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What is Medicine?

Medicine is a scientific, research and evidence based profession, which covers many areas of specialisation, including general practice, public health and hospital-based specialties such as surgery, psychiatry, cardiology, and many more.

If you are considering a career in medicine, you should be prepared for lifelong learning to maintain your practising standards. Society expects a high level of technical competence.

Patients expect to be treated with patience, kindness and humanity. Ethical behaviour and rapport with people are necessary so patients can trust you with problems of their body and mind.

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Entry requirements

The Medical Admissions Committee considers applications from candidates in the following categories:

University of Otago Health Sciences First Year (HSFY) category

To be considered for admission in the HSFY category an applicant must be enrolled in HSFY at Otago and pass all the papers prescribed for HSFY at first attempt, with a minimum of 70%, and have a valid UMAT result.

Applicants will also be required to have passed the HSFY English Diagnostic Test or have passed ENGL 126.

Selection into Medicine is determined by a combination of an applicant's academic grades in HSFY (67%) and weighted UMAT result (33%).

For further information on the cut-offs for previous years' combined scores, please contact:

UMAT weighting for entry into Medicine:

  • Section 1 – Logical Reasoning and Problem Solving: 45%
  • Section 2 – Understanding People: 45%
  • Section 3 – Non-Verbal Reasoning: 10%

Scoring Example HSFY Category (PDF 40 KB)

When applying for Medicine a candidate may apply once only using this category.

HSFY category checklist

Graduate category

From 2020, admissions scoring for the Graduate admissions category will change.

Information about the changes to scoring for admission categories

To be considered for admission in the Graduate category, applicants must have completed, normally in the minimum academic time and within three years of the date of application, the requirements of a first degree awarded by a university in New Zealand.

All applicants in the Graduate category are ranked on the basis of a score derived from the grades achieved in:

  • A bachelor's degree, or
  • A bachelor's honours degree, or
  • A bachelor's degree, followed by a postgraduate diploma equivalent to a bachelor's honours degree from the awarding university

No preference is given to degree qualification or major subject.

The qualifying degree is the first university degree awarded to the applicant.

The score for candidates is based on the best 120 points of papers in each year of academic study. A weighted GPA is used (see example below).

Due to the scoring system for admission to Medicine, we are not able to score papers that have a pass / fail grade, nor are we able to score aegrotat passes.

It is to every applicant's advantage to ensure that each year of study has at least 120 points. A weighting factor is applied for each year of university study.

The weighting factors for a three-year degree see the first year score multiplied by 0.5, the second year score by 1.0 and the third year score by 1.5. Thus a paper score for each paper is generated in the following way: grade point value × number of points × weighting (see example below).

Scoring Example – Graduate category (PDF 50 KB)

Applicants must have a current UMAT score that is at a threshold level determined annually by the Medical Admissions Committee.

The final year of study will be scored using only those papers at 200-level or above (i.e. no 100-level papers taken in the final year of study will be scored).

Selection for applicants who reach the UMAT threshold is competitive according to the weighted academic score, see scoring example.

Applicants who are offered a place in second-year Medicine, and are missing more than one of the First Year papers (or its equivalent) listed in the MB ChB Schedule, will be required to undertake a prescribed course of study. When the Medical Admissions Committee offer a place, applicants will be advised which papers they must complete, as well as the grades that must be attained in order to be eligible to be admitted to the second year of Medicine.

Applications must be received within three years of completion of the qualifying degree. Normally, the date of completion will be taken as the end of the teaching period in which the final paper or papers included in the programme are undertaken. Repeat applications within the eligibility period are allowed.

For further information on previous years cutting marks please contact:

Graduate category checklist

Alternative category

Admission for Medicine in the Alternative category (previously known as the 'Other category') for 2018 open early April 2017 and close on 1 May 2017.

This category for application for admission to second-year Medicine is open to allied health professionals and other graduates.

To be considered for admission under the Alternative category, an applicant must be a domestic student and:

  • Hold a degree from a New Zealand university, and no longer be eligible under the Graduate category; or
  • Have completed a degree at an overseas university at a standard of at least NZQF Level 7 no less than three years prior to application; or
  • Hold a master's or doctoral degree; or
  • Demonstrate health-related professional experience in a relevant field to a standard acceptable to the Medical Admissions Committee

Applicants seeking admission to Medicine with health-related professional experience will be required to demonstrate academic and/or professional experience in the relevant field, to a standard acceptable to the Medical Admissions Committee, as part of the selection process. Allied health professionals are recommended to have not less than five years' experience in their chosen profession(s), and preferably at least two years in New Zealand.

International applicants are not considered under the Alternative category.

Qualifications that applicants wish to be considered as part of their application must be completed (with results available by 1 May in the year of application) and a full academic transcript must be provided before an application can be processed.

Applicants will be required to provide the names and contact details of three referees (both professional and character), who will be contacted only if an applicant is selected for interview.

Please note that references are confidential and will not be released to the applicant.

Candidate selection is a two-stage process. Candidates are selected for interview based on an academic achievements, statement of interest, and CV. Not all applicants will be selected for interview.

At interview, topics covered include:

  • Academic achievement
  • Other achievements
  • Commitment to a career change
  • Communication skills
  • Knowledge of the New Zealand health system
  • Understanding of the profession

Interviews take place in Dunedin approximately eight weeks from the closing date. Notification is via your eVision account. Applicants need to ensure that they are available to attend for interview if invited, as the Interview Panel will not reschedule their dates.

A candidate may apply once only using this category.

The final outcome of applications will be confirmed by 11pm (New Zealand Time) 31 August 2017.

Applicants who are offered a place in second-year Medicine and are missing more than one of the First Year papers (or its equivalent) listed in the MB ChB Schedule, will be required to undertake a prescribed course of study. When the Medical Admissions Committee offer a place, applicants will be advised which papers they must complete, as well as the grades that must be attained in order to be eligible to be admitted to the second year of Medicine.

The Medical Admissions Committee will not enter into any correspondence regarding application outcome or interview.

Alternative category checklist


The University of Otago is committed to initiatives that increase the number of Māori and indigenous Pacific Island graduates. The Division of Health Sciences is focused on ensuring that New Zealand's diverse health workforce needs are met, to honouring the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi / Tiriti o Waitangi and promoting academic equity for under-represented groups.

Applicants may also be considered in one or both of the following sub-categories:

  • Māori
  • Indigenous Pacific (see note)

An applicant in either or both of these sub-categories must provide verified indigenous ancestry of either Māori whakapapa or indigenous Pacific ancestry and be a permanent resident or citizen of New Zealand.

Note: Students applying under the Indigenous Pacific sub-category need to provide verified evidence of family ancestry originating from one or more of the following Pacific nations:

  • American Samoa
  • Cook Islands
  • Federated States of Micronesia
  • Fiji
  • French Polynesia
  • Hawaii
  • Kiribati
  • Marshall Islands
  • New Caledonia
  • Niue
  • Palau
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Rapanui (Easter Island)
  • Rotuma
  • Samoa
  • Solomon Islands
  • Tokelau
  • Tonga
  • Tuvalu
  • Vanuatu
  • Wallis and Futuna

Māori – Form A (PDF 150 KB)

Applicants wishing to be considered under the Māori sub-category must indicate this at the time of application by ticking the Māori sub-category box along with providing information on their Māori whakapapa. Applicants will also be required to complete and upload the following documents.

  • An endorsement of Māori whakapapa, and
  • A written personal statement

Successful applicants from the Māori sub-category are required to attend a mihiwhakatau (greeting) at the commencement of classes in Dunedin. Whānau are welcome and encouraged to attend.

It is recommended that students wishing to apply under the Māori sub-category attend a relevant information session held by the Division of Health Science Māori Health Workforce Development Unit (MHWDU) and/or contact the MHWDU to arrange a meeting with staff or for further information:


New Zealand Resident Indigenous Pacific Origins (NZRIPO) – Form B (PDF 100 KB)

Applicants wishing to be considered under the NZRIPO sub-category must indicate this at the time of application by ticking the NZRIPO sub-category box on the application form and then confirming their island of heritage / origin. Applicants will also be required to complete and upload the following documents:

  • An endorsement of Pacific Island heritage, and
  • A written personal statement, and
  • A copy of birth certificate and any other verified information (certified copy) to confirm evidence of indigenous Pacific ancestry

Successful applicants from the Pacific sub-category are expected to be connected and contribute to the Health Sciences Pacific support network.

It is highly recommended that students wishing to apply under the NZRIPO sub-category contact the staff in the Pacific Islands Research and Student Support Unit, in the Office of the Associate Dean (Pacific):


New Zealand Rural Origins

The New Zealand Government has agreed to fund extra places in the programme targeting those from rural backgrounds seeking medical careers in rural practice.

In order to apply in the New Zealand Rural Origins sub-category, candidates for admission must:

  • Have undertaken a minimum of four years of their pre-tertiary education at a school in a rural area of New Zealand; or
  • Have resided in a rural area of New Zealand for a minimum of four consecutive years following the completion of their secondary education; or
  • Have undertaken a combination of pre-tertiary education at a school in a rural area of New Zealand and residence in a rural area of New Zealand, for a minimum of four consecutive years

Applicants wishing to have their New Zealand Rural Origins status considered with their application must indicate this at the time of application by ticking the New Zealand Rural Origins sub-category box in the online application and provide the following supporting information:

  • An official letter from the pre-tertiary regional / rural education institution they attended, outlining:
    • The duration of their study, and
    • The physical location of the institute
  • A statutory declaration, made before an authorised person, confirming residency of four years or more in a rural location (this declaration must specify which years are being claimed as the four qualifying years)

An authorised person is a person listed in the Oaths and Declarations Act 1957 as able to take declarations. This person could be a:

Students within New Zealand may wish to check the Yellow Pages for a list of Justices of the Peace in their area. Students from remote areas who do not have access to anyone in the approved categories should contact the University Information Centre for advice.

The University utilises Statistics New Zealand's Urban / Rural Profile Classification to define rural. For the purposes of this policy, students will be eligible if their address on which the rural sub-category application is based on, is classified as one of the following:

  • Satellite urban community
  • Independent urban community
  • Rural area with high urban influence
  • Rural area with moderate urban influence
  • Rural area with low urban influence
  • Highly rural / remote area

The Statistics New Zealand website has information on these rural categories.

Students who selected the New Zealand Rural Origins sub-category on their application for entry to Medicine may be required to participate in the Year 5 Rural Medical Immersion Programme.

Students will not be bonded after graduation nor will the inclusion of the rural training increase the length of the programme.

Preliminary eligibility assessment

Using the spreadsheet below, you can undertake an informal check of your eligibility for the rural origins sub-category by matching, at an area unit level, the rural location you will use for application purposes.

It is important to note that this should be considered as a guide only. The address you supply with your application will be officially geo-coded by a specialist GIS company. This will occur by an automated geocoding process that records the latitude and longitude information for address records and matches this against the Statistics New Zealand Urban / Rural classification system. This process determines final eligibility.

You are strongly encouraged to contact the Health Sciences Admissions Office prior to applications closing if you have any questions regarding your eligibility for the Rural Origins sub-category.

Urban rural profile categories spreadsheet (PDF 240 KB)

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Application process

Online registration and application

New and returning students are required to complete their application through eVision, which combines both your admissions and enrolment into the University of Otago, and your programme application.

HSFY category and Graduate category applicants should apply in the first instance to the 'Health Sciences Undergraduate Professional Programmes' and then select 'Medicine' from the list.

Alternative category applicants should apply directly to 'Medicine Alternative'.

If you have any questions regarding your registration please contact the University Information Centre:

Tel 0800 80 80 98 (from within New Zealand)
Tel 64 3 479 7000 (from overseas)
Ask Otago: Frequently asked questions

Supporting documentation

For details regarding other required documentation, consult the appropriate checklist available at the end of each main category of admission section.

Appropriate witnesses

You should normally have your documents witnessed as true copies of originals by an authorised person i.e. a person listed in the Oaths and Declarations Act 1957 such as:

The following may also witness documents:

  • Notary Public
  • Court Registrar or Deputy Registrar
  • University of Otago Administrative or Liaison Staff
  • Member of Parliament
  • Land Transport New Zealand, Public Trust, or local authority employee (who must be authorised under the Oaths and Declarations Act 1957—an authorised stamp is required)

Students within New Zealand may wish to check the Yellow Pages for a list of Justices of the Peace in their area. Students from remote areas who do not have access to anyone in the approved categories should contact the University Information Centre for advice.

What the witness needs to do

Witnessed Document Example jpgWhen witnessing the photocopy this person must indicate the authority with which the copy is certified as true (e.g. Certified true copy, W B Smith, Justice of the Peace).

The person's name should be printed under his or her signature if not easily legible.

Other officials or professionals should not normally be asked to witness documents. Check the Yellow Pages for Justices of the Peace in your area.

If you do not have access to anyone in the approved categories, you should contact the University Information Centre for advice.

Application deadlines

Applications for entry in 2018 close on 1 May 2017 (Alternative category) and 15 September 2017 (HSFY and Graduate categories).

Outcome of application

You will be advised of the outcome of your application no later than:

  • HSFY category: 22 December 2017
  • Graduate category: 22 December 2017
  • Alternative category: 31 August 2017

If you have a question regarding your application, you are able to contact us at:


All correspondence must include your Otago student ID number.

Accepting or declining offers

If offered a place, applicants will be advised on the deadline for accepting or declining the offer.

Please think carefully before making your decision; once you have declined your offer there is no opportunity to have the offer reinstated after the deadline has expired.

What is the waiting list?

If your Outcome of Application indicates that you have been placed on the waiting list, you will be contacted should a place become available. Waiting lists are programme-specific and you may not ask to be included on any waiting list other than the one(s) specified.

You can be offered a place from a waiting list right up to the time classes begin. Therefore, you must make sure that you continue your enrolment process for an alternative programme of study.

Deferral of entry

Successful candidates may request to defer their entry to the following academic year.

Requests will be considered on the following grounds:

  • Graduate category or Alternative category candidates who wish to complete current academic study (e.g. an honours year) that in the opinion of the Medical Admissions Committee will enhance a student's future study in Medicine. If approved, the Medical Admissions Committee will advise of the minimum grade(s) that must be attained. Deferral requests, submitted under this criteria, must be received no later than the last day to add a first semester paper – 2 March 2018.
  • Serious medical grounds or other exceptional circumstances.

Candidates that are approved deferral on medical grounds or exceptional circumstances will be required to provide evidence that they are able to resume study.

To apply for a deferral of entry please complete and return the deferral form (PDF 130 KB)

Deferrals will only be granted for a maximum period of one academic year.

Applicants must have their personal and financial affairs in order when they apply so that if their application is successful, they are able to take up a place at the start of the first semester.

English language requirements

Admission to the programme shall be subject to applicants meeting an English language requirement as determined by the Medical Admissions Committee, dependent on the category under which the application is made.

International students

International students are defined as all those students who require a student visa to study in New Zealand. In any given year, a limited number of places in the second year Medicine may be available to international students in the HSFY and Graduate categories. To be eligible to apply for admission to Medicine, international students must have completed all necessary prerequisites at a minimum standard, which is determined on a yearly basis.

Should an international student's residency status change prior to notification of the application outcome, he or she must notify the Health Sciences Admissions Office immediately and will have to compete for admission with other domestic students.

Important dates

  • Online application closing date:
    • HSFY category: 15 September 2017
    • Graduate category: 15 September 2017
    • Alternative category: 1 May 2017
  • Outcome of Application sent out by:
    • HSFY category: 22 December 2017
    • Graduate category: 22 December 2017
    • Alternative category: 31 August 2017
  • Accepting or declining first round offers:
    • HSFY category: 4 January 2018
    • Graduate category: 4 January 2018
  • Health Sciences Admissions Office closed: 22 December 2017 to 4 January 2018
  • Medicine second year compulsory orientation: Wednesday, 14 February to Friday, 16 February 2018
  • Medicine second year classes commence: Monday, 19 February 2018

Introductory classes are compulsory. Students who fail to attend classes on the start date risk losing their place.

Health and disabilities

Please contact the University of Otago's Manager of Disability Information and Support, or the Health Sciences Admissions Office, if you have a health condition and/or disability that may affect whether or not you are able to meet the requirements of the programme or obtain professional registration.

Any applicant who has a mental or physical condition that could adversely affect their fitness to practice or is found to have failed to declare a condition may be declined admission to the programme by the Medical Admissions Committee on the recommendation of the Health and Conduct Review Group. Any offer of admission made before responses to medical requests or requests for information regarding an applicants health status have been received is conditional on the information received confirming the applicant’s suitability for admission.

Criminal offences

Any applicant who is, or has been, the subject of criminal convictions, or is, or has been, subject to disciplinary proceedings of a tertiary institution or professional body, or is found to have failed to declare a matter may be declined admission to the programme by the Medical Admissions Committee on the recommendation of the Health and Conduct Review Group. Any offer of admission made before responses to requests for information regarding an applicants past conduct have been received is conditional on the information received confirming the applicant's suitability for admission.

As some convictions may prohibit registration, applicants are advised to consult the regulations of the registering professional body:

All applicants must consent to verification from the New Zealand Police and Department of Courts that there are no undeclared criminal charges or convictions.

Health and Conduct Review Group

The Health and Conduct Review Group considers a student's suitability for admission to a Health Sciences Professional Programme in regards to fitness to practice issues.

Health and Conduct Review Group – Terms of Reference (PDF 60 KB)
Health and Conduct Procedure (PDF 150 KB)

Vulnerable Children Act 2014

The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 is aimed at providing better protection for vulnerable children. One of the ways it aims to do this, is by introducing 'safety checking'.

If you will work with vulnerable children—as part of a specified organisation that provides regulated services—the Act requires you to be 'safety checked' at least once every three years.

The safety check involves:

  • Identify verification
  • New Zealand Police vetting
  • Reference checking
  • An interview
  • A risk assessment

Applicants who enter the programme will receive further information regarding the timing of these checks.

Further information

The Children's Action Plan website has more information about the Vulnerable Children Act 2014.

Culturally-sensitive issues

All students must participate in laboratory, practical and clinical activities, including those that may be unusual in some cultures. In the professional programmes, some aspects of the teaching will require individuals to practise certain techniques on each other that may involve partially undressing or body contact with other students. Training occurs under close supervision and all students are required to participate, as it is essential for their acquisition of clinical skills.

First aid certificate

All candidates who accept a place into Medicine must have a certified copy of an appropriate New Zealand first aid certificate before the start of the programme.

Applicants must gain this qualification through an NZQA-registered training provider who is authorised to assess NZQA first aid standards.

The certificate should include at least NZQA Standard 6401 and 6402, but students are recommended to obtain a qualification which includes the higher NZQA Standard 6400.

The following are a selection of recommended training courses:

Immunity status

All applicants who are offered and accept a place to the second year of Medicine will be required to provide evidence of their serology status.

Because of the nature of their practice, health professionals are required to take steps to ensure they neither acquire infections from their patients nor transmit infections to patients.

Immunity testing arrangements will be made known during December, preceding the start of the programme.

Please refer to the Infectious Diseases Policy for Health Professional Students (PDF 680 KB) for further details regarding immunity status.

Domestic place numbers

The maximum number of domestic student places available across all admissions categories for 2018 are 282.

Special examinations

Applications from students sitting special examinations will be placed on hold until the special examination results are released. Once you receive your special examination results you must immediately advise the Health Sciences Admissions Office to ensure the processing of your application is completed.

As we do not receive special examination results automatically, it is applicants' responsibility to inform us of the results of special examinations as soon as they become available.

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Programme content

What will I study?


Health Sciences First Year counts as the first year of the six-year University of Otago Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MB ChB) medical degree. After selection from Health Sciences First Year (or the Graduate or Alternative categories), you commence second year of the MB ChB programme.

Second- and third-year Medicine offers an integrated course based on various body system modules and core clinical cases. The clinical cases run throughout the programme and act as a framework for learning, as well as bringing relevance to the underlying clinical and basic science. Learning clinical skills and a focus on health in the community start at the beginning of second- year and feature prominently throughout both years.

Learning is achieved through a variety of modalities including experiential practise (laboratories, clinical skills, talking with people), lectures, small group discussions, and independent learning.

After third year, you will complete studies at one of Otago's campuses in Dunedin, Christchurch, or Wellington.

Fourth- and fifth-year Medicine offer increased interaction with people and are centred around clinical work in hospital wards and in outpatient clinics in teaching hospitals, in smaller rural hospitals and general practices, and completing components of public health and community medicine.

Sixth-year Medicine is an apprenticeship-style year, also known as the Trainee Intern (TI) year. You assume greater responsibility in hospital wards and general practices. This final year includes a three-month 'elective' involving a project or clinical work usually in another hospital, or overseas.

Bachelor of Medical Science with Honours (BMedSc(Hons)

There are research opportunities within the medical programme including the option of taking one year off after third or fifth year to complete a Bachelor of Medical Science with Honours (BMedSc(Hons)) degree. Some medical graduates choose to undertake further research and may enrol in a higher degree such as a PhD.

Early Learning in Medicine (ELM)

Second- and third-year medicine provides an introduction to the scientific, clinical, and societal aspects of medicine; while maintaining the important learning of scientific principles underpinning the practice of medicine.

Study of body systems such as the cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, renal, respiratory, nervous, and musculoskeletal systems—and subjects such as blood, genetics, infection, immunity, cancer, metabolism, reproduction, development and ageing, public health, behaviour, ethics, and professional development—are all integrated with case-based learning, clinical skills, and healthcare in the community.

Advanced Learning in Medicine (ALM)

After the third year you will choose to undertake your continuing medical studies at one of the three schools of medicine: Dunedin School of Medicine; University of Otago, Christchurch; or University of Otago, Wellington.

The fourth and fifth years centre on advanced learning and supervised clinical activities in hospitals, in community based clinics, and in regional and rural general practices.

For some students, there will be the opportunity to undertake the whole of fifth year in the Rural Medical Immersion Programme (RMIP) at one of Otago Medical School's rural immersion hubs.

The sixth year is a trainee internship ('TI year'), which is a transition to practice that has a strong focus on clinical activities and responsibility in the working health environment. During this year, you will have an opportunity for elective study in an area that interests you for three months, usually in a new location, often overseas. The TI year is an important preparatory year for the first postgraduate (intern) year leading to general registration as a medical practitioner by the Medical Council of New Zealand.


Research is a vitally important part of medicine. During your studies there will be many opportunities to undertake research. The curriculum in medicine has a strong research led approach, you will undertake research projects during your course, and you may also wish to take up summer studentships in research. There also are many options for postgraduate work, specialist study, and other higher degrees at Otago.


Before you can practise as a doctor in New Zealand, you must register with the Medical Council of New Zealand and complete one year of supervised practice in a hospital.

There are limited, if any, New Zealand hospital places available for international students who will normally complete registration requirements in their home country.

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Medicine is the general term used to describe what doctors (also known as physicians) do to assist you to care for your health and well-being. Medical doctors prevent, diagnose, treat and cure illness, injury and disease and provide health care whenever required.

Doctors choose to work in one or a combination of many roles including clinical medicine (patient care in general practice, surgery, psychiatry, paediatrics, and many more), medical research, teaching and administration (in hospitals, medical schools, and government ministries).

There is no denying the hours worked by doctors are long and the need for continuing study is demanding. But the role of a doctor is rewarding and there is potential for great personal satisfaction.

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Regulations for the Degrees of Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MB ChB)

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The University of Otago makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of the information provided on its web pages. However the matters covered, including the availability and structure of courses, are subject to regular review and no warranty or representation can be provided regarding the accuracy of such information, and the University does not accept liability for any losses or damage arising directly or indirectly from reliance on the information.

While the University of Otago takes all due care in implementing the regulations, policies, and procedures that relate to the admissions process, it reserves the right to correct any administrative errors that may occur.