Why are there Differences in the way Universities use UCAT for Medical Entry?

Why are there Differences in the way Universities use UCAT for Medical Entry?

6 months ago by Rob

Universities vary significantly in how they use UCAT for entry into medicine. This blog explores the differences and the reasons behind them.


Which universities use UCAT for entry?

Most universities use UCAT for entry into undergraduate medicine and dentistry.

Some universities offer medical entry programs for school leavers without the need for UCAT. These include James Cook University and Bond University (a private university).

On the other hand, some universities use UCAT even for graduate entry medical programs (for example, WSU, Newcastle, Auckland and Otago), while others use GAMSAT (Graduate Medical School Admissions Test).


Why do these differences exist?

Universities are autonomous (meaning self-governing) bodies and claim they have the right to decide on academic standards and entry criteria. Such decisions are left up to the Deans of medical schools. Since there is no objective measure of what makes a ‘good’ doctor, the Deans make decisions on entry criteria which they believe are best, in their view, at that time.

When a new Dean arrives, they often change the criteria. For example, the Dean of the University of Queensland abolished interviews as a requirement in 2004, but a new Dean reinstated it for school leavers in 2020.


Variations in weighting for UCAT

Most universities weight UCAT as 1/3 of the entry criteria for medicine. However, some universities weight UCAT as low as 10% (at Charles Darwin university) and some weight UCAT higher (as in the case of WSU and Newcastle University). This again is due mainly to the personal preferences of the medical schools/their Deans.

Auckland and Otago universities have a low weighting for UCAT (15% in the case of Auckland and threshold only in the case of Otago). By increasing the emphasis on first year university GPA, these two universities can justify their non-school leaver type entry system. It also allows them to use their health science programs as conduits to medical entry, thus bolstering student numbers in their first year programs.


Universities which do not use UCAT

James Cook University does not require UCAT for entry into medicine. The cohort of students at James Cook University is mainly rural. For a variety of factors, the UCAT performance of the applicant pool for James Cook University would be weaker than that of other universities, which may have contributed to their decision not to include UCAT in the selection criteria.

Bond university also does not require UCAT for entry into medicine. Instead, selected students will need to take part in an online psychometric test. The test is in two parts and aims to provide information on your personality and emotional intelligence. Based on the results of this test a shortlisted number of students are invited to interview in person.


‘Guaranteed entry’ pathways

Some changes are difficult to unscramble: for example, Stephen Leeder, the then Dean of the University of Sydney medical school, converted the University of Sydney medicine program into a graduate entry program around 20 years ago. Having realised their mistake, the University of Sydney would like to convert back to a school leaver entry program (in order to attract the high achievers), but doing so would be very difficult. In fact, most graduate entry medical schools belatedly realised that most students/parents prefer school leaver entry programs. Hence such universities introduced a ‘guaranteed entry’ pathway to compete with school leaver entry programs.

In summary, while there are differences in the manner in which UCAT is used, for most universities UCAT is a significant requirement for entry into medicine and dentistry. Thus, scoring highly in UCAT is important in achieving entry into your dream course.



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