Medical School Admissions Glossary

Admission to competitive US medical schools will not be simple and uncomplicated. You will most likely come across a handful of medical jargon and admissions terms that are unfamiliar to you. To make the process as convenient as possible, here are a few terms you should learn before you apply to medical school:


Academic Year – This is a school year period starting from July 1 to July 30 of the next year, which is usually when the period starts. In most countries, the year begins with the start of autumn and ends during the following summer. In southern hemisphere countries, the academic year lasts from February or March to November or December. In the northern hemisphere, the year starts from August or September to May.

Acceptance Status – This refers to the status of applicants whether they have been accepted or rejected.

Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education – This is a professional body that evaluates and approves continuing medical education. In order to be certified by the board, residents must be a graduate of an accredited school. The council sets and enforces the standards in physician education in the US. It oversees continuing medical education credits, which is offered by other member organizations. The council is made up of seven member organizations: American Board of Medical Specialties, the American Hospital Association, The Association of American Medical Colleges, the Association for Hospital Medical Education, the Council of Medical Specialty Societies, and the Federation of State Medical Boards. The ACCME is primarily responsible for accrediting schools and other institutions offering CME, defining the criteria for evaluation of educational programs, ensuring the compliance to standards, and developing methods for measuring the effectiveness of CME and its accreditation.

Active Students – This refers to current medical students who are not in any type of leave. These students can register and attend classes at the medical school.

Alternative Loan Program – This is a low-interest student loan backed by nonprofit organizations that sponsor loans for graduate and undergraduate students.

AMCAS – This acronym stands for the American Medical College Application Service. AMCAS is a non-profit organization, which is a known provider of centralized application processing service. Most medical schools partner with AMCAS as a preferred application method for the entering class of US med schools.

Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) – AAMC is a non-profit organization, which has up to 125 accredited US medical schools as members. The goal of the organization is to ensure high quality medical training and education. AAMC is the one preparing the MCAT, a standardized test taken by med school applicants in the US and Canada.


Basic Science Years – This is the first two years of the med school program, though in some institutions, the basic science years may take longer. However, with the use of PBL or problem-based learning, as well as training methods and class lectures that include interaction with patients, basic science years and clinical years can be hard to distinguish, since they are mostly integrated.

Bedside Teaching – It is a teaching method in med schools wherein students and their professors go on clinical rounds. While doing so, the class discusses the cases of the patient they visit and students get to see first-hand how doctors conduct physical examination, counseling, and interviews for medical history.


Current Students – This refers to med students who are enrolled at the time of the computation of statistics.


Elective Program – This is a program that allows students to choose other projects or subjects that are not included in the medical courses required. The goal of the program is to let students pursue their own interests.

Enrollment – This refers to the process of registration for classes in medical school.


First-time Applicant – This refers to an applicant of medical school who has not applied within the previous nine years.

First Year Matriculant – This is the portion of the first year enrollment that does not include repeating medical students. This refers to the new medical students of the first year.

Foreign – This refers to an applicant who is not a native born US citizen. The decision to accept a foreign applicant or student is determined by the admissions panel on an individual case basis.


Health Education Assistance Loan (HEAL) – These are loans for students provided by the US Department of Health and Human Services. This program was established to let lenders provide financing to eligible students for education in schools with programs for medicine, optometry, podiatry, veterinary medicine, pharmacy, public health, etc. Payment for the interest and principal may be postponed during specified eligible periods. However, there is no subsidy payment when it comes to the interest. Students who want to apply will go through several approval channels and will need to provide personal and financial information, as well as proof of registration at an academic institution, and information regarding intended education. They would also need to submit themselves to a credit check.


Loans for Disadvantaged Students (LDS) – This is a loan provided by the US Department of Health and Human Services. This qualifies for repayment, and applicants with LDS loans should meet the criteria for the Clinical Research LRP.


MCAT – Short for the Medical College Admissions Test, this is the test required by most medical schools to applicants in the US and Canada for admissions. It is designed to assess problem solving, critical thinking, written skills, as well as knowledge of scientific and medical principles. The test is often taken by undergraduates in their junior and senior years before they apply to medical school. It consists of four sections: physical sciences, verbal reasoning, writing samples, and biological sciences.

Modified Essay Question (MEQ) – This is used as an instrument to evaluate the cognitive skills, clinical reasoning abilities, and aptitude of students based on basic science and clinical problems presented. The allotted time to answer all questions range from 40 to 90 minutes. These questions may revolve around the given patient clinical case. Questions may then focus on basic science, diagnosis, ethical issues, as well as complications or effects of a disease. The MEQ will then evaluate how the student intends to approach or analyze a medical condition.

Multiple Choice Questions (MCQ) – This is another tool used to asses one’s logic and reasoning, cognitive skills, and aptitude as he or she picks the correct answer for the question. Unlike other examinations, the multiple choices available can distract the examinee from choosing the right answer to the problem. It comes in different forms, including one that requires the examinee to mark a statement either as true or false, choosing the best answer from multiple choices, and the extended matching type, which requires isolating the best response from 15 to 20 multiple options. These exams are usually scored using automated machines.


Personal Statement – Also known as the admission essay, statement of purpose, or statement of interest, a personal statement for medical school is a common requirement for application. This is part of the application wherein applicants share some of their experiences and present parts of themselves that resumes, GPAs, and standardized test scores won’t show. It is used to further screen prospective medical students whether or not they will be a good fit for the program or school, based on their personal traits, goals, values, and skills.


Qualifying Debt – This is the total amount of educational debt projected throughout the loan repayment program. Included are the interests accrued on the loans throughout the contract.


Research Activities Statement – This is a part of a loan repayment application, which describes the proposed or currently active research project and the role of the applicant in the research.


State of Legal Residence – This is the state listed by the applicant as the state where he or she resides. Students need to update their state of legal residence when it has been changed. A legal residence is the place the student considers as his or her true and permanent home, the place where he or she intends to return to and stay if he or she is temporarily staying somewhere else. This information is important because it also determines one’s eligibility and liability for state income taxes, tuition rates, loans and scholarship, voting, and the like.

Student Records System – This is an electronic online system used by US medical schools. The records are based on individual medical students. This type of record system provides capabilities for entering student tests and other assessment scores through an electronic grade book, for building schedules, tracking attendance, and managing many student-related activities.


Total Enrollment – Total enrollment refers to students who are in active status at the medical school. This does not include students who are on leave.


US Medical School – Any school in the US that grants medical degrees and is accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education. This does not include osteopathic medical schools. Admission to the medical school may not always require the completion of a science-related degree; however, applicants are advised to take pre-med courses in preparation for med school.

Medical schools, especially the more prestigious ones, will require applicants to pass rigorous screening tests. When it comes to applications, knowing the right vocabulary is the key to making sure that your application is what the admissions panel requires. Knowing the right terms will also speed up the process of your application.

Medical school admissions processes will become smoother once you have mastered these terms. Start reading up on these terms now and explore all available options.