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Med Educ. 2004 Jul;38(7):778-86.

Graduate entry to medical school? Testing some assumptions.

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Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales, Australia.



Debate abounds regarding the most appropriate candidates to admit to medical school. This paper examines whether there is any advantage to admitting 'graduate' entrants over secondary school leavers on selected medical school and practice outcomes.


To compare the medical school experiences, research and academic achievements and practice outcomes of graduates who entered 1 medical school in Australia directly from high school (secondary school entry) to those of graduates who entered with tertiary level education (tertiary entry).


Cross-sectional study using a mail-out survey to graduates from the first 16 graduating years (1983-98 inclusive) of the University of Newcastle Medical School.


Secondary school entrants were, on average, 8 years younger than tertiary entrants and were less likely to have received rural-based schooling. However, there were no differences with respect to gender or type of secondary school attended (public or private). Motivations for studying medicine did not generally differ according to entry type, except that more secondary students were motivated by parental expectations and more tertiary entrants were motivated by the need for professional independence and the desire to prevent disease. A greater proportion of tertiary entrants experienced stress at medical school. However, secondary students experienced more stress due to doubts about being a doctor, while tertiary entrants experienced more stress due to lack of leisure time, finances and balancing commitments. There were no significant differences between the groups in terms of academic performance (as measured by the award of medical school honours) or research outcomes (as measured by completion of a research degree during or after medical school training, publication of scientific papers or holding career posts in the research sciences). There were no differences in career positions held by clinicians, choice of general practice or another specialty as a career, practice location (rural or urban) or employment sector (public or private).


There is no clear advantage, at least on the outcomes measured in this study, to limiting medical school entry to either those candidates from secondary school or those with tertiary backgrounds. Medical schools could reasonably broaden their selection criteria to include more graduate entry candidates in addition to secondary school leavers without compromising medical school and practice outcomes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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