The average mark required to enter medicine from the Health Sciences First Year (HSFY) programme has increased for the sixth year in a row.
In response to an OIA, the University confirmed that the lowest average mark required for a first-round offer into 2021 med was 96.57%, up from 93.43% in 2020 and just 79.66% in 2016. This requires first-years to achieve A+ grades in at least 7 papers in order to enter med from the General Pathway.
"The Government funds a certain number of places for entry into medicine, so the required average mark reflects the level of competitiveness for the limited number of places available," said Paul Brunton, Pro Vice Chancellor of the Division of Health Sciences. He also said that the University’s review of the medicine entry process is “under way,” but there “will be no significant changes for students seeking admission into this year’s health professional programmes."
The University also attributed the average grade rise in 2020 to the Covid grade bump in semester one.
The tightening requirements result from a change in how admissions scores are calculated. Before 2020, two-thirds of your entry score came from exam grades, while one-third depended on your grade in something called the Undergraduate Medicine Admission Test (UMAT).
Being a good doctor requires more than just acing an exam, so the point of the UMAT was to reflect the personal qualities required from health professionals. It supplemented your exam grades, and entry scores on the UMAT between 2016 - 2019 generally hovered around the 80% mark.
Everything changed with the introduction of the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT). In 2019, the UMAT was replaced by the British UCAT. Similar to the UMAT, the UCAT is a computer-based test designed to reduce the emphasis placed on pure academic performance. In 2020, the University set a UCAT threshold for admission. UCAT scores are not considered beyond determining whether a student has met the threshold.
"The University does not consider that selection on academic excellence alone would produce the mix of graduates that the health workforce requires,” Paul Brunton said. “The 'Mirror on Society' policy [was] designed to ensure the student intake ... was diverse and reflective [of New Zealand’s demographics].”
According to another OIA, for 2020 and 2021, you needed to be in the top 80% for the ‘verbal reasoning’ section of the test, and the top 90% for the ‘situational judgement’ section, to gain admission. This change led to a sharp rise in entry scores, from 82.06% in 2019 to a staggering 93.43% in 2020, and a 96.57% this year.
The Otago University Medical Students Association (OUMSA) did not respond to a request for comment.