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Interview Bootcamp! Free Event!

Hey everyone!

Interview season is in full swing! Coupled with the holidays, it makes for an exciting (aka anxious) time for prospective medical students and their families.

Preparing for medical school interviews is stressful – it’s difficult to know (a) how to prepare and (b) what a good answer sounds like.  It’s also difficult for all students to find physicians or medical students who are familiar with the newer models of interviewing such as Modified Personal Interview (MPI), the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) or Panel Interviews.

We here at the Medical School Crash Course have planned a 1 day Medical School Interview Bootcamp in Toronto, Ontario, Canada on Sunday January 24, 2016.  The one day event will feature medical students from the University of Toronto and physicians who have collectively interviewed over 1500+ medical school candidates.  The day will include interview strategies and techniques, as well as an opportunity to work with the medical students in a panel and break-out sessions.

As an added bonus – for those who can’t attend – the strategies and panel sessions will be available via webcast.  To participate in the small-group break-out session, attendance will be required.

There are prep companies who charge (crazy prices) for a similar session BUT we recognize you’re students and therefore embody the statement “great minds, with great debts”.  We’re proud to offer the Medical School Crash Course: Interview Bootcamp for FREE to those who register in advance – CLICK ME! 

Space is extremely limited and is expected to be in high demand for this unique opportunity.  ALL students are welcome to attend – irrespective of their School and/or Year or study; however, registration preference will be given on a “first come, first served” basis and to 3rd and 4th year students. Students interested in viewing the webcast will need to register in advance to be given access to the link.

Date: Sunday January 24, 2016

Location: University of Toronto; Room – TBD

Time: 10:00am – 3:00 pm

Cost: Free

Pre-Registration (required):  HERE






The Next Two Medical School Crash Courses! Saskatoon and Halifax!

We’ve had tremendous success visiting universities across campus, talking about medical school and the different steps to success! The next round of events is coming up soon…Saskatoon and Halifax, I’m looking at you!

Register here: CLICK ME TO REGISTER!!

Saskatoon will be on Thursday November 19 in the ARTS 241 building from 6- 9pm.  This will be an exciting event that includes speakers from the University of Saskatoon School of Medicine.  As well as The Princeton Review and St. George’s University.  Special thanks to the UofS pre-med society for coordinating this event!

The Halifax Edition will be on Tuesday November 24 in Loyola 179 from 7-9pm.  We’ll have the same 4 components of any medical school application presentation that has been seen across Canada, as well as our friends at The Princeton Review and St. George’s University in attendance.

Stay tuned for an exclusive medical school interview workshop announcement in the near future! One of the best opportunities to prepare for an upcoming round of interviews!

Look forward to seeing you out there!

Brock University! We’re coming to You!

One of the first stops on this fall’s Coast – 2 – Coast Tour!

We’re bringing a 2 hour slimmed down version of the Medical School Crash Course to you with our friends at the Brock U Pre-Med Club.  In the two hours we’ll talk about the 4 key components to any medical school application, we’ll run through the recent admission numbers and then we’ll hand it off to Princeton Review to talk about the new MCAT and how to ace it.  Finally, the new Associate Director of Canadian Admissions – Dr. Ben Robinson will be there to discuss your options of going abroad. All in 2 hours and all totally free! 

Pre – register ahead of time at the following link: CLICK ME!


2015 Toronto Medical School Crash Course

We’re happy to announce the 2015 Toronto Medical School Crash Course on Saturday May 30, 2015.

The Medical School Crash Course is a FREE, 1- day event that will cover all topics related to medical school admission. Sessions include:

– The 4 Crucial Components on Any Medical Application

– How to Maximize Your Extra-Curricular Activities

– Current Medical Student & Physician Panel

– The New MCAT

– Going Abroad For Medical School and Returning to Canada Afterwards

The Medical School Crash Course has been in Toronto for over a decade helping students achieve their goals. There will be current medical students and physicians on hand to answer questions and advise you on how to maximize your application.

Date: Saturday May 30, 2015

Location: Medical Science Building- Room 3153, University of Toronto, 1 King’s College Circle, Toronto, ON.

Time: 10 am – 4pm

Parents and students from any institution are welcome to attend!

Please visit the link below to register: http://goo.gl/forms/r26iGRkIY6

2015 Crash Course Poster

Pathway to Medicine

This seems like an intuitively obvious question when planning your medical career- how do you go from high school student to fully licensed physician? Unfortunately the answer is region-specific. For this post, I’ll focus on North America and then prepare a subsequent post for the UK and Australian readers out there.

Ideally, you’d want a linear progression from one level of schooling to another (Figure 1) – this is rarely the case.



It really ends up being more of a mixture, with one person’s pathway to medicine not necessarily mirroring another’s (Figure 2).


Secondary (High) School: Grade 9 -12.

Your high school transcript will almost never be seen by a medical school – this is your opportunity to explore your interests and learn about all the different careers you can grow up to pursue. Academically, you will want a mix of science and non-science courses – make sure your science courses include physics and chemistry because the university equivalents of those courses may be required when in applying to medical school. Your goal here is simple – get into a good university that aligns with your needs as a student and will let you pursue the field of study of interest to you. This is also a good time to pursue volunteer opportunities – physicians often have integral roles in their communities; you don’t have to be a licensed medical practitioner to do the same. Finally, establish good study skills – these will be necessary as you progress academically; like all good things, they take practice to develop.


I’ve already posted a fairly detailed synopsis of selecting an undergraduate major here. Usually around year 2-4 most students will take the MCAT. Depending on where in North America you’re located, it is possible to gain entry into medical school before completing your degree ie. after your 3rd year. However, by far the standard approach is to complete a 4 years Honours Bachelor of Something (Science, Arts, etc). Occasionally, students may also pursue an additional 5th year of study to further boost their GPA or complete prerequisites.

Medical School

Perhaps the topic of a future post: “The Structure of Medical School”. The abridged version of that post is that this is where you’ll learn the foundational knowledge of being a physician. You’ll learn how the body works when it’s healthy, unhealthy and then how to apply that knowledge to patients. Conventionally, medical school is taught in 4 years but there are a few schools that have accelerated programs (without summer vacation) where it’s possible to finish in 3 years- McMaster University, I’m looking at you.   Typically the 4 years are divided into 2 years of basic sciences and 2 years of clinical sciences; which all culminate with….another application! This one is to a residency in a specialty of your choice.

In the United States, medical students will take the United States Medical Licensure Examination (USMLE) Step 1 at the end of year 2 (the completion of basic sciences). This is followed by Step 2 Clinical Skills (CS) and Clinical Knowledge (CK) towards the end of 3rd year into 4th year, prior to starting residency. For our friends who have gone abroad and will be International Medical Graduates (IMGs) – the tests are the exact same.

In Canada, medical students will write the Medical College of Canada Qualifying Exam 1 (MCCQ1) during their final year of medical school. For IMGs, they must complete the Medical College of Canada Equivalency Exam (MCCEE) and the National Assessment Collaboration (NAC) Objective Structured Clinical Exam (OSCE) prior to completing the MCCQ1 and applying for residency in Canada. The MCCEE has similar content to USMLE Step 2 CK and the NAC-OSCE is similar in nature to USMLE Step 2 CS.


After the broad learning of medical school, residency will focus your knowledge into a specific specialty of interest. This can vary from General Surgery to Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Radiology, etc. The length of residency varies depending on the specialty and location. For example, Family Medicine is a 2 year residency in Canada and 3 year residency in the US. While Emergency Medicine is a 3-4 year residency in the US, it’s a 5 year program in Canada. I’ll make a chart in a subsequent post to compare the country differences.

The ‘medical school style’ general medical examinations are not over yet! In the US, after graduating from medical school and either in residency or prior to starting, it’ll be necessary to complete USMLE Step 3. In Canada, the MCCQ2 awaits you.

At the end of residency, two options exist – (a) subspecialty training (ex. Cardiologist, surgical oncologist, etc) or (b) Enter into practice – be it your own or joining a pre-existing one. After residency, you’re eligible to complete the board licensing exam for your given specialty – this may be a written and/or oral examination.


By now, if you’ve been reading along, this is probably self-explanatory – you will have focused training in the subsection of your given specialty of interest. Just as with residency, the duration and content of fellowships will vary depending on location and area of study. Most Internal Medicine subspecialties (Critical Care, Endocrinology, etc) are 3 years in duration; surgical subspecialties are 1-3 years (Colorectal and some trauma fellowships are 1 year in the US; plastic surgery is 3 year; vascular surgery is 2 years). It is possible to do more than one fellowship (unlike residencies, where most people usually only complete one).

Graduate School

I’ve put graduate school off to the side as an amorphous entity that can factor into your medical career as much or as little as you’d like it to. Some students only want to be clinicians and will be accepted into medical school directly from undergraduate and go on to complete their training, open a practice and never look back. Other students may apply to graduate school at any given point to improve themselves (and their application) for their career. This can include the undergraduate student who wants to improve their academic standing, or the resident that is demonstrating their interest in a particular subspecialty.

Unlike undergraduate studies where it can be a “free-for-all” decision about what to study; graduate education should ideally be more focused on a medically relevant discipline. This can take the shape of lab/bench research or clinical outcomes or public health to give a few examples. Remember, at some point you’ll have to justify why you went to graduate school and how it pertains to your future.


This is a vastly complicated area also known as “life”. For completeness sake; scope of practice has plenty of options, including private practice, hospitalist or group practice. Depending on what specialty and/or subspecialty there may be recertifying examinations every 4-7 years. If you are a board certified physician in your given specialty, there may also be a certain number of Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits that you will have to obtain in a given time period to ensure that you are providing current care for your patients.

In short, it’s a long road with many twists and turns. A stomach full of courage and a little bit of stubbornness can get you a long way. It’s best to remember that the journey to being a physician is a lifelong pursuit, not merely a series of sprint races.


Medical College of Canada Examinations: http://mcc.ca/examinations/

United States Medical Licensing Examination: http://www.usmle.org/

Am I Ready to Study Medicine Abroad?

Thanks to Michelle for reminding me to finish writing this post.

A common source of despair for many pre-medical students, especially the ones who are relatively competitive applicants, is when do you cash in your chips and take your chances abroad? There’s unfortunately no “one size fits all” answer to this question but I’ll borrow from the stages of change behavioral theory and give you 6 phases – one of which you may find yourself in currently.


Phase 1 – Pre-contemplation

The highlights of this phase are denial and ignoring the problem. Usually you’ll be in high school through second year undergraduate when in this phase. At that time, you still believe that even your wildest dreams are attainable (and they might be). Personally, I think if you’re set on a career in medicine at a young age then you should be in this phase and working your hardest to reach your goals.


Phase 2 – Contemplation

This feels like the classic stage that most people get caught in – irrespective of career: a period of ambivalence and constantly conflicted emotions. I believe you will reach this stage at numerous points in your life. In medicine you’ll have first had this when you’re thinking about what career, then where to go to school, what specialty, subspecialty, scope of practice, etc.

Typically this will be a second year undergraduate student to as far as a Masters or PhD graduate student; even on occasion someone who has finished school, had a job and now is thinking about changing careers. At this stage, students need to have a high degree of introspection to critically evaluate themselves and their competitiveness.   In evaluating their competitiveness, students will be need to assess the likelihood of them (a) having the admission requirements and (b) probability of obtaining a spot in a regional medical school. When evaluating themselves, students need identify (a) if they really want to be a doctor and (b) what sacrifices are they willing to make. Often helpful is a pros and cons list of medicine vs not medicine and MD vs DO vs Foreign MD programs (I’ll try to help you out with that one in a future post).


Phase 3 – Preparation

The preparation stage is very exciting, at this point you’ve become open to other ideas – whether in medicine or otherwise. Hallmarks of this stage will be exploring all of your options and collecting information. This is where you start to notice the flyer for the foreign school on the wall of your biology building, which you just never saw before or you’ll start Google searching for non-traditional routes to a medical degree. This can really happen at any stage in your academic career – commonly in the third year of undergraduate studies. The best advice I can offer is to make a list of your goals and build a roadmap for how you’ll obtain them. It’s always helpful to seek out the advice of others who have been in a similar situation – believe me, with medicine, there are. Ask questions, take in as much as you can and don’t immediately dismiss any option.


Phase 4 – Action

Time to execute! Now you’ve attended the information sessions, you’ve weighed the advantages and disadvantages and you’ve by laid out your plan. At this point, you have full acceptance of going abroad. There is recognition of being unable to obtain a position in a regional medical school and you’re ok with it – because you’ve found another option that you believe is viable.

It’s important to recognize that you may not get accepted to whatever program abroad that you’ve applied to – that’s ok. Hopefully, you have a plan B and if not, you can revert back to Phase 3 and figure out how to better improve your application.


Phase 5 – Maintenance

Congratulations! You’re in! Stick to your plan and remember residency applications are up next. You get to repeat the whole process again – what specialty, how to be competitive, which residency, etc.


Phase 6 – Relapse

There will be days of doubt, days when you will hesitate and wonder if leaving home in pursuit of your dream was the right decision – everyone has these. Keep going, talk to others about how you feel and know that you’re not alone.

You may also experience this if part of your plan doesn’t work out – like not getting into the residency of your choice. Persistence is key; chances are if you’re willing to go abroad for medical school, you’re persistent at heart. Finally, others will often question your decision – hold your head high, don’t be ashamed, International Medical Graduates have proudly contributed and will continue to contribute to the health of others; embrace joining their ranks.