here! It's great to see so many people engaging on this forum who are willing to help each other out. I can see that your experienced and is willing to help a brother out...
Firstly, I'll cut to the chase.... I have a New Zealand permanent residency as well as an Australian citizenship... I grew up in Australia and never really applied myself in my Business Degree achieving a pass mark (it was basically a hobby/interest). However, I have studied physics etc. back in high school and didn't do too bad. Just wondering if If I should take the first year course in Health Sciences at UOA to try to deflect this mediocre GPA.... I'm think If I was accepted into the Health Sciences Degree I would achieve a stellar GPA as I have learnt from my past failures (don't ask me how). I am fearful though because If I somehow manage to do well in the UOA and UMAT they would look at my past degree and see the marks... What options do I have? Should I apply for a Masters in Australia and then apply for graduate entry?

Any advice would be appreciated!
 

Registered members with 100+ posts do not see Ads

Mana

there are no stupid questions, only people
Administrator
Hey Mana,

Aussie here! It's great to see so many people engaging on this forum who are willing to help each other out. I can see that your experienced and is willing to help a brother out...
Firstly, I'll cut to the chase.... I have a New Zealand permanent residency as well as an Australian citizenship... I grew up in Australia and never really applied myself in my Business Degree achieving a pass mark (it was basically a hobby/interest). However, I have studied physics etc. back in high school and didn't do too bad. Just wondering if If I should take the first year course in Health Sciences at UOA to try to deflect this mediocre GPA.... I'm think If I was accepted into the Health Sciences Degree I would achieve a stellar GPA as I have learnt from my past failures (don't ask me how). I am fearful though because If I somehow manage to do well in the UOA and UMAT they would look at my past degree and see the marks... What options do I have? Should I apply for a Masters in Australia and then apply for graduate entry?

Any advice would be appreciated!
Hi there and welcome to MSO.

To answer the easy things first:
If you were to apply to medicine in Australia, either through the UMAT(undergraduate) or the GAMSAT(graduate) pathways, most times the mark that they would look at would actually be the mark of your most recently completed *bachelors level* degree. Thus, doing a masters often does not help in terms of admission. (A PhD, on the other hand, is often looked upon very favourably, and some schools will automatically grant a PhD holder a 7.0 GPA). This varies a little between schools, so your mileage may vary - but as a general rule, if I were to do a degree trying to get into medicine, and I already had a career pathway (i.e. that business degree) which I could use for a job, I would consider doing a PhD. Bear in mind that a PhD is one heck of a lot of work.

Unfortunately my expertise isn't in the NZ entry pathways, and I suggest that you ask in the NZ subforum of MSO - they know their stuff well. However, my understanding is that for entry to medicine in NZ at either Otago or Auckland, the marks from the first year you did at that university are the ones that count. In this case, provided that you actually do get those "stellar" marks (bearing in mind that literally everyone else doing those courses is also aiming for stellar marks for the exact same purpose as you are - to get into medicine), then you stand as good a chance as the next applicant providing your UMAT score is also up to scratch.
 

Eddy1993

Member
Fuck, pardon my language. Unfortunately, my first years marks were not my best. I had a fail because I missed an exam. Looks like it's all over.
 

Mana

there are no stupid questions, only people
Administrator
Fuck, pardon my language. Unfortunately, my first years marks were not my best. I had a fail because I missed an exam. Looks like it's all over.
I think you misunderstand what I meant by those unis would take the first year's marks. It wouldn't be the first year marks from your completed business degree, it would be the first year marks from the NZ university degree that you would presumably be using to get into their medical course.
 

Rob

Auckland MBChB IV
Emeritus Staff
Hey Mana,

Aussie here! It's great to see so many people engaging on this forum who are willing to help each other out. I can see that your experienced and is willing to help a brother out...
Firstly, I'll cut to the chase.... I have a New Zealand permanent residency as well as an Australian citizenship... I grew up in Australia and never really applied myself in my Business Degree achieving a pass mark (it was basically a hobby/interest). However, I have studied physics etc. back in high school and didn't do too bad. Just wondering if If I should take the first year course in Health Sciences at UOA to try to deflect this mediocre GPA.... I'm think If I was accepted into the Health Sciences Degree I would achieve a stellar GPA as I have learnt from my past failures (don't ask me how). I am fearful though because If I somehow manage to do well in the UOA and UMAT they would look at my past degree and see the marks... What options do I have? Should I apply for a Masters in Australia and then apply for graduate entry?

Any advice would be appreciated!
Hey there! I just finished first year biomed at Auckland after completing a degree beforehand. Your past university grades will factor into your entry into either the BHSc or BSc (Biomedical Science) programme - it doesn't really matter which of these you choose, neither is disadvantaged in terms of entry into the MBChB course. To get into the programmes you will need at least a 4.0 GPA - in NZ we have a 9 point scale for grades where A+ counts as 9, A is 8, A- is 7 and so on. A 4.0 is between a B-. Be aware that this is a minimum requirement, and the actual requirement may end up being higher than this year-to-year depending on applicants. If your GPA is too low to get in, one option would be to do another semester or year of university with the aim to pick your grades up - you don't need to complete the course for the marks to be used for entry into the first year course. I was offered a place for both programmes with a 6.8 GPA (just under A-). After you gain entry into either of the first year programmes, your past grades will not factor in at all into your application for medicine - this will be based on your performance in the four common/core papers which are in both courses (60% of entry), UMAT raw score (15%) and an interview (25%). They won't care about your past marks if you are able to prove yourself and do well in the core papers, so this is definitely an option.

I 100% understand about your business degree experience, I did a year towards a Bachelor of Business Studies but didn't really enjoy it and I slacked off too much which resulted in a low GPA. I switched to psychology and finished that degree, but it wasn't really my thing and again my GPA suffered as a result. This year I found that I was far more motivated to put in the effort into study and found that the papers aligned with my strengths a lot more.

I would make sure that you are pretty confident with high school chemistry going into the year. First semester at Auckland is pretty intense due to the fact that 3/4 of the core papers are in semester one. If you are confident with chemistry then the chem paper in semester 1 can be very relaxed and take off some of the workload, but I know a lot of people really struggle with it if they don't have the necessary background. Physics is less important - in the BHSc you won't really do any physics, and in biomedical science the physics paper is a non-core, so you really only need a B- or so to be safe. Having a good biology background isn't too critical, a lot of people go in without much of a background in bio and still do well. Certainly wouldn't be a bad idea to touch up on the basics before starting though.
 

Registered members with 100+ posts do not see Ads

Stuart

Administrator
Emeritus Staff
Hi,

@robbieg93 has put it nicely but I would like to bud in a bit here.

Firstly, you should definitely come over to the NZ forum for more! We are happy to help out where we can.

Secondly, the minimum entry requirement differs little bit between BHSc and BSc (Biomedical Science). Typically, BSc (Biomedical Science) is more competitive hence harder to get into in the first place. The minimum GPA/GPE required for BHSc is 5.0 (instead of 5.5 mentioned above ) - Confirmed via email and here Prior tertiary study - The University of Auckland and https://www.fmhs.auckland.ac.nz/assets/fmhs/faculty/FOR/current-students/docs/bhsc-faq.pdf (Look under the 'Alternative Admissions').
I cannot confirm the minimum GPA/GPE required for BSc (Biomedical Science) at the moment because one of their links is broken/being updated currently. Interestingly, however, on a different link, the GPE required for BSc (Biomedical Science) is 4.0 which is lower than BHSc - Prior tertiary study - The University of Auckland. I don't understand why this is the case but I will catch up with the admissions soon and let you know what the minimum GPA/GPE is required for BSc (Biomedical Science)

Side note: If you studied at a polytechnic, you may apply for HSFY at Otago because they only accept university studies.

Good luck! Feel free to post further for more questions.
 

Rob

Auckland MBChB IV
Emeritus Staff
Hi,

@robbieg93 has put it nicely but I would like to bud in a bit here.

Firstly, you should definitely come over to the NZ forum for more! We are happy to help out where we can.

Secondly, the minimum entry requirement differs little bit between BHSc and BSc (Biomedical Science). Typically, BSc (Biomedical Science) is more competitive hence harder to get into in the first place. The minimum GPA/GPE required for BHSc is 5.0 (instead of 5.5 mentioned above ) - Confirmed via email and here Prior tertiary study - The University of Auckland and https://www.fmhs.auckland.ac.nz/assets/fmhs/faculty/FOR/current-students/docs/bhsc-faq.pdf (Look under the 'Alternative Admissions').
I cannot confirm the minimum GPA/GPE required for BSc (Biomedical Science) at the moment because one of their links is broken/being updated currently. Interestingly, however, on a different link, the GPE required for BSc (Biomedical Science) is 4.0 which is lower than BHSc - Prior tertiary study - The University of Auckland. I don't understand why this is the case but I will catch up with the admissions soon and let you know what the minimum GPA/GPE is required for BSc (Biomedical Science)

Side note: If you studied at a polytechnic, you may apply for HSFY at Otago because they only accept university studies.

Good luck! Feel free to post further for more questions.
Yeah, I recall it being 5.5 minimum for both courses when I asked last year, but it seems it has changed to 4.0 for biomed and 5.0 for BHSc this year. The higher the better though, as they will only take a certain number so the actual requirement may end up being higher.
 

acbard9

BBiomedSc(Hons) 2020
Do a degree that leads to the career you want if you never got into med, and you'll increase your chances of getting into med overall while you're at it.
What if your back-up job is to do medical/health research? I'm still not sure how, and wasn't aware that, I won't be able to get a job with a degree in Biomedical Science, especially if I do a PhD afterwards. I have just been declined from Otago Med School after doing HSFY after the sudden increase in threshold. What would you recommend I do instead? :)

Thank you for your time! (and Happy Holidays everybody!)
 

Mana

there are no stupid questions, only people
Administrator
What if your back-up job is to do medical/health research? I'm still not sure how, and wasn't aware that, I won't be able to get a job with a degree in Biomedical Science, especially if I do a PhD afterwards. I have just been declined from Otago Med School after doing HSFY after the sudden increase in threshold. What would you recommend I do instead? :)

Thank you for your time! (and Happy Holidays everybody!)
My answer to this question is always: Assume the scenario where you never get into medicine EVER. What would you do then? Do that. While research in medicine is responsible for a lot of the medical developments that are made, it's also a field where new graduates of medical/health research struggle to find a job due to the fact that there are just too many of them (because we have way too many people doing biomed/med sci because they are using it to get into medicine and very few of them actually end up getting in and so the rest try to pursue medical research), and that research funding is (mostly) based on government grants. I would not consider that a satisfactory pathway to pursue considering that even those with a PhD in that field struggle to find jobs in that field (though if your passion in life is actually medical research and NOT medicine then by all means do medical research).

What I would suggest is that you find a pathway that is satisfactory TO YOU in a field with job and career prospects that is satisfactory TO YOU.

My suggestion for a health-related degree that doesn't close the door on future prospects in medicine, has great scope and prospects and has a very obvious career pathway that you can use almost anywhere is **Nursing**, which takes three years, the same length as a biomed degree... except that at the end of it, you are super employable in any number of possible settings (including the potential for specialisation as well - you could be an anaesthetic nurse, for example if you wanted to pursue that further training), you get a great deal of clinical experience and patient contact, and you are improving people's health outcomes... pretty much the same as if you were doing medicine.

If you can't see yourself as a nurse, you should probably reconsider whether you really had a desire to do medicine. It has so many common motivations that if it doesn't satisfy you in those regards, it's not likely that medicine will.
 

Registered members with 100+ posts do not see Ads

What if your back-up job is to do medical/health research? I'm still not sure how, and wasn't aware that, I won't be able to get a job with a degree in Biomedical Science, especially if I do a PhD afterwards. I have just been declined from Otago Med School after doing HSFY after the sudden increase in threshold. What would you recommend I do instead? :)

Thank you for your time! (and Happy Holidays everybody!)
The major point that should be noted is that you don't need to do a Med Sci/Biomed degree to get into med or dent. All degrees are treated the same bar a few very specific pathways at certain unis. Its really up to you to decide what you want to do. Keep in mind you have to do your own research into whether you are interested in that field, its job prospects, future income etc.

My advice, if you can't decide right now, is not to get too stressed about it. Choose any course you are interested in (could be med sci if you really are interested), if you don't like you can always transfer provided you maintain a decent gpa.
 

heart

Member
I agree with the pitfall of doing a biomedicine degree to get in as by itself it only lends itself to research. If I could go back in time I probably would have done a maths degree as it opens many more doors like engineering, finance, actuary all fields I was also interested in.
 
Last edited:

acbard9

BBiomedSc(Hons) 2020
I definitely want to do research. Unfortunately I applied late to Auckland so I'm doing Pharmacology!
 

Oops

Member
Well written article indeed! Couldn't have said pitfall #1 and #2 better myself. I would honestly probably have been a pitfall #3 kinda guy though.
My only disagreement with your #3 is for students who achieved alright UMAT scores but had *borderline* ATARs in South Aus. (May also be applicable elsewhere idrk). As one can choose to repeat a subject (just one would do the trick) at a "disadvantaged" school allowing them to gain 5 bonus points which are applicable to Medicine entrance at Adelaide/Flinders. The effect of these bonus points;
Raise a 98.15 ATAR to 99.95
Raise a 98.00 ATAR to 99.90
This puts the given student in a far better position when competing for a position at flinders (and to a lesser extent at Adelaide)
Im unaware how none SA universities view disadvantaged school bonus points so this is really only of benefit to students who are deadset in studying at an SA university for whatever reason.

But like idk? Thoughts?
 

Registered members with 100+ posts do not see Ads

Registered members with 100+ posts do not see Ads

Top