What are My Options for Studying Medicine If I Have a Low GPA?
08 May, 2021
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 difficult, with far more applicants than there are places!
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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
So how do the universities look at GPAs?
If you are concerned about a low GPA, you should look at how each university views the GPA. While most universities do factor in the GPA in calculating who gets an offer, some universities, such as the University of Wollongong and University of Sydney, only use it as a hurdle. What that means is that, while you still need to achieve a certain GPA (5.5 in the case of UoW and 5.0 in the case of USyd) to be considered for a place, you will not be ranked based on your GPA, but rather on other factors such as GAMSAT and, in the case of UoW, portfolio. All that being said, do be aware that sometimes GPA is still used as a tie-breaker in these universities.
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
Here is a list of universities using weighted vs. unweighted GPAs for 2022 admission:
- Weighted: UNDS, UniMelb, UQ, UNDF
- Unweighted: USyd (hurdle), UOW (hurdle), ANU, Deakin, Griffith, UWA, Macquarie
Note that the University of Melbourne is an interesting case where the final and second year are weighted equally for a ratio of 2:2:1. Weighted vs. unweighted GPAs is definitely something to keep in mind if you had one particularly bad year during your degree, as it can change the calculation of your GPA and, by extension, your place in the rankings.
For anyone who has completed additional studies to a Bachelor’s, 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. Some universities, such as UWA, give an automatic GPA of 7.0 for anyone who has completed a PhD, and/or a small boost to your GPA if you have completed a Master’s Degree.
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 the University of Wollongong. For Notre Dame, GPA is therefore only 33% of the criteria for interview offers, and for Uni of Wollongong, only a hurdle. 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, though not all medical schools have this restriction) to calculate your GPA. However, certain medical schools also take into account postgraduate study. You can find a summary table on our website here. As mentioned earlier, depending on the university, completing an Honours Year, Graduate Diploma, Master’s Degree, or PhD may all influence and raise your GPA. As such, you could consider completing a Master’s 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. Remember, only the last three years of study are taken into consideration for the GPA calculations, so if you perform more highly over the next few years, your prior poor performance might as well have never existed in the eyes of the admissions department. 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 you. Although it may be tough to see yourself studying another undergraduate degree for another 2-3 years, many 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, nurse, 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, and bring diversity and a wealth of experiences to their cohort.
I hope this helps and gives you some more information about what to do when you have a lower GPA. Remember to keep the dream alive, and don’t get disheartened by something that can be rectified!
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. Therefore, if your GPA is low, getting a good GAMSAT score is even more important. Here at GradReady, we have put together a comprehensive set of Free GAMSAT® Preparation Materials to help you consolidate your GAMSAT® exam prep so that you can get that high score that you want!