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Boosting your GPA for medical school applications

by , 29 April, 2016

We all spend a lot of time thinking about the big bad GAMSAT® Exam but as outlined in my blog about the importance of maintaining your GPA, the admissions criteria for most Australian graduate medical schools meansthat your GPA is actually far more important.

So what is the situation if you’ve got a pretty lackluster GPA? 

How do medical schools treat your GPA?

GAMSAT® Exam only schools

There are 3 schools left who use GAMSAT® Exam alone to rank you for interviews and offers of a place Enrolments close in less than 2 weeks on Friday 18 January 11:59 PM AEDT – UQ (no interview), USyd and Monash.  However, you still need to have the minimum required GPA to apply which is usually around a credit average, and your GPA may still be used as a tiebreaker if required (particularly for UQ who don’t interview and therefore need to rank all those candidates who have a GAMSAT® Exam mark equal to the cut-off).  Also, by virtue of these schools being GAMSAT® Exam only, the cut-off is very high and seems to be creeping up ever year (most people applying to these schools don’t breathe easy until they’ve got a GAMSAT® Exam of 70+). Then there are schools such as Flinders, which use GAMSAT® Exam only to offer interviews, but then change to a combination of GPA/GAMSAT® Exam/interview when offering places. 

Combo (GPA + GAMSAT schools)

For these schools, if your GPA isn’t competitive (6.3+) then you will probably struggle to secure an interview.  There is the option of a portfolio school (Notre Dame and Wollongong) but even then, the average GPA seems to be pretty high because they do expect a variety of achievements (including academic).  So, unfortunately, a low GPA is the Achilles heel of the medical school application.

How to boost your GPA

For those still completing their degree

The obvious answer is to try and do better in your subjects.  But apart from pulling your finger out, it may also be worth thinking about whether you can be a little more strategic with your subject choices for next semester.  If you’re not bound to core subjects, what about taking some cruisy ones?  I know that sounds like a cop-out, but if it means you’re more likely to walk away with a better GPA, then why not?  Talk to students in your degree and see if there are some lighter courses that students with other commitments tend to take on.  Have a think about what the assessment methods are like – do you do better with mostly assignments or exams?  Are we talking group assignments or individual oral presentations?  Take home exams or open book?  Read carefully through the course descriptions and have a think about what would work best for you and your learning style.

For those finished their degree

This is a tough one.  If your GPA is already locked in and you’re below the minimum required GPA or you know your combination score is well below prior year cut-offs, I would firstly say try to improve your GAMSAT® Exam and portfolio.  But unfortunately for some, that still won’t result in an interview.  If that’s the case, and you still want to study graduate medicine, then you will need to boost your GPA, and this means further tertiary study.  For medical schools that consider postgraduate study (UQ, Griffith, ANU and UWA), you could enroll in a masters by coursework.  If carrying out and Honours year continuing on from your bachelor study is an option, then that can be an excellent way of boosting your GPA. A first class result counts as a perfect & for the whole year, and can boost even the lowliest GPA into a competitive range. For the rest, you’re looking at another bachelor’s degree.  The good news is, lots of institutions offer some great distance options and you can study anything!!!  Most people consider degrees that will allow them to study certain biomedical science subjects (either to help with S3 in the GAMSAT® Exam or to satisfy prerequisites for UMelb/Monash) but don’t forget that the whole point is to boost your GPA so if you love humanities and know that you can excel at an Arts degree, then go with that.

Want more information?

Check out Elliot’s blog posts for more information about how GEMSAS calculate your GPA and what to do if you’ve got a low GPA.

And of course, read the GEMSAS guide carefully (and USyd/Flinders direct application information if applying to those schools).