The Ultimate Guide to Medical School Portfolios

Medical School Portfolio Guide

What is a medical school portfolio?

A medical school portfolio is a collection of experiences and achievements that provides a meaningful overview of a student’s motivation for medicine. In Australia, it is used by medical schools like the University of Notre Dame and the University of Wollongong to filter through applicants even if your GAMSAT and GPA/WAM score is not absolutely stellar.

If you are struggling with the GAMSAT or GPA is not as ideal as you’d like, a portfolio university is another way in which you can showcase that you are a potential medical candidate.

Australian universities that require Medical School Portfolios

About University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame medical school portfolio guide
Brick entranceway at the University of Notre Dame campus in Broadway, Sydney NSW.

Your preparation when applying to Notre Dame university should start with knowing its principles and ethos well!

Start with reading:

1. Objects of the University – https://www.notredame.edu.au/about/objects

2. Core curriculum included in all Notre Dame degrees (includes Philosophy, Theology and Ethics) – https://www.notredame.edu.au/about/catholic-intellectual-tradition

3. Course structure of the Doctor of Medicine – https://www.notredame.edu.au/about/schools/fremantle/medicine/course-descriptions

4. Medical Association of Notre Dame Survival Guide – provides you a great overview of the structure of the medical course – https://mandus.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/2022-MANDUS-Survival-Guide-1.pdf  

KEY important facts that is worth mentioning in your Personal Statement (HIGH YIELD):

  • Objects
    • Providing pastoral care for all its student – meaning that it is focused on ensuring students are well supported in small group classes in the university
  • Course Structure
    • PBL (problem-based learning) assessments – Discuss your appreciation for these assessments in allowing you to problem-solve, collaborate  
    • Bioethics – reflect upon the importance of this in your journey through medicine
    • Student Clubs like ROUNDS (Rural Health Organisation of Notre Dame), RANDA (Research Association of Notre Dame), Global Hands

About University of Wollongong

University of Wollongong medical school portfolio guide
One notable Alumnus of the University of Wollongong is Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, who completed his Bachelor of Science here!

The University of Wollongong Doctor of Medicine course is held across either the Wollongong and Shoalhaven campus.  

Things you need to read to prepare for your portfolio:

  1. Course Structure with focus on case-based learnings – https://www.uow.edu.au/science-medicine-health/schools-entities/gsm/doctor-of-medicine/
  2. UoW Admissions Portfolio Guide for Domestic Applicants, read this thoroughly – https://documents.uow.edu.au/content/groups/public/@web/@smah/@med/documents/doc/uow165804.pdf
  3. Admissions portfolio Blank Template – https://documents.uow.edu.au/content/groups/public/@web/@smah/@med/documents/doc/uow164558.pdf

Contact md-enquiries@uow.edu.au if there are any specific questions about University of Wollongong’s medical portfolio!

Start your Preparation here

Start early

If you are thinking of one of the portfolio universities, I would advice to prepare as early as possible. Start preparing to complete certain community services (e.g. volunteering at your local palliative care unit, working at a hospital) so that you can create your portfolio.

Collect experiences

Start early and begin collecting your experiences in a Google Excel spreadsheet as shown below.

If you know that you are applying to both the University of Notre Dame or Wollongong, then have multiple headings as listed below:

  1. Leadership experience
  2. Capacity to work with others
  3. Service Ethic
  4. Diversity of experience
  5. High level of performance in an area of human endeavour
  6. Academic or other significant life experience

You can list all these headings on one spreadsheet or differentiate between one for UNDA and one for UoW or use the template that we provide below.

Example: for UNDA alone

Call your references

It’s true – the University of Notre Dame and Wollongong call your referees up! You should make sure that all your references have been updated that they are on your application. Explain your situation and the relevant qualities you expect they will be asked about – e.g. leadership or community experience.

The University of Notre Dame Personal Statement

First, make sure that you have done your research on Notre Dame (read section above) and done your due diligence in thinking about WHY you want to study medicine.

Second, brainstorm ideas relating to the most unique experiences that you’ve had that inspired you to study medicine.

There are many common reasons as to why people want to study medicine but these are often generalised in terms of wanting to ‘help others’ or to ‘be a leader’.

Think about your WHY

  • What do you like about medicine?
  • Are you interested in the problem-solving nature of medicine?
  • Do you want to take a leadership role?
  • Why not nursing or other allied health professions?
  • Was there a personal experience that influenced your choice? 
  • What do you like about the healthcare profession and how do you wish to contribute to it?
  • What do you think are important qualities in a healthcare professional?

THINGS YOU NEED TO DO

  • Demonstrate your commitment, that you won’t give up when it gets tough
  • Write about a patient a student had come into contact with or an experience they’ve had
  • Start with the second paragraph, get the statement written and then pull out an interesting sentence to use as an introduction
  • Explain how you came to love medicine, and why you will be able to cope with a course that is tough, demanding and competitive
  • Selection Criteria: https://www.medsci.ox.ac.uk/study/medicine/pre-clinical/requirements/criteria
  • Don’t use arresting opening statements, e.g. exaggerated descriptions of revelatory moments or lifelong desire to become a doctor
  • Make known that you have a realistic view of medicine, through what you have done to inform yourself about the career, and the views that you have formed about being a doctor and what you want to do.

START HERE ⬇️⬇️

  1. Structure is most important! Each paragraph should have a main idea
    • Topic sentence
    • Content/story/explanation
    • Concluding sentence
    • LINK all paragraphs together
  2. Answer 3 questions
    • Why medicine?
    • Why UNDA?
    • How do you suit the university values?

Personal Statement Structure

There are many ways in which you can write your personal statement. It will be largely dependent on your experiences and the reasons why you are committed to studying medicine at University of Notre Dame. For some, it might be their childhood experiences and for others, their love for the sciences and problem-solving aspect of medicine.

WHAT IS YOUR WHY?

The University of Notre Dame Portfolio

Each sections requires around 480 characters or 60 words. When writing up each section:

  1. Elucidate the main things you were in charge of.
  2. What you have LEARNT
    • How has this experience taught you? How has it developed your skills?
    • E.g…allowed me to improve my communication skills with a wide variety of people.
  3. Complete ~30 words should be about the relevant quality (leadership) and the other 30 on what it has TAUGHT you.

SOME TIPS AND TRICKS

Use active verbs in describing your leadership/teamwork skills:

  • …taught me …
  • …developed…flexible leader
  • …revealed…the importance of…
  • …showed me…the importance of active communication
GOOD EXAMPLE POOR EXAMPLE
LEADERSHIPActing as a positive role-model and mentor for first-year science students, I provided advice to help first-year science students smoothly transition into university. I also organised ‘Link-Up’ lunches, which allowed me to develop confidence in communicating and working together with mentors and students from diverse backgrounds. This has taught me the importance of active listening in maintaining positive relationships.I was a mentor for first-year science students and provided advice and resources to help them through university. I enjoyed talking to them and having ‘Link-Up Lunches’ where we would discuss their challenges and it was nice to be able to contribute to my community.
(X There is no discussion of leadership skills that you have developed, e.g. teamwork, collaboration, interpersonal skills or mentorship)
 I planned a Spaghetti Bolognese menu, coordinated the purchase of grocery items and invited the public to help cook a meal for Ronald McDonald’s children and carers. The responsibility of organising this large event whilst understaffed, has taught me how to be a flexible leader ready to take on extra responsibilities and communicating well to ensure dinner is served.I cooked a meal for Ronald McDonald’s children and their carers. I had the responsbility of organising the event and thoroughly enjoyed my time interacting with them. I loved caring for others and seeing the joy on their faces.
(X This fails to address what YOU have LEARNT as well as the SKILLS you have developed. Don’t merely state what you have done.)
COMMUNITY SERVICEI converse and offer warm cups of tea to patients and carers to provide comfort for 3 hours each week. I provide a listening ear to their problems to ensure their emotional needs are being met. This has taught me the value of compassion and kindness in positively impacting the experience of elderly patients and their carers.I regularly volunteered in a Palliative Care Unit at my local hospital. I enjoyed talking to patients, doing activities with them and collaborating in art projects. We hosted a Christmas Party and I thoroughly enjoyed talking to patients and their carers.
(X For community service, it is important to discuss what you have learnt as well as how you believe you have positively impacted the people around you.)
  I fundraised for mosquito nets and water filters for the Vietnamese province of Long An and volunteered to build a house resilient to natural disasters. It highlighted the lack of quality healthcare faced by rural communities and showed how team camaraderie when hand-mixing concrete and brick-layering can overcome cultural and language barriers with the community.I volunteered 2 weeks to build a house for a family in rural Vietnamese province. I enjoyed working with members of the local community and helping them to build a brick home as well as learning about the local food. We also helped to fundraise for the community.
(X This would benefit from discussing the benefits of your experience, e.g. learning about the culture, camaraderie, cultural immersion) 
ACADEMIC LIFE ACHIEVEMENTSI worked alongside volunteers from diverse backgrounds and the local community in the Long An province to build a house resilient to damaging storms and floods, while also providing funds to improve water and sanitation practices. This has helped me gain a deeper appreciation of cultural diversity.I gained an appreciation of the collaboration required in working together with the local community. I enjoyed volunteering with people from different backgrounds and listening to their perspectives as well as the determination and grit required to build a brick house in a week.
(X Whilst this is not entirely poor, it could work with focusing on the skills you have learnt, e.g. collaboration skills, interpersonal skills, respect for other cultures.)

The University of Wollongong Portfolio

GOOD EXAMPLE POOR EXAMPLE
LEADERSHIPI planned a Spaghetti Bolognese menu, coordinated the purchase of grocery items and invited the public to help cook a meal for Ronald McDonald’s children and carers. The responsibility of organising this large event whilst understaffed, has taught me how to be a flexible leader ready to take on extra responsibilities and communicating well to ensure dinner is served.I cooked a meal for Ronald McDonald’s children and their carers. I had the responsbility of organising the event and thoroughly enjoyed my time interacting with them. I loved caring for others and seeing the joy on their faces. (X This fails to address what YOU have LEARNT as well as the SKILLS you have developed. Don’t merely state what you have done.)
CAPACITY TO WORK WITH OTHERSI organised and led an expedition over 4 days, partly in torrential rain. I developed my leadership abilities here by diplomatically resolving internal conflicts in the group and helping to build morale via humour in bad conditions. It taught me honest communication as key in ensuring we work well.I worked with others in an expedition that took place over 4 day in torrential rain. I enjoyed the camaraderie and opportunity to build strong friendships, as well as the potential to test the limits of my resilience.
(X This has not shown me what you have learnt and your capacity to work with others)
SERVICE ETHIC I fundraised for mosquito nets and water filters for the Vietnamese province of Long An and volunteered to build a house resilient to natural disasters. It highlighted the lack of quality healthcare faced by rural communities and showed how team camaraderie when hand-mixing concrete and brick-layering can overcome cultural and language barriers with the community.I enjoyed my time in the Vietnamese province of Long An learning to build houses. It was long and arduous but I was able to commit 2 weeks towards helping the community. I felt that it was doing others a great service and gained some interpersonal skills.
(X This fails as you talk purely about what you got out of it rather than how you have helped others through a ‘service ethic’. Also, learning ‘some interpersonal skills’ did not make clear what you’ve gained out of that experience either)
DIVERSITY OF EXPERIENCEI was involved in a variety of abseiling and canyoning trips where I had to communicate with students and public members from diverse backgrounds. The high intensity nature of abseiling and canyoning through narrow valleys built strong bonds of trust and cooperation and respect for others’ needs.I was involved in many mountaineering trips that gave me the opportunity to develop many wonderful friendships and relationships. I was able to cultivate a passion in abseiling and canyoning and hope to be able to pass this on to the next generation of students.
(X This fails as there is discussion of your experience but you need to ensure you discuss you reflect upon what you have LEARNT and developed as a person from this. It is easy enough to say what you want to do in the future but this does not necessarily means it will come through.)
 By working alongside the local community and volunteers from different backgrounds to build a house, I gained a deeper respect for other cultures and perspectives. It developed my collaboration skills as the difficulty in mixing concrete and brick-layering demanded teamwork despite language barriers.I gained an appreciation of the collaboration required in working together with the local community. I enjoyed volunteering with people from different backgrounds and listening to their perspectives as well as the determination and grit required to build a brick house in a week.
(X Whilst this is not entirely poor, it could work with focusing on the skills you have learnt, e.g. collaboration skills, interpersonal skills, respect for other cultures.)
HIGH LEVELS OF PERFORMANCEI disciplined myself to regularly train over several months with a coach to build up my physical and mental endurance. It gave me the confidence to stay focused and mentally driven when physically tired, and has helped me run a 25 km marathon.I trained over several months to run in the City2Surf marathon. I was given support from my friends and family to run and fundraise and have built a sense of resilience and tolerance for difficult situations.
(X Not bad, but could work with more keywords that focus on ‘endurance’, ‘mentally driven’, ‘commitment’, ‘ongoing effort’ and what have you gained from that experience)
ACADEMIC EXPERIENCEI investigated the novel targeted therapies of T cell lymphomas, and was involved in the collection of human tissues with surgeons from the Royal Melbourne and Austin Hospital. They provided mentoring and helped develop my collaboration skills, which led me to receive a high distinction.I investigated novel targeted therapies for T cell lymphomas and enjoyed collaboration with researchers at the Westmead Research Centre. I was involved in writing a literature review and learnt how to use statistics using GraphPrism and Endnote to help me collate my research.
(X Not great as it merely states what you did rather than the skills you developed, such as collaboration, communication, honing your writing skills)

The University of Wollongong CASPER Exam

CASPER is a form of situational judgement test. Situational judgement tests (SJTs) are a type of psychological test which present the test-taker with realistic, hypothetical scenarios and may ask the individual what they would do in the dilemma and why they would do it..

The CASPER test is assessing for how you would behave in a certain situation and the effectiveness of your response.

How to Prepare for the CASPER Exam

  • Have a specific strategy
  • 16 different types of questions
  • Use ‘if, then’ strategy to formulate most rational and ethical decision
  • Casper test are based on ethical dilemmas that arise during real-life situations
  • Demonstrate high level of maturity, excellent communication skills, quick decision-making abilities, leadership, teamwork, conflict resolver, and social responsibility – think of scenarios where have you shown these
  • Read newspapers relating to patient cases and court rulings that are medically related
  • Provide excellent reasoning for how and why you formulated your decision through an effective communication style and after considering different perspectives and challenges.
  • Identify the problem and provide a solution for it (remember Kai talking to Derek & co about going on a 10 week holiday)
  • Timed practice to strategise how to articulate thoughts more efficiently
  • Evaluate multiple perspectives
  • Use your own voice
  • Total of 5 minutes to answer all questions in a section
  • Your words make a FIRST impression, so use appropriate language. Communication is a key skill being examined.

LINK: https://caspertestprep.com/CASPer-Sample-Questions.html


FAQs – Medical Portfolio

Yes but this is unadvisable. Everyone will be giving it their best shot and filling up all the sections available. This is the only time in which you can put your best foot forward so think hard about all the experiences you’ve had! You’d be surprised about the number of things you missed. Have a chat to your friend as even that hiking trip you took in university counts.

You should start as early as you can. First, take your time accumulating experiences that you’ve had over the past several years. Next, contact your references and tell them about your plans to apply to medical school. Then, start completing an excel sheet in the appropriate sections. Don’t leave it to the last minute!

Need Help?

We have extensive experience marking and providing comprehensive feedback for portfolios. We can help you prepare a fantastic application to secure your entry into medical school.

Please fill out the contact form below for further enquiries OR buy below and send through your portfolio to gamsatscienceinfo@gmail.com.