The Best Pathway to a French Medical School

Depending on which medical school you would rather attend, the approach to take in order to optimize your application will vary. The French medical schools (that is, Université de Montréal, Université de Sherbrooke and Université de Laval) differ from McGill and other English medical schools as they only look at your grades and interview score, without any direct evaluation of your CV or extracurricular activities.

Why Attend a French Medical School

  • Language: You would rather spend most of your time in a French environment than an English one. Do note that you still need to be bilingual, as some medical textbooks are only available in English.
  • Grades vs. Pass/Fail: You have high grades and good study habits. French universities use grades while English ones use a Pass/Fail system. Thus, during residency applications, a good academic performance is arguably better than a simple Pass. In return, a bigger emphasis will be placed on clinical evaluations (during clerkship) for English applicants compared to French ones.
  • Length of Medical Studies: You’re a collegiate applicant and want to lower your years spent studying. Université de Sherbrooke’s medical program lasts 4 years, while Université de Laval offers the choice between 4, 4.5 or 5 years whether you’re a collegiate or university applicant. Université de Montréal and McGill University both require a preparatory year for applicants without a bachelor’s degree (Université de Montréal applicants also need to go through a preparatory year if their bachelor is not considered equivalent to their preparatory year), followed by their regular 4 year curriculum.
  • Place of Residency: You don’t expect to do your residency outside of Quebec. McGill University sends over 50 students to other Canadian provinces and around 5 to the US. French universities each send a number of students ranging from 3 to 15 to other provinces, and close to 0 to the US. This doesn’t mean that you can’t go outside of Quebec from a French university, but chances are their academic counselors will have less experience with applications outside of Quebec than McGill. This is arguable however, as being from a French university could also be a way to “distinguish” yourself from other applicants.

The Selection Process

All 3 universities use the same “scheme.” An applicant’s R-Score rank will determine whether s/he will receive an interview or not. For collegiate applicants, the weighted average from their first three semesters will be used. For university applicants, their GPA is first converted into a cote de rendement universitaire (CRU) following an arbitrary conversion (Laval’s conversion table, for one, looks like this). A final R-Score is then calculated, where the university R-Score is given a percent weight of 2 times the number of credits completed. For example, the completion of 42 credits would mean a final R-Score composed of 84% CRU and 16% CRC (collegial R-Score).

After the interview, the R-Score and the MEMFI score are each given a weight of 50%. However, data from past years seems to indicate that universities actually use different ways of calculating that 50%. Université de Sherbrooke, for example, uses the sum of a z-score of your R-Score and a z-score of your MEMFI score. Université de Laval sums your MEMFI score divided by 600 with your R-Score divided by 40. In other words, relative to other French universities, Sherbrooke weighs the R-Score heavier than the interview score, Laval weighs the interview score heavier than the R-Score, and Montréal is somewhere in-between.

The Optimal Strategy

In high school, when choosing your CEGEP, do not take into account the list of extracurricular activities it offers (clubs, sports, etc.). Choose one that will allow you to have a higher R-Score (i.e. maybe not Marianopolis). This doesn’t mean that you can’t have a life outside of classes, but in regards to the sole objective of getting into a French medical school, every step you take should be made towards your R-Score. Hopefully though, you will also have other objectives for your time in CEGEP, like having fun and meeting new people.

By the end of your third semester, you should start preparing for interviews by making a list of the various experience you’ve had that are related to skills sought after by medical schools. For each of them, list what you’ve learned, what you liked/disliked about it, your worst mistake, your biggest accomplishment, etc. You should also learn about the different aspects of medicine, and thus showing that you’re a mature and knowledgeable candidate at the interview.

Since 2017, a new online test was put in place, the Test d’évaluation des compétences transversales (TECT), or CASPer in English. The applicant has to answer to 18 situations, where each scenario contains 3 different questions that have to be answered in 5 minutes. To prepare for the TECT, in addition to the interview prep, you should write out “fill-in-the-blank” sentences that you can reuse to describe a situation or express a thought during the little 5 minutes that you have to answer the 3 questions.

During your fourth semester, focus on solely passing your classes and spend as much time preparing (intelligently) for the interviews as you can. Hopefully, by the end of the semester, you can laugh at your overall R-Score dropping by 3 points while running around with your letter of acceptance.

What we haven’t covered

Due to their personalized nature, some key points related to this article would be best discussed in a one-on-one meeting with you. Those parts include:

  • In-depth preparation for the various types of MEMFI scenarios;
  • Breakdown of the TECT.

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