Notre Dame to review selection method for med students

Document Type

Media Release

Publication Date

Winter 28-6-2010

Publisher Name

The University of Notre Dame Australia, Fremantle Campus

Publication Place



With two cohorts of graduates currently working in Western Australia, and two medical schools operating nationally (Fremantle and Sydney), The University of Notre Dame Australia’s (UNDA) Fremantle School of Medicine, has reviewed its methods for selecting medical students.

Pro Vice Chancellor and Executive Dean of Medicine, Professor Julie Quinlivan explained: “It is now seven years since we developed our current selection process. It is timely for us to evaluate our processes and consider if any changes need to be made.”

The University has previously selected medical students using a variety of academic and general selection criteria. These have included a general intelligence test called the GAMSAT and an academic measure, the grade point average, which summarises the applicants performance in their first Bachelors degree (the medical school is graduate entry so all applicants have to have completed a previous Bachelors degree). It has also used two general measures in order to select well rounded graduates. These are a semi-structured interview and a portfolio, which describes an applicant’s non academic activities such as sport, community and church involvement, leadership and work experience activities, referee reports and a curriculum vitae.

Professor Quinlivan said, “Methods to select medical students vary widely around the world. In some countries in Europe a ballot system is used, whilst at the other end of the spectrum a ‘marks only’ method is used in some USA States and by the University of Queensland. However, most medical schools now include an interview.

“The interview varies from a free ranging interview, to a semi structured interview as used by Notre Dame, to a very structured series of communication and skill stations. This last type of interview is used by many Australian Universities such as Sydney University and Deakin University. Portfolios, like the Notre Dame one, are also used by Wollongong University.”

Professor Quinlivan stated that as part of the review process, the University has evaluated the impact of its selection components on students’ performances in the medical course.

“We have evaluated whether the selection measures have helped select students who are competent doctors and who also have a positive attitude toward serving underserved communities, which is a key mission related outcome for the medical school. The medical school was funded in part, to help overcome workforce shortages in the outer metropolitan and rural workforce. This evaluation has been submitted for peer reviewed publication to ensure there is wide feedback on the results.

“The evaluation results indicate that the current range of selection tools have helped identify students who become competent doctors, with different selection components contributing towards different elements of medical performance.”

Professor Quinlivan said, “The GAMSAT section 3, which focuses on science, is highly predictive of a student who will perform well in written examinations. In contrast, the grade point average and semi structured interview help identify students who perform well in multiple clinical assessment tasks. However, no single selection measure identifies a student who will perform well across all tasks. This is why it is important to have more than one selection measure.”

The review of selection involve stakeholder forums to answer the questions:

“What constitutes a good doctor” and “How do we select students who will achieve this?’. The first forum was held on Monday 28 June. Discussion commenced with the views of Michelle Kosky, from the Health Consumers Council; Margaret Study, speaking from the public and private healthcare employers perspective; Mr Clive Walley, speaking from an indigenous Australian perspective, and Dr Michael Shanahan speaking from a medical mission perspective.

Media contact: Michelle Ebbs 08 9433 0610, 0408 959 138