How to Choose a Medical School

Admissions

7/6/24

How to apply to Medical School

For most universities, you need to apply to medical schools via tertiary admissions centres (TACs). Some universities require you to apply directly, especially if you are an international student. 

Find out about the details for each university.

Each tertiary admissions centre (TAC) has a fixed number of courses you can apply to. You need to order your options according to your preference from most preferred to least preferred.

State

TAC

Course choice options

NSW/ACT

UAC

5

QLD

QTAC

6

SA/NT

SATAC

6

TAS

Direct to university

N/A

VIC

VTAC

8

WA

TISC

6

You can maximise your chance of getting into medical school by applying to multiple medical schools across different states and territories. 

This also means you may be offered more than one place. For example, you may receive an offer from Monash University via VTAC and University of New South Wales through UAC. 

I got multiple offers - How do I choose?

Congratulations! The many months of hard work has finally paid off. If you find yourself in the very lucky position of having multiple offers, you have a lot to think about. Here are some factors to consider:

Length of the degree

Some direct entry medical courses run for five years whereas others run for six years. If you were offered a provisional place at a graduate entry medical school this will require six or more years of study.

The additional year or two will mean one more year of fees to pay. This will add an additional $11,300 if you're a CSP student and $60,000 if you’re a FFP student, per year.

Extra year(s) of study also means that you’ll start working later and delay earning your income.

A medical school graduate smiling at the graduation day

Type of place

The place you are offered has huge implications for fees and any compulsory work requirements after graduation. As such, most students would choose a commonwealth supported place (CSP) over a bonded medical place (BMP) or a full-fee paying place (FFP).

Read more about CSP, BMP and FFP places.

Living costs

Staying at home will be easiest on your pocket. You won’t have rent or utilities to pay for. Moving out is expensive, although a higher Youth Allowance rate may cover some of the extra expense. There’s a lot of costs you’ll need to think about along with your tuition fees:

  • Rent 
  • Utilities e.g. wifi, electricity, water, heating
  • Transport costs
  • Cost of home essentials e.g. bedding , pots and pans
  • Clothing
  • Food and groceries

Medical school is busy and it’s likely that you won’t have time to work on a regular basis. This means that you’ll need to plan your finances and cash flow very carefully if you’re moving out.

Location

If you’ve decided you want to move out, then there’s still some considerations to make. You’ll need to think about how far you want to move out. Staying close to home means that your family could help you out with meals and other essentials. It also means you’re less likely to be homesick.

On the other hand you may want to move away as far as possible for freedom and independence. Some people like the thought of starting afresh in a new place. Either way, it’s important to find what works for you. 

If you’re moving out, you may also want to consider the following factors when choosing your new place:

  • Opportunities to pursue your hobbies
  • Safety and crime rates
  • Nightlife
  • Food
  • Culture and Diversity 
  • Sport and leisure facilities 
  • Access to public transport 
  • Parking access
  • Weather

Scholarships 

Many universities offer scholarships. If you’re eligible for scholarships at a particular university but not at another, this may be a big factor for you.

A medical student studying hard

Clinical Placements

Clinical placements are one of the highlights of the medical school degree. Many students prefer universities that offer lots of clinical placements. Research each school to see when their clinical placements start and how many hours of placement will be available to you. The more experience you have in a hospital setting the easier it is for you once you start working. 

You should also research to see where the placements are. Placements in metropolitan cities will give you the opportunity to see a range of specialties. Metropolitan placements have more specialties than rural settings however it is competitive. Rural placements are easier to get onto and will provide you with much more hands-on experience.

Where you want to practice

All government funded degrees will guarantee you an internship year in the state you studied in. This means if you want to work in a particular place, doing a degree in that state will put you in good stead to getting there. 

Specialisation

If you want to specialise in a certain area, research whether the medical school has placements in that area. Being able to do placements in your area of interest will give you the opportunity to build your skills and to research the specialty. It will also give you the opportunity to network and meet people who are established and experienced in that area. 

Remember that a lot of medical students who already want to specialise in an area do change their mind during the course of their degree, so this shouldn't be the highest factor on your list. 

Doctors performing an operation

Cohort size

Medical schools vary in size and facilities. Medical schools with smaller cohorts are likely to have a better student-teacher ratio and more of a personalised experience. Bigger medical schools, however, are likely to have more facilities and resources. For example, Notre Dame has smaller cohort numbers than UNSW however they don’t have an anatomy wetlab. Although Bond has a good balance between smaller class sizes and available resources, a medical degree from Bond will cost you $500,000.

2024 Cohort size

  • University of Adelaide: 167
  • ANU: 108
  • Bond: 167
  • Curtin: 113
  • Deakin: 155
  • Flinders: 209
  • Griffith: 237
  • James Cook: 211
  • Macquarie: 80
  • Melbourne: 385
  • Monash: 443
  • Newcastle/UNE: 200
  • Notre Dame Fremantle: 115
  • Notre Dame Sydney: 154
  • Queensland: 380
  • Sydney: 308
  • Tasmania: 147
  • UNSW: 296
  • Wollongong: 97
  • WSU: 149
Healthcare professionals

Ranking

All medical schools need to be accredited by the Australian Medical Council and teach the same core curriculum. This means that they are all of comparable quality.

For some students, however, prestige is an important part of how they choose a university. Read Medical School Rankings in Australia and New Zealand for more information on this topic. 

Teaching style

This is a crucial factor to consider. Teaching styles vary between schools and you may be better suited to one style than another. Medical school will be hard and having a teaching style that doesn't work for you will only make it harder. The  three main teaching styles used by medical schools in Australia and New Zealand are:

  • Traditional

You are taught mainly through lectures and it's very much teacher led.

In PBL, you’ll be given a case study and you will discuss as a group what learning outcomes you can derive from the case study. You will research these learning outcomes and share your findings with the rest of your group in a session later on in the week. This tends to be more self directed, but you will have a facilitator to oversee your work.

  • Integrated

This type of teaching involves lectures and also PBL. The ratio of lectures to PBL can vary between schools. This makes the best of both worlds and is ideal for a lot of students. Research each Medical School you have an offer at to see what style of teaching they offer.

Studying cell body on a tablet

Student to staff ratios

The lower the student to staff ratio, the better. This would mean that each member of the academic staff has fewer students, which will allow students to get more focussed one-on-one teaching.

The data is for the university as a whole. The student to staff ratio should be taken with a pinch of salt as it could be higher or lower for the medical school department.

Research 

If you’re keen on taking part in research or want to go deeper into a topic of interest like neuroscience, you may want to look at universities that have strong research backgrounds. The University Rankings site ranks universities based on the strength and depth of their research. In 2018, the University of Melbourne came out on top, with the University of Queensland and the University of Sydney following closely in 2nd and 3rd place.

New vs Old

Although this shouldn’t be at the top of your list, it’s worth considering the age of the university. Older universities like the University of Melbourne, tend to have more traditional architecture and a lot of prestige. Newer universities will have a modern feel to the campus. Ideally, visiting campuses will help you to see what you prefer.

Extracurriculars

Contrary to the popular myth that medical students haven’t got a social life, medical students do have time on their hands. It's important that you find things to do aside from academics. These will act as stress release mechanisms and will help to relax. Research what extracurriculars each university has to offer and find ones that are of interest to you.

What should I do one month before my UCAT?

Graphic of calendar showing one month left

Keep practising! A month sounds like a long time, but time will quickly vanish. Set SMART  (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) goals such as reaching a certain score by a certain date or time. 

Niche down even further on your weaknesses – by this stage you should just be focusing on what you find hardest. Make sure you factor in breaks and days off into your schedule, as well as any important events which you need to attend.

Read the 'Good medical practice' by the Medical Board of Australia if you haven’t already. It will inform you about the different duties of healthcare professionals and how they should respond to different scenarios, which is essential for the Situational Judgement Test section of the UCAT.

Try Medify's Skills Trainers, such as inference scanning for Verbal Reasoning, to maximise your score (these are included in our UCAT ANZ Online Course). Make sure you've also completed plenty of UCAT practice tests.

The UCAT exam is two hours with no breaks in between, so practise at least two hours each time to build your mental stamina. You should also simulate the exam environment as closely as possible – this means treating every mock test as if it were a real one. 

For instance, you should sit mock exams at the same time of the day as your actual UCAT exam and ensure there are no distractions. By mirroring the test conditions, not only will it prepare you for what to expect on test day, it should also help to decrease any anxiety leading up to the exam. Otherwise, your brain has to process the ‘new’ way of completing the test.

What should I do one week before my UCAT?

Graphic of calendar showing one week left

At this point, you'll know the format of the exam inside out and will have practised the questions enough times to get used to UCAT timings. Don’t give up – keep preparing in an environment where you cannot be interrupted.

Remember, a lot of your preparation will have been done in the weeks and months before this final week, so be careful not to overdo it and become too fatigued. Your motivation may drop or you might ‘peak’ before the test. Your body needs rest too. 

Now is a great time to introduce or increase self-care in your regime. Whether it’s watching Netflix, gaming, or just running a bath, it’s important to detach yourself from UCAT revision from time to time to avoid the risk of burnout.

In this week you should also prioritise your nutrition and sleep. Eat well, do not miss meals and keep hydrated. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep in the days before the test by avoiding late night cramming or staying awake into the early hours.

If it puts your mind at rest, you can check last year’s UCAT scores, but remember that this is all about your personal journey and performance, so don't get hung up on that information!

What should I do one day before my UCAT?

Graphic of calendar showing one day left

We do not advise doing a mock this close to the exam. Revision won't help you much at this stage and can actually leave you worse off. Instead, use this time to wind down and get yourself into a relaxed state. This will enable you to perform at your best on test day.

Try to get to bed early and avoid things that can affect sleep, such as looking at your phone before bed. If you think that you will struggle to sleep on time, you could try doing some exercise during the day to tire yourself out. 

Exercise can boost your brainpower by oxygenating your brain, helping you learn and aid sleep. Plus, activity makes your body release endorphins, which can reduce anxiety and stress levels.

Make sure you double check your UCAT test centre information, the travel route to the test centre, the time of your UCAT exam, and so on, so you’re well prepared for test day. If someone else is giving you a ride to the test centre, it’s worth reminding them.

What should I do on the day of my UCAT?

Graphic of calendar circling today's date

You should start the day off with a nutritious breakfast and give yourself enough time to arrive early to the test centre to avoid feeling flustered, rushed or stressed.

Remember that buses and trains can be late and that traffic may be heavier than you had hoped, so allow extra time whichever way you are travelling. Find out how to choose a UCAT test centre.

Make sure you know how to get to the test centre – for instance you could consider taking a map with you. If you’re using your phone for directions, make sure it’s sufficiently charged and that you have spare data (otherwise you can download the map ahead of time to use offline).

On test day you will be expected to arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled test time to complete the check-in process.

You need to bring:

  • Your test confirmation email
  • Photographic ID from the approved list

When you arrive at the test centre, it’s likely that you’ll be experiencing a heightened sense of adrenaline. his is completely normal, but it could be helpful to learn some strategies for adopting a winning mindset on test day to reduce your stress levels, and enable you to perform at your best. For instance, you could focus on your breathing to help you relax.

Don’t forget, during your test there are one minute introductions between each subtest. You can skip these, but we recommend using the time to mentally refresh yourself.

If you’ve stuck to your revision plan, and followed our advice above, the best thing you can do on test day is to try and keep as calm as possible. Take solace in the fact that you have prepared for weeks/months to get to this point, and channel any nervous energy into doing the best you can during your UCAT test. 

What should I eat and drink leading up to the UCAT?

You should think about your diet well ahead of UCAT test day. Focus on foods that release energy slowly (that is, which have a low glycaemic index, or GI) which will stop you from feeling hungry. These are ideal for UCAT preparation, as well as on test day itself.

Try eating protein and low-GI carbohydrates, such as meat or baked beans, brown (whole grain) rice or pasta, or wholegrain breakfast cereals or muesli. However, do not stray far from your usual diet on the day of the test in case you feel sick. You may want to try these foods out at the same time of day a few weeks in advance.

Be wary of energy drinks and coffee. If you’re not used to them then don’t drink them, especially in large quantities. Caffeine can acutely increase anxiety, and the sugar rush of an energy drink is soon followed by insulin slamming on the brakes, leaving you feeling worse than before. These products are no substitute for a good night’s sleep, eating properly and exercising.

No food or drink is allowed in the test room so eat a healthy meal before your UCAT test and ensure you’re hydrated. While you should make sure you’re drinking enough water, do not overdo it, otherwise you might need the toilet while the timer is ticking.

Please note, access arrangements are available if you have a disability, learning difficulty or long-term medical condition. You may be entitled to extra time and/or rest breaks, and allowed certain items, such as water, at your test centre workstation. 

What happens at the UCAT test centre?

  1. At the registration desk, you will be asked to show a valid photographic ID and a printed/electronic copy of your confirmation email from Pearson VUE. 
  2. You will be asked to sign a signature pad and take a photograph.
  3. You will be given a laminated notebook and a black marker pen. You may also request earplugs.
  4. Do not take anything other than your ID into the examination room. A locker or a coat hanger will be available.
  5. Go to the bathroom if you need to.
  6. Once the staff have prepared your exam, you may enter the exam room. You may be asked to undergo a body check (e.g. turning up your pockets and rolling your sleeves).
  7. The staff will guide you to the seat, or you may be able to choose your desk. Take some time to prepare yourself and relax. Your two hours have not yet started.

What is the UCAT test environment like?

This image shows a typical UCAT test environment:

Taking the UCAT at a test centre

There is no audio element to the test, but you can request earplugs to block out any noise that might disrupt your concentration. 

You will have access to a basic onscreen calculator which may be useful for the Quantitative Reasoning and Decision Making sections.

You will be given a laminated notebook and marker pen. Consider using these for:

If you require an additional notebook and pen, you can raise your hand and ask the invigilator. Although the invigilator will check that your pen is working before the test, we advise double-checking this to avoid seeking assistance during the test.

What happens during my UCAT test?

  1. Once you are ready, follow the on-screen instructions.
  2. Your exam will be in the following order:
  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Decision Making
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Abstract Reasoning
  • Situational Judgement
  1. You will have one minute before each section to read the instructions. You can skip it, but this will not give you an extra minute to answer the questions. Use this time to give your mind a quick break.
  2. If you have any issues, such as requiring a toilet break, you can quietly raise your hand. However, your time will continue running.
  3. After your exam, there may be an opportunity to answer a short optional survey on UCAT ANZ preparation and the quality of the venue.
  4. Raise your hand when you've finished and the examiner will guide you out of the exam room. You need to return your laminated board and marker pen.
  5. Collect your belongings and leave the test centre.
  6. Your UCAT ANZ results will be available in your Pearson VUE account within 24 hours. You will receive an email with instructions to access your score report through your account. All results will be delivered to UCAT ANZ Consortium universities automatically.
  7. If you’ve achieved the scores that you desire, well done.
  8. Even if you haven’t achieved the scores you wanted, congratulate yourself for getting through a really tough process. You've done exceptionally well just to get to this point. Plus, you can always take the UCAT again next year or consider graduate entry to medicine – do not give up on your dream!

Do you need help preparing for the UCAT ANZ? Head over to our UCAT ANZ Online Course and we’ll get you signed up to guide you through the whole process.

We provide a huge bank of 20,000+ questions, 24 unique full mock exams, 40+ mini-mock exams, 50+ hours of video tutorials, and performance feedback. We've also upgraded our UCAT mock exams 13-24 and revised our practice question bank to enrich your preparation journey.

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