How to Prepare for Premed: January Progress Check

January Progress Check
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Are You on Track for Premed Prep?

This article is based on a free webinar I held in 2021. The purpose of this is to provide a status check on where you should be at, help you set goals for your preparation for pre-med, as well as provide a formula for your work, making it as efficient as possible. If you want to attend the next free webinar we run, make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and/or sign up to our mailing list.

Pre-med is made up of three dimensions. UCAT, core papers, and MMI.

This progress check will cover where you should be at with all of them, and where you should be throughout the year.

Firstly, UCAT

This should be a large focus of your pre-work before pre-med, as first semester will push UCAT down in your list of priorities and eradicate the required time for sufficient preparation. The lofty yet achievable goal for UCAT (and pre-med in general) is SAFETY. To achieve safety, you should aim for a 90th percentile or above.

Why 90th Percentile?

Because, despite UOA Med having some of the lowest scores in Australasia, the average UCAT score is going up as more and more people are training for this test. No training is simply a disadvantage at this stage. The trends are that the scores are going up, not just across the board but within UOA.

Hence, achieving a 90th percentile score gives you the safety you need and doesn’t necessitate compensation with your core grades or interview score, but will, in fact, bolster your application for medical school.

How do you get over 90th percentile for UCAT?

The short answer is: steady, consistent work during your summer break (or earlier).

By the start of February, you should have done 50% of your prep, and by the time semester rolls around, at least 70-80%.

Always be careful about who you trust for your preparation. There are some (popular) companies that are known scams with illegal advertising and marketing. Highly marketed and low quality is not the ideal combination for UCAT preparation when time is of the essence. Make sure you check out the reputation of the company, rather than just believing what they tell you!

UCAT itself also provides free practice tests and question banks which are an extremely helpful source.

Second, the MMI

Preparation for this encompasses something more intellectually stimulating and perhaps more enjoyable.

The goal for the MMI is presenting an answer in six minutes which is concise and strategic. Your response must not only answer the scenario given both insightfully and rationally but also provide as much of a window into you – your attributes, values, core experiences and personality – as possible. Once again, a lofty goal, however, the preparation needed is formulaic and rewarding.

How to prepare for the MMI

The first step towards this is increasing your insight into the field and your introspection into yourself. This should be done over summer and first semester (or from even earlier if possible).

Let’s tackle increasing insight first.

Insight refers to gathering more information around your chosen career, the hours, the work itself, the highs and the lows. It means really understanding what you’re getting yourself into. Most of the people reading this will feel somewhat deficient in their knowledge of the field, so my main suggestion is to watch or listen to our podcast, SubCut. Other than just being a good listen, the podcast is tailored to exactly remedy this deficiency.

We talk about topics students really should know about and gives you a lot of insight into the health profession. Listening is not enough, though. You also need to take notes and keep track of all the novel and different ideas, insights and information you’re consuming.

You have to be able to then process this new information, run it through your values/experiences and life to incorporate it into your worldview in a way that when you are really in the hot seat, it isn’t lost from your brain in the midst of panic. We want these perspectives to be our own, not something we’ve just memorised or crammed in last minute.

If you have other people you can talk to about the job or videos and other resources, use these too. Find resources and use them. Broaden your perspectives and opinions open-mindedly.

This will give you the insight needed to ‘eclipse’ other students, as well as forcing introspection by critically viewing your own life and values – this is real internalisation.

Once again, do this from as early as possible, during summer and throughout the semester, with a heavier focus on it during summer and a lower frequency during the semester (e.g., an episode a week).

Now, what about the interview skills?

Your skills in actually speaking i.e., being concise and strategic, insightful, perceptive and interesting (as MMI is a conversation with another PERSON at the end of the day) will come in after UCAT is over, so around July and August.

This is when we run our early stream interview course. If it was better to start earlier, we would simply run them earlier! In some cases, companies will pressure you into purchasing an interview course much earlier just to lock an extra sale. This is completely unnecessary and taking time away from your grades and UCAT in order to prepare for the interview, which in itself reduces your chances of getting top grades or UCAT marks, which in turn reduces your chances of even getting an interview offer in the first place is completely illogical!

Good interview skills take about 2-3 months to really nail down (maybe other companies need you to start earlier because they take 5x longer?), but the foundations of insight and introspection you will have built over the first half of the year will come to fruition in a very rewarding way.

Looking to get a comprehensive and personalised plan for your medical entry preparation?
Book in a free consultation with our dedicated advisors here.

Lastly, Core Papers

Now, we are focusing on the three core papers, CHEM 110, POPHLTH 111, BIOSCI 107, which will take place in the first semester. These core papers come at you like a fist.

The pace, volume and depth you need to secure that essential A+ is staggeringly high compared to high school. No wonder only 10% of top-achieving high school students are successful! Therefore, you need to have a level of pre-study as well as a strong focus on developing effective study skills.

The idea with pre-study is having multiple contact points with the content so you retain it more – as well as doing it often enough – so that you already know the content before you even walk into the lecture hall.

We recommend our online academy courses for pre-study. It comprehensively covers the core paper material, including key information from the textbooks, to an A+ level. It will help you to learn the foundations of what they teach you at university, giving you a good secondary to tertiary education transition, more comprehensively and more in-depth than any other resource out there.

But if you just pre-studied, you’d likely still fail!

Hundreds of students will pre-study the material before the semester begins and ultimately still struggle. How?

Because they have low retention. If you study skills allow you to learn something once and only retain 50% of it (or less) 2 months down the line, then all that time spent on pre-study has gone to waste. Not only did you forget half of what you “learned”, but you also didn’t use that time to practice a more effective study system. Now, a month into semester, you are left high and dry: a study system that can’t keep up with the challenging pace of premed (even though it easily got you top marks in year 13), and a jumble of half-retained information from the pre-study you did (and forgot) a month ago.

Those who have gone through our advanced online study skills course will be able to use our online academy resources, including our core paper concept lists to rapidly pre-study to over 90% retention.

If you’re interested in solidifying your studying techniques, book in a consultation with at https://jttmed.com/strategy.

Textbooks to Buy for Premed

You know there’s something fishy when you see hundreds of textbooks for sale with the label “brand new, hardly used”.

While this is great for buying a second-hand car, it does make you wonder why they didn’t use it…

The reality is that when you strip away just a bunch of new second-year students trying to recover losses and make a buck, the only textbook you really need is Tortora and Derrickson. FYI, that’s available at our office which is accessible to all JTT members (you can even keep your own textbooks there if you don’t want to carry it around) as well as using our classroom as a private study space.

Using Our Online Academy for Prestudy

If you’re a member, you will have already found our schedules for pre-study and study plans in our orientation course on the academy website. However, I also suggest pre-studying during the summer and pre-studying the week’s lecture content just before that week begins. You can supplement this further with our regular weekly classes to focus on certain points you’ve neglected or didn’t understand in your self-study.

Your next contact points are lectures and your post-lecture revision. By this time, you’ll be well versed in what the lecturer is about to teach you. For many, it’ll be the first time they hear this. For you, it’ll be at least the third.

Use a combination of our online academy for your pre-study as well as the concepts list for each core paper, and your own curiosity to drive your learning. Because we teach the material faster and more efficiently than the lecturers, you will find that it is much easier to cover content using our online academy than through self-study or even the lectures themselves.

During the summer, aim to pre-study 70-80% of all three core papers. By the end of January, you want to have completed 40-60% of the content. This timing should allow you to get a week’s break before heading into the hallowed halls of UOA, allowing you some time to recuperate and regenerate, so you can hit the ground running.

While you pre-study, you need to be using this time to develop your study skills. These are EXTREMELY important and helpful to develop, and no matter what you end up doing, they’ll be very valuable. Early February should be the latest time you are consulting for study skills planning, as you need time (and content, which is provided through pre-study) to develop and hone these skills.


By the end of January/start of February, you want to be through 50% of your UCAT study, 40-60% of the way through core paper pre-study and therefore underway with your study plan, fully using your pre-study to better your study skills, as well as using SubCut to develop your MMI skills and improving your insight and introspection.

By the start of the first semester, you should be 70-80% done with your UCAT and core paper preparation, as well as continuing with MMI prep, with enough time to give yourself a week/week and a half off so you really are emotionally ready for the start of semester.

By reading all of this – congrats! You have already started preparing yourself, now you need to follow through with the advice as best you can and do what works for you to give you the best shot of getting into med school (or any chosen career).

Best of luck, and reach out to us, we’re here for you.

Original webinar by Justin Sung, converted to article by Maitreyi Jain.
Edited by Justin Sung.

A personalised strategy for medical entry

Book your free, no-obligation 30-minute consultation with our expert advisor now!

You don’t know what you don’t know. Most students we have worked with massively underestimate some aspects of medical entry while overestimating others. Leave your consultation with a clear understanding of where your current position is and exactly what you need to do to optimise your chances of medical entry.

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About the author
Justin Sung
Justin Sung
Justin is a medical doctor, University of Auckland graduate, published research author, certified teacher, and founder of JTT. He has assisted thousands of students into healthcare careers since 2011, making him New Zealand's individually most experienced medical entry expert. He regularly works with schools and organisations to help students and professionals learn more effectively.

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