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Applying to a Medical School Through GEMSAS
What is GEMSAS?
If you are considering applying to graduate entry medicine or dentistry programs in Australia, there is one centralised online portal where your application gets lodged; the Graduate Entry Medical Schools Admission System (GEMSAS). The GEMSAS system allows you to preference from three to six medical schools, then uses complex matching algorithms to allocate interviews and offers based on your eligibility and highest preferred medical school. You will be ranked and selected for interviews according to your performance in the following:
- Portfolio and/or Personal Statement
- Other Bonuses
All of which, will be addressed in this guide.While it might seem overly complicated, this ensures that applications are a fair and standardised process.
Who Runs GEMSAS?
GEMSAS is run by the GAMSAT consortium, which is comprised of 10 out of the 13 post-graduate medical schools in Australia. Below you will find the universities in order of distance from Melbourne.
- University of Melbourne
- Deakin University
- Australian National University
- University of Wollongong
- University of Notre Dame (Sydney)
- Macquarie University
- Griffith University
- University of Queensland
- University of Western Australia
- University of Notre Dame (Fremantle)
There are three other medical schools that offer graduate entry medical programs, but are not part of GEMSAS such as the University of Sydney, Flinders University and Monash University.
Both the University of Sydney and Flinders University require the GAMSAT exam and a direct application.
Since 2017, Monash University removed the GAMSAT requirement as part of their admissions criteria and applicants must have completed one of Monash’s undergraduate degrees in order to apply.
What Will GEMSAS Do With Your Application?
As mentioned earlier, GEMSAS requires you to submit a single online application and a preference list of up to six medical schools. Undergraduate degree transcripts will be transferred electronically if your university is a participant of the Automatic Results Transfer System (ARTS). A computer algorithm will match you to interview allocations based on eligibility and ranking within the applicant cohort using individual selection rules specific to each medical school. Interview scores are standardised and incorporated into the system which then follows a second computer matching algorithm to allocate offers based on overall performance and preference.
N.B. No late applications are accepted.
GAMSAT stands for the Graduate Australian Medical School Admissions Test.
It is a test that you have likely completed before coming to this stage of applications. It is important to note that every domestic medical application through GEMSAS must have a valid score in the GAMSAT in order to be considered for admission into any graduate-entry medical program.
GAMSAT scores are valid for 2 years following the test date. This means that if you sat the test in March of 2019, your score is valid to apply for schools in May of 2019 (for 2020 intake), and also the year after in May 2020 (for 2021 intake). If you are to gain a GAMSAT score in September of 2019, the score will be valid for applications in May 2020 (for 2021 intake) and the year after in May 2021 (for 2022 intake).
Different University GAMSAT Section Weighting
GAMSAT score breakdown across the three sections (S1, S2, S3) are really important for ensuring that your GEMSAS application is as strong as possible. The section score breakdown is important because different institutions place different emphasis on the weighting of S3.
For instance, The University of Melbourne, Sydney, and Queensland take the average of the individual scores across the three sections.
All other universities in the GEMSAS consortium use the traditional GAMSAT section weighting system, which weights S3 twice as much as S1 and S2. This is the score that you would have received on GAMSAT results day.
Let’s use an example to demonstrate why weighting matters:
Jill is a hypothetical student with a background in Law. She performed extremely well in S1 and S2, achieving scores of 72 and 70 respectively, but performed comparatively poorly in S3 with a score of 60. Let’s see the difference between the two weighting systems.
The scenario can be reversed if a person is disproportionately strong in S3, or particularly poor in either S1 or S2. If there is any single weak score in S1 or S2 with a reasonable S3, it is reasonable that the applicant favours institutions that use the traditional GAMSAT score instead of the Mean Average of section scores. Given that medical applications are increasing in competitiveness with each year, it is imperative that student’s applications reflect their strengths. Finally, and most importantly, different institutions can have dramatic variations in the ranges of GAMSATs that they accept, we discuss that in the Average GAMSAT & GPA Score Table.
Although similar, there is a degree of variation that occurs each year depending on the application pool.
Final Year GPA Calculations?
In reference to study load, you may have encountered the acronym ‘FTE’, which stands for Full-Time [tertiary study] Equivalent. What FTE is generally talking about is the minimum fraction of study load that particular institutions require in the first semester of the final year of study. This is likely carried out to prevent excessive under-loading during applications that may unfairly advantage people that take no classes while applying. Furthermore, it ensures that you are capable of meeting the study demands of a medical course. If you are under-loading, the important numbers to be aware of are 37.5% FTE for the Universities of Melbourne, Wollongong, and the Australian National University and greater than 25% for Deakin and the University of Western Australia. Again, it has to be said, don’t apply if you do not meet the requirements as this is a wasted preference. Therefore, a minimum of two subjects are required to be taken in the final semester in order to achieve >25% FTE. Do not apply to institutions if you do not satisfy their requirements.
- Additional Information for postgraduate students:
Most institutions will use grades attained in subjects from an approved postgraduate course.
Griffith will award an instant 7.0 GPA to anyone with a PhD and a maximum GPA for each year of a full-time Masters course by research.
The portfolio is an essential component of the University of Notre Dame (Sydney and Fremantle) and the University of Wollongong applications. The portfolio is considered along with GPA and GAMSAT, although the precise weighting of the portfolio for each institution is unknown. The bottom line is that a person with a weak portfolio in content or presentation will have difficulty gaining admission to one of such universities with a very strong applicant pool demonstrated year by year. That being said, the additional requirement adds another dimension to an application, reducing the overall emphasis placed on the GPA and GAMSAT alone.
In order to have a chance with either Notre Dame or Wollongong, you need to know what the universities stand for, what qualities they look for, and how you can contribute to the university as an individual. Below are introductions to each of the universities in order to get an idea of what to focus on in your portfolios. It includes the university objectives and themes, how the curriculum is structured, and what makes an ideal candidate. Look out for the Fraser’s Portfolio Guide for more information.
University of Notre Dame
The University of Notre Dame is a Catholic institution with two different medical schools located in Sydney and Fremantle. The Objects of the university emphasise delivering an education within the context of Catholic values as well as providing excellence in teaching, scholarship and research. It welcomes applicants from all sociodemographic backgrounds regardless of social, religious, or political views. Following the Catholic intellectual tradition, all medical students are expected to complete core curriculum subjects in the form of intensive Bioethics.
Ideal candidates have ethical and service-based values such as compassion, respect and social justice. Each applicant is expected to demonstrate dedication to and understanding of the university Objects. The comprehensive program provides training in clinical practice and applied research incorporating bioethics to deliver holistic care.
University of Wollongong
The University of Wollongong is a multidisciplinary institution with a research-intensive and rurally-focused medical school. The program prepares doctors to work in diverse settings across rural, regional and remote areas in Australia and international sites. Students will be exposed to a wide range of challenges including the social determinants of health and Indigenous Health.
The university selects high performing graduate students from diverse backgrounds. Domestic applicants will be assessed on whether they currently living in a rural setting or have significant ties to rural residency and schooling. The university places high emphasis in evidence-based, patient-centred care with enthusiasm for rural practice. Students will receive a broad education with a focus on rural medicine and skills to train in any specialty and geographical setting.
The Wollongong CASPer
CASPer is a video scenario-based, situational judgement test used to gauge an applicant’s personal and professional traits suited for a career in medicine. Traits that are selected for include communication, empathy, and ethics. In turn, the test aims to provide additional weight to a strong applicant that may not be as academically competitive while remaining objective. UoW has yet to make clear to the public how they will use the CASPer test when considering interview or position offers.
The test will be held on three the following dates:
- Thursday May 23, 2019 – 10:00am AEST
- Monday June 3, 2019 – 7:00pm AEST
- Sunday June 9, 2019 – 10:00am AEST
The Notre Dame Personal Statement
Notre Dame has an additional part to the portfolio, the personal statement, whereby you must outline your reasons for pursuing medicine as well as outline why Notre Dame is a suitable university to help you achieve your calling. The personal statement will be considered along with your portfolio, GPA and GAMSAT to rank for interview. Keep an eye out for the Fraser’s Portfolio Guide for more information.
Types of University Places
It can be a real challenge to get your head around the types of places available.
Below you will find a breakdown of the types of places that are offered through GEMSAS. Put simply, a Commonwealth supported non-bonded place (CSP) is a no strings attached medical place. The price is heavily subsidised by the Commonwealth government and there is no demand whatsoever to practice rurally unless you choose to do so.
Commonwealth supported places also come in a bonded variety, termed the BMP. The BMP is the same cost as the CSP with the addition that you are expected to practice rurally for a predefined period. Currently the BMP Scheme requires the recipient to spend a minimum of 1 year in an area of workplace shortage. For the 2020 intake (and likely going forward), the bonded rural period will be 3 years. It is believed that by encouraging future doctors out into the country, the government can address the current and future workforce shortages that exist around rural and remote Australia.
The domestic full-fee place (FEE) is the third major place offered to domestic applicants. It is not supported by the Commonwealth government financially but is identical to the CSP in that it is a no strings attached medical place. Costs for FEE places vary between institutions, Notre Dame FEE places cost around $35,000 per year, while FEE positions at Melbourne are as high as $71,000 per year.
- Relevance to Internship
A common myth is that a FEE place will not be ranked equally to CSPs and BMPs for an internship. A FEE place will NOT affect the way that you are ranked for an internship. At the moment, every domestic place offers the same opportunities with respect to your application for an internship. However, Macquarie University is yet to secure an internship pathway for its students, so there is a minor discrepancy here. A student source at Macquarie has said that there are ‘guaranteed’ internships at the university’s associated hospital, which addresses this issue nicely if true.
While the cost of a FEE place is high, in instances such as with Notre Dame the FEE-HELP loan can be used by an Australian or New Zealander, subject to residency requirements. At the moment, the FEE-HELP limit is set at $150,000 (including all HECS-HELP from prior degrees) for medicine, which more than covers the full cost of a Notre Dame FEE place for 4 years. All other universities FEE places will exceed the FEE-HELP limit, meaning additional payment contributions would need to be covered by you if should you wish to pursue a place.
It is critical that if you are not financially positioned to pay for a full-fee place, you don’t list this in your application. If you are successful with an application that you are unable to pay for, you will be ineligible for any place at other universities in your preference list that year. It is completely reasonable to want to preference a CSP at all universities ahead of FEE places, but it is necessary to bare in mind that the GEMSAS system is not built in such a way that permits this flexibility to preference around FEE spots – you either apply for a FEE place at a university, or you do not.
One way of getting around this issue can be seen below:
Jim had just finished undergrad in Sydney, where he took out a HECS-HELP loan. Since he did not have any FEE-HELP debt, he could take out a 150-thousand-dollar loan from the government so he could apply for a school such as Notre Dame, Sydney. Having read the Frasers Application Guide, he knew that if he ranked Notre Dame as preference 1 with a FEE place listed he may miss out on a CSP or BMP at other universities that were listed below it. To get around this, he placed Notre Dame as preference 5. As all the other FEE places were outside of what Jim could afford, he did not list them in his application preferences as to not spoil his chance of receiving an offer from another school. Good on ya, Jim!
Domestic applications are ranked with the top applicants offered a CSP, the next ranked applicants offered a BMP, and the remainder of successful applicants being offered FEE places. While it’s frustrating to think financially, it’s really important to be honest with yourself so you don’t waste an application cycle by receiving an offer that is out of your price-range.
In order to optimise your preferences for a successful application, it is important to note how the GPA, GAMSAT, and portfolio/statement/CASPer scores work together for YOUR application. Every application will have different strengths and weaknesses, so it is up to you to apply to institutions that are going to take more notice of the things that make you a strong applicant. If your GAMSAT is very strong, there is a reduced incentive to apply to a portfolio university where there is a possibility of losing emphasis from GAMSAT in the weighting of your application. Conversely, if GAMSAT is weaker, an additional marked portfolio may be what is required to tip the balance in your favour.
Calculating Bonuses (ANU & Deakin)
Deakin is a unique institution in that they overtly preference applicants who have a background in healthcare, a history of study at Deakin, or substantial financial disadvantage. Financial disadvantage gives an applicant an additional 2% in their application. A background in healthcare gives a bonus of 4% and an additional bonus of 2% should the applicant have also practised for a period of 1 year. Deakin alumni receive a 4% bonus on their application. Additionally, Australian National University awards a 2% bonus for the completion of honours or masters and 4% for the completion of a PhD.
You should note that if you have these bonuses available, that puts you at an advantage in the application pool. Conversely, if you are ineligible for these bonuses you have harder competition to contend with.
You may have heard along the grape-vine that your preference order is passed onto the respective universities and that it plays a part in determining whether or not a university offers you an interview or not. If so, it is important to take note that this is unfounded and implausible. If a medical school were to be privy to a student’s preference listing, it would break the system. For all intents and purposes, you should assume that medical schools only look out for their own best interests, and choose students with the best ranking, irrespective of preference order.
As such, when deciding on the order of your preferences, the main things to take into account are 1) whether or not you have a feasible chance of getting into that university, and 2) if you would be happy to attend that university. That is all. Just remember, do your best not to waste any spots on your preference list, and hope that it works in your favour.
Selection for Interview
Interview selection for graduate-entry medicine is based on performance in four major categories:
- Performance in GAMSAT – with variable calculations on an institutional basis
- Performance in GPA – with variable calculations on an institutional basis
- Performance in Portfolio
- Performance in Personal Statements/ scenario-based test (CASPer)
Think carefully about where you apply based on your strengths, what is reasonable within the parameters of your scores, and also importantly, your personal preference.
Table of University Specific Selection for Interview
Below is a summary of how the different medical schools assess eligibility for interviews.
The University of Melbourne
Combination of GPA and GAMSAT. The GPA is weighted for Deakin. The University of Melbourne uses a Mean GAMSAT Score.
The Australian National University
The University of Western Australia
Uses both Traditional GAMSAT and standard GPA when ranking applicants for interview.
Ranks applicants for interview derived from a 50/50 combination of unweighted GPA (converted to a percentage) and the overall GAMSAT score.
The University of Queensland
Uses a 25% GPA and 75% unweighted GAMSAT score. Applicants are then ranked for interview.
The University of Wollongong
Performance in the CASPer test used as a hurdle, applicants then ranked on combined GPA, GAMSAT results and portfolio.
University of Notre Dame, Australia (Fremantle) University of Notre Dame, Australia (Sydney)
Rank applicants on combined GPA, GAMSAT results and portfolio/written submission
Personal statement as a hurdle, then applicants are ranked based on a 50/50 combination of weighted GPA and Traditional GAMSAT score.
Average GAMSATs & GPAs for a Medical School Interview Offer
How to apply
If you are an international student, applying for graduate entry medical school will require you to submit an application directly to each medical school, not through GEMSAS. Requirements per program include GPA from an undergraduate degree achieved within the last 10 years, GAMSAT or MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) scores, and corresponding portfolios and personal statements if required. If you have not completed your undergraduate degree in English, then you must demonstrate proficiency by taking the IELTS exam.
What you need to submit
- International application form
- Certified Copies of academic transcripts
- Certified Proof of English language proficiency
- Certified Copies of GAMSAT or MCAT results
- Portfolios and supplementary forms (if required)
- Additional documents outlined in the international application form
Total scores for candidates include all of the above in addition to the interview. There are an average of 10-20 spots for international students per program. All applications are sent directly to the medical school or through a specified agent representing the university in the applicant’s home country.
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