Why is ATAR Important for a Degree in Medicine?
The Australian Tertiary Admission Rank also referred to as the ATAR is a metric used to rank a student’s academic potential between 0 to 99.95 compared to other peers in their cohort. An ATAR is a rank given to each student and it shouldn’t be confused with a GPA score, which is an average of all your acquired grades at university used in post-graduate medical applications.
Undergraduate Medical schools in Australia and New Zealand give special emphasis to the ATAR, typically determining the ATAR cut-offs for an academic year based on previous years high-ATAR achievers. The ATAR requirements released vary across different undergraduate medical schools, but it is broadly denoted as a mandatory hurdle to be considered for a competitive medical school offer.
Considering how tricky the ATAR is in the medical school admission process, we believe that key planning and suitable study strategies from an early stage can have a great effect on your Year 12 studies, and thus your odds of receiving a medical school offer.
Let us look into the top four exam preparation tips that can elevate your chances of gaining a high ATAR for a successful future medical application.
4 ATAR Study Tips to Boost Your ATAR for Uni
Focus on Good Subject Selection
A very easy and straightforward method to securing a high ATAR lies in subject selection. We all have our favourite subjects that we find relatively uncomplicated compared to other study material. By choosing a subject curriculum that you are good at, you will deliberately maximise your performance during your exams and won’t be hesitant to put in all the hard work to receive a high score.
The first and foremost step is finding out the total number of subjects you need to choose and which of the best units from these subjects amount to the final ATAR. Bear in mind that the total number of subjects can vary between Australian states, so conduct all the research you can before selecting the subjects of your choice.
For example, if you are a resident of NSW, the HSC expects you to undertake at least 10 subjects and out of those, the best 10 units will be used to calculate the final ATAR.
The second step in subject selection focuses on picking a course curriculum that can complement your future in a medical degree. If you skim through our previous article - ‘Year 12 subjects that help with Medicine’, we take you through the various subject combinations that could ideally prepare you for self-guided learning, a key trait required to comprehend medical school coursework. This article could be a good starting point for you to make a decision about the right Year 12 unit selection.
The final and most important step comes down to high school subject prerequisites required at the time of the medical school admission process.
Undergraduate Medical Schools and Subject Requirements
The description in the table below can aid your decision making process when selecting a subject that can not only work in your best interest during high school but also in the subsequent medical degree.
Develop a Disciplined Study Routine
In order to build a highly personalized study schedule, the first question you need to ask yourself is, ‘When should I start studying for exams?’ The simpler answer to this question is, the sooner you begin preparation, the better your odds of good exam performance.
Besides, another important question you need to ask your high school teachers or peers is your exam timetable. This information will be very useful purely because it allows you to strategize a plan of attack for each subject before rationing the revision hours in the final months sneaking up to the exam.
Once you have assigned the designated study hours for individual subjects, take initiative to collect and maintain relevant preparation materials like past model papers and personal notes at the start of each school term. This practice is advised by our UCAT mentors to students who are keen on balancing their UCAT study alongside completing the ATAR fulfillments.
The perks of prior planning, like gathering resources sooner than at the last minute, is quite beneficial as it tones down the stress level during preparation.
Now that you have incorporated suitable measures into the subject selection and have a study planner to adhere to, let’s get down to brass tacks of how your daily study life should look like.
1. It is good to space out your tasks throughout the entirety of your exam term. Ideally, have one task per day and be certain to tick them off on your study planner as you make progress. You can later increase the number of tasks assigned on a daily basis as you familiarise yourself with the study materials.
2. Another effective yet understated technique to maximise your study hours is becoming ‘fake’ deadline-oriented. It is natural for some of you to feel nervous knowing that the exam date is approaching and this may make it difficult to retain focus, especially when an exam is 2 weeks away. Therefore, to keep your motivation levels unimpaired, create a fake deadline, which could be three days before the real exam date. On this basis, you keep yourself accountable to completing all the relevant tasks before the fake date and will have extra days to revise the exam content.
Experiment with Different Study Approaches
During high school, the constituents of a subject are largely theory-driven rather than providing insights into real-world implications. To add to that, high school subjects are free-standing, so it is less likely to come across an organic chemistry structure in a physics class.
In complete contrast to that, the medical curriculum is highly dynamic and different subjects could have overlapping content. You may study the anatomy of the human body whilst identifying the structural composition of an enzyme in a body organ.
Despite having such contrasting subjects in your high school and medical school, one common factor between the two is implementing a range of study techniques that you are comfortable with.
What this means is that whether it is high school, where you are expected to manage and study a breadth of subject domains or med school that has different subject domains under an umbrella course, it is really up to ‘YOU’ how you wish to lay out and score in a unit.
Therefore, after successfully choosing subjects that can positively influence your performance and developing a study routine, we need to focus on adopting an effective study strategy.
1. Try the Active Recall Study Technique
Considering how high school subjects have their own learning curve, you need to be able to utilise this to your advantage. When you start preparing for an exam, try to take a detour from some common learning strategies like highlighting important phrases or reading complicated concepts first. Instead, incorporate active recall methods: Using physical or digital flashcards to memorise important concepts, generating a mind map of tricky study material or practicing interleaving, a method used to focus on two or more subjects in one study session.
2. Forget Rote-learning, focus on understanding
Rote-learning as a study technique is often not encouraged to students because of the significant drawbacks over benefits. By cramming a mammoth of information in one unit without understanding the concept’s implications or reasoning, you lack the ability to draw evidence-based conclusions when in medical school. Besides, there is a higher probability that your memory could deceive you due to the excess stress on exam day but if you had a deep understanding of the concept, you could inter-relate key ideas to arrive at the correct response.
3. Don’t Forget About Your Mental Health Well-being
Year 12 can be an emotionally and mentally stressful period. Your stress levels could even have a dramatic increase, particularly closer to the exam date. It is crucial that you minimise and effectively manage the exam pressure by engaging in activities that are good stress busters.
For starters, a positive mindset is key to help prevent preparation burnout. Try to take appropriate pauses in your study and indulge in soothing activities like meditation, yoga or listening to melodious music to improve your productivity levels.
Additionally, do not give up on your extracurricular activities or social commitments. Bear in mind that, studying for a high school exam is not a full-time commitment and only by engaging in activities besides your academic workload can you ensure that your mood is uplifted to study for the exam.
We hope the different study hacks we provided to boost your ATAR has been insightful. If you wish to learn more about the medical school application process or how to effectively prepare for the UCAT during high school, reach out to our senior UCAT mentor who can address all your concerns efficiently. We also have our popular ‘UCAT + ATAR’ workshop led by our UCAT experts who will provide ultimate study strategies to excel in both the UCAT and your high school studies.