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How to Become a Doctor in New Zealand and Australia

JUL 07, 2021

Becoming a doctor requires commitment and determination but ultimately is one of the most worthwhile careers in the world and the road through medical school admission is no different.

The career path to becoming a doctor is filled with a diversity of experience that cannot be found elsewhere. At times, you are the beacon of light for a grieving family, and at others, a critical decision-maker for those at their most vulnerable, working alongside a team with a strong sense of collegiality and teamwork. For this reason, medicine is the most competitive tertiary education pathway in the world. The purpose of this blog post is to outline the pathways to becoming a doctor in New Zealand and Australia, and encourage students to appreciate the nuances of studying medicine and the complexities of the journey to becoming a doctor.

We’ll give you guidelines on the admission timeline and entrance exams, insider tips on building your extracurriculars, interview tricks, and the importance of high school grades. Enjoy this comprehensive breakdown!

Pathways - Australia

Undergraduate Medicine (~6 years)

This pathway is for high school-leavers and involves direct entry into a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBBS). This pathway represents about 40% of medicine admissions in Australia, and is offered to students who perform exceptionally well in school and the in UCAT exam.

Postgraduate Medicine (~7 years)

This pathway is open to those who have completed any undergraduate degree, and who meet subject prerequisites for some universities. This pathway requires applicants to have high results in both their GPA and the GAMSAT exam. These scores are combined to determine an applicant's eligibility for a medical interview. For this pathway, students can apply through GEMSAS - the graduate medical school consortium - as well as direct-to-institution for some universities. For more information on the GAMSAT, check out this blog!

Provisional Entry into Postgraduate Medicine (~7 years)

This pathway is a little more complex. It is open to school leavers who have performed exceptionally well. However, instead of granting students direct entry into undergraduate medicine they go into postgraduate medicine without sitting the GAMSAT. This means that students complete any undergraduate degree upon leaving school and transition seamlessly into postgraduate medicine. However in most cases, students must sit the UCAT and achieve a 99+ ATAR score.

Pathways - New Zealand

Only two universities in New Zealand offer medicine. (The University of Auckland and The University of Otago). These are both 6-year undergraduate MBBS degrees and the pathway requires a pre medicine year of a Biomedical Science or Health Science program, after which students will sit the UCAT exam. A student’s UCAT score and GPA are considered and determine their candidacy for an interview.

Check out our Pathways to Medicine Exclusive Video for more information on the pathways and requirements to Australia and New Zealand Medical Schools!

High School Subjects

Early preparation begins with subject selection. The subjects that students take in high school (and how well they perform in them) is one of the many factors that will determine their success in gaining admission into medical school. While subjects such as Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics and English may scale well in a student’s application to medical school, it is advisable that students choose subjects that they are passionate about.

In Australia, every student upon leaving school receives an ATAR score, which reflects a direct, scaled comparison of that student’s performance against that of every other student finishing in Australia in that same year. As such, a student’s ATAR is a percentile score, with the top score being 99.95. In the context of minimum ATAR requirements for medical school, there is no one answer.

A general rule for students to follow is that an ATAR exceeding 99.00 is likely to be a competitive score. However, it is at the discretion of each university to place as much weighting as they see fit, on the ATAR.

It is important that New Zealand students who want to apply for Australian universities consider the importance of their high school grades. In my opinion the best way to find out more about subject selection in high school is to book a free consultation!

GPA

For medical school entrance in New Zealand, not as much weighting is placed on high school grades, as students are required to complete one year of a pre medicine degree before applying to medical school.

At The University of Auckland there are two medical entry pathways:

  • First Year Biomedical Science
  • First Year Health Science

They are called overlapping first year one or OLY1 for short, because both course have 4 core papers and these 4 core papers determine your success into medical school. Three offered in first semester and one in second semester. Whereas The University of Otago only has one medical entry pathway:

  • First Year Health Science

However, at Otago University there are 7 core papers which determine your success into medical school. Four offered in first semester and three offered in second semester.

For more information on New Zealand medical schools, check out our free Quick Guide to First Year Health Science!

UCAT

The UCAT is a two-hour standardised, computer-based exam, designed to assess the suitability of candidates to study undergraduate or provisional entry postgraduate medicine. Suitability is measured by this exam through an assessment of a student’s critical thinking capacity, emotional intelligence and non-verbal reasoning.

The sections of the exam are Verbal Reasoning, Decision Making, Quantitative Reasoning, Abstract Reasoning and Situational Judgement. Performance is measured by a student’s percentile score, that is, how many questions they answer correctly relative to all other candidates. The fundamental pillar of preparation for this exam is consistency of exposure to a diverse range of questions over a long period of time. As this is an exam is psychometric, study needs to be consistently build over a long period of time. I recommend speaking to an Academic Advisor to find out how to best prepare!

MMI

The medical interview is your last step towards achieving your goal of becoming a doctor. During the MMI, each student spends between eight to ten minutes at each station, of which there are eight. Students have two minutes of reading time per station, with the remaining six to eight allocated as interview time.

While the interviewers are judging you from a holistic perspective, there are some key skills and characteristics they are looking for, including:

  • Communication
  • Quality of argument
  • Critical thinking
  • Creativity
  • Social responsibility
  • Cultural safety
  • Awareness of health issues
  • Moral reasoning
  • Self-awareness
  • Empathy
  • Conflict resolution
  • Career choice
  • Teamwork
  • Self-care

Each mini interview will assess you on two to three of these qualities.

The most difficult part about the MMI is not just answering the questions - although that’s hard too - it’s about making your answer stand out. You have to have your own personal reason that you know the interviewer will resonate with and remember. Try doing that for 8 stations in a row! When it comes to crafting those 5-star MMI answers, there’s no better source than MedView experts who have passed the MMI and currently study at whichever university you are targeting. Each MMI is different and the best way to prepare is to get targeted support for all of the universities which offer you an Interview!