CMS Tools FAQs

What is the difference between the Classic Tool and Premium Tool?

The Classic Tool and Premium Tool are both pages on the website that allow you to see and compare information about different medical schools. The Premium Tool includes additional information like out-of-state friendliness, residency match list strength, average step scores, service and scholarship opportunities, and other resources. Both tools are formatted in the same way and allow you to sort and filter.

How do we collect the data for the database?

We collect data from individual school websites and open source information. The Research and Primary Care Ranks are generated and sourced by the US News and World Report Best Grad School Ranking. The other information shown is collected from a combination of sources from the 2016-17 and 2017-18 matriculation years. We cannot review all independent websites but work dilligently to ensure that the data represent consistent markers. However, we do not represent or endorse any of the schools listed on the database.

Why are GPA and MCAT important?

GPA and MCAT are regarded as two of the most important numerical metrics in the medical school admissions process because of the predictive power they have in determining a student's potential success in medical school and afterwards as practicing physicians. Some schools will have official or unofficial GPA and MCAT benchmarks in the primary, secondary, or interview stages. However, GPA and MCAT are just two components of a very extensive application process.

Why is location important?

Since medical school is close to a time when many think about settling down, location can be important in factor in understanding which geographic areas you prefer and how that might affect your life. Additionally, bigger city environments may have different case loads than more rural environments.

What is the difference between research and primary care rank?

These rankings, sourced from the U.S. News and World Report, demonstrate the varying emphases at different schools. The research rank takes into account factors like research funding, publication record, and usually signals schools with a focus on academic medicine and specialty fields of medicine. Primary care rankings focus on primary care placement rate and usually signal a school's commitment to community engagement and training primary care physicians.

What is out-of-state friendliness?

This section describes the percentage of out-of-state students in a given medical school class, taken from the 2014 AAMC data. We included this section for individuals looking at state schools outside of their home state. It is important to look at this factor in this case so that you do not potentially waste money applying to a school that has an emphasis on recruiting students from their home state.

Why are length of pre-clerkship and curriculum styles important?

Medical school curricula are traditionally split up into two modes: pre-clerkship (or classroom basic science courses) and clerkships (clinical rotations in the hospital). At many schools, the typical 2-year pe-clerkship portion has transformed and more medical schools are shifting to shorter models so that students are exposed to patients for longer periods of time. Moreover, many schools have made pre-clerkships pass/fail, emphasizing the essential information. This, coupled with curriculum changes, represents an overhaul away from traditional modes of learning (lectures and tests) to more effective pedagogical methods (blended learning with ed-tech, flipped classroom and groupwork). Depending on your style of learning, it can be helpful to know how much time you will have to learn all of the information. When becoming a physician, it is important to go to a school that can maximize your learning.

What is the residency match list quality?

We have individually gone through all of the schools and looked at where their students often match for residency and the percent of individuals that match to a program. We created categories by the prestige of the school and the typical trends. This can be an important factor depending on your goals coming out of medical schools, whether it be more academic medicine, primary care, or provate practice. However, we should note that anyone is capable of matching to any residency given strong qualifications and fit for that program. We also show average USMLE step scores at each school. This can help you determine how much emphasis certain schools place on these standardized tests. As with the MCAT for medical school, step scores are important in the residency admissions process and tend to be higher averages for more competitive specialties.

What is AOA and why is the grading system important?

AOA, or Alpha Omega Alpha, is an honor medical society with chapters at medical schoosl across the country. Induction into the society is dependent on grades and other factors and usually admits some percentage of the class. As stated above, some schools have different grading schema (like having the pre-clerkship curriculum pass fail). How a school grades can give insight into how they cirriculum is delivered and how competitve the academic culture might be at the school.

Why are scholarship and service opportunities important?

To enhance your medical school search, we wanted to help outline resources at schools and the necessity of a separate application for scholarships. We have compiled all of the scholarships that we found, but it is possible that they are even more. Since service and community outreach is a crucial factor for many applicants, we wanted to help outline the array of opportunities schools may have. Schools are not necessarily limited to our list.

Fee-Assistance FAQs

What is the CMS Fee-Assistance Program?

CMS is committed to levelling the playing field in medical school admissions. We recognize that each individual may have different levels of financial barriers at play. We have introduced the Fee-Assistance Program. For all who qualify for the AAMC Fee-Assistance Program, we will provide free access to our Premium Tool for one-year.

How do I sign up?

To apply for the CMS Fee-Assistance Program, email us at with a screenshot of your AAMC Fee Assistance Program receipt.