This blog is dedicated to those of you who may wish to apply to Australian Medical Schools. Before choosing to study Medicine in the UK, I considered applying to Australia but did not know all the specific requirements to apply there.
The timeline to apply to Australian medical schools is different from the UK and the requirements the schools asked for seemed vague. So, hopefully after reading this blog, you’ll have a better understanding of what you’ll need to apply to Australia for Medicine.
This blog is in a style of a Q & A and is put together by a group of Burmese medical students studying at University of New South Wales (UNSW). We would like to give a shoutout to them for this amazing contribution!
This Blog Covers:
How competitive is it?
Most Australian Medical Schools do not publish competition ratios to give an idea about how competitive the program is, but there is definitely a lot of competition.
As an international student, you will be competing for a spot in the program alongside other international students. There are thousands of international students that apply for UNSW Medicine each year, and usually the quota is quite low, like around 80. However, as long as you did quite well in all aspects of the selection criteria (academic grades, ISAT, interview, etc.), then there wouldn’t be a problem.
Typical Grade Requirements
Australia has two types of medical school pathways, the direct and the indirect; direct is usually 5-6 years and the indirect is a bachelor’s degree in biomedicine or equivalent which takes about 3 years, followed by a postgraduate MD which is an additional four years.
Common high school qualifications that students present with include A Levels, SAT and IB. The minimum requirements for the direct pathway are around:
IB: 37-39 points overall
A-levels: 15-17 *
UNSW Foundations: 9.0 (for students who apply from the UNSW foundations programme)
*It is important to note that for A Levels, marks are calculated as follows; A* = 6, A = 5, B = 4, C = 3, D = 2 and E = 1. The scores will be calculated from the best two, three or four A2 subjects. At UNSW a minimum of 2 A2 subjects are required.
Some medical schools will have specific subject requirements; for example, for IB students looking to apply for the direct pathway at Monash University, you need at least a 5 in Chemistry SL or a 4 in Chemistry HL. These requirements can be easily found on the program websites.
For the indirect pathway, you need to get the minimum credit requirements across all courses you take during your undergraduate degree.
International students usually have lower academic requirements when compared to domestic students. However, because medical schools are very competitive, it is always best to aim for higher than the minimum mark.
Any other specific subject requirements?
It depends on the school, but usually most schools prefer chemistry. We have some classmates who didn’t take biology or physics in high school, but usually they would’ve taken chemistry. For UNSW specifically, it would just be chemistry, because we have a Foundations unit at the very start of Year 1 which covers the basics of medicinal biology, chemistry and physics. For the University of Adelaide, you need just one of the following; biology, chemistry or mathematics.
However, based on experience, it is much easier to understand the concepts in medical school if you have a prior knowledge in biology, so if your high school program allows for you to take dual sciences, we would strongly recommend it.
You have to be at least 17 years old. A lot of the domestic students are actually 17 when they graduate from high school.
English Test Requirements
Depending on your high school qualification, you may or may not have to take English tests such as IELTS and TOEFL. For IGCSE students, the First Language English program may count as evidence as meeting the English language requirements. But, not every school does this; for example, Monash University still requires students from this program to take an IELTS/TOEFL; so please double-check with the requirements before you proceed to book a test.
If you have to take an English test, you can take one or the other. Usually, for IELTS, you would need an overall score of 7.0 with no individual band less than 6.5. For TOEFL (paper-based) the minimum requirements are around the 590 mark, with a minimum of 5.0 in TWE.
These requirements also differ across universities.
Work Experience Prior to Medical School
For an undergraduate medical school student, prior work experience is not compulsory, but either that or other hands-on experiences such as volunteering or job shadowing are definitely helpful, and strongly recommended. We would especially recommend you to seek a volunteering opportunity related to the medical field somehow, because that experience will definitely put you in the upper hand especially during interviews.
For postgraduates, it is definitely good to have work experience at a clinic, and usually the applicants will have some kind of experience. Either way, it is strongly recommended for both undergraduate and postgraduate students.
Any Requirements for Essays or Personal Statements?
Most of the medical schools we know do not require essays. You would usually discuss topics such as why you want to do medicine and why you would be fit for it through an interview. This applies to undergraduate and postgraduate degrees as well, as far as we know.
For most medical schools you have to take the ISAT. It is preferred that you sit them before November. The ISAT is a computer-based test where you complete 100 multiple choice questions within 3 hours. The questions test for your critical and quantitative reasoning, and your results will reveal your score and your percentile amongst all ISAT takers. There are test centers in most countries where you can book for a test.
When taking your ISAT test, you will also nominate which universities you want to send your results to. If you decide later that you want to apply to another medical school, don’t worry, you can do this through your ISAT booking account.
For the ISAT, there are 4 testing periods a year, from around May to November, running for about 2 weeks each. You can select your preferred date, venue and time, and usually testing centers are available in most countries. The due date to take the ISAT is usually in November, but we recommend that you get it done and out of the way as soon as you can. The best way is for you to submit an application to the university of your choice and then take an ISAT right after that.
The test itself is very scary and could definitely make you panic, especially since there isn’t much practice that you can do. We would highly encourage you to purchase the practice booklet that is sold online and attempt it to get a rough idea of what the exam is like.
Our advice for you is to make sure you have enough sleep and attempt the test with a clear mind. 3 hours sound like plenty, but if you don’t know an answer to the question, choose a temporary option and skip to the next question before coming back to it if you have time. We want to encourage you to choose an option even if you don’t know the answer because there is still a chance you might get it correct. After the exam, you might feel horrible, but we would also like to tell you not to worry too much, because chances are you did better than you thought.
For some universities such as the University of Adelaide, they have a different assessment known as the PQA that you take instead of the ISAT.
Submitting Your Application
You have to submit your application and apply via individual university websites. Every university has their own deadline, but it would usually be around November. If your school finishes in May, we would highly recommend that you apply with your predicted grades if possible (ie. IB, you should apply with your term 3 grades) just so that you can secure an interview. In some cases, your ISAT marks can be given later. This is different from the domestic students because they have a platform similar to the Common App, known as the UAC.
Mainly, you would need your academic grades, your ISAT scores, application form and some personal documentation such as passport scans and birth certificates may also be needed.
The interview Process
Interviews will be conducted for Medicine. Some schools do regular panel interviews, but some do MMI. UNSW does panel interviews with two interviewers and one interviewee (you), and Monash and the University of Western Australia do MMI.
It is usually online for international students, but there are also face-to-face options as well, so you can choose from them. For example, for the University of Western Australia, they have periods of time around July and August where they would have representatives sent to other countries such as Singapore and Hong Kong where they would conduct face-to-face interviews.
For UNSW, the interview is mostly about the interviewers getting to know you, almost as if you are talking to a friend. The interview consists of important questions such as why you want to do medicine, what are some skills you can contribute, or they could give you scenarios and ask you what you would do in that case.
You are a counsellor for a summer camp and you helped arrange rooms for the students, and the rooms are mixed. However, after you announce the room arrangements, you are approached by a young boy/girl (most likely your gender) who admits that they are uncomfortable sharing a room with someone of the opposite sex. As the counsellor, what are you doing to do?
Our advice for these interviews is:
Make sure you know yourself! These include what you like, what you don’t like, your strengths, weaknesses; these kinds of things are not something you can make up on the spot.
Be confident in what you say. Show them that you are passionate about medicine and that medicine is what you want to do. However, also be careful because you don’t want to be too enthusiastic or passionate, because that will come off as “fake” to them.
DO NOT make up things about your past experiences or work! Make sure it is real. You want to be extremely honest during these interviews.
DON’T STRESS TOO MUCH! Remember for UNSW the interview is a lot more friendly. From our experience, the interviewers from UNSW are very friendly, and you would probably warm up to them before you even know it.
Also, for UNSW, prepare some questions, because they will also let you ask them some questions about the program. This is your chance to get to know them better!
How are offers given?
For the direct pathway, the interview, ISAT score and academic grades are weighted equally to give out offers, so you need to do very well in all three categories. This is usually the same throughout all of the undergraduate medical schools available in Australia. The only difference is the test, for example the University of Adelaide looks at your PQA score and not your ISAT.
For the indirect pathway, it is an interview, GAMSAT/MCAT and your grades, which are also weighted equally and usually consistent across all Australian graduate medical schools. GAMSAT is similar to the ISAT, except you would only take it if you are applying for graduate medical school.
The interview is also the last step, so you have to do really well in your aptitude test and academic scores in order to get an interview.
How can you Maximise your chances of getting in?
There is no harm in applying early. For example, if you take IB, you might consider applying with your final set of predicted grades first. Even though Australia’s school term starts much later, I would strongly recommend you to apply for your school of choice early and get all of your aptitude tests done early.
Also, we recommend you apply to as many universities as you can to increase your chances. Definitely study hard and make sure you do well in your school and your ISAT/UCAT/GAMSAT/MCAT, and aim for much higher than the minimum mark. Unlike your IELTS/TOEFL, you can only take your ISAT test once a year, so unless you are willing to take a gap year, you only have one shot, so work hard for that.
Also start looking for volunteering works, job shadowing, or other experiences because they will definitely help you. Make sure you are also aware of why you want to study medicine and make it clear during your interview. Be confident and be yourself!
Any paperwork you need to complete after your offer?
Before you can start practicing clinical skills at your practicing hospital, you will have to become fully compliant. In order to become fully compliant, you have to prepare certain health documents, which usually depends on the territory. In the New South Wales territory (UNSW, Western Sydney, etc.) you will need the following documents before you can be fully complied to train in a hospital;
Your university ID card
Australian National Police Check (you can get this at your local police station upon arrival)
Police check from your home country, or a statutory declaration if you cannot get a police check. *IMPORTANT they must be in English so please get it officially translated!
NSW Health Code of Conduct Agreement for Students
Undertaking / Declaration Form
Tuberculosis (TB) Assessment Tool
Blood Borne Virus Student Declaration Form
Vaccination card/serology report
The vaccination card is definitely the hardest to obtain out of all of these documents. You have to find all of the records, whether through your GP or your own medical records, and present them to your GP so that they can sign off on every single vaccine you have gotten. We would also like to recommend that for the vaccinations you haven’t received, or the TB Check, you get them done in Australia. Some of our friends had a bit of a problem with this because we were not sure whether Australia would recognise our test being done outside of Australia. Just to be safe, we would recommend you do it upon arrival.
There are different dates where representatives from NSW Health (in our case) came to check whether we are fully complied or not. For UNSW, you have three chances to be fully complied, so if by the first date you still haven’t completed all of your vaccinations, please don’t worry! But you have to make sure that you are fully complied by the last check.
Any final tips?
Don’t stress too much! It can seem like a daunting process but it is definitely worth it in the end. Remember to be yourself. Make sure that if you have any questions about the university, you contact them immediately and ask. We would also like to encourage you guys to attend any open days or events, which they sometimes do overseas, in order to get to know the program a lot better.
All the best on your applications, and we hope to see some of you guys reading this in UNSW 😄
Thank you so much to the group of Burmese medics from UNSW for giving such a detailed insight of the application process. If you enjoyed this post or have any questions about application to Australian Medical Schools, follow us on IG @international.medics and feel free to DM us! We’ll be happy to pass on your questions to the UNSW medics!