The Casper test has been around for several years and is now required at many medical schools. It is open-ended in terms of the responses (no multiple choice questions).  Casper is changing in 2022, as follows:

  • the number of scenarios is increasing from 12 to 15
  • 10 scenarios will be videos to view, 5 will be word-based (situations to read)
  • responses are changing from all essay format to a blend of essays and video responses
    • 9 scenarios require a written response (essay)
    • 6 scenarios require a response via video (no essay)

New in 2020 was the AAMC’s Situational Judgment Test (SJT). It was piloted at a few medical schools, and was expanded in 2021 to six medical schools (Geisinger Commonwealth, Morehouse, University of California-Davis, University of Alabama-Birmingham, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and Des Moines University).

In 2022 it was renamed the AAMC PREview.  Here is the list of schools, from the AAMC’s website, that are offering it, as of 4/4/22. Check on the PREview website throughout the spring since more schools may be added.

Medical School AAMC PREview Exam in the 2023 Admissions Cycle
Carle Illinois College of Medicine Research Only
Chicago Medical School at Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine & Science Recommended (Research Only)
Cooper Medical School of Rowan University Recommended
Des Moines University Medicine & Health Sciences Recommended
Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine Recommended
George Washington University School of Medicine Recommended
Michigan State University College of Human Medicine Required (either PREview exam or CASPer)
Morehouse School of Medicine Recommended
Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine Recommended
Saint Louis University School of Medicine Required
Southern Illinois University School of Medicine Recommended
University of Alabama at Birmingham Marnix E. Heersink School of Medicine Recommended
University of California at Davis School of Medicine Required
University of California, Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine Required
University of Hawaii, John A. Burns School of Medicine Required
University of Oklahoma College of Medicine Recommended (Research Only)
University of Virginia School of Medicine Recommended

 

This test assesses pre-professional competencies that medical schools value:  social skills, cultural competence, teamwork, reliability/dependability, resilience/adaptability, service orientation, capacity for improvement, ethical responsibility to self and others. The PREview is designed to promote holistic review of applicants such that schools can assess them more broadly. It is a remote proctored examination that tests applicants’ understanding of effective preprofessional behaviors; they are not expected to have mastered these behaviors. The PREview is a scored exam with results between 1 and 9 (9 being high); the score is reported on a scale with a rank. Continue reading

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The Liaison Committee on Medical Education accredits medical schools in the US and Canada. Accreditation ensures that medical schools meet standards set by the LCME. Medical schools are required to “demonstrate that their graduates exhibit general professional competencies that are appropriate for entry to the next stage of their training and that serve as the foundation for lifelong learning and proficient medical care.”

Most state medical boards require that U.S. medical schools be accredited by the LCME as a condition for graduates’ licensure. US medical students cannot take United States Medical Licensing Examinations unless they are enrolled at an accredited school.

Each medical school periodically goes through a review and re-accreditation process. Occasionally schools are put on probation and must make changes to maintain their accreditation.

Medical school applicants should be cognizant of the schools on probation. If they apply to those schools they should find out what the schools are doing to rectify the situation to be taken off probation.

At this date the following school is on probation:

California Northstate University College of Medicine

 

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

Updated in 2019, 2021, and 2022

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What are medical school “letters of intent” and what role do they play in the medical school admission process? A letter of intent is like a love letter that’s sent to a medical school: it expresses an applicant’s fervent wish to enroll at that one particular school, stating why the applicant feels so strongly about the school, its environment, student culture, and curriculum—and articulating in clear terms what they might contribute to the school if admitted.

The ultimate purpose of the letter of intent is two-pronged:

1. To let the school know that it is, without question, your top choice.

2. To inform the medical school that you will accept their offer if given the chance.

When weighing one applicant over another—and if they are equal in all other measures—a letter of intent may make a difference.If the admissions office believes that one applicant is more enthusiastic about the school and would therefore join the incoming class, she may have a better chance of being accepted. An admitted applicant who enrolls affects the school’s “yield,” the percentage of admitted applicants who opt to enroll. This is often one of the measures used to assess a school’s rank and prestige. So admissions officers care whether admitted applicants accept their offer.

A letter of intent should only be written for one school. It would obviously be unethical for an applicant to state that she would enroll at every school where she has not yet been admitted; that can only be true for one school. However, applicants can still write “letters of interest” to other schools, stopping just short of stating they would enroll if admitted. But the letter of intent should be reserved for the true top choice.

What’s the proper format for a letter of intent?  The letter should be passionate, eloquent, direct, and relatively brief (no more than one page). In general, this format works well: Continue reading

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A study from Tulane and Thomas Jefferson shows the distinctive benefits of engaging in the arts and/or the humanities while in medical school. The results, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, showed that such activities helped to promote medical students’ empathy and emotional intelligence, while also warding off burnout.  For the study, the humanities were defined as music, literature, theater and the visual arts. Almost 800 medical students were surveyed. The more students were involved in the humanities, the more their scores rose for openness, visual-spatial skills, and emotional acuity. Those who were less involved in the humanities had some negative factors—they scored higher in measurements of “physical fatigue and emotional exhaustion.”

Jefferson is fostering medical students’ involvement in the arts through its medical school’s curriculum. The medical school has a Medicine + Humanities Scholarly Track. Tulane also promotes the humanities by offering an elective in the medical humanities. Most notably, almost half of their first-year medical students have degrees in the liberal arts, which is unusual—they clearly value the humanities. More and more medical schools are following suit, as described in this blog post. A recent addition to the fold is a new program at Dell Medical School. 

Every now and then, articles appear about the importance of the arts and the humanities in medicine. The Journal of the American Medical Association has a poetry editor; in a recent article he discusses the “healing power of the arts.” And a medical student at Weill Cornell-Qatar describes her artwork and how/why she thinks being an artist will make her a better physician. An article on the Association of American Medical Colleges’ website states that focusing on the humanities helps to develop well-rounded physicians and a new initiative, titled The Fundamental Role of Arts and Humanities in Medical Education (FRAHME), has taken shape.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consultant

Posted in 2019 and updated in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

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You’ve landed the coveted medical school interview. Congratulations!  But what should you do if your interviewer asks a question that makes you uncomfortable or one that is off limits?  What are these questions?  What is considered out of bounds in a medical school interview?

First, anything that is in your application and that you have divulged is fair game in an interview. If you’ve disclosed a medical condition or mental health challenge or the death of someone close to you, the interviewer may ask you about it in an interview. You open the door to questions about anything that is in your primary or secondary application once you’ve written about it. So do not be caught off guard or be surprised if an interviewer asks you whether you’ve recovered from a health condition that was disclosed. If you wrote about it, be prepared to discuss it.

Second, interviewers have every right to ask about poor grades or academic challenges. If your transcript shows that you experienced academic difficulty, be prepared to discuss it. Don’t be surprised by any questions about academic challenges or MCAT performance.

But some questions are considered inappropriate, especially pertaining to where else you have applied or interviewed. While these questions might be asked out of general curiosity on the part of an admissions committee member, it’s none of their business. And it makes applicants intensely uncomfortable because they can perceive that the interviewer may be biased against them depending on where else they have applied/interviewed.

These questions are intrusive. No interviewer should ask these questions but unfortunately, some do, and it seems to be getting more commonplace. How should you handle this? Continue reading

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As the former director of both the Johns Hopkins and Goucher Post-Baccalaureate Premedical Programs, I have in-depth knowledge of the post-bac application process and have screened, interviewed, and made decisions on thousands of post-bac applicants. The post-baccalaureate premedical program application process entails submitting an application with essay(s), transcript(s), and letters of recommendation. Once your materials are complete your application will be reviewed and you may make it to the next step of the admissions process for the more selective career-changer programs: the post-baccalaureate premedical program interview.

Just as with the medical school interview, the post-bac program interview assesses several important elements:

  • Do you match your written materials?  In other words, is there synergy between your application and your actual persona?
  • Are you a good fit for the program? Will you thrive in that particular institution’s academic environment? Are you ready to handle the academic demands in a post-bac program?
  • What will you contribute to the program? Will your personal traits and attributes make you a welcome addition to the program?
  • Is your enthusiasm—for both the program and for a career in medicine—palpable?
  • Will you be a collegial student and help foster a positive learning community?
  • Can you handle the rigor of medical school?
  • What have you done to have a realistic view of the medical profession?  How have you tested, explored, and confirmed your interest in medicine?

All of these factors are assessed during the interview. While post-bac programs have different ways they interview applicants, here is a synopsis of the various interview formats: Continue reading

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As a medical school admissions consultant, I often am asked by applicants how and when to communicate with medical schools. Medical school applicants should keep schools informed throughout the application process, as events unfold and preferences evolve. If new information develops, applicants should inform the schools through an update letter. In addition, if applicants have been through the interview process and have a clear first choice they may write a letter of intent.

Letters of Interest

What is a letter of interest?  By default, if you’ve applied to a particular school you have an interest in enrolling. But sometimes it is worth communicating your strong interest as the process unfolds. You will gather more information about schools you genuinely like based on your interview experiences.

A letter of interest should come close in content to a letter of intent but stop short of expressing that you would enroll if admitted.  The purpose of the letter is to convey to the school that it is high on your list and that you would be thrilled to enroll.

Tips for a Letter of Interest

First paragraph: Always start any letter to a medical school by thanking the committee for considering your application. Then state the purpose of the letter.

Second paragraph: Get to the heart of the matter by conveying your interest in the school. Be specific; describe aspects of the curriculum and various programs that appeal to you. You should also convey what you would contribute to the school.

Third paragraph: Brief closing, again thanking them for their consideration.

If you have questions about writing letters and when it is appropriate to do so, or if you want help with a letter of interest or intent, please contact me via email at liza@thompsonadvising.com.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

Posted in 2017 and updated in 2020 and 2021

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Update

 

Medical school applicants often wonder whether they should update schools with new information. This “update letter” can serve as an important vehicle for keeping the medical schools informed as the application process unfolds.

Applicants often wonder what merits sending an update; only significant additions to your application should be reported. The following list includes the chief items of interest for the medical schools.

Honors or Awards:  If an honor or award is achieved since submitting the application the medical schools should be informed.

Publications/Abstracts/Presentations at National Research Conferences: If research has culminated in a new publication, abstract, poster, or presentation this information should be provided to the medical schools.

Changes in Classes:  If courses change and a class which was included in the application is dropped it should be reported to the medical schools, especially if the course is a requirement at a particular school.

New Jobs or New Responsibilities in the Workplace:  If you switch jobs or assume more responsibilities/roles in a job it is worthwhile to update the schools.

New Grades:  If enrolled in courses during the application cycle new grades should be reported to the schools.

Negative Developments: Applicants are also required to report any negative developments that occur after submitting an application. If any kind of disciplinary action is taken or if an applicant is arrested for any reason it must be reported. The rules in the AMCAS application stipulate that any infraction must be reported to the medical schools within 10 days of receiving it.

Only send update letters if there are real updates to report. The update letter differs from the “letter of intent” or “letter of interest” although updates can also be woven into those letters. Please see my other blog posts on letters of intent and/or interest.

It’s imperative that you keep an update letter to one page. Make your letter short and direct, while providing valuable information. You should also use the update letter as a vehicle to convey your reasons for wanting to go to a particular school.

If you’re not sure about the proper format of the letter or the contents that are specific to your situation, please feel free to email me at liza@thompsonadvising.com.

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

Originally posted in 2013 and updated in 2014, 2015, 2018, 2020, and 2021.

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The Multiple Mini Interview format is spreading rapidly among US medical schools. Here is a list of schools using MMI in the 2021-2022 application cycle. “Hybrid” means a combination of a traditional interview with MMI stations and sometimes a group exercise:

MD Schools:

  • Albany Medical College
  • California Northstate
  • Central Michigan University
  • Charles R. Drew/UCLA Medical Education Program
  • Chicago Medical School at Rosalind Franklin University
  • Duke University
  • Geisinger Commonwealth
  • Hofstra
  • Kaiser Permanente (hybrid)
  • Medical College of Georgia
  • Michigan State University College of Human Medicine (hybrid)
  • New York Medical College
  • New York University
  • Nova Southeastern (hybrid)
  • Oregon Health and Science University (hybrid)
  • Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School
  • San Juan Bautista (hybrid)
  • Stanford University
  • SUNY Upstate
  • TCU and UNTHS (Fort Worth, Texas)
  • Universidad Central Del Caribe (Puerto Rico)
  • University of Alabama (hybrid)
  • University of Arizona
  • University of California-Davis
  • University of California-Riverside
  • University of California-San Diego
  • University of Cincinnati
  • University of Colorado (hybrid)
  • University of Massachusetts
  • University of Michigan (hybrid)
  • University of Minnesota Twin Cities
  • University of Mississippi
  • University of Missouri-Kansas City
  • University of Nevada
  • University of North Carolina (hybrid)
  • University of South Carolina Greenville (hybrid)
  • University of Texas – Austin (hybrid)
  • University of Toledo
  • University of Utah (hybrid)
  • University of Vermont
  • Virginia Commonwealth
  • Virginia Tech (hybrid)
  • Wake Forest
  • Washington State (hybrid)
  • Wayne State (hybrid)
  • Western Michigan University (hybrid)

DO Schools:

  • AT Still
  • Marian
  • Michigan State
  • Pacific Northwest
  • University of North Texas
  • University of the Incarnate Word
  • Western University of Health Sciences (hybrid)

For information about how to best prepare for the MMI, please refer to a previous blog post here or contact me to do a mock MMI session. Good luck!

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consulting

Originally posted in 2019 and updated in 2020 and 2021.

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Photo courtesy of the University of Michigan School of Medicine

Photo courtesy of the University of Michigan School of Medicine

Congratulations—you’ve landed the interview!  What’s the best way to prepare for a medical school interview? You should practice. At the very least, you should review common questions and think about how you would answer them. Then you should PRACTICE answering them and do a mock interview with someone who understands the interview process. You should be comfortable discussing your experiences and your motivation for a career in medicine.

Medical schools offer a range of interview types:  traditional (one on one), group interviews (panels of either applicants or interviewers, and sometimes both), or multiple-mini interviews in which hypothetical scenarios are posed.

Here are the most common questions for the traditional interview. Review these to get a good idea as to the types of questions you might be asked:

  1. Tell me about yourself. (This is often used in the “blind” interview, when the interviewer doesn’t have access to your application.)
  2. Why do you want to be a doctor?  Why not another health profession?
  3. What traits are most important in a good physician?
  4. How do you handle stress?  Tell me about a very stressful time in your life and how you got through it.
  5. Tell me about a time when you struggled to achieve a goal. What did you learn from this experience?
  6. In your healthcare experiences what did you find most and least interesting?  How did these experiences prepare you for a career in medicine?
  7. Why should we admit you, instead of other outstanding applicants, to our incoming class?
  8. Why are you interested in our school?
  9. What do you think your contribution to the medical profession will be?  Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
  10. What are your strengths/weaknesses?
  11. Humility is an important trait for doctors to have; tell me about a time you failed and what you learned from it.
  12. What accomplishment are you most proud of and why?
  13. Do you consider yourself a leader or follower?
  14. Give an example of when you were in a leadership role and what made you effective in that role.
  15. Teamwork is important in medicine. Tell me about a time when you were disappointed in a teammate and what you did to improve the situation.

There are many more that you will likely encounter but these are the types of questions asked. If you want to do a mock interview please contact me at liza@thompsonadvising.com Good luck!

–Liza Thompson, Expert Medical School Admissions Consultant

Originally posted October 10, 2018; updated August 28, 2019 and September 22, 2021

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