Your ATAR is often just as important as your UCAT score when it comes to applying for medical schools in Australia. Because of this, a lot of discussion around choosing subjects for senior high school remains. Here are four factors to consider when choosing subjects, in order of importance.
Some universities have prerequisite subjects that you must study in order to be considered for the medical school. This often includes subjects like English, Chemistry, Maths and in some cases, other Sciences. Some universities have a minimum score that you must achieve in each of the prerequisite subjects, so ensure you are on track to achieve them.
Each university differs in their requirements, and it can be confusing. Check out our blog on prerequisites which summarises the information in a handy table.
In order to boost your academic grades, it makes sense that you should choose subjects that match your strengths. This will give you the best chance of achieving a high ATAR.
Some students feel compelled to choose science subjects, as some people feel that this is what a prospective medical student ‘should do’. However, if your strength lies in the humanities, you should consider choosing these subjects over the sciences. If your strengths lie in maths, go ahead and choose maths subjects.
It is also important to consider what subjects you are genuinely interested in. If you are interested in a subject, you are more likely to perform well in it, as you will be inherently motivated to study.
While a subject like economics might not seem relevant to a future career in medicine, why not study it if you have an interest in it? It will broaden your horizons, motivate you to study, and ultimately be more likely to lead to a high ATAR.
Of course the aim is to achieve the highest possible ATAR, to give yourself the best chance of securing a place at your preferred medical school. Therefore, it might be relevant to consider subjects which scale highly. However, too many students place too much emphasis on this factor, leading them to select a subject that they do not have a natural strength or interest in, which can actually lead to poorer grades. Keep in mind that these subjects are scaled for a reason – usually because they are harder and therefore it is more difficult to achieve a high score!
If you are genuinely interested in subjects which scale highly, such as Languages, Maths and some Sciences, then go for it! If not, avoid choosing subjects just because they scale highly.
Some subjects may help you with the reasoning skills and knowledge to succeed in UCAT. However, this should not be a major factor that you consider when selecting your subjects.
Some Verbal Reasoning questions in the UCAT are based on biological and psychological sciences, or research. For example, the question could be about the life cycle of fruit flies or the growth of a certain species of plants. Having an understanding of research and hypothesis testing (for example, through subjects such as Biology and Psychology) can improve your ability to answer these UCAT questions.
Another area of study that can help is “logic and proofs”. It is a topic that is covered in many double maths degrees or specialist maths programs. Many students find it difficult to summarise verbal riddles or puzzles into more concise rules when attempting UCAT Decision Making and UCAT Quantitative Reasoning questions. Having a background of logic laws can help to summarise this information into symbolic rules which are much more concise than the stimulus. This can save students time in the UCAT since they don’t need to re-read the stimulus each time they answer a UCAT question.
If you are a student who enjoys science, then Biology will help in your first couple of years of medicine. In pre-clinical years, a biology background is the foundation to most of your learning. Some medical programs acknowledge that biology is an important basic foundation to the medical course even though it is not a prerequisite for entry to the course at most Universities. However, if you are not interested in Biology, then do not feel compelled to choose this subject. You will quickly catch up, and some universities provide a biology bridging course if needed.
In summary, if you are interested in medicine, the most important factors to consider when choosing subjects is university prerequisites, your strengths and your interests. Good luck in making your selections!