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PLANNING YOUR DEGREE

This article is written for the benefit of students who may have missed out on their desired degree and might be slightly "lost" as to what happens next. Many students in these shoes have, in the past, continued with a medical science degree (e.g. Biomedical Science or Physiology) and reapplied for MBChB as a postgraduate - and many students have been successful in this regard. There is a reason why most of the world's medical programmes are postgraduate only - the life skills attained from an entire undergraduate degree much better prepares you for a medical career than a mere 1 year at University.

1. Learn more about the other career choices and directions from the relevant Student Centres
  • Sticking to BHSc. For further guidance, consider contacting Health Science students at the Auckland University Population Health Student Association (AUPHSA) or email the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences (FMHS) Student Centre at fmhs@auckland.ac.nz.

  • Law. There have been plenty of students who completed Common Year 1 finding they disliked the experience so much they wanted to switch to Law!

  • Engineering. Similarly, many students consider doing Engineering instead. 

  • Other degrees. Perhaps inspired by their General Education paper or simply following their original career desire, many students in the past have switched to completely different degrees. For further guidance in this matter, consider contacting the relevant Student Centres which you can find in this link.

 

Please also note that at the end of any degree, you can still reapply for Medicine as a Postgraduate. Many current medical students are graduates from a vast variety of degrees such as Music, Law, Commerce, etc. This is a fantastic opportunity to augment your medical degree with extra skills attained from another degree. However, if you wish to reapply for Medicine as a Postgraduate, do find out how exactly your GPA will be used to calculate your ranking. We will touch on this further below.

 

2. Continue reading for tips on how to plan your medical science degree

In order to plan your degree:

(a) Identify if you want to apply for Medicine as a postgraduate (or are still considering the possibility).

  • If so, identify how your papers will mathematically count towards entry.

(b) How you can use Summer School to your advantage.

(c) Identify if you are considering postgraduate study (i.e. research) (or are still considering the possibility).

(d) Identify your personal academic interests from first year.


Use these points to:

(e) Pick the papers that best reflect your thoughts above.

(f) Choose from: BSc (Biomedical Science), BSc (Physiology), BSc (Pharmacology)​


Also,

(g) please read our important reminders with degree planning to avoid common traps and misconceptions.

 

In order to plan your degree...

(a) Identify if you want to apply for Medicine.
If yes, it is important to know how your grades will be used to calculate your final ranked score as this may potentially alter how you decide to plan your degree.

  1. You must finish at least a Bachelor's degree with a GPA of B+ or higher in order to be eligible.

  2. You must complete UMAT in the same calendar year as your application.

  3. The GPA from your best 120 points (typically, 8 courses) available from your last year of study is taken.

  4. The GPA from your best 120 points (typically, 8 courses) available from your second-to-last year of study is taken.

  5. The two GPAs from Steps (3) and (4) are averaged and ranked against all other applicants.

  6. You must be selected for an Interview. Typically, in each calendar year, twice the number of available places will be invited for an interview.

  7. 60% Grades, 25% Interview Score, and 15% UMAT raw score is taken. Top ranked students are then given offers to the programme.

 

Furthermore, it may be worth considering that taking a 4th year to study an Honours year will result in only your: best 120 points in your 3rd year of study and best 120 points in your Honours year (i.e. 4th year) being considered with your 2nd year results being ignored for steps 3 and 4 and 5 above.

(b) How you can use Summer School to your advantage (for University of Auckland).
According to this link, papers taken in summer school will only count towards your best 120 points for steps (3) and (4) above if the papers taken are Stage II or above. If you take a Stage I paper, they will not count to the best 120 points.

Consider these two options you can use to your 'advantage':

  • Take a necessary Stage I paper in Summer School; then take only 7 papers for the rest of the year (e.g. 4 papers in Semester 1, 3 papers in Semester 2). This means that the Stage I paper will not count towards the best 120 points, but the other 7 papers will count slightly more to that year's GPA as only 7 papers will be considered, not 8. This also means that the semester where you only take 3 papers will be slightly easier due to the lower workload of 3 papers.

  • Take a Stage II paper in Summer School. (E.g. STATS 201 is highly recommended). If you complete STATS 201 in summer school and then complete 4 papers in Semester 1, and 4 papers in Semester 2, you will have completed 9 papers in that calendar year. If you muck up just one paper with a low score, only the best 8 papers are counted so the 9th paper's score (i.e. the paper you mucked up) will not be counted in your best 120 points for that year. Other Stage II science elective papers that are offered in Summer School which past students aiming for MBChB have taken are MATHS 208 and GEO 205.


​(c) Identify if you are considering postgraduate study (i.e. research).
For postgraduate research, an Honours degree is a fantastic pathway especially as it is a fast track towards a PhD. In order to even be eligible for Honours, you must do 6x Stage III papers. Otherwise, the typically required 5x Stage III papers needed for graduation cannot give you the option to do Honours; instead, you will be eligible to continue with a Post Graduate Diploma.

(d) Identify your personal academic interests from first year.
From 2nd year onwards, you have slightly more wiggle room to pick to your strengths. It is absolutely okay to pick papers based on areas which you did well in first year. For example, if you thought you really enjoyed the Nervous System lectures in MEDSCI 142, then consider taking Neuroscience papers such as MEDSCI 206. Go through which sections of the 1st year papers you thoroughly enjoyed. This will guide your paper selection going into 2nd and 3rd year.

 

Use these points to...

(2) (e) Pick the papers that best reflect your thoughts above; and (f) Choose from Biomedical Science, Physiology, and Pharmacology.

  • Make a list of all papers you think would be interesting. Spend time to carefully examine all the Stage II and Stage III BIOSCIs and MEDSCIs on both the official University webite and our SAMS course reviews. Just highlight or make a note of which papers that sound interesting to you right now; note down their pre-requisites, the offered semester (Sem 1 or Sem 2), and whether those papers are a pre-requisite for further papers (e.g. in MEDSCI 700 papers if you want to do Postgraduate study). 

  • Look at the requirements for graduation for BSc (Biomedical Science)BSc (Physiology), and BSc (Pharmacology).

  • Look at the Degree Planners to help fit your chosen papers for each year: Biomedical SciencePhysiology, and Pharmacology.

  • Note that Biomedical Science's 2nd year is quite restrictive but Biomedical Science's 3rd year has massive choice.

  • Note that Physiology's 2nd year is very large amounts of choice whereas Physiology's 3rd year requires you to take at least 4 of the 5 offered MEDSCI papers (i.e. choose 4 from MEDSCI 309, 311, 312, 316, and 317).

  • Note that Pharmacology's 2nd year has very large amounts of choice whereas Pharmacology's 3rd year requires you to take at least 4 of the 5 offered MEDSCI papers (i.e. chose 4 from MEDSCI 303, 304, 305, 306, and 307).

  • Compare the Degree Requirements and the list of all papers you thought would be interesting; do you tend towards Biomedical Science, Physiology, or Pharmacology? 

  • Consider if you can finish your degree within 3 years (or however many years' worth of student loan you are prepared to spend). For example, switching to Biomedical Science may require an extra semester due to the many papers prescribed in the degree structure.

  • Switching from Bachelor of Health Science to BSc (Physiology). If you made the mistake of applying for Health Science thinking that Otago University's Health Science meant the same here at Auckland, you are not alone! Provided you did the Common Year 1 papers, you can still switch to BSc (Physiology) by applying through Student Services Online and the process is quick and painless.

 

Important Reminders for Degree Planning
  • BIOSCIs get relatively better in Stage II and Stage III - so don't let that put you off Biomedical Science. Trust me.

 

BIOSCIs (provided you pick papers according to your interests) are better in 2nd year and 3rd year. As you move towards Stage II and III, you are expected to become more independent in your education. This means that not all BIOSCI papers will have a highly organised course-guide that were given out in Stage I BIOSCIs such as BIOSCI107. In fact, some BIOSCI papers have stopped producing a physical copy of the course-guide and students are expected to make their own notes using the lecture slides provided. 

 

The labs become very monotonous in the sense that you may be performing the same laboratory techniques over and over again; this would be one down-side of higher-stage BIOSCIs. At the end of each lab session, students are expected to complete a worksheet, similar to the ones in BIOSCI107, but this time students have 1 weeks to complete it and submit it online via Canvas. Though it may release some pressure in the actual lab session as there is not submission at the end of the lab session, it is crucial to pay attention and ask questions during the lab session. 

 

A really big advantage of most BIOSCI papers is that the first half of the content will be tested in the mid-semester test and will not be examined in the final exams. This method of testing really does relieve some pressure for the exams as it gives you more time to study other heavy-content papers such as MEDSCI papers. Please note that there are some BIOSCI papers where the lecture content for the entire course will be examined, make sure you refer to your course information for final confirmation. 

  • MEDSCI 142 was an exceptional circumstance. ​MEDSCI142 is one of the most organised MEDSCI papers that you will encounter throughout your degree. As mentioned above, as you progress into your degree the learning becomes more independent. As a result, Stage II and III MEDSCI papers may not carry the luxury that MEDSCI142 had. This means…

    • You don’t necessarily get feedback from your MCQ tests; some papers do but you will not receive the feedback marks within 24 hours. 

    • You may not receive a reply from the course co-ordinator within minutes of sending it

    • Labs may not be well-organised and this can be quite frustrating. For example, we needed to use a computer program for our lab session but another lab was also using the same computer program and this led to the program crashing and we wasted 30mins trying to let the system load. 

  • Stage II is harder no matter what degree. There is no "easy" pathway. Many students have asked "what's the easiest pathway to reapply for medicine"? Answer: by doing the papers you are genuinely interested and passionate about. What is easy for one person is not necessarily easy for another person. This is why we strongly recommend reading through all the papers first and identifying which papers you are personally interested in.

  • ​"Recommended papers". If a Stage II paper listed on your degree planner has “recommended” written next to it, it is not a requirement, it is recommended that you take that particular paper (most often because it is a pre-requisite for certain papers later in your University career). This is all up to you and whether that particular paper is a pre-requisite to other higher-stage papers. I would recommend you plan out your degree starting from Stage III papers and this would help you decide whether or not you need to take the recommended paper. Note: for Biomeds, there are four compulsory papers that you must take (MEDSCI 205, BIOSCI 201, 202, 203).

  • The "Degree Planner" is not the only order in which you must complete your degree. You can swap things around. That Gen Ed paper does not need to be in 2nd year. That STATS 101 paper does not need to be in 3rd year. Those "ELECTIVE" papers do not need to be in 3rd year. You do not need to do BIOSCI 201, 202, and 203 in Semester 2 of 2nd year. Which leads me to my next point...

  • You can take Stage III papers in your 2nd Year at Uni. However, you can actually take Stage III at second year, provided that you have met the pre-requisites for that particular paper. For example MEDSCI 302 – Cancer Biology is a Semester 2 paper which has a pre-requisite of MEDSCI 203 which is a Semester 1 paper. If you took MEDSCI 203 in Semester 1 of your second year and pass that paper, you are eligible to apply and take MEDSCI 302 in the following Semester. The benefit to taking Stage III papers in your second year is that it helps to spread the load of taking five or six Stage III paper in your third year. You can even swap a Stage II paper in your second year for a Stage III paper; just make sure that you that Stage II paper is not a pre-requisite to any of the Stage III papers you plan to take in the following year.

  • Typically, you must complete 2 General Education papers in your degree. With very few exceptions, most degrees require you to finish 2 General Education papers. Remember to factor this into your consideration.

  • Suggestions for Science Elective papers. You will find that there are "Elective papers" that you need to do in order to complete the necessary 24 papers (or 360 points) for graduation. Consider looking through the vast array of papers listed in the Biomedical Science schedule - most of those, which we have course reviews on here at SAMS, are fantastic papers. But if you'd like some "easy" paper suggestions: COMPSCI 111, WINESCI 201, MATHS 108, STATS 101, MATHS 208, STATS 201, EXERCISESCI 103, PHYSICS 107.

  • "180 points must be above First Year". If you're doing BSc (Physiology) or BSc (Pharmacology), you need to make sure you have planned for 12 papers above First Year. Don't just fill all your elective papers with first year papers - chuck in enough 2nd year and maybe 3rd year papers in the mix!

  • "At least 75 points must be Stage III". Make sure you will have completed at least 5 Stage III papers.

  • Full-time student – In order to be qualified to be a full-time student, you must take at least 7 papers across summer school, Semester 1, and Semester 2 combined. If you only take 6 papers in one calendar year, you might not be eligible for certain things like Student Allowance or Auckland Transport's Tertiary Student Discount.

  • EFTS Student Loan Cap. Just keep an eye out for the number of years you intend to study and if you intend to do further study on top of your Bachelor's. As of the writing of this article, with 1st year free, you are allowed 7 more years of study for a grand total of 8 years of funded student loan. Do the math correct for any planned future study and don't waste it.