Grades For Medical School Entry: ATAR Or GPA

Last updated: 14/11/2020

A smiling student finding out about ATAR

ATAR (Australian Tertiary Admission Rank)

What is ATAR?

ATAR stands for Australian Tertiary Admission Rank and is used by most, if not all, direct entry medical programmes in Australia as a major criterion for admission. ATAR is derived from a student’s performance in their state/territory examination system and is presented as a percentile score (on a scale of 0-99.95, with 0.05 increments) that reveals a student’s relative position against other students in their state.

How ATAR is calculated

All students must study a minimum number of courses (or subjects) that can be included in the calculation of an ATAR, which varies between different states/territories. More details can be found in the links below:

For New Zealand students, the best 90 credits from NCEA Level 3 subjects (24 credit limit per subject) are used to calculate a student’s ATAR.

What ATAR means for direct entry medical school admission

Typically, medical programmes have a cut-off or minimum ATAR requirement, which varies between universities. Please note that this is strictly a 'minimum' requirement and meeting the ATAR requirement does not guarantee entry to a programme. Furthermore, having a lower minimum requirement does not necessarily mean that the programme is 'easier' to get in.

It is common for universities to apply adjustment factors such as living in a rural area or having had difficult circumstances to your raw ATAR to arrive at a selection rank, so it is worth checking out what you may be eligible for.

For a small number of applicants who had previously enrolled in a tertiary degree, it is worth noting that they may be assessed on their 'academic merit' based on the number of years progressed and grades obtained. This is then considered as part of the interview and/or final selection, often after conversion into an ATAR-equivalent score.

A question mark floating on top of a hand

ATAR for success in medical school admission

As ATAR is not the only criterion that medical schools typically use to assess their applicants, it is difficult to say what ATAR is required for receiving an offer from a particular school. Nevertheless, knowing the ATAR profiles (e.g. highest, lowest and median ATAR) of students that were offered a place at a particular programme can be useful. This is possible as the Australian government requires universities to provide the ATAR profile of applicants that have been offered a place in their degrees. This is to increase transparency in the admissions process and to enable domestic students to make informed decisions based on reliable information. Some universities publish the adjusted ATAR profiles (i.e. the selection rank) too.

As an example, let’s look at the 2017 ATAR profile for Monash University’s direct entry MD programme.

A table showing 2017 Monash medicine ATAR profile excluding adjustment factors

You can see on the table above that the lowest ATAR to receive an offer was 87.6, the median ATAR was 99.25 and the highest rank was 99.95, and that the middle half of the students had an ATAR between 98.25-99.70.

A table showing 2017 Monash medicine ATAR profile including adjustment factors

The adjusted ATAR in the table above includes bonus points (e.g. through Special Entry Access Scheme or taking specific year 12 subjects).

You can use such ATAR profiles as a guide. For example, if your UCAT ANZ score is relatively high and you are confident with your interview skills, you could assume that an ATAR score similar to the median ATAR score would give you a very promising chance of a place. Alternatively, even if your ATAR score is not (or is expected not) to be too high, you can look at the 25th percentile rank and know that you would still have a chance of making it with a high UCAT ANZ score and a sound interview performance.

A piece of paper with an 'A grade' written on it in red.

GPA (Grade Point Average)

For graduate entry medical programmes, a key criteria for assessing the applicants is academic merit, which is measured using the grade point average (GPA) of university education. While it is ideal to maintain a high GPA throughout your university years, you should keep in mind that GAMSAT (or MCAT) and interview performance are usually weighed just as much as GPA (and sometimes even more heavily), which means that a high GPA does not guarantee your place at a medical school and a low GPA does not mean it's the end of the road for you.

Most graduate entry medical programmes in Australia are part of the GEMSAS (Graduate Entry Medical School Admissions System), which uses your GPA based on the Australian 7-point GPA scale to calculate a GEMSAS GPA. As different countries use different grading systems (e.g. New Zealand has a 9-point GPA system and USA has a 4-point GPA system), GEMSAS converts these to the Australian 7-point scale first, before calculating the GEMSAS GPA.

The universities which are part of the GEMSAS are:

  • Australian National University
  • Deakin University
  • Griffith University
  • Macquarie University
  • University of Melbourne
  • University of Notre Dame (both Sydney and Fremantle)
  • University of Queensland
  • University of Western Australia
  • University of Wollongong

Most universities use the weighted GPA, where not all papers are counted equal. In these cases:

  • Grades from the final year of your conversion degree (also see below) are weighted by a factor of three
  • Grades from the second to last year of your conversion degree (also see below) are weighted by a factor of two
  • Grades from the third to last year of your conversion degree (also see below) are weighted by a factor of one

Detailed information on how to calculate your GEMSAS GPA is provided in the official website.

A student holding a hand up to chin with arms folded, thinking about her GPA

For universities which are not part of the GEMSAS consortium:

  • Flinders University uses a weighted GPA system (i.e. final year x 3, second year x 3, first year x 1).
  • Sydney University does not use a weighted GPA system.

Please also note the following points, which may be useful for a small number of applicants: 

  • For mature applicants, universities usually require the undergraduate degree to be awarded recently (e.g. in the past 10 years).
  • For graduate applicants who have degrees other than a standard bachelor’s degree (e.g. Honours degree, graduate diploma, postgraduate diploma, Master’s degree, doctoral degree), universities may include these in calculation of GPA. Since universities have different regulations surrounding GPA conversion of these degrees, please check individual university websites or the official GEMSAS website for details.

Are you interested in attending a medical school in the UK instead of Australia or New Zealand? Check out Medify’s UK Medical School Admissions Guide.

Ready to Get Started?

Access the UCAT ANZ Course Now