Below I’ll be talking about my experiences applying to medicine for 2020 (as a 2019 grad). With a good UCAT of 96 percentile, I undertook a few interviews in the latter part of 2019 and received a provisional entry offer for Medicine at the University of Queensland. Here are my general tips and what I have observed during my application year:
I’m going to be 100% honest, anyone can do well in the UCAT. It’s not about effort or skill particularly, it’s about studying smart for the actual exam. Think of the UCAT as your HSC broken up into 5 subjects, this is how you should be studying for it:
1. Verbal Reasoning 🔖 (44 questions in 21 minutes – 11 texts to read)
This section is the bane of my existence and the lowest performing sections among all students.
Having to answer 44 comprehension questions in 21 minutes is NOT easy (11 different texts). You MUST start prep for this as early as possible (especially if you feel that English is your weak point).
Initially (around 6-9 months before hand) you shouldn’t be looking at doing timed quizzes for this section. Focus purely on accuracy and techniques that you can develop in order to beat the time limit.
One thing to note is that you don’t actually need to read all the texts to get a good mark in this section (if you have a proper skipping technique you will be able to get a higher proportion of the questions you attempt correct) producing an overall better mark.
2. Decision Making 🎲 (29 questions in 31 minutes)
The main strategy for acing this section is developing a creative way to note down all the relevant information in the stimulus given.
There are around 6 main question types for this section, and you need to start your prep by learning how to identify each of these questions and the general approach to take for each of these questions.
It is a very good idea to develop your own strategies as these would suit you the best (but make sure you actually test them to make sure they follow similar logic to solutions provided).
3. Quantitative Reasoning 📓 (36 questions in 24 minutes)
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE!!! This section is where you can really drag up your score!
It is essential for you to gain practice with the online calculator (the numpad is a good thing to be familiar with for the exam so you cut down on time wastage).
Trust me when I say that you can improve your score by 200-300/900 by just practicing the section over and over again (you will be able to increase your speed with these simple math questions over time).
Generally you will see a trend in common questions (e.g. speed calcs); note these down and remember these formulas as it will allow you to again reduce time spent on each question.
4. Abstract Reasoning 🧠 (55 questions in 13 minutes)
Initially you will think that it is near impossible to do these questions in the required time limit but I can tell you from experience as someone who barely saw 3 out of 10 patterns, it is very possible to do well in this section.
You really need to get familiar with the common patterns that can pop up for AR and I highly suggest having a document to note these down (especially those you cannot observe on first glance).
Once you practice this section over and over again your time taken will improve!!
5. Situation Judgement ✍ (69 questions in 23 minutes)
This section is like that one HSC subject that you think won’t affect your ATAR too much if you neglect it, but in actuality does have some importance.
Start your prep for this section by reading some of the ethical guidelines and practices which are listed on official websites (these provide good initial guidance on how to approach some of the scenarios given).
Make sure you do not neglect this section (even if you want to spend less time on it). I have heard reports that Monash may use the combined cognitive and SJT score for interview invites
For those of you who have already sat the UCAT this year and not got a score they wanted, that is completely fine!!
One of the most important traits of a doctor is determination, so if you truly want to do medicine, you should not be stopped by a small obstacle you face in your first year of applying!!
Try, try, try again!!!
Sitting the UCAT the second time around is much easier; some of my friends literally prepared less but still got a higher overall score because they focused more on their shortcomings from their first attempt – STUDY SMART!
In terms of preparation sources, I personally used Medify and Official resources (I heard Medentry was also good in some cases?) – The main thing to learn here is to NOT neglect the OFFICIAL UCAT resources. These should be treated like a bible , since they are your most accurate representations of what the UCAT will be based on or look like.
Also (as I point out below), some universities don’t even care about the UCAT (apply for these universities if you really want to do medicine!!)
So below I have clustered together all the knowledge and experience I have with applying to medical unis across Australia. I have also identified the specific application uni website for each state and course length (for each uni) for reference:
1. UCAT 📅
Personally I believe that to actually get into JMP (Newcastle or Armidale), you need a bit of luck. There will be a large number of interview applicants (around 800 I believe) – The MMI style of interview at Newcastle paired with their general focus on ‘abstract thinking’ will make it difficult for you to prep for this sort of interview.
Nonetheless you should be preparing the same amount, if not more to ensure you are set for those odd and weird questions to pop up during your interview – As a result of this, your final place offer is a bit of luck for JMP (again, just my opinion).
Unfortunately I did not get an interview here but I can give you general tips on what I observed talking to my friends. The first is that you need a lot of general preparation on why the Western Sydney region needs more doctors and health problems associated with this area.
They also have a lot of focus on the emotional intelligence – This means that you need to practice a lot of situations or scenarios with your friends – by ‘scenarios’ I mean they will literally hire an actor to play a certain role (e.g. sitting next to a distressed patient in a waiting room). You will then have to talk through and reflect on the scenario you participated in (very important!!!)
I believe that the nature of this interview has changed quite a lot in recent years. Last year the interview was broken up into 4-5 sections based on certain topics (e.g. ‘your reasons for studying medicine’). In each of these sections there was a time limit, and therefore only ~1 minute per question. This means that you need to practice being very concise with your answers and getting straight to the point (initially this will be hard, but with practice it is easier).
Overall they are just getting to know you, so try to introduce as many relevant experiences and anecdotes as possible in your responses, so you can really connect with the interviewers.
Realistically you should only be considering this option if you truly believe that you can receive the 99.95 ATAR. Although, make sure you consider EAS and E12 because I believe that your ATAR cutoff for this interview can reduce by any amount (every 0.05 helps).
In terms of this being a ‘medicine degree’, it is actually a pathway. So you apply for a health science degree (which still depends on your ATAR AND a written application), and then you sit an interview based on your marks during uni – but in my opinion it is a much better backup position than choosing medical science at UNSW because it ‘sounds close to medicine’, since a greater % of the health science cohort gets into to postgrad med (30 out of 50 I believe?).
2. SATAC 📅
This is an interview where your preparation can actually allow you to do well. So for this interview you have two sub interviews, the first interview is just a normal one where they want to get to know you (i.e. they will ask personal questions). The second interview will relate to a scenario that is provided to you (for me the scenario was something about legislation for electric scooters in a council).
The main thing you want to focus on is ensuring that you look at the pros and cons + all stakeholders involved in this decision (this will help flesh out your answer).
Again not much to say (no interview) – High ATAR students (99.90+) or those with EAS will most likely receive this offer (UCAT is only 10% weighting I believe).
3. VTAC 📅
I don’t have an incredible idea of what the interview is like for here, but I know that it is a bit harder to attain a spot in Monash if you don’t live in Victoria. Regardless, you should still apply!
Be careful with choosing this for your uni. I’m pretty sure that even with a 99.90+ ATAR your spot is provisional, which means that you need to sit an interview at the end of your first degree (Bsci) and get a certain WAM (I believe 65 – shouldn’t be too difficult).
4. TISC 📅
Pretty new medical program. Don’t have too much of an idea of the interview (I decided not to go to this one) – I believe there is a focus on the community and more specifically aged-care assistance (and family medicine)
Again, don’t have too much to say about this one (again decided not to go to this one). Keep in mind that it is a provisional entry program, i.e. you need to get around a 5.5GPA to gain direct entry into postgrad medicine.
5. TAS 📅
Offer based on combination of ATAR and UCAT (no interview).
6. QTAC 📅
Offer based on ATAR (99.60+ is a good approximate goal). This is a provisional medical degree again (You’ll have to double check this but I believe that only the top students (50%?) will gain entrance into the MD postgrad from their undergrad based on their WAM/GPA).
Offer based on your interview (after reaching a 97+ish ATAR cutoff and doing a personality test) – Interview is MMI (so prep for WSU + Newcastle type interview).
Not much to say about this one (When I applied there was no interview but from now onwards there is an MMI I believe – try to prep similarly to Newcastle + WSU).
Highly recommend applying to this uni (especially if you have a special interest in rural, indigenous or tropical medicine). Regardless this interview is good practice in general (I received an interview for this) and it is a very good option for those who have not performed too well in UCAT (the only factor influencing whether or not you get your interview is your application – you should spend a lot of time on this application!!
In general though, whenever you are going to an interview, you need to research reasons for why you would consider medicine at that uni (when compared to others). The tips I provide above are a very small introduction into the extensive preparation you should do for all your interviews.
Lastly, apply everywhere!! I’m actually studying at the University of Queensland – the short amount of time I spent in Brisbane provided me with some of my favourite experiences so far (Getting some freedom from your parents is actually fun).
At the end of the day, medicine is medicine (no matter where you get your degree from)!! The experiences you get from the challenges and obstacles you face now will shape you to become a better, more incredible person (or in this case: doctor).
If you have any questions about Medicine, or need help with HSC Chemistry or HSC Economics – feel free to drop by campus or join one of my classes on a 3 week trial 😊
GOOD LUCK! ❤️️