What are My Options for Studying Medicine If I Have a Low GPA?
01 March, 2020
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So, you’re applying for medicine but feel dragged down by a low Grade Point Average (GPA)? You’re not alone. Getting into graduate medicine
is arguably more difficult than the degree itself!
This isn’t helped by the huge variety of admissions criteria that the universities across Australia have.
Having a proper understanding of these criteria, therefore, is essential for any applicant. If you have done some reading and have a feeling that your GPA may be a bit lower than optimal, then it is even more important.
First things first, the best place to get the most up to date information is the GEMSAS
information booklet. Anyone applying to graduate medicine in Australia should make sure they read and understand this. We’ve also put together a useful guide here, with a great table that summarises admissions criteria: https://gradready.com.au/medical-school-entry-requirements
Generally, the GPA is taken as a hurdle to get into medical school, and though this fluctuates across the various universities, it normally hovers around 5.0 or 5.5.
This means that universities will allow anyone to apply with a GPA over 5.0 and 5.5, and then assess their GAMSAT and/or interview scores to decide whether or not they enter medicine – i.e. it’s a hurdle.
Other universities may use it in the total score for your entry into medical school, which is when the GPA becomes more important. I encourage you to individually check each medical school’s requirements – this is especially true if your GPA is low; you might be surprised that even though some medical schools might not accept your GPA…. others might! So, one of the first things I want to communicate with you is that you shouldn’t think that your whole medical career is over just because a certain university only accepts individuals with a GPA of over 6.5.
So how do the universities look at GPAs?
USyd, Flinders, and UQ use only GAMSAT® Exam results to rank applicants for an interview. Generally, these universities then use GPA as a hurdle. USyd and UQ both state a minimum of 5.0 for interview offers. Flinders does not publish a minimum ‘cut-off’, however, students who are accepted generally have exceptional GPAs.
The majority of universities use a ‘combination score’ of GAMSAT® Exam results
and GPA when ranking applicants for interview. This includes ANU, Griffith, Deakin, UniMelb, UWA and Macquarie.
Another important thing to note, especially if you have a low GPA, is that some universities use ‘weighted’ and others ‘unweighted’ GPAs. Weighting of GPAs refers to the calculation in a way that puts more importance on more recently-completed subjects, as follows:
- Final Year uni results will be weighted by a multiple of 3
- Second-last Year uni results will be weighted by a multiple of 2
- Third-last Year uni results will be weighted by a multiple of 1
Most universities use these weighted GPA calculations, except UQ & Griffith University, who currently use unweighted GPAs. The University of Melbourne is an interesting case where the final and second year are weighted equally for a ratio of 2:2:1. To read more about it, head to this
GEMSAS page. For anyone who has completed additional studies to a Bachelors, such as Honours, I would highly recommend also reading the specific criteria for each university in the GEMSAS guide, as this can alter your GPA calculation.
In addition to GPA and GAMSAT® Exam results, some universities use portfolios to rank applications for interview. This includes Notre Dame (Sydney and Fremantle), and Uni of Wollongong. For Notre Dame, GPA is therefore 33% of the criteria for interview offers, and for Uni of Wollongong, only 30%. This makes them a great option for applicants who have a lot of experience to fill a portfolio but a low GPA.
Okay, so what are the other options?
Many students have to travel interstate to study medicine, and you might find this is something you’ll need to do in order to pursue this career as well. This is obviously a challenging aspect of studying medicine, but you’ll find that you can discover a huge amount of opportunities and wonderful aspects of a different location through such a move – and just remember, it’s to get that end goal of being a doctor, so it’ll be worth it!
But let’s talk about some other options available to you if you have legitimate concerns about your GPA during your current course – it is certainly nothing to be embarrassed about in the slightest, as many students have a variety of problems with their current studies, which also reflects that they’d like a change in career!
You may need to look at additional studies in order to raise your GPA. Broadly speaking, most medical schools use your most recently completed Undergraduate/Bachelor's Degree (provided that it was completed in the last 10 years) to calculate your GPA. However, certain medical schools also take into account postgraduate study - You can find a summary table on our website here
. Depending on the university, completing an Honours Year, Graduate Diploma, Masters Degree, or PhD may all influence and raise your GPA. As such, you could consider completing a Masters Degree across 2 years to improve your GPA. As always, we'd recommend reading the most recent GEMSAS
information booklet for specific details on how different postgraduate degrees are treated by different universities.
Your other option would be to look at completing another Undergraduate/Bachelor's degree. Your most recent GPA for applying to medicine will be the one that is taken – so if you achieve highly to a new degree than your current one, that GPA will be taken into consideration instead. For example, if you are currently completing a Bachelor of Law, and you are achieving a 4.0 GPA – you could either see this degree out, or cease it, and then join another degree that may be more suitable for your and more relevant for your future. This could be a Biomedical degree majoring in biomedicine/anatomy etc. Although it may be tough to see yourself studying an undergraduate for another 2-3 years, a large number of medical students now are of a mature age, and many have multiple degrees under their belt before studying medicine. However, it would be prudent to study something that could at least get you a casual job whilst studying medicine, especially one that is medically-related, such as a pharmacist, physiotherapist, etc.
Although these two options may seem quite limited, a low GPA is an issue that has come to many current medical students when they were trying to enter medicine. If you put in the hard yards now in looking towards another degree where GPA could improve, or even devoting more time to raise your current GPA, it will pay off by leaps and bounds later. Having more experience by being a bit more mature and doing additional studies, is actually a huge advantage when entering medical school, as these mature students are much more highly respected in the clinical context.
I hope this helps and gives you some more information about what to do when you have a lower GPA – but keep the dream alive, and don’t get disheartened by something that is really so minor in your total medical school application!
As I’ve mentioned above, the majority of universities use a ‘combination score’ of GAMSAT® Exam results and GPA to consider your medical school application. Here at GradReady, we have put together the most comprehensive set of Free GAMSAT® Preparation Materials
to help you consolidate your GAMSAT® exam prep.