Planning Ahead For Medical School Admission: Year 10 & 11 Students



For students wishing to gain direct entry to a medical school in Australia, it can be a bit overwhelming to start preparing for admissions in the final year of high school. Here, we provide advice for Year 10 and 11 students on having a well-planned preparation strategy for admission to direct entry medical programs in Australia.

A university building with a magnifying glass pointing towards it

Information, information, information

Students dream of becoming a doctor for various reasons, but do you actually know what you are getting yourself into? Before committing yourself to prepare for medical school interviews and the UCAT ANZ, do some research about what medical education and training involves, and what life as a medical doctor is like. Reading these three articles is a great place to start - Becoming a doctor, What’s it like being a doctor?, Working as a doctor in Australia - and there are many other sources on the web for you to explore.

You should also find out about different medical schools and what is required for entry. This will give you a feel for what areas you should be focusing on and which subjects you should be studying. It would be a good idea to think about Plan Bs and alternative career options too.

A woman meditating: Don't burn out yourself preparing for the UCAT ANZ

Start preparing for the UCAT ANZ, but don’t burn out!

University Clinical Aptitude Test for Australia and New Zealand (UCAT ANZ) is a test used by direct entry medical programs in Australia and New Zealand to assess their applicants for interview and/or final selection. It involves answering 233 multiple choice questions across five sections (Verbal Reasoning, Decision Making, Quantitative Reasoning, Abstract Reasoning and Situational Judgement), over ~2 hours. 

While the UCAT ANZ is an ‘aptitude’ test, you can maximise your chances for success with the right preparation. Starting your preparation early means you will have more time to improve your UCAT ANZ score. Furthermore, with some preparation already done under your belt, you will be less stressed in Year 12, and have more time to focus on your study to attain as high an ATAR score as possible.

You should check out the official practice questions from the UCAT ANZ to get a feel for what they are like. You will find that the main challenge lies in the limited time available, rather than the difficulty of the questions. It is advised to familiarise yourself with the test, learn how to solve different types of questions and practice as much as possible, using a trusted course such as Medify’s UCAT ANZ online course

However, you should not burn out yourself preparing for the UCAT ANZ. Aim to spend a couple of hours a week preparing for the UCAT ANZ and focus on your school studies and achieving an optimal study-life balance.

Two speech bubbles, symbolising medical school interview

Prepare for the medical school interviews, in diverse ways

The vast majority of direct entry medical schools require interviews. Many Year 10 & 11 students won’t have much experience or ideas about an interview and some may think that preparing for a medical school interview involves rote learning answers to some common interview questions or scenarios. It is true that medical school interview usually revolves around a number of common topics (e.g. ethical dilemmas, recent issues in health and medicine, your motivation to study medicine), but often these questions will be reworded or addressed in scenario settings, so simply memorising some model answers won’t be enough. Some may think that they are a people charmer and can simply “wing it” by sounding intelligent/mature and being friendly during an interview, but this won’t cut it either.

To effectively prepare for medical school interviews, you need to develop a set of skills and traits, as well as understanding some key concepts. These include:

  • Communication skills
  • Conflict resolution
  • Critical thinking
  • Decision making skills
  • Empathy
  • Ethical concepts (autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, justice)
  • Problem solving skills
  • Teamwork abilities
The Good Medical Practice book

These can be developed in a number of ways, for example through work experience, reading books and articles and talking to medical students and/or doctors. We particularly recommend reading the Good Medical Practice: a code of conduct for doctors in Australia, published by the Medical Board of Australia and Good Medical Practice, published by the Medical Council of New Zealand. They provide guidance on the duties and code of conduct for medical doctors. Since you have two years or more, try all of the options above, and look for your own ways to prepare for the medical school interviews too.

A target with a dart in the bullseye.

School work and examinations should have the priority

While all three points of advice given above are important, you should remember that school study should be given your utmost priority. This is for two reasons.

Firstly, your internal and external grades from Year 11 and 12 (or NCEA Level 3 for New Zealand students) will be converted to an ATAR score, which is one of the core criteria for medical school entry. Even if you have extensive knowledge about the medical career and different medical schools, consistently score highly in mock UCAT ANZ exams and feel ready to ace your interview, an ATAR score below a threshold will make you ineligible to be considered by a medical school.

Secondly, the foundational knowledge you build and the study habits and routines you form during high school are fundamental for surviving and succeeding in medical school. For these reasons, we strongly recommend that you don’t let yourself be distracted too much from your school work. You should aim to make use of weekends and holidays to work on the major portion of your preparation for medical school admissions.

Medify’s UCAT helping hand in a blue circle with a yellow smiling emoji

Do you need help with preparing for the UCAT ANZ? Please don’t worry, head over to our UCAT ANZ Online Course and we’ll get you signed up to guide you through this 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.

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. This is completely normal, but it could be helpful to learn some mindfulness tricks to reduce your stress levels. 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 spiral bound laminated sheets 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 emailed to you shortly (usually between 30 minutes and one hour). 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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