Medical Physician Preparation (MPP) Academy

A Division of the NAPCA Foundation

We are committed to building a diverse pipeline of future medical doctors and scientists, as early as 4th grade, that is more representative of the U.S. population.

AAMC’s 15 Core Competencies

for Entering Medical Students

What Medical Schools are Looking for: Understanding the 15 Core Competencies

Many medical schools use holistic review and to help define holistic review further, they use 15 Core Competencies as a tool to evaluate your application.

Medical Physician Preparation (MPP) Academy

When you think about how medical schools will evaluate your application, it can seem like a mystery. What will an admissions committee look at first? How are experiences that are not related to health care viewed or evaluated? How do you explain a personal circumstance that may have led to poor grades during an academic semester and how will medical schools interpret that information?

While each medical school has their own process for reviewing candidates, many evaluate applicants using holistic review: a flexible, individualized way for admission committees to consider an applicant, with balanced consideration given to experiences, attributes, and academic metrics.

To better articulate what they’re looking for, several medical schools have worked together to create the 15 Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students. This doesn’t mean that you have to do 15 new things to get accepted to medical school. Rather, the competencies provide a framework to consider and communicate how your work, activities, and life experiences can help you demonstrate your readiness for medical school.

To better explain the competencies and show real examples, the AAMC created a new resource, Anatomy of an Applicant, which shares the pathways of real medical students, along with commentary from their pre-health advisors and the admissions officers who accepted them.

What are the competencies?

Successful medical school applicants are able to demonstrate skills, knowledge, and capabilities in these 15 defined competency areas:

How can I demonstrate the competencies?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with yet another thing to consider, don’t worry. The work and activities you are already involved with, and your life experiences, likely demonstrate these competencies. For example, you can demonstrate the scientific inquiry competency by excelling in scientific research, or illustrate a service orientation competency by leading a service trip. And as you’ll see in the Anatomy of An Applicant student profiles, one experience can illustrate proficiency across multiple competencies. For example:

  • Daryl Fields demonstrated Reliability and Dependability by working as a firefighter and EMT in college. His experiences as a firefighter also demonstrate Ethical Responsibility and Resilience and Adaptability.
  • With her cystic fibrosis research, Laura Florez, MD, demonstrated the Scientific Inquiry competency, but the skills she developed from working in a lab with her research also demonstrated Critical Thinking and Teamwork.
  • Patrick Molina had multiple Cs and Ds on his transcript, but in his personal statement, which demonstrated the Written Communication competency, he explained the impact of being raised by a single mother and dealing with his brother’s health problems. Despite his grades, the admissions committee was impressed with his service and research experience and realized that he had developed a great deal of empathy from these experiences. He fulfilled the Capacity for Improvement competency by showing academic improvement.

Check out the Anatomy of an Applicant resource to see more real-life examples of how competencies can be demonstrated on an application. The resource includes the competency definitions, parts of an application and what they tell schools about you, and self-assessment worksheets. It also includes personal stories and photos from real medical students about their pathway to medical school and their self-identified strongest competencies, along with feedback from their pre-health advisors and medical school admission officers.

Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students

The 15 Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students (defined below) have been endorsed by the AAMC Group on Student Affairs (GSA) Committee on Admissions (COA). The competencies fall into four categories: Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Thinking and Reasoning, and Science.

Interpersonal Competencies

  • Service Orientation: Demonstrates a desire to help others and sensitivity to others’ needs and feelings; demonstrates a desire to alleviate others’ distress; recognizes and acts on his/her responsibilities to society; locally, nationally, and globally.
  • Social Skills: Demonstrates an awareness of others’ needs, goals, feelings, and the ways that social and behavioral cues affect peoples’ interactions and behaviors; adjusts behaviors appropriately in response to these cues; treats others with respect.
  • Cultural Competence: Demonstrates knowledge of socio-cultural factors that affect interactions and behaviors; shows an appreciation and respect for multiple dimensions of diversity; recognizes and acts on the obligation to inform one’s own judgment; engages diverse and competing perspectives as a resource for learning, citizenship, and work; recognizes and appropriately addresses bias in themselves and others; interacts effectively with people from diverse backgrounds.
  • Teamwork: Works collaboratively with others to achieve shared goals; shares information and knowledge with others and provides feedback; puts team goals ahead of individual goals.
  • Oral Communication: Effectively conveys information to others using spoken words and sentences; listens effectively; recognizes potential communication barriers and adjusts approach or clarifies information as needed.

Intrapersonal Competencies

  • Ethical Responsibility to Self and Others: Behaves in an honest and ethical manner; cultivates personal and academic integrity; adheres to ethical principles and follows rules and procedures; resists peer pressure to engage in unethical behavior and encourages others to behave in honest and ethical ways; develops and demonstrates ethical and moral reasoning.
  • Reliability and Dependability: Consistently fulfills obligations in a timely and satisfactory manner; takes responsibility for personal actions and performance.
  • Resilience and Adaptability: Demonstrates tolerance of stressful or changing environments or situations and adapts effectively to them; is persistent, even under difficult situations; recovers from setbacks.
  • Capacity for Improvement: Sets goals for continuous improvement and for learning new concepts and skills; engages in reflective practice for improvement; solicits and responds appropriately to feedback.

Thinking and Reasoning Competencies

  • Critical Thinking: Uses logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.
  • Quantitative Reasoning: Applies quantitative reasoning and appropriate mathematics to describe or explain phenomena in the natural world.
  • Scientific Inquiry: Applies knowledge of the scientific process to integrate and synthesize information, solve problems and formulate research questions and hypotheses; is facile in the language of the sciences and uses it to participate in the discourse of science and explain how scientific knowledge is discovered and validated.
  • Written Communication: Effectively conveys information to others using written words and sentences.

Science Competencies

  • Living Systems: Applies knowledge and skill in the natural sciences to solve problems related to molecular and macro systems including biomolecules, molecules, cells, and organs.
  • Human Behavior: Applies knowledge of the self, others, and social systems to solve problems related to the psychological, socio-cultural, and biological factors that influence health and well-being.

15 Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students
Source: https://www.aamc.org/services/admissions-lifecycle/competencies-entering-medical-students

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