PreMed 101 Forum

Medical School Applications

The landscape of medical school applications is ever changing. Traditionally, Canadian medical school applications relied on a resume or curriculum vitae, in combination with a long written submission, which usually took the form of a personal statement or personal narrative.

Over time however, the medical school application format in Canada has taken on various forms, evolving to capture new trends in medical education and medical student screening. Shorter answers, activity lists, autobiographical sketches, creative entries seem to have overtaken the traditional “1000 word personal statement” common to many international medical schools and the AMCAS application for American medical schools. Perhaps influenced by new screening modalities such as the CASPer® (Computer-Based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics), the medical school application aims at capturing an applicants interpretation of their own successes, in combination, with topics deemed by the medical school to be important in today’s era of medical practice.

Here are a few medical school application components you can expect to come across if you are applying to a Canadian medical school.

Autobiographical Sketch


The autobiographic sketch is a major component of the medical school application for the following medical schools:

  1. University of Toronto – Autobiographical Sketch
  2. University of Ottawa – Autobiographical Sketch
  3. Queen’s University – Autobiographical Sketch
  4. North Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) – Autobiographical Sketch
  5. Western University (University of Western Ontario) – Autobiographical Sketch
  6. McMaster University – Autobiographical Sketch

The Autobiographical Sketch (ABS) is a key component of the OMSAS medical school application. A composite of 48 entries, the ABS includes entries from the age of 16 ranging from the following categories:

  • Education
  • Research
  • Employment
  • Awards
  • Extracurricular and Volunteer
  • Other

For each entry, candidates are provided with a limited character range to articulate their activity in the best light. The ABS is notoriously challenging for the volume of entries required by each applicant. Further, the 150-character limit challenges even the best pre-medical writers.

Supplementary Application Questions


Premed 101 Canadian Medical School Applicants

Supplementary application questions on a medical school application are intended to capture an applicant’s insight and approach to core topics of interest to the medical school. During some medical school application cycles, topics include, diversity in medical education, global health, medical technology, and healthcare. In others, applicants are asked to reflect on their own accomplishments, ethical scenarios and achievements.

For e.g. the University of Toronto Medical School Application typically incorporates 4 standard supplementary application questions that poses unique scenarios to applicants. The intent is to stimulate critical thought, engage the applicants in their own accomplishments and sift through thousands of applicants applying to the University of Toronto’s medical school.

For e.g. the NOSM (Northern Ontario Medical School) Application emphasis questions focused on rural health, primary practice in Northern Ontario and the diversity of experience in this spectrum of activity.

Activity Lists and Activity Expansions

Medical School Applications

Common to the University of British Columbia medical school, the University of Alberta medical school and the University of Calgary medical school, activity lists, like the autobiographical sketch are highlights of your application. Typically ranging between 10 and 15 activities, the medical school activity lists obliges candidates to choose their top experiences from their often-diverse career of endeavours. What makes this list challenging is trying to choose and come up with 10 to 15 distinct experiences. Selecting the activity and then phrasing it in the proper light is challenging even for the best writers.

Overall, be sure to pay close attention to the medical school application format and ensure that your application shines.

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