BACKING UCAT, Australian Doctor (3 August 2007)

Some people raise questions about the current medical selection process, but offer no solutions. As in most countries, the demand for medical places in Australia will always far exceed the number available. Therefore, any selection system used will have winners and losers, and will be controversial. 

Just because some GPs feel current entry procedures used may not have admitted them to medical school, it does not necessarily follow that the selection system is flawed. There are several reasons for this, one of them being that the advantages of medicine as a career compared to other professions has increased over the years. It is thus becoming more competitive to ‘get in’. Further, other professionals make similar claims, for example, getting into a law school at a good university is harder now. 

Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) is to be commended for developing UCAT, which is an objective test of generic skills to complement the knowledge examined in year 12/university. This, combined with interview performance, is the best system that educational research currently offers and similar processes are used around the world for the selection of medical students. 

While testing knowledge may appeal to some, it is an intrinsically flawed means of selection since it is simply a test of effort, and knowledge is freely available these days. It is far better to test students’ generic skills, i.e. the ability to use the knowledge, as the UCAT does.