Guidance on Medical School Selection
Planning to become a doctor? Considering transferring to a different medical school? Choosing a medical school is one of the most important decisions you will make on your path to becoming a physician. With more than 3,000 medical schools in operation around the world, we encourage you to thoroughly research potential schools before applying.
ECFMG is an organization committed to promoting excellence in medical education worldwide, and we care about medical students. Although the structure and characteristics of medical education vary widely throughout the world, we have developed this guide to help you research medical schools and ultimately choose a high-quality school.
ECFMG does not recognize, accredit, regulate, certify, or sponsor medical schools. ECFMG does not recommend one medical school over another and does not offer opinions on the specific quality of a medical school’s education. This resource is provided solely as a guide for you to help you conduct your own research on medical schools.
Characteristics to Consider When Evaluating Medical Schools
We suggest that you keep the following characteristics in mind when researching and evaluating medical schools. These characteristics may be an indicator of the quality of the medical education you will receive.
- Does the school have accreditation from the appropriate accrediting organization in the school’s country/region?
Be cautious of medical schools that list accreditation by ECFMG, the Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research (FAIMER®), the World Directory of Medical Schools, the International Medical Education Directory (IMED), the World Federation for Medical Education (WFME), the Avicenna Directory, or the World Health Organization (WHO), because these entities DO NOT accredit medical schools.
The Role of WFME in Accreditation
WFME has developed global standards for basic medical education. WFME also evaluates agencies that accredit medical schools. Accreditation agencies that meet WFME’s evaluation criteria may achieve WFME “Recognition Status,” which ensures that the medical schools accredited by those agencies have met rigorous standards of quality. To view agencies that have achieved WFME recognition or that are in the process of applying for recognition, see this PDF document, hosted on the Recognition Programme page of the WFME website. These agencies, in turn, list accredited medical schools on their websites.
In 2023, ECFMG will be incorporating accreditation of medical schools into its eligibility requirements for ECFMG Certification.
For additional information, see “Why Is Accreditation Important?” below.
Curriculum and Faculty
Review the educational curriculum and faculty profiles. Request them if not publicly available.
- Is there a published list of faculty with affiliations and biographical information?
- Are the faculty experienced, well-educated, and established?
- Is there a published curriculum? Is it comprehensive?
Campus Facilities and Educational Resources
Visit the school to gather as much information as possible.
- Does the school have a campus with modern classrooms, technology, and laboratories?
- Are the facilities comparable with other institutions of higher learning in the country?
- Does the school have comprehensive reference materials for teaching?
- Are faculty and administrative staff accessible in the country of the medical school?
- What is the quality of student housing?
- Does the school provide support for finding student housing?
Speak at length with students and graduates.
- Ask students about the medical education: Are the faculty knowledgeable? Are they available? Are you having a quality educational experience? What do you like most? What do you like least?
- Ask students about life around campus: Is the environment safe? Are you having a good experience outside of school?
- Ask students: What types of student or student-run organizations are available at the school?
- Ask students in clinical rotations: Are the preceptors knowledgeable? Are they available? Are you having a quality educational experience? What do you like most? What do you like least?
- Ask residents: Did the medical education prepare you for residency, if applicable?
When trying to get in touch with current students at schools in which you are interested, you might find the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) to be a useful resource. IFMSA has chapters worldwide.
The following article provides information on evaluating the culture of a school.
- Gunderman R, Lynch, J. What makes a medical school great? The Atlantic. 28 March 2013.
Marketing and Recruiting
Thoroughly assess the quality and accuracy of marketing material.
- Do the website and marketing materials use actual photos of students, faculty, and facilities? Are these photos representative of actual campus life?
- Does the school advertise questionably high (99-100%) pass rates on medical licensure examinations?
- Are the tuition rates comparable to other schools in the country or region?
Ensure that clinical rotations are well-organized, structured, and provide a comprehensive experience.
- Where does clinical training occur?
- Does the school have affiliated teaching hospitals in the country or in another country?
- Do you have to pay for the clinical training experiences?
Success in Medical School and Beyond
Contact alumni groups or former graduates to determine their level of success in the profession.
- What is the percentage of students who obtain a final medical diploma?
- What is the percentage of graduates who obtain a postgraduate training position in the country where they intend to practice? (This does not apply in all countries.)
- If postgraduate training is not required, what is the percentage of graduates who are successful on licensing examinations? (This does not apply in all countries.)
Why is Accreditation Important?
The following articles provide additional information on the importance of accreditation:
- Shiffer C, Boulet J, Cover L, Pinsky W. Advancing the quality of medical education worldwide: ECFMG’s 2023 Medical School Accreditation Requirement (Journal of Medical Regulation, Volume 105, Number 4; December 2019)
- Blouin D, Tekian A, Kamin C, Harris I. The impact of accreditation on medical schools' processes. Medical Education, Volume 52, Issue 2; 18 October 2017.
- The World Medical Association (WMA) developed a Declaration of Chicago on Quality Assurance in Medical Education.
- Van Zanten, M. Recognition organisations that evaluate agencies accrediting medical education programmes: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Quality in Higher Education. 30 August 2017.
- Thinking of obtaining ECFMG Certification? Confirm that the medical school meets eligibility requirements for ECFMG Certification.
- Interested in U.S. Federal Student Aid? Federal Student Aid, an Office of the U.S. Department of Education has a website that lists participating schools with information such as medical program completion rates, default rates, loan amounts, and USMLE® pass rates.
- Need more help selecting a medical school? The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) offers resources for students applying to medical schools in the United States and Canada. This information is also valuable for applying to international medical schools.
- Beware of diploma mills. The U.S. Department of Education provides information on diploma mills including common characteristics.
DISCLAIMER: ECFMG provides links to websites referenced above as a general resource to the public, but ECFMG makes no statement regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information contained therein and does not warrant the information’s truthfulness.