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CANADIAN MEDICAL SCHOOL GUIDE

So you want to be a doctor? Why? Be sure to spend some time thinnking about this now, as you'll likely have your response scrutinized by admissions committees. There are many reasons why one would want to be a doctor - the influence of a family member, financial rewards, challenge, prestige, emotional satisfaction, a significant life event, etc. But becoming a doctor is not easy. Consider the amount of time it takes to become a doctor (typically nine years or more after high school), the expense (tens of thousands of dollars) and the long hours of work (60-90 hours a week while a resident, 50-70 when established, plus the demands of on-call responsibilities).

Before making any decisions, find out what is involved in being a physician. Talk to your family doctor (set up an appointment to discuss this), volunteer in a hospital or other health care setting, conduct information interviews with current medical students and other health care practitioners. Not only will you learn more about your own reasons for becoming a doctor, you'll be able to convince the admissions committee that you really do understand what medical school is like and what a doctor really does.

Of course good grades are extremely important for admission to medical school, but most schools also conduct admission interviews and many ask you to write an autobiographical statement, provide letters of reference and/or consider extracurricular activities.  Here is more information about what to expect.

PREREQUISITES

Most Canadian medical schools require undergraduate courses in general chemistry, organic chemistry, biology and physics. Many also require courses such as math, statistics, english or french, biochemistry, humanities and/or social sciences. This doesn't mean you have to be a chemistry or biology major, just that you have taken the necessary prerequisite courses. Certain Canadian medical schools don't specify any specific prerequisite courses but it is a good idea to include most of the subjects listed above anyways. Typically, you will require a 3 year undergraduate degree to be considered for admission to medical school. Some programs, however, require just two years while others require a four year baccalaureate before admission. There has been a trend over the past decade with more schools requiring an undergraduate degree prior to admission. Consult the calendar of each university for specific admissions criteria as they do vary from one school to another and sometimes from year to year.

Usually a grade point average of 3.3 on a scale of 4.0 (B+) is the minimum acceptable GPA to be considered for admission. An average of 80% or more would make you a much more competitive candidate. Schools may calculate your GPA based on your overall program of studies, on the last two years of studies or maybe even consider your marks in the prerequisite subjects. Again, criteria vary from school to school.

MCAT - MEDICAL COLLEGE ADMISSIONS TEST

Please note: the MCAT may have changed since this guide was published.  Please refer to the MCAT web site for more information at www.aamc.org/mcat

11 of the 16 Canadian medical schools require applicants to write the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test). Applicants should write the MCAT in April or August the year before they would start medical school (e.g. write the MCAT in April or August 2004 for admission to medical school in September 2005). MCAT results are required by some schools in October, so you may prefer to take the April test to give yourself more leeway. Many medical schools prefer that applicants write in April.    Over 600 test centers located throughout the United States, Guam, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, and Canada will be administering the MCAT in 2004.  The testing format will be traditional paper-and-pencil.

TEST DATE REGULAR DEADLINE (postmarked)
April 17, 2004 March 12, 2004
August 14, 2004 July 9, 2004
 
Notes: there is an additional fee  if you are submitting your form by the late registration deadline.  See the MCAT web site for details.  Other conditions apply - please refer to the official MCAT Registration Package for full details, policies and conditions!

Applicants can register online to write the MCAT. Expect a long test day!  You will arrive early in the morning and won't leave until well into the evening  (you'l get two ten minute breaks plus a one hour lunch break). If you can not write the Saturday tests due to religious convictions or unavoidable conflicts, you may request Sunday testing. In addition to a letter outlining your reason for the Sunday test, you will be required to pay an additional fee.  Details on requesting Sunday testing can be found in the MCAT Registration Package.

The MCAT is set up in four main sections: verbal reasoning, physical sciences, biological sciences and writing samples.

Verbal Reasoning: you have 85 minutes to answer the 60 questions in this section. They are designed to assess your ability to understand, evaluate and apply information presented in several passages that are 450-600 words in length. Expect 5-10  questions based on the passages. All of the information needed to answer the questions is provided in the passages.

Physical Sciences: 100 minutes, 77 questions to assess reasoning in general chemistry and physics. Expect 10-11 problem sets (each about 250 words in length) describing a problem or situation, followed by 4-8 multiple choice questions. You'll also get an additional 15 questions that are independent of any of the passages and each other..

Biological Sciences: 100 minutes, 77 questions to assess reasoning in biology and organic chemistry. Same format as for Physical Sciences.

Writing Samples: 60 minutes (two 30 minute essays). The purpose of this section is to assess skill in the following areas: developing a central idea, synthesizing concepts and ideas, presenting ideas cohesively and logically and writing clearly (following accepted practices of grammar, syntax, and punctuation consistent with timed, first-draft composition). Each item provides a specific topic that requires a response; topics do not relate to biology, chemistry, or physics, to the medical school application itself, the reasons for applying to medical school, or to religious or emotionally chagred issues. In addition, they do not assess subject matter knowledge.

ADMISSION/AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL ESSAYS

Many medical schools require applicants to submit an autobiographical statement or other written essay. Be sure to understand what is being asked and answer in the allotted space. Do not leave your essay (if you need to write one) until the last minute - start at least a  month ahead of time to give yourself plenty of opportunity for revisions and refinement. Be sure to check your spelling and grammar!

LETTERS OF REFERENCE

Don't wait until a week before the deadline to ask people to write letters of reference for you ... leave about a month before they are bombarded with similar requests from other students. Don't simply ask for a reference in passing; make an appointment and discuss what is important to you and your background. Leave a copy of your resume too. Try to make your references stand out (in a good way) by getting a reference from a professor who is the head of a university department or another well known individual. Get to know professors early in your university years, so that they can incorporate information about you that reveals your character and personality. 

EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITES

Marks are important, but they aren't everything. Some medical schools focus more on academic factors and others focus on non-academic factors. But all admission committees are looking for well rounded candidates. Get involved in activities early and take leadership positions in them.

PROVINCE OF RESIDENCE

Medical schools may limit the number of places granted to applicants from outside of the province in which the university is located.

INTERVIEWS

Almost all medical schools require an admissions interview.   The key to a successul interview is preparation, preparartion and more preparation. You must know yourself, your values, motivations, skills and experiences. Anticiapte likely questions such as:

  • Tell me about yourself
  • Why do you want to be a doctor?
  • Why do you think you would make a good doctor?
  • Why do you want ot attend this medical school?
  • Did anyone influence you in wanting to become a doctor?
  • Why do you think you are prepared to deal with the stress of medicine?
  • What are your thoughts about abortion? Euthanasia?

Be aware of current issues in medicine and health care ... you are sure to be asked something. If you don't read the papers, start now!  For example, you would be foolish to go to an interview without knowing the names of the federal and provincial ministers of health. Be prepared for ethical questions ... demonstrate your ability to have a balanced opinion, but be prepared to defend your own opinion with logical reasoning. Don't be wishy-washy; be clear about where you stand (but don't be dogmatic).

When answering questions, take a moment to gather your thoughts when necessary; moments of silence are okay. Be clear and consise; don't give long drawn out answers. If you don't understand the question, ask for clarification.  The interviewers will be evaluating factors such as: motivation, maturity, problem solving, decision making, communication, leadership, integrity, emotional stability, social responsibility, good judgement, honesty, reliability, the ability to work as part of a team, scientific and intellectual curiousity, attitudes towards continued learning, good with people, the ability to look at an argument from different perspectives .. among other factors!

Other tips: Greet your interviewers with a firm handshake and smile confidently. Research the school and program ahead of time. Be aware of your body language. Get a good night's sleep before the interview. Show up on time!! Make sure you dress appropriately and are well groomed. Be sure to have some questions of your own. Direct your questions to all of the interviewers - make eye contact.  

Some web sites you may want to visit to prepare for your interviews include:

CANADIAN MEDICAL SCHOOL LISTING

The following is a list of universities with medical schools in Canada with links to the medical school web sites. Important: use this information as a starting point for further research -- confirm detailed admission requirements directly with each and every university being considered for admission.  Admission policies may change without notice at all of the universities listed below.

APPLICATION PROCEDURES - ONTARIO

Applications to the five Ontario medical schools are centralized through the Ontario Medical School Application Service (OMSAS)According to the OUAC, the application for 2005 entry will be available in early July 2004.   All deadlines for the 2005 application will be earlier than in previous years. Applicants will be required to register their intention to apply by directly entering the COMPASS.OMSAS 2005 on-line application system by 4:30 p.m. (EST) September 15, 2004.

APPLICATION PROCEDURES - ALL OTHER PROVINCES

Procedures and deadlines to apply vary in all other provinces.  Deadlines are usually in the fall (November 1 to December 1) but may be as early as October or as late as March.  Application fees vary from approximately $30 to $175 and up.  Confirm detailed admission requirements directly with universities being considered for admission.

APPLICATION PROCEDURES - USA

If interested in applying to a medical school in the U.S.A., visit www.aamc.org.


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