The Core Competencies

The AAMC has identified 15 Core Competencies for Entering Medical Students. These pre-professional, thinking and reasoning, and science competencies are relevant for all health professions. As you proceed through your pre-health professions preparation, we encourage you to reflect regularly on your level of mastery of each of the core competencies, making plans to develop those competency areas where you have less experience and documenting examples of how you have demonstrated those competencies with which you have significant familiarity.

The reflection prompts provided below are intended to provide possible entry points to reflection on how you have demonstrated these competencies. Beyond capturing experiences in which you demonstrated the competency, reflect on why the experience and the competency are important, what your experience says about you, what you learned or how you grew from the experience, and how this prepared you or influenced your interest in a career in the health professions. You may also find the AAMC's Anatomy of an Applicant: Competency Resources and Self-Assessment Guide to provide a helpful structure for your planning and reflection.

The AAMC has also compiled a wealth of Real Stories Demonstrating Core Competencies, which can be an incredibly helpful way to conceptualize how these competencies are practiced by applicants of all stripes.

Pre-Professional Competencies

Service Orientation icon 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.

Describe a service/volunteer experience that was meaningful to you. Focus on why it was important to your personal growth and perspective, what impact it had on your career aspirations and goals, and what lessons the experience taught you.

Social Skills icon 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.

Discuss a scenario in which your ability to interact with others has either 1) helped resolve some sort of conflict (e.g., tension in a group project), 2) put someone at ease (e.g., soothing a nervous patient through a procedure/difficult conversation), or 3) allowed you to build a meaningful relationship with someone you might not have otherwise (e.g., creating a friendship with a boss/co-worker of different age or background, etc.).

Cultural Competence icon 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.

What does cultural competence mean to you? How does it play a role in your life, how has it informed your worldview, and how does it affect your motivations? Describe either your own direct experience or what you have learned in other ways that has helped you to understand and demonstrate this competency.

Teamwork icon 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.

Briefly explain a scenario (e.g., job, group project) that required you to work as part of a group and critically analyze what you took away from it. Reflect on what you yourself brought to the table initially and what you learned from your team members; highlight your strengths in these situations and how you augment group dynamics.

Oral Communication icon 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.

Describe both your innate and learned styles of communication. Discuss your strengths, areas you can grow, and what practices you’ve implemented to be an effective communicator. If you can recall a distinct learning moment, discuss what you took away from it and how you will bring those lessons into your desired career.

Ethical Responsibility icon 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.

Identify what ethical responsibility means to you and explain how you practice that responsibility in your life. Provide an example of a time when you were presented with an ethical or moral choice and explain how you approached your decision or course of action.

Reliability and Dependability. Consistently fulfills obligations in a timely and satisfactory manner; takes responsibility for personal actions and performance.

Offer an example of you taking on one or more responsibilities and describe how you remained consistent, even in the face of possible challenges. Talk as well about why dependability is important to you and what role you think it plays in the health field.

Resilience and Adaptability icon 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.

Offer an example of how you adjusted to or overcame a significant obstacle or issue. How did you approach the situation? What did you learn? Make sure to talk about your personal strengths as well as how you benefited and learned from others.

Capacity for Improvement icon 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.

Describe a situation in which you dedicated yourself to becoming better. How did you solicit and respond to feedback? What learning tools did you employ? How do you think the lessons you learned will help you in your future career?

Thinking and Reasoning Competencies

Critical Thinking icon Critical Thinking. Uses logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.

Describe a situation in which you used logic and reasoning to identify and weigh alternatives and arrive at an approach, decision, or conclusion. What factors did you consider and prioritize? How do you anticipate applying critical thinking as a medical student or practitioner?

Quantitative Reasoning icon Quantitative Reasoning. Applies quantitative reasoning and appropriate mathematics to describe or explain phenomena in the natural world.

Provide a brief explanation of how you have used quantitative reasoning to describe, explain, or understand a natural or complex phenomenon. What were the strengths and limitations of employing a quantitative approach to understanding or explaining that phenomenon?

Scientific Inquiry icon 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.

Provide a brief description of how you have applied the scientific process in your research, clinical, or course experiences. As appropriate, discuss how you developed questions and hypotheses, collected information, and contributed to the body of knowledge.

Written Communication icon Written Communication. Effectively conveys information to others using written words and sentences.

Describe a situation in which you conveyed information effectively through writing. Who was the intended audience? How did you tailor your communication to that audience? How do you know the communication was effective?

Science Competencies

Living Systems icon 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.

Provide an example of how you have approached a problem related to living systems. What knowledge and methods did you use to solve the problem? How did you gather additional information, if needed? How did your approach demonstrate creativity and/or systems thinking?

Human Behavior icon 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.

Provide an example of how you have approached a problem related to human behavior, either in your own lived experience or through an academic/policy analysis of an issue. How did your understandings of social structures and determinants of health inform your approach? What are the challenges and opportunities of taking a holistic view of health and well-being?