Editor’s Note: Our second guest post is by ANU Postgraduate Medicine student, Jeremy Basser, who shares some tips from his experience in applying for, and ultimately being accepted into a postgraduate medicine course.
Getting into Postgraduate Medicine is a daunting task. Compared to Undergraduate Medicine, the application process appears long and arduous, and the idea of doing two degrees for the price-of-one can seem ceaseless. From early on, you might hear of the dreaded 6-hour exam that is the GAMSAT. Or you may hear about the complicated application and preferencing system. This would all be before tackling a malicious multi-station interview. However, fear not! It is not all this bad, and there are many ways in which you can make a year of applying for Postgraduate Medicine a tolerable and (dare I say it) even enjoyable year.
What follows is a list of things I believe you can do to help get into medicine.
1. Don’t take the GAMSAT too seriously
This sounds counterproductive; as of course you should put significant preparation into the GAMSAT. But the more you work this exam up, the more you’re setting yourself to fail. Yes, it is a tough exam and a lot hinges on its outcome. But a relaxed approach can help you thrive. Be pragmatic and aware that not everything rests on this single attempt.
2. The GAMSAT can be done more than once
This links up with being mindful that you can do this exam as many times as you need. It is a shitty exam and sometimes you can have an off day. But this is OK. There is no prize for only doing the GAMSAT once (no-one talks about it in medical school). Some people can attempt it once and perform well, but many others require several attempts to get a good enough score. This doesn’t mean you won’t be a good doctor. Being able to accept and overcome this is essential.
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3. Keep yourself busy
Setting aside an entire summer, or an entire year to focus on GAMSAT, application & interview preparation may be tempting. You can obviously spend significant time studying and preparing for what awaits. However, this has the potential to backfire, as you can become completely absorbed. I found that being as fresh as possible was essential to success when applying. This can be done by keeping your days busy with work, socialising, sport, hobbies or other studies. Having something else intellectually stimulating in your life doesn’t take away from your preparation, but rather can keep you fresh and motivated.
4. Preparation can take many faces
Find ways to keep your studying fresh. It doesn’t have to consist of essay writing, practice exams or interview scenarios. Listen to podcasts. Read books on medicine and ethics. Engage others in conversations (arguments). You may recall a fact from a podcast to make a point in an essay. You could have read an approach to an ethical issue in your interview. These can not only assist your preparation but also make the year a whole lot more interesting.
5. Don’t be picky
Unless you’re lucky enough to have the marks that can get you into any course (and even so), don’t be picky when choosing a medical school to preference. Despite popular belief, all medical schools are the same. You get the same degree and have the same skills when you graduate. What medical school you attended will have no bearing on your future career. With this in mind, be open to going to some of the less traditional or ‘prestigious’ universities. I can promise you that no matter what medical school you get accepted into, you will love it.
6. Be sure this is for you
Medicine is not for everyone. Just like opera music, it can be an acquired taste. That doesn’t mean there’s not a realm of other music that could suit you, and so the realisation that you and medicine aren’t compatible does not mean you’re a failure. It just means that you may not match. Obviously, this isn’t an excuse to quit. There are numerous stories of people getting accepted into Medicine on their 4th or 5th attempt. If it is something that you know you were made for then keep trying.
To find out if Medicine is for you, view our interactive Medicine pathway.