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How Important are Marks in Med School?

Special Aspects of Evaluation

At UofT, as with most med schools, the grading system is pass or fail – the cut-off is around 65-70%. Unless you do extraordinarily well on all your exams, it won’t matter that you scored a 70% or a 100% on that one test. Your evaluation is based on exams, assignments, clinical skills, research projects, and small group-work. If you consistently get borderline marks (e.g. all your marks are around 65%), you might get pulled aside for a talk, so don’t plan on aiming too low. Think of the pass-fail system as more of a safety net than using it to guide your studies.

In terms of clinical skills and small group-work, some special aspects of evaluation are professionalism and social skills. For instance, when working in a small group, do you always show up on time and get involved in the discussions, or are you consistently late and never contribute? Do you listen to your colleagues and respond in a patient and respectful manner or do you cut them off and minimize their opinions? When working in a clinical setting, are you empathetic towards patients and actively listen to them or do you belittle their concerns and overtake the conversation? Do you keep good eye contact and do your best to educate them or do you keep your eyes to your clipboard and use medical jargon? These aren’t skills you’re expected to ace the first day, but they are skills you’re expected to develop and improve upon as you progress through the year.

OSCE

Objective Structured Clinical Examination

One special type of exam I want to mention is the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE). This exam tests your clinical skills by providing you a standardized patient (an actor who pretends to be sick) while a physician-examiner watches and evaluates your interaction for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, you move onto the next station, and there are around 8-10 stations in total. I think the best way to practice for this is to find some past OSCEs and go through them with your friends. One person can be the examiner, one person the patient, and one person takes the test. At UofT, all the skills you need for the OSCE are covered during the clinical days at the hospital, so there shouldn’t be any new material. Still, it’s not easy to quickly apply what you’ve learned in the 10 minutes each station gives you, so make sure to practice early and practice often.

Takeaway points

Medical School

GPA Cutoffs For Medical School
  1. Med school is pass-fail, so focus on collaboration and career exploration and drop the super competitive attitude.
  2. Focus on the softer skills. While academic excellence is necessary, communication, professionalism and collaboration will get you much farther.
  3. The OSCEs are a sequel to the MMI, intended on testing your critical thinking, practical clinical skills and ability to interact with standardized patients.
  4. Keep organized – this cannot be stressed enough! While the onus is on you to create your “perfect timetable,” take advantage of what life has to offer outside of the library. No one really “has” time for school work, socializing, and sleep – you have to “make” time.
  5. Finally, if you do poorly on an evaluation, don’t stress it. Use the feedback you get from your evaluators to keep on improving and perform better next time.

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