Frequently Asked Questions

MEDICAL SCHOOL ADMISSIONS

ADMISSION CRITERIA

Q. Some schools are switching to Pass/Fail during the pandemic because of the challenges associated with testing. How should this be viewed during the medical school admissions process?

A. Many schools are considering accepting Pass/Fail and Credit/No-Credit grades for admissions consideration, without prejudice, for courses taken during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, online courses or courses moved to virtual delivery due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be acceptable for admissions consideration as long as these grades appear on the official transcript of grades from the accredited institution. https://medschool.ucla.edu/apply/covid-19-impact-on-admissions

MCAT

Q. What new information is available to MCAT examinees regarding testing & scheduling?

A. The AAMC has been posting regular updates on their websites at https://www.aamc.org/coronavirus-covid-19-resource-hub

This is the June 29th letter to examinees:

https://aamc-orange.global.ssl.fastly.net/production/media/filer_public/23/ca/23ca2a0b-e620-4c1a-b488-2fee6f497f50/open_letter_to_mcat_examinees_629_pdf.pdf

Q. Students are having difficulty in getting a scheduled date to take the MCAT exam due to closing of the Prometric centers that administer the MCAT. While a limited number of Prometric sites will be administering a shortened MCAT the overall demand from the US schools have made it near to impossible for our prospective students to schedule the exam. Could we plan for this one semester to forgo the MCAT score for an admission decision? For those that took it in the past we will gather those data.

A. The Information for Financial Aid Professionals of the US Department of Education (IFAP) website posted an updated COVID-19 guidance document with a section on MCAT on May 15th 2020.

https://ifap.ed.gov/electronic-announcements/051520UPDATEDGuidanceInterruptStudyRelCOVID19May2020


The Department is aware that the American Association of Medical Colleges has temporarily ceased offering the MCAT exam, which means that some medical schools may be required to accept applicants without the benefit of including an MCAT score in the admissions process. The Secretary is exercising her authority under Section 2 of the HEROES Act to waive the MCAT requirement for foreign graduate medical school admissions for students admitted to medical school during an admissions year in which the MCAT was unavailable to students for some period of time during that year due to COVID-19 related interruptions.

ACCM fully endorses the position taken by the US Department of Education. Therefore, as an exception due to the effect of COVID-19 on the delivery of the MCAT, schools may waive the MCAT requirement for its fall admissions. Prospective students should also refer to the AAMC guidance document for additional information that may be relevant to them.

https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/article/coronavirus-covid-19-and-mcat-exam/

SHORTENED EXAM FOR MAY 29 – SEPTEMBER 28 ADMINISTRATIONS

A shortened exam will be administered from May 29 to September 28 to accommodate three test appointments per test date at test centers. The exam will be 5 hours and 45 minutes. Examinees will still be tested on all four sections of the exam and will be responsible for demonstrating the same knowledge and skills at the same levels of difficulty as on the full-length exam.

Examinees will receive the same scores on the shortened exam as they do on the full-length exam. They will receive five scores from the shortened version of the exam: one from each of the four sections and one combined total score, just like examinees who took the full-length test.

https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/taking-mcat-exam/mcat-scores/

All rescheduling fees for all exam dates have been waived until further notice to provide examinees with the flexibility to prepare for their new exam date and follow health and safety guidance in their local communities. If your exam was canceled due to COVID-19, you may elect to reschedule or receive a refund. See the FAQs on Cancellations and Rescheduling for more information.

https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/article/coronavirus-covid-19-and-mcat-exam/

2020 MCAT TESTING CALENDAR (MAY 29 – SEPTEMBER 28, 2020)

We know how disruptive the COVID-19 pandemic has been to MCAT examinees during these critical weeks and months as students prepare for their journey to medical school. The AAMC has expanded the testing calendar to help students impacted by cancellations as a result of COVID-19. Three new dates have been added to the calendar (June 28, September 27, and September 28) and three test appointments will be held per date. The AAMC has temporarily shortened the MCAT exam to increase capacity and follow social distancing practices in all test centers.

This update is based upon current information, as of June 4, 2020, about the spread of COVID-19 and the anticipated ability for in-person testing. The AAMC will provide further updates as circumstances change.

https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-medical-school/article/coronavirus-covid-19-and-mcat-exam/

APPLICANT INTERVIEWS

Q. Could schools abandon the need for in-person interviews during the pandemic?

A. Given the need for all of us to support the nation’s public health efforts, the AAMC strongly encourages medical school and teaching hospital faculty to conduct all interviews with potential students, residents, and faculty in a virtual setting – either by phone or through video conferencing. 

See for interview tips: https://www.aamc.org/what-we-do/mission-areas/medical-education/conducting-interviews-during-coronavirus-pandemic

BASIC SCIENCE / PRECLINICAL COURSES

Q. If travel restrictions are not lifted by the September semester are schools allowed to continue online instruction for the basic science program in the September semester?

AYes, as long as the instruction includes group discussions, and virtual labs in addition to online didactic lectures. Online assessments should be conducted with a remote proctoring application to assure the integrity of the assessment process.

Q. Is online learning eligible for students to earn educational credits?

AYes, as long as the online assessments are conducted with a remote proctoring application.

EXAMINATIONS

NBME

Q. Schools have adopted social distancing policies and closed where necessary to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. This has caused a temporary interruption for those scheduled to take an assessment administered through NBME.

A. NBME is fast-tracking investigations into alternative assessment delivery methods for physicians, medical school faculty, and students by working virtually to follow guidance from health officials. In April, NBME introduced a pilot program for delivery of NBME exams via web-conferencing with remote proctoring and are using feedback from educators’ experiences with this pilot to identify opportunities to strengthen this offering and evaluate how to fold these capabilities into s permanent service.

https://files.constantcontact.com/71cb3668301/0a6248da-42e2-49f1-8511-3cf3df187657.pdf

https://www.nbme.org/news/coronavirus-covid-19-assessment-information-and-updates

USMLE STEP 1

Q. Could we allow students to enter the clinical years prior to passing Step 1 in order to avoid delaying time to graduation and residency application?

AYes as long as there is a process in place to pull students back from a clinical rotation if they fail USMLE Step 1.

Q. In light of COVID 19, will there be a change to the January 2022 date to move USMLE Step1 to Pass/Fail?

A. The USMLE’s co-sponsors—the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) and NBME received requests from examinees and student organizations to accelerate or delay the change to pass/fail score reporting for USMLE Step 1 in light of the uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and social movements across the country. The announcement of the Step 1 score reporting policy change, posted in February 2020, said the change in score reporting would be implemented no earlier than January 2022. After careful consideration of all the recent concerns that have been brought to our attention, NBME remains committed to the January 2022 timeline. https://www.usmle.org/announcements/

USMLE STEP 2 CS

Q. The USMLE has suspended the Step 2 CS exam for the next 12-18 months. As a result, many students are in difficulty as they are not able to graduate, due to the requirement of Step 2 CS for graduation. Has the ACCM made such a consideration, or is in the process of making such a consideration, without any penalty or consequence to a schools accreditation status?

A. The AAMC and the LCME have posted a bulletin urging medical schools to allow students to graduate without Step 2 CS. See ECFMG for additional information

https://lcme.org/wp-content/uploads/filebase/March-25-2020-LCME-Guidance-for-Medical-Schools-Considering-Early-Graduation-Option.pdf

The suspension in Step 2 CS testing has resulted in the cancelation of a large number of testing appointments and created an unprecedented situation. In order to manage the large number of impacted examinees and preserve remaining testing appointments, scheduling functionality in the Step 2 CS Calendar and Scheduling System has been temporarily suspended. https://www.usmle.org/

Maintaining standardized and secure test administration is important to the state medical boards, who are the primary users of the exam results. To address testing delays and backlogs, the USMLE program is carefully weighing the strengths and limitations of various testing methods, such as group examinee administration and remote proctoring. In evaluating all options, the USMLE program keeps focus on the examination’s primary regulatory purpose. Therefore, we are continuing to prioritize resuming testing at Prometric and CSEC centers to ensure standardized and secure test administration.

https://www.usmle.org/announcements/

CLINICAL ROTATIONS

Q. We are ready to go ahead and do some virtual elective rotations. These rotations are done through Southern Texas Health System (STHS), by Board Certified Physicians. STHS is going ahead with this since they have received the greenlight for this from the AMA and AAMC during these times. Would it be ok to use this for some of our 3rd year students whose core rotations have been suspended?

A. Third Year core rotations: a core rotation cannot be delivered entirely online. Therefore, the school will determine (in keeping with LCME and Government guidelines) when core rotations can commence. For those students who have already commenced a core, the school has flexibility in re-assessing the duration of time already spent in that core and waiving the remaining time so long as the school can assure that the educational requirements and objectives (including evaluations and assessments) can be met by alternative means.

Options may include shortening the duration of the clerkship, delivering more content in the outpatient setting, delivering some of the content virtually/online and postponing part or all of a clerkship until Year 4. Typical methods of assessment may not be feasible (for example OSCE examinations). However, substitute assessments must demonstrate that the course objectives have been met.

It could be that a student has already achieved certain requirements in previous cores or during semester 5. Alternatively, the school may devise an alternative educational programme for a student that would allow them to complete the course objectives remotely. A combination of both might be appropriate. All such proposals for individual students must be discussed at and approved by the curriculum committee and the student promotion committee, as well as being approved in principle by ACCM.

ELECTIVES AND AWAY ROTATIONS

Q. Are electives mandatory for graduation?

A.  Electives do not have required learning objectives and it is possible that individual medical students will have achieved the educational requirements for graduation prior to commencing or completing planned electives. As an exceptional measure during the COVID pandemic, schools may waive the graduation requirement to complete the minimum number of weeks of electives. Following this, some final year medical students may be eligible for early graduation. Approval for the waiving of elective time and/or eligibility for early graduation of an individual medical student must be approved by the Curriculum Committee and the Student Promotion and Evaluation Committee. 

LCME has raised the possibility, as an exceptional temporary measure, of waiving some or all of the time spent in electives but only for the purposes of early graduation, provided all other graduation requirements have been met. This is strictly in the context of increasing the availability of doctors to assist in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The same conditions that apply to any proposed change to core rotations also apply to the school. The measures must be approved by the curriculum committee, the student promotions committee and ACCM.

https://lcme.org/wp-content/uploads/filebase/March-12-2020-LCME-principles-from-joint-webinar_FINAL.pdf

The Coalition for Physician Accountability’s Work Group on Medical Students in the Class of 2021 Moving across Institutions for Post Graduate Training https://accredmed.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/covid19_Final_Recommendations_Executive-Summary_Final_05112020.pdf

The Coalition working group recommends that for the 2020-2021 academic year, AWAY ROTATIONS be discouraged, except under the following circumstances:

  •  Learners who have a specialty interest and do not have access to a clinical experience with a residency program in that specialty in their school’s system.
  •  Learners for whom an away rotation is required for graduation or accreditation requirements.

Individuals meeting these exceptions should limit the number of away rotations as much as possible. Students should consider geographically proximate programs, when appropriate, to meet learning needs.

Q. How many away rotation opportunities will exist this year?

A. The number of available away rotations will vary widely by institution, specialty, and program. Each program will need to decide, based on its own community’s experience with COVID-19 and the changes that experience brings to the clinical learning environments, whether it can offer any rotations to visiting students at all this year. Under some conditions, students from one geographic location who are invited into a facility in another location could increase the likelihood of carrying an infection into the host institution or community, or from the host institution to the student’s home site and community. It is likely that the number of away rotations offered to students this year will be less than in the past. In addition, guidance from several specialty and program director groups is urging limitations for away rotations for this cycle. As medical schools and host institutions establish policy within the context of their own individual elective offerings and with the Coalition WG’s recommendations in mind, students are encouraged to work closely with their medical school advisors to determine how they should proceed. 

Q. What are alternatives to away rotations?

A. Some programs are planning virtual events to allow students to have some of the experiences they may have had during an in-person rotation at their site. Students should work with their medical schools and advisors to make sure their knowledge, skills, and attitudes are well-documented in their application. Applicants and programs should also share information on desires and expectations for program culture and priorities. More information and links to specialty resources are available in the compendium document accompanying the recommendations.

Q. What if a student already has rotations scheduled ― do I have to cancel them?

A. On May 11, 2020, the Visiting Students Learning Opportunities (VSLO®) service released guidance for medical schools and students. Review their release and FAQs or, to get your specific questions answered, contact them here or at (202) 478-9878. 

Q. Does the Coalition WG’s away rotation recommendations and exceptions pertain to virtual away rotations?

A. The away rotation recommendation, including the two exceptions, outlined in the Coalition WG’s final report were intended to provide guidance for in-person away rotations only.  No limitations were recommended for virtual rotations.

WG Guidelines

https://accredmed.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/covid19_Final_Recommendations_Executive-Summary_Final_05112020.pdf

STUDENT PROMOTION AND GRADUATION

STUDENT PROMOTION

The answer is the standard as no Q’s have been received

Q.

A. The medical school has a single set of core standards for the achievement and promotion of medical students across all locations affiliated with the school.

STUDENT GRADUATION

Questions pertain to electives & Step 2 CS

Q. The USMLE has suspended the Step 2 CS exam for the next 12-18 months. As a result, many students are in difficulty as they are not able to graduate, due to the requirement of Step 2 CS for graduation. Has the ACCM made such a consideration, or is in the process of making such a consideration, without any penalty or consequence to a schools accreditation status?

Q. Are electives mandatory for graduation?

A.  Electives do not have required learning objectives and it is possible that individual medical students will have achieved the educational requirements for graduation prior to commencing or completing planned electives. As an exceptional measure during the COVID pandemic, schools may waive the graduation requirement to complete the minimum number of weeks of electives. Following this, some final year medical students may be eligible for early graduation. Approval for the waiving of elective time and/or eligibility for early graduation of an individual medical student must be approved by the Curriculum Committee and the Student Promotion and Evaluation Committee. 

RESIDENCY APPLICATION

ECFMG REQUIREMENTS FOR THE 2021 MATCH

Q. How are ECFMG|FAIMER addressing the unprecedented challenges presented by COVID-19 and supporting physicians, medical educators, and medical regulators?

A. See the June 26th Newsletter

https://mailchi.mp/ecfmg.org/covid-19-newsletter-jun26

Q. Will there be changes to the ECFMG requirements for the 2021 match?

ATo be certified by ECFMG, international medical graduates (IMGs) have been required to pass Step 1, Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (CK), and Step 2 Clinical Skills (CS) of the United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE®). In response to the suspension of Step 2 CS for the next 12-18 months by the USMLE program, ECFMG has identified pathways that will allow qualified IMGs who have not passed Step 2 CS to meet the requirements for ECFMG Certification. These pathways allow ECFMG Certification to continue to perform its critical function of providing assurance to the public and U.S. graduate medical education (GME) programs that IMGs are ready to enter supervised training.

These pathways are directed toward IMGs who intend to enter the 2021 Match. All other eligibility requirements for ECFMG Certification will remain in effect. An application process and instructions for the following pathways are currently in development, with further details to be provided very soon. 

Pathways

Applicants who wish to enter an ACGME-accredited GME program for the 2021-2022 academic year and are unable to take Step 2 CS due to the suspension may meet the clinical skills requirement for ECFMG Certification through one of five pathways. Please refer to the additional information on the pathways and eligibility requirements. https://www.ecfmg.org/certification-requirements-2021-match/

English Language Proficiency Assessment

Applicants who pursue one of the following pathways will be required to attain a satisfactory score on an English proficiency assessment. All applicants, regardless of citizenship, will be required to satisfy this requirement. Details regarding this requirement also will be announced very soon.

Obtaining Permanent ECFMG Certification

ECFMG Certificates based on one of the clinical skills pathways listed below will expire if the applicant does not enter an ACGME-accredited GME program for the 2021-2022 academic year. Once the applicant successfully completes the first year of ACGME-accredited training, the certificate is no longer subject to expiration.

Eligibility for All Pathways

Applicants who are eligible to pursue ECFMG Certification based on one of the pathways include those who:

  • Have not already passed Step 2 CS.
  • Are not barred by ECFMG from pursuing certification.
  • Are not barred by USMLE from taking a Step or Step Component from August 1, 2020 to January 31, 2021.
  • Have not failed a USMLE Step or Step Component (Step 1, Step 2 CK, or Step 2 CS) two or more times.
  • Have taken or been registered for any USMLE Step or Step Component since January 1, 2018.

Pathways and Eligibility Requirements

Applicants must meet all requirements listed in Eligibility for All Pathways, above. Applicants also must meet all requirements listed below for the pathway that is the basis for obtaining their ECFMG Certificate.

Applicants who already have been issued a license to practice medicine in another country must apply using Pathway 1.

  • Pathway 1: Already Licensed to Practice Medicine in another Country 
  • Pathway 2: Already Passed a Standardized Clinical Skills Exam for Medical Licensure
  • Pathway 3: Medical School Accredited by Agency Recognized by World Federation for Medical Education (WFME). Note that ACCM is recognised by WFME.
  • Pathway 4: Medical School Participates in U.S. Federal Student Loan Program
  • Pathway 5: Medical School Issues Degree Jointly with a U.S. Medical School Accredited by Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME)

https://www.ecfmg.org/certification-requirements-2021-match/

ERAS OPENING

Q. Will there be a change to the opening date for the Electronic Residency Application (ERAS)?

A.  The Coalition working group recommended a delayed opening of ERAS for residency programs and a delayed release of the medical student performance evaluation (MSPE) and that the opening and release happen on the same day. These date changes are reflected on the ERAS 2021 Residency Application TimeLine  

https://students-residents.aamc.org/applying-residency/article/eras-timeline-applicants/

ACCREDITATION


CLINICAL SITE INSPECTIONS BY MEDICAL SCHOOLS

Q. Can schools defer their own clinical site inspections due to Covid-19 either due to a hospital request or from the schools?

A. The ACCM Standards of Accreditation require that the school provides central oversight to monitor and ensure completion by all medical students of required clinical experiences in the medical education programme and remedies any identified gaps to ensure comparable educational experiences and equivalent methods of assessment across all locations within a given course and clerkship. A clinical site inspection can be deferred as long as this Standard is met. 

ACCM INSPECTIONS

Q. Will ACCM defer clinical site and pre-clinical site inspections due to COVID -19

A. The ACCM Procedures for inspections are currently under review and a statement will be posted on the website and distributed to the schools in mid-July.

Q. If an inspection is delayed due to COVID-19 will ACCM continue a school’s accreditation status?

A. This is currently under review by the ACCM Board and a statement will be posted on the website and distributed to the schools in mid-July.

Q. If an inspection is delayed due to COVID-19 what additional information will ACCM require in order to continue a school’s accreditation status?

A. This is currently under review by the ACCM Board and a statement will be posted on the website and distributed to the schools in mid-July.

Q. If an inspection (pre-clinical campus, clinical site or HQ) is postponed due to COVID-19 will ACCM require that the school resubmit all the paperwork?

A. This is currently under review by the ACCM Board and a statement will be posted on the website and distributed to the schools in mid-July.

FAQs posted 24th June 2020