US vs. Korean Med Schools


Lena is a 3rd year med school student from Korea

Lena is a 3rd year med school student from Korea

Hi everyone! My name is Lena and some of you may know me as ‘twinklinglena’ on youtube. I’m so honored to be here as a guest blogger for Jamie’s awesome website. So many of my subscribers/viewers have been curious about the differences between Korean and American medical schools. I talked about most of them throughout my videos but Jamie and I thought it would be a cool idea to write a blog about it.



The most frequent question I get is ‘how much Korean do I have to know in order to study at a medical school in Korea?’ (By the way, if you’re curious about how foreigners can get into Korean med schools or get a doctor’s degree as a foreign doctor, check out this website for more info: First of all, I don’t know about all the other schools but in my school and most medical schools here we learn in 100% Korean. Therefore you shouldn’t have any problem speaking/writing in Korean. We do use English-based medical terms but we also learn them in Korean as well so when you take the Korean Medical Licensing Examination(KMLE) to get a doctor’s license, all the exam questions will mostly be in Korean rather than English.



In the states, medical students have to take 3 steps of USMLE(United States Medical Licensing Examination) test in order to be a doctor. On the other hand, in Korea, we have KMLE(Korean Medical Licensing Examination) but we only need to take it once(one written exam and one clinical exam) at the end of our senior year which is in the beginning of January. Also, unlike US med schools, we don’t have ‘Shelf Exams’ that students take at the end of their clinical rotations. Instead, we have finals covering all the rotations we finished during that semester.


MCAT, Suneng(Korean SAT)

American medical schools are normally graduate schools(which means you need an undergraduate degree to be eligible to apply) whereas Korean medical schools are mostly undergraduate schools. All Korean high school students take the ‘Suneng’ at the end of their senior year which is sort of like an Korean SAT but way way way harder and more competitive than American SAT. So after graduating high school, students go to medical school directly. Being a doctor in Korea is considered to be a high privilege so it’s not easy to get in.


School Curriculum

In Korea, most medical schools take 6 years to graduate whereas in America it’s normally 4 years. As I mentioned above, medical school here is undergraduate school (In contrast, I am currently in graduate school but now our school changed the curriculum to only accept undergraduate schools. It’s confusing I know, there was a big change during the last few years)  So for the first 2 years we take general required courses in university. After that during the last 4 years we focus on medical related subjects. Third year students learn basic science such as biochemistry, physiology, anatomy etc. On fourth year we start to learn clinical medicine. Finally during the last two years we rotate every department in our school hospital in small groups(6-8people each) and actually get to observe clinics and surgeries.


How My Days Are Like

Attendance time for every department is different but normally it’s around 7-8 o’clock and sometimes earlier than 6. Right now I’m rotating the ER(Emergency Room) and it’s a bit different from other departments considering the department’s uniqueness. For our first week in the ER we have to do day shifts, which means we’re there from 7am to 6pm to help doctors(mostly interns) when they need a hand and often professors give us lectures in the conference room and during our rotations we almost always have to give presentations about patient cases. Today I got a chance to insert a foley catheter which is a flexible tube that is passed through the urethra and into the bladder to drain urine. I was so nervous before doing it but after finishing it I felt so accomplished and excited. Next week we have to do night shifts that start from 6pm to 7am in the morning. Although I am super exhausted and tired right now and had absolutely zero weekend time for myself, I feel happy and delighted to be able to learn and observe and even participate in the actual medical field.



I live at home which is about 5 minute car ride from school/hospital but most students live at a dorm because a lot of them are from different cities. Many students also rent houses near school especially senior students who enjoy the independence.


Study Place/Time

Our school gives us individual study cubicles in our school’s medical library. Every student gets a seat and it’s big enough to stack books and other stuff on it. Each class has a separate room full of desks and for senior students(meaning 6th year students, which is us) who have to take the KMLE at the end of the year, our room is located in a more secluded area with better desks and chairs to help us study more. When there’s an exam, most students study at least 6 hours a day when we have class and when we don’t, at least 10 hours a day. But for seniors like me, our study time depends on our rotation schedule. Some departments give us more free time while others do not. Basically we have to study everyday for the KMLE but it’s up to every individual’s study style and pace.


These are some of the characteristics and differences I found while attending medical school in Korea and watching a bunch of American medical student youtubers such as Jamie;) Hope you got some insight and found them somewhat helpful. If you’d like to see more in depth life of a Korean medical student, check out my youtube channel!( Lastly I’d like to thank Jamie for inviting me to her online home and I’m very happy we got a chance to collaborate.