This article covers entry into medicine at the University of Otago. For information on Otago and the medical course itself, refer to: http://www.medstudentsonline.com.au/content/about-uoo-389/
There are 3 pathways for entry into medicine at Otago – undergraduate, competitive graduate, and other. Although the exact distribution of places changes year-to-year, as a general rule undergraduate entrants comprise about 70% of the class, competitive graduate entrants comprise about 25%, and other category entrants comprise about 5%. In total there are 254 domestic (NZ + Australian applicants) places available, and a small number of additional international places.
Additionally, a number of places is reserved for Maori/PI entrants and rural origins entrants. The exact number of places, and how they are distributed across the 3 entry pathways, is unknown and varies from year-to-year. However, as a result of these special quotas, the cutoff scores for entry are generally lower for any applicant who qualifies as Maori, Pacific Island, or rural.
Students may apply for admission to the medical course following completion of a prescribed year of study in the biomedical sciences termed Health Sciences First Year (HSFY). To recognise the learning that occurs in HSFY, students who successfully apply to the medical course via this pathway are admitted to second year medicine (that is, HSFY effectively forms the first year of the medical degree). This is the only pathway of undergraduate entry – i.e. it is not possible to enter straight from secondary school.
Admission to HSFY
Admission to HSFY is guaranteed to anyone who fulfills at least one of the following criteria:
- Achieved NCEA level 2 with merit or excellence AND gained university entrance.
- Gains an NCEA level 3 entrance score of at least 140 AND university entrance.
- Gains at least 26 points in IB.
- Gains an entry score of at least 140 in the Cambridge International Examinations.
- ATAR of at least 80.
- OP of 10 or lower.
- Gains a place in a residential college AND meets the academic criteria for university entrance.
- Gains an Otago undergraduate scholarship AND meets the academic criteria for university entrance.
- Has completed at most one year of prior tertiary study, and has never studied any of the HSFY material at a university level
Should you not fulfill the above criteria it may still be possible to enrol in HSFY provided you are competitive enough. Note however that this is no longer guaranteed.
Structure of HSFY
HSFY comprises 7 compulsory papers:
- CELS191 (Cell and Molecular Biology): An introduction to cellular biology (principles of cells, structure/function of organelles, chromosomes), molecular biology (principles of inheritance and gene expression at the molecular and population level), and microbiology (biology of microorganisms, covering basic principles, diversity of microorganisms, ecology of microorganisms, and an introduction to infectious disease).
Assessment is via mid-semester exam (20%), final exam (60%), and online tests (20%) – covering labs (10%) and independent learning modules (10%).
- CHEM191 (The Chemical Basis of Biology and Human Health): Selected aspects of 100-level chemistry deemed relevant to the health sciences professions. Content includes reaction thermodynamics and kinetics, oxidation-reduction reactions, organic metal ion complexes, organic chemistry, and a module on biological molecules designed to make later study of biochemistry easier. Links to medicine (and other health professions) are made explicit where possible.
Assessment is via mid-semester exam (15%), final exam (70%), and lab tests (15%).
- HUBS191 (Human Body Systems I):An introduction to the anatomy and physiology of the musculoskeletal, nervous, and endocrine systems. Also includes an introduction to the principles of homeostasis, and basic immunology.
Assessment is via two terms tests (7% each), final exam (72%), lab tests (6%) and online tests covering independent learning modules and lecture content (8%).
- PHSI191 (Biological Physics): Selected aspects of 100-level physics deemed relevant to the health science professions. Modules are mechanics, bulk materials (properties of solids and fluids), thermodynamics, electricity, optics, and radiation. Links to medicine (and other health professions) are made explicit where possible.
Assessment is via lab attendance (6%), online revision tests (6%) and the mid-semester exam and final exam (worth 18% and 70% respectively, or 0% and 88%, whichever gives the higher mark).
- BIOC192 (Foundations of Biochemistry):An introduction to the field of biochemistry (though aspects of biochemistry have already been taught in CHEM191 and CELS191 by this stage). Content includes protein structure and how this relates to function, mechanisms and kinetics of enzyme-coupled reactions, cell membrane structure and function, biochemistry of food (digestion and absorption of food molecules in the human GI tract and effect of diet on health – in particular looking at vitamins, minerals, and cholesterol), metabolism, and diseases with a strong biochemical foundations.
Assessment is via mid-semester exam (20%), final exam (70%), and online tests covering lab material (10%).
- HEAL192 (Foundations of Epidemiology): An introduction to epidemiology and public health. Content includes critical evaluation of epidemiological studies and an introduction to major health problems in New Zealand and globally. The overall course is structured around the “public health model” (which will be introduced early on).
Assessment is via two terms tests (15% each), final exam (60%), and tutorial tests (10%).
In addition to the above 7 papers, there is the option to take a further 8th paper in one of the humanities. This is optional, however doing so could potentially be advantageous when it comes to entry to medicine (discussed below). The current list of acceptable 8th papers can be found athttp://healthsci.otago.ac.nz/courses/hsfy_approvedpapers.html
As well as being the first year of the medical degree, HSFY also acts as the first year of the BDS (bachelor of dental surgery), BPharm (bachelor of pharmacy), BPhty (bachelor of physiotherapy), and BMLSc (bachelor of medical laboratory science) and so can be used to apply for undergraduate entry to any of these courses as well. Additionally it is possible to enter any of the majors for the bachelor of biomedical science and many of the majors for the bachelor of science on the basis of HSFY. HSFY can also be used to gain credit towards most other degrees offered at Otago and forms a strong basis on which to apply for entry into medical radiation therapy, oral health, dental technology, or medicine/dentistry at many of the Australian Universities.
In other words, HSFY is a very open year that leads to a range of qualifications beyond just the medical degree!
Admission into Medicine from HSFY
All applicants wishing to apply for undergraduate entry into medicine must sit the UMAT – this can be done in year 13 (Australian year 12) and/or during HSFY. If the UMAT is sat in year 13 and during HSFY then the better of the two scores obtained will count.
In order to be eligible for undergraduate entry into 2nd year medicine, applicants must pass all 7 of the core HSFY with at least a B (70%). A final mark of less than 70% in any of the 7 core papers automatically disqualifies a student from admission to medicine, regardless of their other marks and UMAT.Furthermore, a mark of less than 70% in a core paper cannot be compensated for by a mark of 70% or greater in the 8th paper.
Provided this hurdle is met, applicants are ranked by:
- Average mark across best 7 papers (this means that an 8th paper, if taken, can knock out the worst HSFY mark) – 2/3 weighting
- UMAT scores (sections 1, 2, and 3 weighted 45:45:10 respectively) – 1/3 weighting
Note that for UMAT it is the score that is used, NOT the percentile. Also note that there are no stated minimum marks that must be achieved in each UMAT section, nor is there a minimum stated mark that must be achieved for UMAT overall.
This can be viewed as a score calculated using the following formula:
(Mark in best paper + Mark in 2nd best paper + … + Mark in 7th best paper)*2/21 + (UMAT S1 mark*0.45 + UMAT S2 mark*0.45 + UMAT S3 mark*0.1)/3
Using this formula, the cut-off score in both 2009 and 2010 for a first round offer (i.e. not off the waiting list) was between 77.2 and 77.5, which can approximately translate into one of the following:
- 94% HSFY average and 30th percentile UMAT
- 92% HSFY average and 50th percentile UMAT
- 89% HSFY average and 80th percentile UMAT
- 87% HSFY average and 90th percentile UMAT
Note that in 2011 the cutoff for a first round offer rose, to somewhere between 78.75 and 78.96, indicating that the cutoff does in fact change from year to year.
As a further indication of the competition involved, generally 1250-1400 students will commence HSFY at the start of any given academic year, and 180-190 students will be accepted into medicine from HSFY every year.
There is no interview for undergraduate entry into medicine
It is only possible to apply once for admission to medicine on the basis of HSFY.
Competitive Graduate Entry
This category is open to students who meet all of the following requirements:
- Graduated from their first university degree within the last 3 years.
- Completed that degree in the minimum possible academic time.
- Gained that degree from a New Zealand university.
- Have a valid UMAT result.
If all 4 of the above requirements are met then the student is eligible, regardless of what they studied in their degree (there are no subject prerequisites).
The UMAT is used as a threshold – historically this was at least 25th percentile in all 3 sections, but now the threshold is “set annually by the medical admissions committee”. If your UMAT is below the threshold then you will be informed of this about 4-6 weeks after UMAT results are released, and your application will be withdrawn. If your UMAT is above the threshold then you proceed to the next stage and your UMAT score no longer matters.
Applicants are then ranked for admission on their GPA from their degree. Only the best 126 points from each year of the degree are used and a progressive weighting system is applied (e.g. for a 3 year degree the 3 years are weighted 0.5, 1, 1.5 progressively). During the 3rd and/or final years of the degree only papers at 200-level or higher are considered.
For entry into the 2010 med class a weighted GPA of 7.86 was sufficient to gain entry (but off the waiting list).
For entry into the 2011 med class, a late entrant had a weighted GPA of approximately 7.3-7.4, indicating that the final cutoff for entry off the waiting list was probably in this region.
Additionally, the admissions office ranks students in two lists – one for Otago graduates and one for graduates of other NZ universities. They maintain however that this is for administrative reasons only and has a minimal influence on the chance of a candidate being offered a place.
There is no interview for competitive graduate entry to medicine.
Each student may apply only once for medicine through the competitive graduate category. However, if an application is denied due to UMAT being below threshold this does not disqualify a student from applying again provided they continue to meet the eligibility criteria.
If the applicant is successful in gaining admission then the content covered in their degree will be looked at. If they have studied all the HSFY papers, or covered equivalent content in the course of their degree then they will be admitted directly into 2nd year medicine. If not, then they will be given a year to complete any required HSFY papers to at least a 70% average before progressing into 2nd year medicine.
Admission via the “Other” Category
This category is open to graduates of any university (including non-NZ universities) who do not meet the criteria for graduate entry, and allied health professionals. Entry via this pathway is highly competitive due to the small number of places available (generally 10-15) and a range of factors are considered – applicants are required to provide:
- Curriculum vitae
- Transcripts of secondary school examination results (year 11-13)
- Academic transcripts of all university study completed to date
- Academic records of training from any schools of nursing or polytechnics
- A statement outlining reasons for wanting to study medicine
- Details of 3 people who may be contacted for references
There is also an interview for applicants wishing to enter via this pathway.
The process used to rank applicants and the relative importance of each component of selection remains unclear.
Each applicant may apply only once for admission via this pathway.
Maori/Pacific Island and Rural
Across all 3 admissions pathways there are allowances made for Maori/Pacific Island and Rural students to ensure that enough of these students enter the medical class. Generally this means that any cut-offs are lower for those students who choose to apply under these categories (for example, although the cutoff was unknown, candidates were successful in gaining undergraduate admission for 2010 through the rural category with an 86% average and 36th percentile UMAT). There are no bonding expectations, so rural students are not expected to work in a rural area upon graduation, however students who apply under the rural sub-category may be required to work in a rural placement during 5th year if there are not enough volunteers.
Additionally, applications under these categories require the completion of a relevant personal statement, and Maori applicants are involved in a range of events throughout HSFY.
A small number of places in the medical class are available to international students (16 in 2010), however this number is likely to decrease. International students without sponsorship from their home governments should not apply at Otago because it is almost guaranteed that they won’t get in (due to the improbability of any spaces for such students being made available). This does NOT apply to Australian citizens (who are counted as domestic students).
(Applications for entry into the 2012 med class have CLOSED. Good luck!)
10 December 2011: Last date to register for HSFY 2012
22-23 December 2011: Outcomes informed of undergraduate and competitive graduate applications
15 February 2012: Med 2 orientation (compulsory) begins
17-21 February 2012: Course approval for 2012 HSFY students
27 February 2012: HSFY lectures begin
1 April 2012: Other category applications open
1 May 2012: Other category applications close
1 August 2012: Undergraduate and competitive graduate applications open
15 September 2012: Undergraduate and competitive graduate applications close