There are 17 medical schools in Canada, spanning the country from Vancouver to St. John’s. Granting the MD degree, these programs are your first stop on the road to becoming a resident doctor and eventually an independent physician. In this blog, you will learn how to get into medical schools in Canada, compare the latest admissions data for these schools, and find the most up-to-date list of tuition costs for in-province, out-of-province, and international students.


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Admission Statistics for Medical Schools in Canada

Wondering which medical schools in Canada accept international students? Check out our video below:

Application Requirements for Medical Schools in Canada

As the table above shows, there is a great deal of diversity in both admissions guidelines and application criteria among these 17 medical programs. Fortunately, though, there are some general organizational similarities when it comes to the application process. 

One of the shared components is the CanMEDS framework, a series of roles formulated by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons to help clarify what qualities and abilities are to be cultivated by medical students to “effectively meet the health care needs of the people they serve.” The structure of CanMEDS depicts six distinct roles as part of “medical expert” as the central, uniting or integrating role. As we discuss the various components to medical school applications in Canada, we’ll note how these 7 roles fit into the selection guidelines for each criterion. 

Application System

Canadian medical schools do not utilize a standard application service like AMCAS in the US. Instead, schools in every province, except Ontario, utilize school-specific application services, making it crucial to double- and triple-check the application timelines and requirements for the schools to which you’re applying.

Medical schools in Ontario utilize the centralized Ontario Medical School Application System (OMSAS) system, which makes applying to the six medical programs in the province somewhat easier. OMSAS is the medical school-specific arm of the Ontario University Application Centre (OUAC), so if you’ve already applied to undergraduate schools in Ontario prior to medical school, you’ll have some familiarity with the overall structure and interface OMSAS uses. Understandably though, OMSAS features a slew of unique application dimensions, featured in the infographic below.

Looking for more info on OMSAS? Check out our infographic below:

It’s also worth noting that you’ll encounter a different application system at the end of medical school when you apply for residency: CaRMS. Like its US sibling ERAS, CaRMS utilizes structures somewhat similar to those used in initial medical school applications, but will dig into your performance in medical school, including your clinical rotations and clerkships. CaRMS isn’t a concern for you if you’re a premed, but it’s good to have a sense of the full roadmap ahead as you begin your journey into medical education proper. Also worth noting is that only Canadian citizens and permanent residents can participate in CaRMS. International medical graduates with Canadian citizenship or valid PR status are allowed to participate, but priority is given to those who graduate from Canadian medical schools. If you are not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, unfortunately, you will not be able to match in Canada.  

Prerequisite Courses

Not every medical school has specific prerequisite courses, but many do, and those that don’t will still often recommend an array of science and humanities courses that they feel will best prepare students for their MD program. The most commonly required prerequisites are: 

While these are the most common prerequisites, some schools will require additional courses in the following:

In addition to mandatory prerequisites, some schools also list “suggested” prerequisites, but our advice is to treat these as mandatory unless you absolutely cannot take the course. Not only will this show medical schools that you’re detail-oriented in having combed through all of their admissions information, but given how competitive admission is you’ll want to do everything you can to stand out. 

GPA

As with all medical schools and graduate studies in general, Canadian medical schools pay careful attention to students’ undergraduate performance, quantified in the GPA. There’s a fairly wide range of approaches to weighing and considering the GPA from school to school, but there are some general trends. The first is that, even if a school doesn't have an explicit GPA cutoff, its admissions committees will still have some degree of GPA expectation, even if it's slightly flexible or unofficial. This means that even if you apply to schools without specific medical school GPA requirements, you should understand that there will still be some level of expected performance. Additionally, medical schools in Quebec utilize what's called a Cote de rendement collégial (CRC) or "R score," which is a specially calculated class-standing score based on both individual performance and performance relative to one's classmates. While more complicated than a simply GPA calculation, the CRC is ultimately still a reflection of students' academic performance in coursework. There's simply no way around needing to perform well in your undergraduate coursework.

To put this into perspective, the University of Manitoba has a specific GPA threshold that a student must obtain for their application to receive further consideration, while UBC lists this as a percentage, and Laval bases this decision on the CRC or R score. Generally speaking, students with higher grades and GPAs do tend to fare better in the selection process, though having a high GPA is in no way a guarantee of standing out amongst the crowd. 

This all ties to the “Scholar” role in the CanMEDS framework to a great extent; the aspect of physicianship that relies on a lifetime commitment to learning and contributing to medical and scientific scholarship. Standing out as a strong scholar even before you apply to medical school is a great way to ensure you’ll be viewed at least somewhat more favorably by admissions committees. 

Would you rather watch a recap? Check out the video below:

MCAT

Scores from the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) are the other central quantitative component in your medical school application, and are often weighed in concert with your GPA. If your GPA is on the lower end of acceptability, your MCAT will play a larger role in admissions committees’ decisions, and vice versa. While there are indeed some medical schools that don’t require the MCAT, in almost all cases you’ll need to take this extremely daunting exam before applying to an MD program. In Canada, the MCAT is not required by any of the medical schools in Quebec, University of Ottawa medical school, and Northern Ontario School of Medicine. If a school does require the MCAT, you should check to see if they weigh specific sections more heavily, such as McMaster which considers only CARS scores. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should only focus on the more heavily weighted section/s, but it’s good to know ahead of time if you really need to excel in a specific part of the exam.

In the context of application timelines, it’s crucial to determine exactly when you should take the MCAT so that you can both ensure a good MCAT score and that it will be available to your desired schools on time. You’ll want to begin by checking current MCAT test dates and release dates, and then constructing your MCAT study schedule around 6 months ahead of your chosen test day. 

Activities and Experiences

One truly universal element in medical school applications is some version of an important activities and experiences section. For US students, this is the AMCAS Work and Activities section, and for students in Ontario it’s the OMSAS sketch, but each individual medical school in Canada will have some version of this as well. The point with this element is to establish how you’ve developed both academically and personally through a curated list of pivotal and formative activities, whether extracurricular or educational. 

Specifically, you'll be given a limited number of characters or words in which to describe what kind of volunteer and/or work experiences you've pursued since the age of 16 or so. There will be different timeframes from school to school, but for the most part schools will want to know what you've been up to from high school onward. These experiences may include jobs, leadership roles, volunteering, and even physician shadowing. Regarding this last activity, medical schools in Canada don't require shadowing at all. In fact, Canadian laws prevent Canadian premeds to shadow patients in Canada. However, if you are a US applicant, you can include this experience in your applicaiton.

Along with the short essays, this is the portion of your application materials that will allow you to really dig into CanMEDS roles and show how your work and time so far has shaped you into a fit candidate for medical education. The contents of this section should be relevant to your medical aspirations and related scientific and communicational proficiencies, and so will connect to CanMEDS roles like “communicator,” “collaborator,” and even “leader” depending on what you have been up to. It’s important to not treat sections like this like a checklist, but having a firm grasp on what aptitudes and admissions committees are ultimately looking for is crucial to knowing what to list and how to contextualize it.

Short Essays 

In the US, applicants to medical schools are required to craft a medical school personal statement, which provides committees with a brief narrative that answers the question “Why do you want to be a doctor?” Canadian medical schools, in most cases, use a variety of short essay prompts for a similar purpose, although these will often be much more specific. These are much more akin to US medical school secondary essays than a full-length personal statement, and will demand you to not only be economical in your wording but address specific questions that will demand some creativity on your part when it comes to addressing CanMEDS roles. This can be quite helpful though, as having a more defined scope will stop you from getting lost in sorting out what to include or exclude. 

As with most other application requirements, the exact type of essay required will vary from school to school. Dalhousie, for instance, requires both a personal statement and special essay for out-of-province students, while the University of Toronto's essays will require you to respond to 4 questions with 4 separate essays, each of which requires some mix of reflection on past experience and/or constructing a response to a hypothetical event. 

The general point here is that there should be as little overlap as possible between short essay responses and the personal statement, so take your time and carefully craft your responses so that you provide a picture of yourself that comprehensively addresses each prompt without repeating yourself. Read your short essay responses aloud after each draft/edit to ensure your language flows properly, and addresses each detail of the question sufficiently. 

CASPer

12 of the 17 medical schools in Canada require the CASPer test. This is part of the Altus Suite and is a computerized situational judgement test that assesses students’ empathy, communication skills, motivation, and ethics. CASPer examination runs around 60-90 minutes with one optional break, and focuses on 12 situations in which students are asked to read and understand a prompt, followed by a series of questions based on this prompt. These prompts are typically scenarios followed by different question types covering topics like policy, personal, or scenario details. 

If you are required to complete the test, you should do all you can to prepare for it, including working through sample CASPer questions and fine-tuning a CASPer strategy.

Interested in learning more about Altus Suite and how to ace your assessment? Check out our video below:

Reference Letters

Medical school recommendation letters, or Letters of Reference, are an important application component that allow faculty members or other people you’ve worked or studied under to speak directly to admissions committees on your behalf. As with every other element, requirements for reference letters will vary from school to school, though the general structure is typically uniform: a 1-2 page letter that speaks to your strengths, weaknesses, and goals as a student, as well as your character and personality. Some schools will only require reference letters following an interview, and some schools like Memorial University in Newfoundland and those in Ontario using OMSAS have very specific guidelines that require references to answer specific questions using the system itself, not through separate letters. OMSAS asks referees to answer the following questions:

  1. Would this applicant make a good physician?
  2. Rate the applicant’s communication skills, problem-solving skills, professionalism, and empathy.
  3. Identify and comment on 1 area of improvement for the applicant.
  4. Share any other information you feel may be relevant to a medical school’s admission committee.

Given the scope of these, it’s easy to see why selecting the best referees possible is crucial. The good news is that typically only faculty that have a good opinion of you and your prospects will agree to write your letters, so with some initial discussion you should be able to trust that their letters/responses will be advantageous for you.

Other schools’ guidelines specifically request that you source your letters from specific references, such as science faculty. As a general rule, if there’s no specific breakdown on the type of reference, you should strive to include at least 1 academic referee such as an instructor or advisor. 

Interviews

Last but not least comes the medical school interview, which is often the phase of selection students fear most. Whether it’s the MMI or a traditional format, the last stage of your application process will include at least some common medical school interview questions that will test your ability to think and communicate clearly on the spot.  

The interview affords the most in-depth evaluation of your aptitude in the CanMEDS roles, so expect questions to dig into your ability to communicate, navigate ethically complex situations, and evince leadership qualities under pressure among much else. Finally, most medical schools will describe their interview format on their website so, as always, consult your specific schools’ websites to determine how best to prepare.

After you interview, if a month or two go by without any updates from the school, you might want to consider writing your top-choice school a medical school letter of intent. If you are planning on sending such a letter to your program, first, make sure that your school accepts such letters. Every school is different and some might welcome any updates about your candidacy, while others will not consider any additional documents.

Check out the interview process of every medical school in Canada:

General Application Timeline for Medical Schools in Canada

While each school outside of Ontario utilizes their own unique timeline, typically the only differences are the application opening and deadline dates. We’ve included a general timeline below, but as always please check the timelines provided by the specific schools to which you’re applying. Additionally, this is a timeline for MD programs—MD-PhD and other dual programs will have slightly different timelines.

Canadian Medical Schools' Tuition Costs

Medical school tuition in the US is legendary for being incredibly expensive, but fortunately medical schools in Canada are much more affordable—for Canadian residents at least. Below is a table with up-to-date tuition estimates for Canadian residents, Quebec residents, and international students.

Conclusion

Canada’s 17 medical schools share many things, from utilizing the CanMEDS framework to general curriculum and application timelines. But there is, as seen throughout this article, a great deal of diversity, allowing you to seek out the type of medical education you want in a great variety of different environments. And for better or worse, most of these schools also focus on recruiting and admitting Canadian students to join their ranks, making it far easier for most Canadian students to get into even highly competitive Canadian schools than less competitive programs elsewhere. While the initial process of getting into your desired MD program in Canada may seem overwhelming, with the right information and early planning you can succeed and enter medical school with confidence and a wealth of strategies that will benefit you once residency appears on the horizon. And as always, we’ll be here to help!

FAQ

1. Which Canadian medical school is the hardest to get into?

With an overall acceptance rate of only 1.8%, Queen's University is Canada’s most competitive medical school.

2. Which Canadian medical school is the easiest to get into?

The University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine leads the pack in accessibility with a warm and friendly 18.6% overall acceptance rate. Keep in mind that this acceptance rate most reflects acceptance rates for in-province and Indigenous applicants, not out-of-province candidates.

3. Do some Canadian medical programs offer a French-language track?

Yes! The University of Manitoba Max Rady College of Medicine offers a bilingual English-French track, as does McGill, Northern Ontario School of Medicine, and the University of Ottawa.

4. Are there medical schools in Canada that are French-only?

Laval, Sherbrooke, and the Université de Montréal are all French-only medical schools.

5. Is there a central application service for Canadian medical school applications?

Unfortunately, no. Schools in Ontario utilize the OMSAS service, though, which does centralize application service for the province’s six medical programs. While there isn’t one universal application service for the rest, their timelines do largely align, with deadline varying by only a few weeks from school to school, in most cases.

6. Are there application materials common to each of these programs?

The application itself, transcripts, and some form of short essay are a part of nearly all medical school requirements, while the MCAT is required for only about 2/3 of these schools. 

7. I have a somewhat low GPA. Can I still get into a Canadian medical school?

McMaster and Northern Ontario each have a fairly friendly 3.0 GPA minimum, although you’ll still be competing with hundreds of other students with high GPAs, so the minimum will not be enough for an acceptance. And with the exception of McGill, medical schools in Quebec don’t post specific GPA cutoffs, instead assuring students that their selection process is holistic and won’t heavily weight any one part of their application materials. Nonetheless, having a lower GPA will certainly not help you, so if this is your case and you haven’t taken the MCAT or completed your other application materials yet, consider reaching out for expert help to make sure you maximize your exam score and qualitative application materials.

8. What Canadian medical schools accept international/foreign students?

There are 7 schools in Canada that admit international students: Memorial, Laval, Sherbrooke, Université de Montréal, McGill, University of Toronto, and McMaster.

9. Do Canadian medical schools give preference to in-province applicants?

Almost all medical schools in Canada do to some extent, though this is especially so in Quebec. The University of Saskatchewan and the University of Alberta, for instance, have higher requirements for out-of-province applicants, while Dalhousie requires higher scores and an additional essay for out-of-province applicants. Western University, on the other hand, has the same requirements for both in- and out-of-province applicants but pays attention to your background, and Queen’s University doesn’t have distinct requirements but does have a slightly lower acceptance rate for out-of-province vs in-province applicants—3.9% vs 4.4%, respectively. Lastly, the Northern Ontario School of Medicine lists one of the more unique in-/out-of-province preferences, favoring both francophone students and those who specifically aim at working in rural areas.

10. Do all Canadian medical schools require reference letters (aka letters of recommendation)?

Nearly all do except for the University of Ottawa and each school in Quebec. However, since Ottawa uses OMSAS, there will still be a requirement for verifiers of the information you provide in your autobiographical sketch.

11. Do Canadian residency programs, using CaRMS, accept international applicants?

Students graduating from specially accredited international schools are allowed to participate in the R1 or first-round match in CaRMS, but they must be Canadian citizens or hold a valid Canadian permanent resident card. The criteria for this is very specific and somewhat complex, so please consult the CaRMS eligibility criteria page for more info.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting 

Disclaimer: although we have made every effort to provide the most accurate information, admissions information changes frequently. Therefore, we encourage you to verify these details with the official university admissions office. You are responsible for your own results. BeMo does not endorse nor affiliate with any official universities, colleges, or test administrators and vice versa.  If you see an error here, please notify us with the updated information, and we’ll send you a FREE copy of a BeMo ebook of your choosing! You can receive our Ultimate Guide to Med School Admissions, our Ultimate Guide to MMI Prep, our Ultimate Guide to Medical School Personal Statements & Secondary Essays or our Ultimate Guide to CASPer Prep! Please email us at content [at] bemoacademicconsulting.com with any corrections, and we’ll arrange to send you your free ebook upon confirming the information.

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3 Comments

Steven Hull

I sincerely enjoyed reading it. This information procured by you is very practical for proper planning.

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BeMo Academic Consulting

Thank you, Steven! Glad you found this helful!

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Steven Hull

Hi, I have a question - Is it possible for a engineer to get into a medical school in Canada (the person is a permanent resident)?

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BeMo Academic Consulting

Hello Steven! Thanks for your question. Yes, it is absolutely possible, as long as they meet the requirements. Most medical schools in Canada do not have any preferences for majors. If you take the required courses, demonstrate academic prowess (GPA and MCAT), show that you were involved in relevant extracurriculars, you can definitely be a competitive applicant as an engineer. Hope this helps!

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Bliss

Thank you for your helpful information. I'm wondering what you fees are like for a consultation re which US med schools are Canadian friendly?

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BeMo Academic Consulting

Hello Bliss! Thank you for your comment. To answer your question, you do not need a consultation to learn which US med schools are Canadian-friendly. We have a free blog with a complete, up-to-date list of Canadian-friendly US medical schools. You can find it here https://bemoacademicconsulting.com/blog/canadian-friendly-us-med-schools Hope this helps! If you would like any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us for a free initial consultation!

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