In this post, Matrix alumni and current Matrix teacher Kim Nguyen gives her hacks for getting into medicine.
As of the 24th of September 2017, UMAT has now been replaced by the University Clinical Aptitude Test – UCAT.
To find out more about the change to UCAT, please read our post: UMAT replaced by UCAT for 2019.
Kim Nguyen was a Matrix Scholarship student, achieved 93 percentile for her UMAT and is now studying medicine and teaching Maths at Matrix! In this post, she presents her UMAT Hacks for successfully getting into med-school!
Here are some frequently asked questions about UMAT that Kim wishes had been answered when she was in high school!
I frequently get asked – Has being a doctor always been your childhood dream? Or was it something that you discovered recently? Well, you’re looking in the right place because this is a guide of my experience of getting into undergraduate medicine.
While the experience of countless other doctors-to-be will vary, I would love to share my perspective with regards to entry into Medicine since it’s not as straightforward as other degrees.
The simple answer would be that you can do any subjects you want. I was fortunate enough that the subjects that I loved and was good at, were the ones that scaled well. I did Maths Extension 2, English Advanced, Chemistry and Physics.
In saying that, your subjects do not have to be the typical high-scaling subjects that I did. Your aim is to maximise your ATAR. The way you do that is by doing subjects that, firstly, you enjoy and, secondly, you know you can get high marks for. You will be learning the content for two years. So, if you’re enthusiastic then you’ll be working harder and continue to motivate yourself throughout your HSC.
While scaling can be a factor in your subject selection, it should not be the only one! You need to make sure to look up the curriculum and see if the course content is something that is interesting to you.
It is important to note that there are no pre-requisites for Medicine. However as a medicine student now, looking back, I really wish I had done Biology. Although not doing it didn’t play out to be a huge disadvantage, so I have no regrets!
While many other degrees have a clear ATAR threshold, the ATAR cut-offs for medicine are not as publicised or clear-cut. Medicine entry is determined by a combination of a great ATAR, UMAT score, and a quality interview. Universities will then rank you amongst other applicants and each university has different weighting for each entry criteria.
There is a minimum ATAR for Medicine that is given by UAC.
However, you should aim to maximise your ATAR so that you can be ranked higher by the universities and have a more comfortable chance of being selected for interviews.
Interview selection usually occurs after you receive your ATAR, or is based on your estimated ATAR. Universities will often look at both UMAT score and ATAR to decide which candidates they will be interviewing.
The Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admissions Test (UMAT) is an exam run by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) and it tests three broad capability areas – Logical Reasoning and Problem Solving, Understanding People and Non-verbal Reasoning. You can find a breakdown of the current UCAT here.
The capabilities tested in the UMAT are essential in all medical professions. Logical reasoning and problem solving are important when you’re trying to diagnose a patient and work out how to treat them.
Understanding people is essential, the medical profession is all about communication and inferring from our interactions a patient’s thoughts and concerns.
Non-verbal reasoning is about picking out patterns. This is necessary as a doctor because you will be reading charts and X-rays and being able to spot patterns or notice abnormalities is important for diagnosis.
Some universities weigh performance in these capabilities equally when ranking candidates. However, others place more emphasis on one as opposed to the others. Make sure you do your research about the institutions you are applying for!
It is extremely important. Many universities rely on UMAT as one of the entry criteria for Medicine. Hence, not doing the UMAT means you won’t be eligible for entry into most undergraduate medicine programs.
Make sure you register for UMAT with plenty of time as registrations usually close by around June.
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Yes! You can definitely study for UMAT, contrary to what other people might have told you.
UMAT counts for a third of your entry into medicine and so even if you obtain a perfect ATAR, your chances of medicine entry can be detrimentally disadvantaged if you are unprepared for UMAT.
You should understand exactly what types of questions are being asked as well as ways to approach different question types. It’s really important to learn some of the techniques and skills that help you quickly solve UMAT questions – the exam can feel like a race against time! If you have been through some time saving techniques then you will feel a lot more confident in the exam. Also through preparation and repetition of doing UMAT questions, you get in the rhythm and mindset required to achieve top marks. Thus, UMAT preparation should be taken seriously as practice makes perfect!
It is an unfortunate thing that the UMAT exam usually falls around the trial exam period for most schools. Balancing UMAT preparation with trial exam preparation can often be very stressful but this can be combated through a consistent preparation for UMAT.
UMAT tests skills not knowledge and you cannot acquire these skills overnight by cramming. Thus, the best way to approach UMAT preparation is to start months in advance and develop your skills over time and have a good grasp of the techniques without the pressure of exams.
● Question-specific drills. These are offered by the Matrix UCAT course, and I did them for four to five months before UMAT. This allowed me to hone in on my weaker question types, such as “pick the middle” and “moving boxes.” I saw these as mini-games and, since they only took up 15-20 minutes per drill, they were something I could fit into my daily schedule when I was procrastinating or travelling on the train.
● Exam papers. This was quite a commitment because it not only required the three hours to do the exam but I would also devote at least two more hours towards the feedback process and going through each question understanding either how I had gotten it wrong or right. I began doing exam papers two months before the UMAT exam and on a regular fortnightly basis.
Balancing UMAT preparation goes back to the importance of planned study. In planning your study, you can see exactly how much time is devoted to both UMAT and trial preparation. If you designate a time specifically to do UMAT preparation, for instance, 5 hours to go through a UMAT paper, then you are less likely to procrastinate.
You need to approach each of the tested capability with different mindsets:
To get a sense for this, you should look at these blog posts. These were a great help for approaching specific question types:
There is so much content, but it is super interesting and relevant to my future path. This is why you need to have a genuine interest in medicine and the right motivations as the medicine degree can be very demanding on time and effort and same goes for the medical profession.
Now that I’ve been through a year of med school at UNSW, I understand what people mean when they say that you will be doing at least four HSC exams a year
One thing I’ve noticed about UNSW medicine students is that we are a very tight-knit cohort in comparison to other degree cohorts. Some say that we kind of live in a bubble; partly because our faculty runs things differently to the rest of the university. This gives us a sense of unity and solidarity.
The medical student body has a great social atmosphere and is super supportive of each other across all years of Medicine.
There are a bunch of ways to get involved in either sport, volunteering, leadership, advocacy on a state or national level, performing arts and any other interest areas you might have. Last year I was involved in the UNSW MedShow, as well as other initiatives, and have absolutely loved the experience.
The duration of the course is 6 years. It can be divided into four aspects.
● Phase 1 (Year I and II) comprises of mostly theory as we learn about the mechanisms and common disorders of different body systems. We are required to do a lot of presentations and self-directed learning. Every course goes for 8 weeks and there is an exam at the end.
● Phase 2 (Year III) includes more practical components in the course. We will be going to our allocated hospital three days a week and to UNSW for the remaining two days.
● Independent Learning Project (Year IV) is basically a research project that extends for the whole year where you learn about the whole research process by doing it yourself!
● Phase 3 (Year V and VI) are your final years of medicine. During this time you’ll be at the hospital most of the time.
The scariest thing I found as a high school student aspiring to get into medicine was the fact that there is not exact information on how one gets accepted into medicine. Even with a killer ATAR, medicine entry is not 100% certain.
Your HSC experience will be fraught with ups and downs and it’s important to keep a clear head and be optimistic. Adopt a positive mindset where you believe that there is always room for improvement and maximising your mark. This helped me combat procrastination and kept me motivated throughout Year 12.
Read the ultimate UCAT study guide, The Beginner’s Guide to UCAT. In this comprehensive Guide, we walk you through each section, and the best and most effective ways to prepare for UCAT.