Getting into medicine can be an arduous and tedious journey for many. The biggest dilemma that many students face (of course, aside from choosing the right medical school) is finding high quality preparation materials that will effectively and efficiently guide you to perform well in competitive medical entrance exams - such as the UCAT and GAMSAT.
But ‘Should I do UCAT or GAMSAT?’, or, ‘Is GAMSAT harder than UCAT?’ or, ‘What is the difference between GAMSAT and UCAT?’
Those are all valid questions asked by students since the exams itself were introduced. It’s important to understand the pros and cons of each before deciding on an optimal medical entry pathway that will achieve your medical dreams.
It’s quite normal for Year 12 students aiming for a medical degree to prefer to sit the UCAT whilst balancing their high school studies to enter undergraduate. However, this can be very overwhelming for many students to do in their final year of high school. An alternative option is sitting the GAMSAT - the postgraduate route to pursue medicine.
It is often the preconceived notion that the GAMSAT is harder than the UCAT - however, this may not always be the case.
Both the GAMSAT and the UCAT are notoriously extreme exams that gauge different skill sets of a student under the domains of problem-solving and extreme time management pressure. When sitting the UCAT, students are not only challenged on a breadth of subject knowledge they gain in their highschool studies but also need to equally demonstrate solid cognitive skills. The UCAT will also require a certain level of proficiency in English in order to succeed.
This table provides a snapshot of the primary distinctions between the UCAT and GAMSAT exams. From the format to the scoring scale, get a clear understanding of what each test entails.
Here, we break down the specific sections of each exam, highlighting the areas of focus and the nature of the tests. This will give you a clearer picture of what to expect in each exam.
Before diving into preparation, it's essential to understand the foundational knowledge required and the key skills each exam assesses. This section provides insights into the prerequisites and the core competencies tested.
While the table shows the many differences between the two exams, they have a common psychometric assessment style.
GAMSAT and UCAT are two extreme exam types that gauge different skill sets under the domains of problem-solving and extreme time management pressure. However, in the former case, you are not only challenged on a breadth of subject knowledge but need to equally demonstrate solid cognitive skills.
In the case of the UCAT, on the other hand, you certainly require proficiency in English for sections like Verbal Reasoning, Situational Judgement as well numerical skills for Quantitative section. However, UCAT is broadly focused on your time management and critical thinking skills.
Therefore, as you can see, these exams are different in many aspects but have a common psychometric assessment style.
The postgraduate pathway can be harder as you compete against a broad spectrum of test-takers. Mature individuals in their late 40s through to people with full-time work responsibilities - these are just two examples of candidates who can sit the GAMSAT. Hence, it solely depends on the skills you have developed in comparison to other candidates with unique prior experiences. Besides, the GAMSAT is ultimately a measure of your intellectual capacity, so a good portrayal of these core skills can increase your rate of getting accepted into med school.
On the flip side, the undergraduate route is a level playing field for all school leavers, though most have a competitive ATAR and determined personalities. Hence, the UCAT is all about how you as a Year 12 leaver compete against other students in the top few percentiles. Similar to the GAMSAT however, the UCAT also expects students to demonstrate higher-order problem solving skills that are suited for a medical degree.
As you can see, the GAMSAT and the UCAT primarily differ in the candidates that you compete against, rather than the principles of the exam.
For those planning on doing the GAMSAT, be mindful that a score in the top decile is unlikely without assumed knowledge in year 12 Physics and university-standard Chemistry and Biology. The decision to take the GAMSAT or not is influenced by your bachelor’s degree qualification, your preferred GEMSAS medical school (non-GEMSAS medical school - Flinders Uni and USyd) and other factors like subject knowledge.
Whereas for the UCAT, quick mental calculations, speed reading and a certain degree of problem-solving are key to succeed in this test format. However, acceptance into a medical degree boils down to whether an undergraduate medical school considers your UCAT score in the first place or substitutes it with personalised university assessments (Bond’s Pyschometric evaluation) to later combine it with your acquired ATAR as well as medical interview for a medical offer.
The UCAT or UKCAT’s origin story begins in the United Kingdom and to this day continues to represent the standard of testing to select medical students across UK medical schools. Judging the UCAT’s credibility, Australian medical schools swiftly adopted the UCAT in 2019 as one of the primary entry requirements to assess potential future doctors.
The UKCAT and UCAT ANZ are only different when it comes to their denominations, the testing locations and the test timings. Besides these, there are NO differences in their testing procedures or scoring schema. Basically, you tackle an equivalent manuscript of questions - 233 total questions spread between five core subsections..
As a Year 12 student in Australia who is committed to studying a medical degree, you can always consider UK medical schools too. However, you would still have to fulfill your high school exam commitments. A viable option would be to choose a UCAT comprehensive course at Fraser’s where you will gain access to PBL sessions and get assigned a personal mentor who will help you strike that balance between school and UCAT study.
Our Fraser's mentors know the UCAT in-and-out and also understand the UKCAT market, which means your UCAT study with us can genuinely prepare you for the UKCAT, as the exam format and content is identical. This way you prepare for the UKCAT from Australia to pursue medicine in the UK and also tick off on your Year 12 commitments.
NOTE: Bear in mind that UKCAT scores are NOT accepted across Australian medical schools and vice-versa.
Now when it comes to the GAMSAT, it was originally designed by Australian medical schools in order to streamline the entry process of prospective medical students. In recent years, GAMSAT’s popularity reached medical schools in Ireland, UK and Singapore as well. What seems rather interesting about GAMSAT scores acceptance is that, if you sit the GAMSAT in Australia, the scores are applicable to enter a few medical schools in the aforementioned nations.
Unlike UCAT, GAMSAT allows you to sit at a local test centre and apply to medical school overseas. Especially if you obtain a low GAMSAT score in Australia, you could look into medical universities in Ireland and the UK that have lower GAMSAT threshold.
The med school application timeline across these nations, however, do not coincide with the timeline in Australia.
Take Ireland for example, the application process to enter a medical degree in 2022 begins in 2022 itself, unlike in Australia where you start your application process in 2021. The deadline to process your med school application in Ireland is on 1st February 2022 and early offers to successful applicants are sent out in August 2022. This makes it crucial that you choose a GAMSAT testing window in Australia that accommodates the admission cycle in Ireland.
NOTE: Kindly note that the GAMSAT score breakdown differs across countries, which means the GAMSAT threshold score across medical schools can vary a great deal.
Speaking in straightforward terms, there are pros and cons to both these exams but there is no simple answer to the questions whether UCAT is a better or worse option than the GAMSAT.
UCAT allows you to apply for an undergraduate degree, while GAMSAT is for postgraduate medicine. Although these are two distinct medical entry pathways, once you finish your respective degrees, you are a medical intern just as your fellow peers. So in all honesty, the final call on sitting the UCAT or the GAMSAT is based upon whether you wish to choose a 5-year medical degree straight after high school or the 4-year postgraduate route after completing your bachelor’s degree.
Besides, another determining factor of opting for either of the exams is your choice of medical school. The following table features all the medical schools in Australia alongside the medical degrees they offer and the exam requirement:
From the table above, you can observe that some medical schools are very specific at offering only one medical entry pathway. In the case of an undergraduate degree, you could also preference medical schools that select students on merit rather than considering the UCAT score. However, if you do not get into the undergraduate route, the postgraduate entry is your next best alternative and the majority of students in Australia enter through the latter route.
The main issue with postgraduate degree study is that applicants sit the GAMSAT multiple times to achieve a competitive score, hence it is ideal to give it your best shot in the UCAT and enter medicine without having to do a bachelor’s degree too.
So if you are sceptical about doing either of the examinations, you can always enter medicine without GAMSAT or UCAT too; but ensure your ATAR score is on par with the medical school’s expectation.
In conclusion, there is no definite formula that can determine which exam format suits you. However, we hope the above mentioned criteria could help you determine the ideal medical entry pathways for you and your career in medicine. If you are still confused and would like to speak to an expert in both spectrums, reach out to the team at Fraser’s. Just book a FREE consultation and clear all your doubts when it comes to medical entry pathways.
At Fraser’s, we encourage students to engage in conversations and be more vocal about their queries to have a wholesome learning experience.
On that note, we wish you the very best for the upcoming academic cycle!