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Disclaimer: I’ve not been keeping up to date with the latest changes in the admission procedures/interview process, so I may not be be the best person to answer your questions regarding your med school application, but leave your questions below and I’ll try my best to answer them nevertheless! 🙂
2023 edit: All the best to this year’s applicants, and may the odds be ever in your favour! If you’re on the fence, I’d recommend reading my series on life as a junior doctor in Singapore and why I quit the public healthcare sector/broke my bond. If you’re still passionate after reading all that, then go ahead and apply 😛
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been looking around for more info on whether your grades will make the cut for local med, or what the application timeline is like.
I remember being in your shoes in 2016, equally lost and worried about whether I would be able to make it to a local medical school, and googling for tips didn’t really dig up any results.
So, I’ve written this post to shed some light on the application process for NUS & NTU, as well as to give y’all some
useless tips on how to prepare your portfolio and the subsequent Focused Skills Assessment + Situational Judgement Test.
Below are some of the topics I’ll be covering in this post:
- The Numbers
- Applying for NUS Med
- Applying for NTU Med
- Number of applicants: approx 2000
- Shortlisted for interview: 1200
- Total intake: 280
- Wait-list: 70
- School fees: $30 200 annually (AY 2022/23) = $151 000 in total
- Excluding a mandatory 5-year bond valued at $500k++ (for AY 2016/17, it was $520k, although it’s purportedly closer to $700k now)
- Total intake: 150
- School fees: $35 000 annually (AY 2022/23) = $175 000 in total
- Also excluding the eye-wateringly expensive 5-year bond
Applying for NUS Med
Timeline for YLLSoM Applications
|End-Mar||Shortlisting for the interview + preparation of portfolio|
|Early/mid-Apr||Selection (Focused Skills Assessment + Situational Judgement Test)|
|Mid-May||Notice of acceptance 🥳|
|May – Jul||Waitlist|
More info on the NTU application timeline and their interview process is in the 2nd half of this post, so keep scrolling!
What I appreciate about the new admission system is that grades are only used to filter who makes it to the interviews. Around 3000 people apply, and they’ll shortlist the top 1200 or so for the interview stage. Once you’ve been shortlisted, your grades are disregarded and someone who scored 87.5 is as likely to get in as someone with 90 + 2 H3 Distinctions; admission is decided based on how well one performs during the FSA & SJT, which is a much fairer selection process.
- Don’t quote me on this, but your UAS score probably has to be > 87.5 to get a definite interview call-up via the normal route. It varies from year to year, but if you have 1 H1 or 1 H2 B with otherwise straight As, you’re pretty safe.
- Even with 1 H1 and 1 H2 B, if you have an A in H1 Chinese or O-level Higher Chinese, you can add 0.25 to your UAS score to bring it up to 87.75, which is usually a safe score unless your batch performed exceptionally well. I personally got a B in Chemistry and Project Work, but ended up with a UAS score of 87.75 because of Higher Chinese, so I made the cut-off for the normal application route!
- If you UAS score is below that, or you’re reapplying, you can try the Exceptional Individual Scheme, it admits around 10% of our batch (30+ people). If you do a lot of volunteer work or are a star sports player, you stand a decent chance getting accepted by this route.
- Not sure about IB, but 43 and above should get you to the interview stage?
Portfolio for NUS (updated in 2023)
- Testimonial – The official document given to you by your school. It’s a pretty generic document detailing your academic abilities and character
- List of Achievements – The website states that you have to include your top 10 most recent activities/achievements, from secondary school and above. I’m quite amused that they specified 10, because in my year, they let us write a 1 page resume, and some people
including me oopscrammed long lists of achievements into the 1 page. Guess they got tired of reading a laundry list…
- Personal Statement – “A letter of introduction not exceeding 500 words on your experiences that have shaped your desire to study Medicine.” That’s about 1 page, similar to my year of application; do read my tips in the section below for tips!
- Referee Reports – Only shortlisted candidates will be invited to nominate referees, so just have a teacher in mind if/when you get shortlisted and need a referee (get one who’s likely to give you a glowing recommendation). This replaced the 2 letters of recommendation during my year, and this new form seems a lot more standardised and fair than the old system of open-ended essays. Questions in 2023’s referee report include:
- How long have you known X? X = candidate
- Briefly explain your relationship and experiences with X (in what capacity, and what have you directly observed about X’s behaviour).
- What are the first words that come to mind to best describe X’s character?
- What would you say are X’s weaknesses?
- Based on your knowledge of X, please comment on the following attributes:
- Reliability and commitment
- Communication skills
- Service orientation
- Resilience and adaptability
- How may X contribute to a medical community training to care for patients in a culturally and economically diverse society, given X’s background and experiences?
- Would you want X to look after your loved ones? Yes/No, please elaborate.
I’ve kept the original section below (2016’s portfolio requirements), because the tips I wrote in 2016 are still highly applicable to the current application process.
- Testimonial – It’s the piece(s) of paper given by your school on A level results day, and you’ll have to get it certified as a true copy at your school’s general office or sth.
- 2 letters of recommendation – Everyone is going to be rushing their teachers to write good stuff about them in the post A-level flurry, so to make your referee/teacher’s life easier, you can prepare a copy of your CV for them so that they can list some of your achievements and good traits in their letter of recommendation. Write a nice explanatory email to them, saying that you’re requesting for them to write a recommendation for you to apply to med, and make sure you include every little detail in the email and proofread it, because it’s unprofessional to forget to attach stuff or mention important details, as if their inboxes aren’t already flooded by all your other friends applying to uni. Keep track of the deadlines by which you need your referees to submit the letters of recommendation, and gently remind them when the deadline looms, because if they forget, your application goes bust.
- 1 resume – Follow the guidelines given on the NUS application portal; you’re generally limited to 1 A4 and a certain font size, so if you have too many achievements to fit into one page, make sure you list the most important ones first; don’t include trivial things like ‘Class chairperson’ if you have sth more important like
‘Can do 10 cartwheels’volunteer work. Personally, I categorised the items on my resume by the domain they fell under, like ‘Community’, ‘Leadership, ‘Academics’, etc.
- 1 personal statement – You should start working on this right after getting your A level results, because it’s something that takes time to write and has to come from the heart. It’s as much about selling yourself as it is soul-searching the reasons that motivate you to pursue a calling like Medicine. Write about yourself and the things that you’ve done that relate to the profession of a doctor (volunteering, leadership, research, etc.); be prepared to be asked questions from your own personal statement and make sure you can elaborate on everything you write in there. Plus, if you wait for them to call you up for the interviews before starting to work on it, you’ll need to get it ready within a week, which
may cause sudden deathis highly unadvisable.
ABAS (Aptitude-Based Application Scheme)
If you’re worried that your UAS score isn’t high enough to make the cut for the interview round, then you could try applying via ABAS, which you can read more about here. ABAS is the Aptitude-Based (Discretionary) Admission Scheme, which was known as EIS (Exceptional Individual Scheme) during my time.
I can’t provide you with much information on this scheme since I didn’t enter via ABAS, but quite a number of batchmates were admitted via this scheme, so this is a viable route if 1) you’re outstanding in other fields and just missed the UAS cutoff by a small margin, or if 2) you’ve applied/been rejected by NUS Medicine once and are reapplying again.
I have to emphasise that your grades still have to be pretty good, since there are many individuals who apply via this scheme with good UAS scores (eg. those who applied via the normal route but were rejected the previous year). If you’re selected via this route, it will get you to the interview round only – it’s not a free pass straight into med school – you’ll be on a level playing field with the rest of the students who made it to the interview stage.
FSA (Focused Skills Assessment)
- The Focused Skills Assessment comprises multiple short interview stations that seem more like a fun game show than a scary interview. They aim to test skills that medical students should have in a friendly/low-stress setting.
- You’ll be assigned to a group of 5 or 6 after registration, and they’ll be the people you’ll be going through the FSA with, and some might become your batchmates. Make friends with them and just chill until it’s time for the FSA to start!
- There were a total of 5 stations for my year (2016), with a few minutes of prep time before entering the room, with each station lasting 5 minutes. You enter a room and complete the tasks/talk to your interviewer, and once the time for each station is up, a buzzer will sound. You leave the room and wait outside the adjacent room for the next station.
- It’s very obvious what traits they’re testing for once you read each station’s tasksheet (while waiting outside the room/station). Just stay calm and do your best; even if you think you’ve messed up, correct yourself and continue on in a composed manner. Act calm & composed (even if you’re panicking internally), do not put your foot in your mouth or blurt things out without thinking – that would probably not work out in your favour cos doctors need to be able to stay calm under pressure.
- Just remember that your interviewers (who happen to be doctors/ faculty deans) want to get to know you as a person, so be yourself and don’t panic!!! They’re not out to kill you or ask you killer questions, they really do try to make you feel as at ease as possible, which is really nice of them imo.
- A number of you have asked about the dress code: it’s formal, so dress like you would for a job interview! For guys, that would mean a formal shirt + formal pants + dress shoes, and proper grooming (just look presentable/neat). For girls, any blouse + pants/culottes + flats will do. In my year, us girls were told to wear pants (no skirts/dresses), as some of the stations required us to move about more.
SJT (Situational Judgement Test)
- You don’t need to study for this, but you can if you
are kiasu afwant to. If you want to prep, google around for free SJT resources for a rough idea of potential scenario and questions. Having sat for the UKCAT, I found the NUS SJT very similar to the UKCAT SJT
- You’ll be given multiple case studies/situations, and some possible actions that can be taken in response to the situation. You have to judge if the actions are appropriate/inappropriate, but it’s all MCQ so don’t worry.
- The SJT is very basic, just stick to your everyday morals and you should do okay. Going with your gut instinct is probably the best way to do the SJT, because the more you psychoanalyse the question, the more uncertain you’ll get.
- The NUS Med website states that ‘there is no right or wrong answer, your answers will be an indication of the alignment of your values with NUS Medicine.’ But that statement in itself clearly implies that there are indeed right/wrong answers…so make of it what you will
- And don’t bother comparing answers with your friends, no one really knows what the ‘correct answer’ is so you’ll only freak yourself out more if you think too much about the SJT after it’s over.
This is the official link to my school’s FAQ for Med admission, which provides a great overview of the admission process and timeline. 🙂
Applying for NTU Med
|Sep||Register for the BMAT|
|Oct||BMAT (BioMedical Admissions Test)|
|Oct – mid-Mar||Submit application|
|Apr||Selection (Multiple Mini Interviews)|
|Late Apr – Jun||Notice of acceptance 🥳|
- Only those who took the BMAT can apply to NTU, which means there’s considerably less competition, and the applicants are actually serious about med.
- The word limit for the NTU PS is only 300 words (!!!), which means you have to slash most of your NUS personal statement to make the magical 300 word limit. Start work on it early and get your friends/seniors to give you feedback (the more critical they are, the better).
NTU Interview/MMI (multiple mini interviews)
- The MMI (multiple mini interviews) is similar to NUS’ FSA, but with more stations. There were 8 stations, and each was 3 minutes long.
- Our parents were invited to attend the pre-MMI briefing with us, where they explained the differences between NUS & NTU med and why we should pick LKC over YLL (lol @ the rivalry).
- The atmosphere was also very relaxed, and they plied us with food before starting the interviews!!
Admission outcome & the waitlist
- The info below was accurate as of May 2016, but may have changed since then.
- As mentioned in the timeline, the first wave of results will be released in early May via an online portal (used for all SG uni applications). Our results were released on 5th May, but some of my friends got theirs a few days/weeks later.
- Your online portal will show you which courses you’ve been accepted into. If it shows your 2nd/3rd choice instead of Med, then you know you’ve been rejected or at least put on the waitlist.
- If you didn’t get accepted in the first round, you’ll be on a waiting list. There’s still hope of getting accepted into NUS/NTU when those higher up on the waitlist reject their offers. The waitlist takes a few months to clear, cos some people can’t decide whether they wanna go overseas or take their NUS/NTU place. As long as they don’t reject their offer, the waiting list doesn’t move.
- The NTU waitlist moved a lot, because a lot were accepted by both NUS & NTU. Almost everyone picked NUS > NTU, so the NTU list kept moving and a lot more people were suddenly accepted.
- Some batchmates were accepted as late as mid-July, because some guys couldn’t defer NS, so the space was freed up for them. Don’t give up hope! (until term starts in Aug; by then it’s really too late)
Do read through the other comments and my FAQ post to see if I’ve already answered your query (esp if you’re asking about grades/cutoff points), as I get way too many duplicate questions! 🙂
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If you’re interested in exploring my blog, click here for an index of all the posts I’ve ever written (travel, musings, doctoring), or check out my most read series below:
- the Chasing Dreams series: a multi-part series chronicling my thoughts, dreams & changing ideals over the years (since 2018), including burnout, quitting the rat race, migration and trying to find my path in life
- the (not-so-definitive) guide to doctoring: Getting into Med School & FAQs | Surviving your Clinical Years | MBBS Tips | Life as a M1 // M2 // M3 // M4 // M5 during COVID // Life as a Doctor (monthly series) | Chasing Careers series
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