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A Guide to Getting into Canadian Medical Schools

ACAlpina ChariJan 31, 2024

Canada is one of the most popular destinations for international students who aspire to pursue a career in medicine. Canada hosted over 642,000 international students in 2023, of which 14,952 were enrolled in healthcare programs. The country offers a high-quality medical education system, with 17 accredited medical schools that provide undergraduate and postgraduate training in various specialties and subspecialties. The Canadian Medical Education Statistics (CMES) report shows that in 2021 there were 16,172 medical students and 14,193 medical residents in Canada, of which 0.55% and 9.7% were international students, respectively. The country also offers a diverse and multicultural society, with more than 200 ethnic groups and languages spoken across its 10 provinces and 3 territories. International students can benefit from Canada’s cultural exchange and social integration, as well as the high standard of living and safety. Moreover, the country offers a range of opportunities for professional development and research, with many medical schools having strong partnerships with hospitals, research institutes, and industry. However getting into Canadian medical schools is very difficult, as the admission rates are low and the competition is high. 

The average acceptance rate for Canadian medical schools is around 17 percent. This is partly because there are fewer medical schools and hospitals in Canada, and partly because many provinces reserve a large portion of their seats for in-province applicants, who are more likely to stay and practice in the region.  To apply to Canadian medical schools, applicants need to meet various requirements and eligibility conditions, such as academic performance, standardized test scores, extracurricular activities, personal statements, and interviews. Some of these requirements may vary depending on the province, the school, and the program. Therefore, applicants need to properly understand all the requirements and eligibility conditions for each school and program they are interested in, and plan their application strategy accordingly. They also need to demonstrate their motivation, passion, and suitability for a career in medicine, as well as their knowledge of the Canadian healthcare system and the social and ethical issues facing the profession. 

In this article, we will look in detail at the requirements and processes to be followed to secure a medical degree seat in a prestigious Canadian university.  

Medical Degree in Canada

A medical degree in Canada is a prestigious and rigorous academic program that trains future physicians and surgeons. 17 accredited medical schools in Canada offer the Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Medicine and Master of Surgery (M.D., C.M.) degrees, which are required to practice medicine in Canada. The medical degree in Canada typically takes three to five years to complete, depending on the school and the curriculum.  The medical degree in Canada is a challenging and rewarding journey that prepares students for a career in health care. Students learn the basic sciences, clinical skills, ethics, professionalism, and communication skills that are essential for medical practice. They also have the opportunity to explore various medical specialties and subspecialties, such as family medicine, internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics, psychiatry, radiology, and more. Students also participate in clerkships, electives, and residency programs that provide hands-on experience and mentorship in different settings, such as hospitals, clinics, and communities.  The medical degree in Canada is recognized internationally and allows graduates to pursue further training or practice in Canada or abroad. Graduates must pass the Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Examination (MCCQE) and obtain a license from the provincial or territorial medical regulatory authority to practice medicine in Canada. Graduates can also apply for fellowships, research positions, or academic appointments in various institutions and organizations. It is also a highly sought-after and respected qualification in Canada that opens up many opportunities and possibilities for graduates. It is also a demanding and rigorous program that requires dedication, passion, and hard work from students. 

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Top Canadian Medical Schools 

Canada has many prestigious universities that offer excellent medical education and research opportunities. Some of the top-ranked medical schools in Canada are:     

University of Toronto: The University of Toronto is the highest-ranking university in Canada and the ninth in the world for medicine. It offers a wide range of undergraduate, graduate, and professional degrees in various fields of medicine, such as biomedical engineering, medical genetics, oncology, psychiatry, and more.    

McGill University: McGill University is ranked second in Canada and 26th in the world for medicine. It offers a four-year MD program, as well as master’s and doctoral degrees in biomedical sciences, population health, and translational medicine.   

University of British Columbia: The University of British Columbia is ranked third in Canada and 34th in the world for medicine. It has a reputation for excellence in research, education, and innovation in health sciences. The faculty of medicine has over 9,000 faculty members, 4,500 students, and 25 affiliated hospitals and research institutes. It offers a four-year MD program with an optional MD/PhD option, as well as graduate programs in various disciplines, such as medical genetics, neurology, pathology, and pediatrics.    

McMaster University: McMaster University is ranked fourth in Canada and 36th in the world for medicine. It is known for its innovative and accelerated three-year MD program, which emphasizes problem-based learning and clinical skills. It also offers graduate programs in biomedical sciences, health research methodology, and population health.    

University of Alberta: The University of Alberta is ranked fifth in Canada and 73rd in the world for medicine. It has a legacy of excellence in medical education, research, and service. It offers a four-year MD program, as well as graduate programs in various fields, such as dental medicine, medical microbiology, psychiatry, and urology. Some of the notable alumni include Patrick Doyle, who performed the first cochlear implant surgery in Canada, and Lorne Tyrrell, who developed the first oral antiviral drug for hepatitis B.

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Eligibility for Canadian Medical Schools 

The eligibility for getting into Canadian medical schools depends on various factors, such as your academic performance, standardized test scores, personal statement, extracurricular activities, and residency status. Here are some general guidelines:  

  • You need to have a bachelor’s degree in any field, preferably with some courses in life sciences, social sciences, humanities, or languages. The minimum GPA requirement varies by school, but it is usually around 3.6 or higher on a 4.0 scale. 
  • You need to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), which is a standardized exam that assesses your knowledge of biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, and sociology, as well as your critical thinking and problem-solving skills. The MCAT is required by most Canadian medical schools, except for McGill University, which only requires a minimum score of 123 on the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS) section. 
  • A personal statement, which is a short essay that explains your motivation, goals, and suitability for a career in medicine. The personal statement is an opportunity to showcase your personality, achievements, and challenges, as well as your passion for helping others. Some schools may also ask you to answer specific questions or prompts related to their mission and values. 
  • You need to have some extracurricular activities, such as volunteering, research, leadership, sports, hobbies, or work experience, that demonstrate your interests, skills, and qualities outside of academics. Extracurricular activities can help you stand out from other applicants and show that you are well-rounded, committed, and capable of balancing multiple responsibilities. 

These are some of the general eligibility criteria for getting into Canadian medical schools. However, each school may have its own specific requirements and preferences, so it is important to research the schools you are interested in and tailor your application accordingly. It’s also important to note that most schools reserve a large proportion of their seats for applicants who are residents of the same province or region, as they are more likely to stay and practice in the area after graduation. International students face a very competitive and limited admission process, as only a few schools accept them and charge higher tuition fees.

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Application and Admission Process for Canadian Medical Schools

The application and admission process for Canadian medical schools can vary depending on the province, the school, and the program you are applying to. However, there are some general steps that most applicants need to follow:  

Step 1: Prepare for the MCAT. The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is a standardized exam that assesses your knowledge of natural, behavioral, and social sciences, as well as your critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Most Canadian medical schools require the MCAT as part of their admission criteria, but some may have different cutoff scores or exemptions. 

Step 2: Research and choose your schools. There are 17 medical schools in Canada, each with its own mission, vision, values, curriculum, admission requirements, and selection process. You should research each school thoroughly and choose the ones that best match your interests, goals, and qualifications. 

Step 3: Submit your online applications. Depending on the province or region you are applying to, you may need to use a centralized application service or apply directly to each school. For example, if you are applying to any of the six medical schools in Ontario, you must use the Ontario Medical School Application Service (OMSAS). If you are applying to the University of British Columbia, you must use the Online Application System (OAS). You will need to provide information about your academic background, extracurricular activities, awards, and personal statements. You may also need to submit transcripts, MCAT scores, and proof of English or French proficiency. 

Step 4: Request and submit your letters of reference. Most Canadian medical schools require two or three letters of reference from individuals who can attest to your academic, personal, and professional qualities. You should choose your referees carefully and ask them well in advance to write and submit their letters. You should also provide them with relevant information about yourself and the schools you are applying to. Depending on the application service or school, your referees may need to mail their letters or upload them online. 

Step 5: Prepare for and attend your interviews. If you are selected for an interview, you will be notified by the school or the application service. You will need to prepare for the type of interview format and questions that each school uses. You should also practice your communication skills, body language, and professionalism. 

Step 6: Wait for the admission decisions. After the interviews, the schools will evaluate your application based on various factors, such as your academic performance, MCAT scores, extracurricular activities, personal statements, letters of reference, and interview performance. Each school may have a different weighting system and timeline for making its decisions. You can find the decision dates and criteria for each school in the AFMC Admissions Guide or on their websites. You will be notified by the school or the application service of your admission status, which could be acceptance, rejection, or waitlist.

Step 7: Accept or decline your offer. If you are accepted to one or more schools, you will need to accept or decline your offer by a certain deadline. You can only accept one offer at a time, but you can remain on the waitlist for other schools. You may also need to pay a deposit to secure your spot. You can find the acceptance deadlines and procedures for each school in the AFMC Admissions Guide or on their websites. You should also inform the schools that you are declining their offer as soon as possible so that they can offer your spot to another applicant.

Step 8: Prepare for enrollment. Once you have accepted your offer, you will need to complete some administrative tasks before starting your medical education. These may include submitting your final transcripts, completing a criminal record check, obtaining immunizations, applying for financial aid, arranging for accommodation, and attending orientation. 

These are the general steps for the admission process after the interview for Canadian medical schools. However, you should always check the specific details and deadlines for each school and program you are admitted to.

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Documents Required 

The documents required for Canadian medical schools vary depending on the specific school and program, but in general, international students need to provide the following:  

  • Transcripts of bachelor’s degree and high school results 
  • MCAT or equivalent test scores 
  • A TOEFL or IELTS score that demonstrates proficiency in English. The minimum score required may vary by school but typically ranges from 90 to 100 for TOEFL, and 6.0 to 7.5 for IELTS. 
  • Criminal record check 
  • Letters of recommendation from professors or mentors who can attest to your academic and personal qualities.
  • A Statement of Purpose 
  • A CV that highlights your education, achievements, and work experience. 

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Application Deadlines and Fees

The application deadlines for Canadian medical schools are not uniform across the country but rather depend on the specific school and the program that the applicant is interested in. But generally, they fall during the window of May-October. For example, the six Ontario medical schools centralize their applications through the Ontario Medical School Application Service (OMSAS), and their deadline is usually in mid-September. However, other schools have different deadlines, such as July for Dalhousie University, September for the University of British Columbia and Memorial University of Newfoundland, and October for McGill University. Therefore, applicants need to check the websites of the medical schools they are applying to for the exact dates and requirements. 

The application fees for Canadian medical schools also vary depending on the number of schools and programs that the applicant chooses to apply to. In Ontario, where applications are centralized through OMSAS, there is a one-time service fee of 220 CAD charged by OMSAS that is added to the individual university application fee. The university application fees range from 100 to 160 CAD per school. For other provinces, the application fees are determined by each school and can range from 75 to 125 CAD per school. Additionally, some schools charge extra fees for applying to multiple programs or for international applicants. The total application fees can range from 75 to 400 CAD, depending on the applicant’s choices.  Some schools offer fee assistance programs for applicants who demonstrate financial need and meet certain criteria. For example, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (AFMC) offer a fee assistance program for Canadian examinees who register for the MCAT. This program can reduce the MCAT registration fees and provide other benefits. Some schools also offer fee waivers or reductions for their application fees, such as McGill University, which offers a 100 CAD fee waiver for applicants who qualify for the MCAT fee assistance program. 

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In conclusion, getting into a Canadian medical school is a challenging and competitive process that requires a lot of preparation and dedication. The acceptance rate in Canadian medical schools is very low, especially for international students. As such, applicants need to carefully plan their application strategy, consider all the requirements and selection criteria of different schools, prepare high-quality applications that showcase their academic achievements, life experiences, and motivation for medicine, and seek guidance from pre-medical advisors or mentors who can offer valuable insights and feedback. Additionally, applicants need to research the different medical schools in Canada and their admission policies, as each school has its own preferences and expectations. Furthermore, applicants need to seek guidance from pre-medical advisors or mentors who can help them navigate the application process, review their application materials, and prepare them for the interviews. By following these tips and doing thorough research, applicants can increase their chances of securing a seat in a prestigious Canadian university and pursuing their dream of becoming a physician. For more information regarding how to get into Canadian medical schools, contact our admission experts at Gyanberry. Book your free video call appointment now!

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Frequently Asked Questions

Generally, applicants need a strong academic record, including prerequisite courses in sciences, as well as a competitive score on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Additionally, most schools require relevant volunteer or clinical experience, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement.

While academic excellence is crucial, Canadian medical schools also appreciate well-rounded candidates. Volunteer work in healthcare settings, research experience, leadership roles in community organizations, and extracurricular activities demonstrating teamwork and communication skills are all valued. 

Interviews are a crucial component of the admissions process for most Canadian medical schools. They assess candidates’ communication skills, ethical reasoning, empathy, and suitability for a career in medicine. Preparing thoroughly and showcasing a genuine passion for medicine is essential for success.

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