"What ATAR do you really need to get into medicine?"
By Michael Tsai
iCanMed Co-founder

Dear iCanMed Student,

I hope you are settling into UCAT preparation now that the year is coming to an end. Although doing well on the UCAT is hugely important for your entry into medicine and dentistry, let’s not forget about the necessity of achieving a strong ATAR.

I just received a message today from a student who scored 97th percentile on UCAT and got a 99.25 ATAR, but didn’t get a first-round interview offer for UNSW medicine – so you can see how insane the competition has become for achieving entry into medicine!! To even have a chance of success, you need a really top-tier ATAR in addition to an excellent UCAT score.

Generally speaking, achieving a 99.00 ATAR is considered a ‘must’ when gaining entry into medicine. For example, in 2017, Monash University released a ATAR Offer Profile Report for those who received offers for Medicine and Surgery, which indicated that the median ATAR to receive an offer was 99.25 (excluding adjustment factors) that year. You can see the information here:

This statistic tells us that scoring lower than 99.25 is not considered ‘strong’ performance when you compare yourself against other students aiming to gain entry into medicine. Some universities required significantly higher ATARs (e.g. Flinders required a 99.95 ATAR, including adjustment factors, for medical entry), and universities like UNSW have recently started to require an ATAR of around 99.5 (on top of a competitive UCAT score) just to land an interview. After all, it’s common for the duxes of top schools to be competing for a spot in medicine – so it’s crucial to not measure yourself against your classmates but rather do the best you possibly can. There’s no room for complacency!

So, here’s the thing – EVERYONE who is determined to gain entry into medicine IS an incredibly hard worker. This fact goes without saying, and should be considered as the minimum sacrifice. However, do not confuse hard work with guaranteed academic performance. We all know from the UCAT that hard work without the correct strategies is not only pointless, but instead builds bad habits.

When it comes to studying for school subjects, putting in hard work the wrong way (or in a way that’s suitable for your studies in 2020 but NOT in 2021) is not only going to mean your hard work is going to produce less results, but also worsen the issues you have experienced before (e.g. poor knowledge retention, procrastination, loss of motivation). The difficulty of Year 12 compared to Year 11, and the difficulty of Year 11 compared to Year 10, isn’t just because of the massive jump in workload and frequency of assessments – it’s also the increasing difficulty of test questions. So unless you’ve already taken all these things into account and created a concrete set of new study techniques and plans, relying on just working hard in the same way ISN’T your ticket to a 99+ ATAR. This is why so many Year 12 students don’t achieve their dream result, despite working harder than they’ve ever worked in their lives. Plus, how can you expect to get a leg-up on your competition when you’re really just studying the same way as them?

There’s a few things you can do during the summer break (and ONLY during the summer break, as you won’t have time after you resume school in 2021) to make your life as a student much simpler:

1. WHAT: Think back to how you studied for every subject in Term 4, and how you performed in your tests.
HOW: Create a table with two columns: one column containing a comprehensive list of what went well, and the other column (more importantly) containing a comprehensive list of what DIDN’T go well (even if the issue was somewhat minor – minor issues turn into major issues when your subjects become more challenging). What didn’t go well could be thing like procrastination, forgot a lot of information, didn’t get to finish my studies, or found the exam super hard.

2. WHAT: Go through the Study Pro Course in the iCanMed learning management system NOW (don’t put it off until after UCAT – that’s too late, especially if your list of issues is extensive and quite concerning).
HOW: review the recordings – they address each of your issues and identify proven ways to overcome them. Not only do you want to fix these issues, you also want to master whatever techniques will help you to gain a competitive edge. For example, your job isn’t to become a minimal procrastinator (if procrastination is a huge issue for you), but to become a more proactive student than anyone else you know – that’s an advantage that will help you outshine others in 2021!

3. WHAT: Join the iCanStudy Pro Membership with a monthly subscription ($69.99/month, less than a cup of coffee a day) or a yearly subscription (15% cheaper) – whatever suits you.
HOW: The iCanStudy Pro Membership contains nine incredibly sophisticated modules that provides you with super advanced study skills (pre-study, study, revision, exam-execution), plus self-management techniques and scheduling recommendations to achieve the 99.5+ ATAR that you need to be a competitive med candidate. Best of all, we’ve taken strategies like the Bear Hunter System and created full step-by-step videos that specifically explain how to transform your study skills for Maths, English, Chemistry, Physics, Biology and languages for the most recent HSC, VCE, WACE, QCE, SACE and IB curriculum. You also receive unlimited feedback and support, opportunities to submit your work once every month for full review, AND get to attend live clinic webinars run by Dr Justin Sung. Think about how iCanMed helps students with UCAT – iCanStudy helps you with study skills in the same way. By the end of the summer, we expect that students on the iCanStudy Pro Membership will have boosted their study efficiency by 2-3x.

Our first live clinic is running TOMORROW (Saturday 19/12, at 1pm AEDT) with the second live clinic (which will cover different content) running on Wednesday 23/12, at 1pm AEDT.

Click THIS LINK to join the iCanStudy Pro Membership now:


What is a Live Clinic?
Live clinics are interactive problem-solving sessions that tackle the common issues students face in their studies. These range from time management to scheduling, technique usage, subject-specific application of techniques, and mindset. This is your opportunity to check that you aren’t falling behind or wasting your time by practising something the wrong way. They’re called clinics because the content of each clinic is heavily influenced by the issues that are most relevant for students every month.

Live clinics are likely to cover content or variations of techniques that are not available in the online courses, with each live clinic hitting different topics from unique, clinic-exclusive angles. Missing a clinic means missing out on not only highly targeted advice, but also specific techniques or strategies that aren’t available anywhere else and that will massively speed up your growth and reduce errors.


If you have additional questions about anything I mentioned above, including details about the iCanStudy Pro Membership, please hit me up via michael.tsai@icanmed.com.au!

At the same time, make sure you enjoy your break, but don’t unnecessarily delay the improvement of your study skills. Students like to ‘take time to think’ about joining the iCanStudy Pro Membership, but end up just getting lazy (because it’s the holidays) and wasting time unnecessarily. The more time you have on your hands, the less work you do per day, especially when it’s the holidays. Make the summer break count and get yourself ready for an awesome 2021!

I hope my article has given you some doses of reality as well as advice that will go a very, very long way. I’ve spent the last 13 years helping students in the same position as you, and it’s very clear that the winners do what most people won’t even consider trying, let alone get around to doing.

Best regards,

Michael Tsai 

Co-founder of iCanMed and iCanStudy – email: michael.tsai@icanmed.com.au

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