How to Apply for Medicine at Otago University

How to Apply for Medicine at Otago University

6 months ago by Chris

There are three ways to enter the medicine program at Otago University (undergraduate, graduate or alternative). The majority of high school students will gain entry into medicine at Otago university via the Health Sciences First Year (HSFY) undergraduate pathway. 

This blog outlines the process for entry into medicine at Otago University via the HSFY pathway. 


Pre-Med Requirements

To qualify for Health Sciences First Year (HSFY) at Otago University, you need an NCEA score of at least 140. Full entry requirements are summarised in the table below: 


Entry Requirements

NCEA 140
CIE 140
IB 24
ATAR (Australian students) 74

There are no specific subject requirements but a quick glance at the course curriculum will demonstrate the advantage of studying NCEA level 3 Chemistry, Physics and Biology. If you’re currently in Year 13, and have not studied the recommended subjects, Otago University’s summer courses can help you improve your knowledge before your formal tertiary studies begin.


GPA (First Year Studies)

The initial year of university will be the first of six years for students who successfully gain admission into the medical programme. 

There are seven core papers in the curriculum, and you must score at least 70% in all units to qualify for entry to medicine. With so many students applying for so few positions, the minimum is rarely enough. It’s more realistic to aim for above 90%. 

The papers are outlined below: 


Semester One

  • HUBS191 - Human Body Systems I
  • CHEM191 - The Chemical Basis of Biology and Human Health
  • CELS191 - Cell and Molecular Biology
  • PHSI191 - Physics


Semester Two

  • HUBS192 - Human Body Systems II
  • POPH192 - Population Health
  • BIOC192 - Foundations of Biochemistry


8th Paper

Otago University gives students a chance to boost their GPA score by taking an 8th paper. There is a long list of optional units designed to encourage students to improve their critical thinking and analysis skills. In order for the 8th paper to improve your GPA, you must still score above 70% on the seven initial units. Provided you meet that requirement, the school will then count the seven best papers (including the optional 8th) to calculate your total GPA.


English Diagnostic Test

If you’d like to choose an 8th paper, one possible limitation could be the English Diagnostic Test that you will sit in semester one. You have two chances to pass the test, and if you fail both attempts, you must take the additional ENGL126 unit in semester two. That means you will already be studying four units and therefore cannot choose the 8th paper. Considering the 8th paper is an excellent opportunity to lift your GPA score, you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of the English Diagnostic Test.



Otago University is a good example of how universities can differ in their entry requirements for medicine. Rather than the UCAT counting toward a certain percentage of the entry requirement, Otago sets thresholds for each of the five UCAT subtests. These UCAT thresholds are determined by the Medical Admissions Committee each year. If you can score above the required UCAT percentile, you progress past that barrier. Then your GPA counts for 100% of your admission. 

The five UCAT subtests are: UCAT Verbal Reasoning, UCAT Decision Making, UCAT Quantitative Reasoning, UCAT Abstract Reasoning and UCAT Situational Judgement. 

Unlike the exams you’ve been accustomed to, the UCAT is not a matter of reading, understanding and remembering information. It focuses on skills and aptitude. UCAT is also a highly time-pressured test that initially seems daunting. However, with the right strategy and practice, the UCAT exam can be mastered. 

Once you start studying for the UCAT, you’ll understand that Otago’s approach to medical entry doesn’t mean you can avoid preparing for the UCAT. Most students that start practising UCAT exams soon discover that it’s difficult to reach the required UCAT thresholds without the correct strategies and practice. 


Written by Thomas, a past MedEntry student who scored 99th percentile in UCAT and is currently studying medicine in New Zealand.


Facebook Instagram Discord

Keep up to date with the latest information

Sign up for our Newsletter
Subscribe to our Newsletter

Keep up to date with the latest information