Are you wondering how to get into medical school in Canada? We can understand why. This country is well known for its highly ranked tertiary education system, and that includes the seventeen medical schools in Canada. Whether you're a local student wanting to become a doctor so that you can serve your community or a recent immigrant looking to build a new life in the great white north, you will need an application that stands out in order to beat the competition and get into medical school in Canada. In this blog, we'll talk about everything you need to know to do just that. We'll discuss admissions statistics and requirements, the application process, and the dreaded medical school interview. So, keep reading if you want to find out how to get into medical school in Canada.
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How Competitive is Medical School in Canada?
There is no sugar-coating it; getting into medical school in Canada is not easy. The seventeen institutions in the country that offer medical programs are incredibly selective. For example, last year, the University of Toronto faculty of medicine received 4,319 applications. Only 633 applicants were invited for interviews, and the entering class only has 259 students. In other words, their overall acceptance rate for first-year medical students was 5.99%.
University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine acceptance rate:
The University of Toronto is just one school, of course, but it does show the level of competition that one can expect from a Canadian medical school. At this time, the University of Saskatchewan college of medicine has the highest overall acceptance rate at 18.6%. Meaning that for every 100 applications that the school receives, only 18 students get an offer of admission, which is still a very selective rate.
It is worth noting that the acceptance rate is typically a little bit higher for in-province applicants. The competition is higher for out-of-province applicants and even more so for international students who are only accepted by a few of the medical schools in the country. At this time, there are only seven Canadian medical schools that accept international students:
- McGill Medical school
- Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine at McMaster University
- Memorial University of Newfoundland Faculty of Medicine
- University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine
- Université de Laval Faculté de medicine
- Université de Montréal Faculté de medicine
- Université de Sherbrooke Faculté de medicine et des sciences de la santé
What do Canadian Medical Schools Look for in Applicants? (Selection factors)
We know that the acceptance rates can be daunting, but if you work to exceed the minimum requirements, prepare for your medical school application, and ace your medical school interview, you can be one of the few that gets admission to a medical school in Canada.
We have helped thousands of students prepare their applications and get into medical school, so we know that the admissions guidelines and application criteria vary significantly between the 17 medical programs in Canada. That said, there are a few general selection factors that most schools look at during the application process. These selection criteria can be divided into two groups: academic and non-academic, and both types of criteria are used to assess your understanding and ability to apply some of the CANMeds roles and competencies.
CANMeds is an applied physician competency framework that was established by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada to optimize physician training in order to improve patient care. Competencies are the observable knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for your future profession. So essentially, CANMeds identifies the skills and competencies that you need to master to be a good physician. CANMeds groups those competencies under seven different roles in which doctors are expected to excel.
Check out this infographic that shows the seven roles identified in the CANMeds framework:
As a medical school applicant, you are not expected to have expertise in all the CanMEDS roles and competencies, but you should show that you have the potential to. One of the roles identified by CANMeds is the scholar. Admission committees can assess your competency for that role by looking at the academic factors in your application, but you will need to show your aptitude for the other CANMeds roles using the other non-academic application components.
Now that you have a better idea of what Canadian medical schools are looking for, let’s look at the different application components that they use to determine if different applicants fit the bill. Not every school requires every single item that we will talk about below, but many require several of them. You should always take the time to review the admission requirements of the school that you're interested in for the most up-to-date information.
Academic selection factors:
Non-Academic selection factors:
Where medical schools in the United States typically ask for a personal statement, that is not always the case for Canadian schools. A few schools, Dalhousie, for example, do require students to submit a medical school personal statement and answer a few additional questions. Still, most medical schools in Canada provide students with a series of prompts and ask them to respond using a specific limited number of words (typically around 250 words or so). If you are familiar with the US system, then you may compare these short essays to medical school secondary essays.
While these essays are not full-length personal statements, they should not be underestimated. The prompts for these essays tend to be very specific, and they do require you to reflect and craft a response that shows the admissions committee why you want to be a doctor and why you are not only suited for the profession but also their medical program. For example, take a look at one of the University of Toronto's essay prompts below:
- A recent UN News post states, "Unreliable and false information is spreading around the world to such an extent, that some commentators are now referring to the new avalanche of misinformation that's accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic as a 'disinfodemic'." What would you do to address the increasing 'disinfodemic'?
A prompt like this one gives you a chance to show off your critical thinking and communication skills and gives you the opportunity to show the admissions board that you embody some of the CANMeds roles and competencies.
Medical school recommendation letters are an essential application component because they allow the admissions committee to find out how other professionals view you. Your reference letter should be a 1-2 page document that speaks to your skills, abilities, strengths, weaknesses, and goals as a student and future doctor. It should talk about your character and personality. This is why you must choose referees who know you well enough to talk about these things using specific examples that will show the admissions committee that you embody the values that they are looking for in future doctors.
As with every other application component for medical school in Canada, the requirements for letters of recommendation vary from one school to another. Some schools only ask for reference letters after an interview, while others require them regardless of whether you are invited for an interview or not. Furthermore, some schools have specific guidelines requiring references to answer specific questions. For example, medical schools in Ontario require that applicants' referees use the OMSAS system itself to answer a series of questions instead of sending in separate letters.
Some schools will also specify who your referees can be. They might ask for at least one reference from a science faculty member, for example. We recommend having at least one faculty or instructor reference regardless of whether or not your chosen school asks for one. Admission committees like to find out who you are as a student, and a fellow faculty member is one of the best sources for that information.
CASPer stands for Computer-based Assessment for Sampling Personal characteristics. It is a situational judgment test that is meant to assess a candidate's interpersonal skills and decision-making abilities. Essentially, CASPer is designed to give admissions committees a chance to identify the candidates who possess the level of maturity and professionalism required of a professional school student such as a medical school student.
There are twelve Canadian medical schools that require the CASPer test, which means that if you want to get into medical school in Canada, you most likely have to take the CASPer test. There is a very common misconception that because CASPer tests aspects of your personality, you do not need to prepare for it, but this is not true. At the end of the day, you will be scored on your ability to think critically and make professional decisions. This is not a skill that is innate but rather developed. So if you want to do well on the CASPer test, you should take some time to prepare for it and improve the skills you will be tested on. We recommend that you start by working through sample CASPer questions.
Check out this video for tips on how to ace the CASPer test:
Last but definitely not least are medical school interviews. These are usually one of the final steps in the medical school application process, and the opportunity to interview is typically only given to select students. Med school interviews in Canada can take on many formats. Some schools prefer to stick to the traditional format, while others opt for video interviews or MMI. Either way, it is important that you start to prepare for them well in advance. Most medical schools will provide some information about how they conduct interviews, including the interview format that they use, on their website. So make sure you look for that information as it will help you formulate a better plan for your interview preparation.
The interview is your only chance to impress the admission committee in person before they have to make a decision, and it is also their biggest chance to conduct an in-depth evaluation of your aptitude in the CANmeds roles. You should therefore expect questions that will test your ability to communicate, navigate ethically complex situations, and demonstrate leadership qualities under pressure, to name a few.
We recommend sending a thank you letter after a medical school interview. This is an excellent way of reminding the admissions committee of your candidacy and intentions. Taking the time to express your gratitude can go a long way in making a good impression, especially after a one-on-one interview. Your thank you note does not need to be elaborate. It can be a simple email or handwritten note expressing your gratitude and your enthusiasm for being given the opportunity to interview.
Furthermore, if you do not get any updates from the school after a month, you might want to consider writing a medical school letter of intent to your first choice. Make sure you check whether the school you have selected accepts such letters before sending one, as some schools welcome updates about candidates, while others do not consider any additional documents once your initial application has been submitted.
How to Apply to Canadian Medical Schools
The application process for medical schools in Canada is very dependent on the province that the school you’re applying to is located in. Each province follows its own timeline, although the deadlines between provinces tend to reasonably approximate one another. Unlike the rolling admissions process in the United States, Canadian medical schools each have their own absolute deadlines, and each student moves through the process at the same rate. It is imperative that you keep track of all the deadlines and make arrangements to ensure your different application components will be delivered to your school of choice on time because although some schools may show compassion for students in extenuating circumstances, typically, deadlines are non-negotiable for medical schools in Canada.
The province of Ontario is home to six of the 17 medical schools in the country. Applicants in the province have to use the Ontario Medical School Application Service (OMSAS) for their medical school applications. This centralized application system allows students to apply to multiple medical schools simultaneously with one application. Students who wish to apply to the University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine must use a different centralized system for their application process - The Online Application System (OAS).
OMSAS recommends that applicants set aside 10 to 30 hours to complete the medical school application forms as the different sections of the form (check out the infographic below) ask for quite a bit of information. The other medical schools across the country have their own specific application forms that are just as thorough. We recommend that you plan to work on your application over the course of several weeks so that you can pay attention to the details, double-check and triple-check the information you have entered, and ensure that your applications are accurate and complete.
Check out this infographic for more info on the different sections of OMSAS:
General Application Process
Generally speaking, applying to Canadian medical schools is done in five steps:
Step 1: Students submit their online applications.
Step 2: They then have to arrange for their transcript to be sent from their home school to their application centre (i.e. OMSAS for Ontario applicants and OAS for BC applicants) or the school they are applying to.
Step 3: Students have their referees mail their recommendation letters to their application centre or chosen schools.
Step 4: Students complete the CASPer if required.
Step 5: Students who have been selected for interviews will receive their invitations and participate in the interviews.
Once the interview is completed, students simply have to wait until they hear back from medical schools regarding their application. You should keep in mind that this process can look different if you are a non-traditional applicant, or if you are applying to a dual program such as an MD-PHD, for example. You should always verify the admissions information that is specific to your chosen program at your chosen school to ensure that you are following the correct process.
General application timeline
As mentioned earlier, each province in Canada has its own deadlines for med school applications; however, there is usually some overlap between different provinces and medical schools. We used that information to provide you with the general timeline below so that you can have a better idea of what to expect for your application cycle. That said, please check the timelines provided by the specific schools to which you’re applying for the most accurate and up-to-date information.
Applying and getting into medical school in Canada is a lengthy and complex process, but with the right information and guidance, you can prepare a strong application and get one of those coveted admission offers. You will need to give yourself enough time to prepare each application component, study for the MCAT, prepare for CASPer and understand the CanMEDS Roles Framework. If you really want to maximize your chances of admission, you should also consider working with a medical school admissions tutor as they can have a significantly positive impact on your application.
1. Is it hard to get into medical school in Canada?
In short, yes, it is! If you want to get into medical school in Canada, you need to be a competitive applicant with great communication skills and a strong application.
2. What’s the acceptance rate of medical schools in Canada?
The average overall acceptance rate for all the medical schools in Canada is 5.5%. This number might be a bit higher for in-province applicants, but generally speaking, Canadian medical schools are very selective.
3. How many medical schools are there in Canada?
There are seventeen different medical schools across the country.
4. Do medical schools in Canada accept international students?
Not all of them do. Only seven universities (McGill Medical school, McMaster University, University of Newfoundland, University of Toronto, Université de Laval, Université de Montréal, and Université de Sherbrooke) accept international students into their medical programs at this time. Make sure you verify the requirements of admission on the school website.
5. What is CANMeds?
CANMeds is a framework that was established in the 60s to improve patient care by optimizing physician training. It identifies seven roles that physicians are supposed to master and seamlessly integrate in order to provide high-quality and safe patient-centered care.
6. What GPA do I need to get into medical school in Canada?
This will depend on the school that you’re applying to. However, you should know that even though the GPA or minimum grades requirement varies greatly among Canadian medical schools, admission requires a strong academic background so you should aim for top-notch grades.
7. Do all medical schools in Canada require the MCAT?
The MCAT is not required by medical schools in Quebec, the University of Ottawa medical school, and Northern Ontario School of Medicine. Furthermore, the schools that do require it weigh specific sections more heavily than others. For example, McMaster only considers CARS scores.
8. How can I strengthen my application to medical school in Canada?
You can improve your application by starting to prepare for it early, taking the time to brainstorm, write and polish the written components of your application, and preparing for your interviews well in advance. Furthermore, you can maximize your chances of getting into medical school in Canada by working with experienced medical school consultants.
Disclaimer: BeMo does not endorse or affiliate with any universities, colleges, or official test administrators. The content has been developed based on the most recent publicly available data provided from the official university website. However, you should always check the statistics/requirements with the official school website for the most up to date information. You are responsible for your own results.
To your success,
Your friends at BeMo
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