The UCAT testing period is a big month for many students across Australasia and even other countries around the world. For information on what is a 'good' UCAT score, check out our dedicated blog. It can feel really disappointing if, like me, you logged in to see your UCAT score report and were met with a non-competitive score. I understand that it can feel like the world is ending, and all hopes have been flushed down the toilet, but I am here to tell you otherwise!
When I was in year 12, I made my first attempt of getting into medicine and received a score in the 88th percentile. At first, I felt like I still had a fighting chance at Medicine, but unfortunately, I just missed out! Naturally, I bawled my eyes out and was left mentally vacant for the following couple of days. But, 2 years later, I can confidently say that receiving that score was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
I took a second attempt at medical entry after my disappointing result back in Year 12, and received a total UCAT score of 3040 (about 97th percentile). I believe this shows that you can also surpass this same obstacle, that I have overcome, by working hard and persevering through your failures!
There are some students who take two gap years! A student scored 70th percentile in the first attempt; 87th in the first gap year and 98th in the second gap year. She ended up with 6 interviews and four medical school offers!
Getting into medicine straight from high school is not the ONLY way to get in. The beauty of medicine is that there are many pathways that you can go down to follow your dreams.
If you don’t get a competitive UCAT score, there are four main pathways for entry into medicine: School Leaver Entry, Guaranteed Entry, Non-Standard Entry and Graduate Entry.
If your UCAT score was not competitive enough, the only public university that does not consider UCAT for direct entry is James Cook University (JCU). However, JCU has a particular focus on rural-based medicine, and if you lack experience in these areas, it might be a little more difficult to get in. The private Bond University also does not require UCAT. You need to submit a written application for JCU. The private Bond University also does not require UCAT.
If your ATAR is high, it’s worth it to take a gap year and attempt the UCAT next year. This way you’re still considered a ‘school leaver’ and will still be eligible for entry into all universities offering undergraduate medicine. This is what I did, and I found that all the volunteering/paid work I did during my gap year, along with the overall life lessons I learnt in that year helped me develop my interpersonal skills (useful for interviews), and made me even more determined to get into Medicine!
If your ATAR is extremely competitive, you can apply for provisional entry into medicine at universities such as the University of Sydney, Griffith University and the University of Melbourne. These three provisional entry courses do not require UCAT, while some other provisional entry courses such as UWA, Flinders and the University of Queensland do require a good UCAT score.
This pathway requires you to complete a prerequisite undergraduate degree first before commencing Medicine. Note that you do not need to sit the GAMSAT if you follow this route. This route has some disadvantages, including that it is longer, and there is a risk you may lose your place in medicine if you do not perform well in your first degree.
If you have/want to commence an undergraduate degree, some universities will allow you to transfer into Medicine during your degree if you choose to do so. This process requires you to sit UCAT again.
Admission requirements vary across universities for Non-Standard Entry. Note that some universities such as Adelaide will not accept students who have commenced the degree at a university other than their own. Furthermore, for the universities that do accept non-school leavers, there are less available spaces. This is why taking a gap year can be advantageous to students with competitive ATARs.
The Graduate Entry pathway requires you to first complete an undergraduate degree before applying for postgraduate Medicine. This pathway is different from ‘Provisional Entry’ in that to be eligible, you must sit an entrance test in combination with completing your degree.
While most universities require you to sit GAMSAT, some universities (such as WSU, Newcastle, Auckland and Otago) require that you sit UCAT instead.
Note that some universities such as Monash Graduate Entry do not require GAMSAT if students do well in their degree program (universities have started to offer this to entice students into their university programs).
If applying for Graduate Entry medicine, it is advised that you undertake both the UCAT, as well as the GAMSAT, to increase your chances of being offered a place. Further, UCAT is a shorter exam (2 hours as opposed to a 4.45 hour exam), and generally considered to be easier to prepare for. Not to mention that the cost of GAMSAT preparation courses can run into thousands of dollars!
At most universities, the undergraduate degree you choose to study when applying for Graduate entry medicine can cover any area of study and does not have to be science/health related. In fact, it is advised that you do not undertake degrees such as ‘advanced science’ and ‘biomedical science’. This is because although universities advertise these courses as ‘pathways to medicine’, if you do not get into Medicine, there are limited career options available with these courses. Furthermore, since you can apply to most medical courses after completing ANY area of study, completing a non-health related degree will leave room for other career options if you start to feel unsure about Medicine or are unable to get into medicine.
There are advantages and disadvantages to each pathway into Medicine. At the end of the day, if your UCAT doesn’t get you an interview offer, remember that there are so many opportunities left to follow your dreams. All you have to do is work hard and smart.
Note that the most common pathways into medicine (school leaver entry with a gap year and non standard entry) require you to sit UCAT. Therefore, you should consider commencing quality UCAT preparation. Preparing for UCAT over a period of time is the best way to succeed. For more information, check out our blog on distributed practice.
For more information on pathways to Medicine, and specific entry requirements for each university, please read our free MedEntry UCAT Handbook.
Just remember, it is not our successes that define us, it is how we respond to failure.
Written by Billal, a current medical student and former MedEntry student