Do you want to help your child achieve their dream of getting into medical or dental school?
It can be hard to know who to turn to for advice when it comes to admissions to specialised courses, especially as the process is more complex than other courses.
In this article, we offer an overview of the application processes, so you can learn what is required and assist as much as possible.
Degrees in medicine and dentistry open doors into highly respected and well-paid professions. Needless to say, this makes them very competitive.
To put things into perspective, Curtin University had over 1,900 applications for just 91 places in its Medicine programme. Monash University had over 2,800 applications for 240 medical school places.
Your child typically needs an ATAR in the high 90s, meaning that they will need to be in the top few percentiles of their year group academically. Furthermore, they will need to obtain a high score (usually 90+ percentile) in the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT), as well as presenting themselves immaculately at their medical school interview.
1. Register for and sit the UCAT
Most direct-entry medical and dental programmes require a UCAT score. You can read more about this later in this article.
2. Submit medical or dental school applications
This can be done via tertiary admissions centres in each state. When choosing universities, your child will be able to select a number of courses per tertiary admissions centre and list their preferences. It is strongly recommended to apply to as many medical and dental programmes as possible to maximise their chance of receiving an offer.
A small number of universities may also require your child to write a personal statement.
3. Attend interview
After applying, your child may be invited for an interview depending on their UCAT score and other parts of their application. A small number of courses do not require an interview.
4. ATAR results are released and offers are made
Once your child's ATAR has been released, universities will make offers based on their UCAT score, interview performance and ATAR.
Deadlines will vary from university to university. This makes it essential to check up on the universities your child wants to apply to to get the exact dates. You can use the table below as a rough guide for deadlines in the application process.
The UCAT is a computer-based, multiple-choice test taken over 2-hours that tests essential skills required to be a competent healthcare professional. It is required by the majority of direct entry medical and dental schools in Australia and New Zealand. It is also used by universities in the UK.
The UCAT forms an important aspect of the application process. There are a lot of ways to offer support to your child to help them succeed:
The sooner the test is booked, the more choice there will be with regards to dates and exam centres. Booking early also means your child will know the date of their test sooner, which can help them structure their preparation.
Bookmark the following articles to help with preparation:
For a lot of students, the biggest challenge in preparing for the UCAT is a shortage of practice questions. The official UCAT site only has a limited number of questions, which students will get through in no time.
Medify’s UCAT Online Course is used by 1-in-2 UCAT test takers every year. It also includes 24 full mock exams, 40+ mini-mock exams, 50+ hours of video tutorials, and full performance feedback. Plus, we've upgraded our UCAT mock exams 13-24 and revised our practice question bank to enrich your child's preparation journey. All this starting from just $35.
Have conversations about how the exam preparation is going, to help your child reflect on how to improve.
Learning a little about the exam yourself can help with this.
Doing this together will help your child to create an organised plan. Having a second opinion means that they will be able to see what’s realistically possible in the time available.
The UCAT is a high-pressure experience. It’s supposed to be challenging and there may be points when it feels too hard.
Be supportive and encourage your child to keep going even when they feel like they’re not improving.
Interviews can be a stressful and challenging experience for a lot of students, so it’s important that your child feels supported throughout their journey. Here are some ways you can support your child:
Current affairs forms an important part of interview preparation. Watching or reading the news together can make this part fun.
Simulating interviews is a great way for your child to get used to the interview process. This will help them get comfortable with topics and interview technique, including timing, body language, and answer structure.
It’s normal for your child to be nervous or panicked on the day. Take time to prepare ways to manage your child’s nerves.
Medify’s ANZ Interviews Online Course provides everything your child needs to excel in their medical school interview. They can prepare at their own pace with in-depth tutorials, authentic example video responses from real students, and an extensive Knowledge Bank.
Work experience is not necessary, but can be a useful way to obtain a realistic understanding of medicine or dentistry. It also presents a chance to develop and observe some of the skills required to be a good doctor or dentist.
Read more about Work Experience in Australia and New Zealand.
Full-fee medical and dental degrees can cost up to $400,000. On top of that will be accommodation and living costs to pay for if your child will be studying interstate.
However, most students study medicine or dentistry as a Commonwealth Supported Place (CSP) holder. This means that part of your child’s fee will be subsidised by the government. This isn’t a loan and won’t have to be paid back.
The remaining amount is known as the student contribution amount. For Medicine and Dentistry, this will be a maximum of $11,300 per year, which reduces the overall cost of a medical or dental degree to around $60,000.
Your child could get a HECS-HELP loan to cover the student contribution amount. Depending on your household income and your child’s personal income, they may also be eligible for youth allowance, which doesn’t need to be paid back.
In New Zealand, the domestic tuition fee for medicine and dentistry is around $16,500 per year, except the first year (which is ~$7,000-$8,000).
Most students qualify for fees free first year and an interest-free student loan, and many are also eligible to receive a student allowance.
Read more about Financing Medical Study in Australia and New Zealand.
Be assured - there are many different routes into medicine or dentistry if your child is keen to explore further options. Support your child and encourage them to try again with the following options:
If your child's ATAR was high, then they could try taking a gap year. This is a great way to develop more experience and maturity before starting medical or dental school. Students also tend to do better in their second round of sitting the UCAT compared to the first round as they’re usually more prepared.
Your child could also do an undergraduate degree and then apply to do medicine or dentistry as a graduate. Many students hoping to get into graduate-entry medicine or dentistry opt to study biomedical sciences as an undergraduate degree, which is quite a competitive course.
It’s worth noting that the degree generally doesn’t need to be related to medicine or dentistry, so if your child chooses another degree they’re passionate about they may have an easier time achieving the top marks needed for graduate-entry medicine or dentistry.
Your child could study abroad, for example in Eastern European countries or in the UK. However, this option can be expensive and potentially isolating for your child, and has been made even more difficult by the COVID-19 pandemic, so it requires careful consideration.
Your child can also consider other healthcare careers.
In a word: ‘no’.
In fact, it could help improve things.
A lot of universities have widening participation programmes. A common criterion for these programmes is that students have faced socio-economic challenges in their studies. It could result in lower UCAT or ATAR requirements for your child.
Universities also have separate pathways or offer bonus points for Indigenous students and students from remote/rural areas.
Congratulations! It’s a proud moment!
Once your child has accepted an offer it is time to think more closely about getting things like finance in place to start medical school.
Entry into medical and dental schools is extremely competitive but you can assist your child in achieving this goal by learning about the admissions process. You’ll be able to help them practise for their UCAT, aid them with applications to universities, boost their confidence with interviews, and you can be an invaluable source of support for them throughout the whole process.
While studying an intensive degree is a serious financial commitment, the loans and grants available from the government help to manage costs.
Best of luck!
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.
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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
This image shows a typical UCAT test environment:
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.
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.