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Boosting Your GPA for Medical School Applications

Boosting Your GPA for Medical School Applications

by , 14 April, 2022
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We can spend a lot of time thinking about the importance of the GAMSAT® Exam. Yet as outlined in the blog post about entry requirements to Australian graduate medical schools, in fact the admissions criteria for most medical schools mean that your GPA is actually more important than your GAMSAT result!
 
The best resource for all GEMSAS medical school application questions is the official GEMSAS guide, particularly in view of the many details associated with GPA calculations and recent changes to admissions protocols. Instead, this blog is aimed to answer one simple but tricky question – what should you do if you’ve got a lacklustre GPA? 
 


How do Australian medical schools treat your GPA?


GAMSAT only schools


GradReady GAMSAT Preparation Course Now OpenThere are two medical schools left that use GAMSAT alone (no GPA) to rank you for interviews and offers of a place – Flinders and USyd. However, you still need to have the minimum required GPA to apply which is usually around a credit average (>5), and your GPA may still be used as a tiebreaker if required. Also, by virtue of these schools being GAMSAT-only, the cut-off score is very high and seems to be creeping up every year (most people applying to these schools won’t breathe easy until they’ve got a GAMSAT of 70+).
 


GAMSAT + GPA schools


This is the case for most medical schools, and includes: ANU, Deakin, Griffith, Macquarie, UniMelb, UQ, UWA.
 
Check with your individual school, but generally applicants are ranked using a combination of GAMSAT and GPA per the following formula which weighs both scores equally:
 

 



Since the GPA is measured over a smaller scale than GAMSAT, a higher GPA is generally more beneficial to your combination score than a higher GAMSAT. The exact GPA requirement is not made available by the universities, but in general, if your GPA isn’t competitive (>6) then you will probably struggle to secure an interview. 
 


GAMSAT + GPA + Portfolio schools


There is also the option of a portfolio school such as Notre Dame Fremantle, Notre Dame Sydney, and Wollongong (which also has a hurdle requirement, the CASPer). Even then, the average GPA for these schools seems to be quite high because they do expect a variety of achievements (including academic).  So, unfortunately, a low GPA is often 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 simply pulling your finger out and working even harder, 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 more cruisy ones?  While that may sound like a cop-out, 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 busy 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?  Group assignments or individual oral presentations?  Take home exams or open book? Read carefully through the course descriptions and consider what would work best for you and your learning style. Taking on lighter courses may also allow you more time to focus on your more difficult courses or to prepare for a repeat attempt at the GAMSAT.


For those who 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 score and also to consider a portfolio school. Remembering the earlier formula, if you were able to improve your GAMSAT by 10 points, which may be achievable with increased preparation (and some luck on the day!), that would be equivalent to improving your GPA by 0.7. Considering the equivalent improvement would be from a GPA of 6 to a GPA of 6.7 (a major rise!), this improved GAMSAT is perhaps a more achievable way to boost your combination score than via a focus on GPA alone: try playing around with a GPA calculator to figure out how much one really good semester will impact your GPA (short answer – often not a lot)! You can start your GAMSAT preparation off on the right foot by signing up for GradReady’s GAMSAT Free Trial, which includes 50 MCQs from our Intelligent MCQ Bank, access to our week-by-week study guide for each section, and a wealth of our GAMSAT resources.
 
But unfortunately for some, improving your GAMSAT 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 in GPA calculations (UQ, Griffith, ANU and UWA), you could enrol in a Masters by Coursework. If an Honours year to continue your bachelor study is an option, that can be an excellent way of boosting your GPA. All first-class results in first semester of Honours (generally a few coursework subjects, with your thesis or final assessment not yet completed until second semester) counts as a perfect GPA and is extrapolated to cover for the whole year, which is generally triple weighted accounting for 50% of total GPA calculation! Furthermore, the earlier years of study will count for less, with your second and third year (assuming Honours is your fourth year of study) will be weighted x1 and x2 instead of x2 and x3 in the standard GPA calculation, and your first-year marks being removed entirely! As such, doing well in an Honours year can boost even the lowliest GPA into a competitive range. For more information, check out our article on What are My Options for Studying Medicine If I Have a Low GPA?

For others who are not eligible for Honours, your best option to boost GPA is to complete another Bachelor’s degree. The good news is that lots of institutions offer some great distance options, and you can study anything! Indeed, the GEMSAS admissions guide specifically emphasises that “a science major is not a prerequisite, and that academic excellence in other areas, such as the humanities and social sciences, is encouraged and recognised.”
 
Most people consider degrees that will allow them to study certain biomedical science subjects (either to help with GAMSAT Section 3 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!
 
Futhermore, for future admission into medicine, some universities look especially favourably upon further study such as a Master’s degree or PhD. For instance, UWA will apply a bonus of 0.2 to your GPA if you have completed a Master’s, while UWA and Griffith will give an automatic GPA of 7.0 if you have completed a PhD! Details of the use of postgraduate study in GPA calculation is available in the FAQs section (on page 82) of the GEMSAS guide.
 


Want more information?



Check out our Definitive Guide to GAMSAT Results to learn more about what GAMSAT score you should aim for or what your score means. And of course, read the GEMSAS guide carefully (and USyd/Flinders direct application information), as well as the specific information relating to your schools.
 
In summary, the best way to boost the competitiveness of your application is to be strategic. If GPA is not your strong suit, consider medical schools where this is less important (or is just a hurdle requirement) than other rankings like the GAMSAT or portfolio. Also be tactical with improving your GPA, not only focusing on this throughout your ongoing study, but also in choosing subjects that may best permit this into the future. Consider further study, especially an Honours year.

Once you have passed the GPA hurdle, also consider improving your GAMSAT to boost your combined ranking score for your medical school application. Check out our page on How to Prepare for the GAMSAT for useful tips & advice.