How to Approach Reapplication for Medicine and Dentistry

Admissions

30/11/23

Dealing with rejection from medical or dental school can be extremely tough. When you’ve worked hard for so long and pinned your hopes on success, not getting any offers can be disappointing. However, it’s important to remember that this doesn’t mean it’s the end of your journey.

In lots of cases, having extra time before entering medical or dental school is advantageous. It allows applicants to gain additional life experience and maturity, which often comes across very well in the interview. It can also make it easier to cope with some of the challenges that lie ahead! That being said, you need to make the most of the time you have to ensure this strengthens your next application. You should analyse your previous application to see where you can improve, and use this time to address your weaknesses and build on your strengths.

Try to stay positive throughout – remember, your past does not define your future. In fact, you have one crucial advantage over other applicants: you’ve already gone through the application process. In this article, we’ll take you through how best to approach reapplication for dentistry and medicine, including how to utilise your past experience.

Table of contents 

The reapplication journey:

UCAT ANZ

Graphic showing UCAT exam

It’s important that you honestly assess how you did in the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT). It’s likely you had stronger and weaker sections, as well as specific question types that you struggled with. You may also have some mistakes when preparing for the exam. For example:

  • Did you not prepare for long enough? 
  • Did you burn out before test day? 
  • Did you not engage properly with preparation resources? 

We discuss all of this and more in our article on resitting the UCAT ANZ as a reapplicant.

Non-direct entry pathways

Graphic of student at university

Should I take a gap year or enrol in another degree first? 

The first decision to make when approaching reapplication is which pathway to apply through. One option is to reapply through the direct entry pathway, either by taking a gap year or repeating your final year of high school (if that’s an option in your state or territory). The other option is to begin a different university degree, and then either apply as a postgraduate student or as a course switcher. There is no ‘right’ choice, and learning about the different options will allow you to make an informed decision on which suits you best.

How do graduate entry courses work?

Many medicine and dentistry courses in Australia are graduate entry, or postgraduate, degrees, meaning they only accept applicants who have already completed another university course. These courses use the GAMSAT admissions exam instead of the UCAT, and are typically slightly shorter than undergraduate medicine and dentistry degrees (although completing another university course beforehand means that there is more time spent at university in total). You can read more about this pathway in our article on graduate entry medical schools.

If postgraduate courses appeal to you, remember to look at the requirements for the graduate entry courses you are interested in. Some things to consider are:

  • What marks will I need in my undergraduate degree to be competitive?
  • Are there any prerequisites?
  • Which undergraduate degree will give me the best chance of getting in?

Can I switch to medicine or dentistry partway through a different degree?

Some universities allow course switching, which involves enrolling in another degree and then transferring to medicine or dentistry during your degree. Note that you’ll still need to re-sit the UCAT and meet any prerequisites for medicine or dentistry, and that most universities do not have a pathway for course switching. Additionally, some may have specific requirements – for example, you may need to enrol in a degree at the same university that you apply to for your dental or medical studies. Make sure to check what’s required before you take this route.

Keep in mind that applying to medical or dental school as a course switcher can be very competitive as there are much fewer places available compared to other entry pathways. Even if you start another degree with the intention to switch into medicine or dentistry, there is no guarantee that you will get a place. It may be beneficial to take a gap year instead, particularly if you have a high ATAR, as you can focus on improving your application to put you in a stronger position when reapplying.

State/territory exams

Graphic of student outside school

Can I redo year 12 to improve my ATAR? 

Depending on which state or territory you live in, it may be possible to re-enrol in year 12 to increase your ATAR score. However, repeating the year is a huge commitment and it’s important to thoroughly consider the advantages and disadvantages of doing so. Make sure you also understand what repeating the year would involve from a practical sense, and check with your state or territory’s secondary education governing body if anything is unclear. Some questions worth considering are:

  • Do you have to repeat the whole year, or can you just resit the final exams?
  • Can you retake subjects you’ve done previously, or will you have to take new ones?
  • Will any of your previous grades count towards your new ATAR?

Resits should be accepted by most medical and dental schools, however you should always research the admission requirements of universities you’re interested in. Reach out to admissions offices to inquire about their policies regarding Year 12 resits for undergraduate medicine or dentistry.

How do I improve my ATAR score?

If you decide to re-enrol, first identify key areas for improvement. For example, when you previously sat your exams:

  • Did you underestimate how much revision you needed to do? 
  • Did you use ineffective revision strategies?
  • Did you cram in revision too close to your exams? 

Spend some time analysing your approach to exam preparation, as well as your mindset throughout this period. You should then think about what the solution is to overcome the issue. For instance:

  • If you didn’t revise for long enough, you should give yourself plenty of time to ensure you don’t become overwhelmed.
  • If your revision techniques weren’t effective, take a look at your study practices. You can also experiment with different strategies to see what works best.
  • If you’re not sure how to improve your performance, consider using a tutor who will be able to guide you.

Check out our top study tips to improve your ATAR.

Interviews

Graphic of a student during a medical school interview

The interview stage is one of the most stressful parts of the admissions process. If you’ve had an interview before, you should reflect on areas for improvement and make sure to address these in your interview preparation. Whether you’ve experienced an interview before or not, make sure you give yourself as much time as needed to prepare as effectively as possible.

How do I prepare for a medical school interview?

We recommend first learning about/refreshing your knowledge on the different types of medical school interviews and the Australian health system. If you haven’t already, read relevant books and articles such as Good medical practice, and stay up to date with current affairs.

It’s also worth making your own checklist of important topics to read up on ahead of your interview. These can include whichever topics you want, but ones that are often asked about in the interviews include rural and remote health, the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and the four pillars of medical ethics.

After this, you should list your strengths and weaknesses, and make a skills bank with examples of certain skills. These examples will help your answers stand out, and are much more convincing than simply listing your skills to an interviewer! You can prepare by thinking back to situations where you have demonstrated these skills, then use these situations as anecdotes when you practise answering interview questions.

It’s difficult to predict exactly what you’ll be asked in an MMI or panel interview, so make sure your interview preparation is as extensive as possible. For MMIs, common scenarios that come up include those relating to conflict resolution, decision making and ethical issues.

For panel interviews, the questions may be more focused on yourself, including:

  • Why do you want to study medicine?
  • What area(s) of medicine are you interested in?
  • How do you cope with stress?

While it’s important to make sure your preparation covers these questions, be careful that you don’t over-rehearse, such as learning responses word-for-word and simply repeating it out loud. Make sure to also reflect on your personal experiences wherever possible, rather than providing a generic response.

How do I practise for a medical school interview?

Once you’ve got the basis for preparation, it’s critical that you translate this into practice. This is key for mastering the interview phase as it allows you to get used to formulating answers on the spot while improving your competency and confidence over time. 

We also recommend practising with different people to help you identify your perfect interview style. While preparing, try to avoid common pitfalls such as:

  • Not allowing enough time to practise how you respond to questions
  • Rushing into answers rather than taking a few seconds to think first
  • Not using appropriate body language, such as avoiding eye contact

Succeed in your reapplication with Medify

Reapplication to medical or dental school shouldn’t just be a repeat of your previous application. Use the time you have to grow and develop, and gain new skills and experiences, then weave this into the admissions process wherever you can. The key to success lies in identifying where things went wrong last time, and making necessary changes so that you don’t make the same mistakes again.

If you need support throughout your reapplication journey, check out the following courses:

  • UCAT ANZ Online Course – 1 in 2 UCAT test takers worldwide use Medify to prepare for their exams. Access 20,000+ questions, 24 full mocks, 40+ mini-mocks, and 50+ hours of video tutorials.
  • Interviews Online Course – Prepare for your interview at your own pace with over 300 authentic answers from real students, extensive video guides, and a Knowledge Bank written by a team of experts.

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 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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