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Medical Student Performance Evaluation and Why It Matters

What is the Medical Student Performance Evaluation?

The Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE), formerly known as the dean’s letter, is an important part of the medical residency application package. It is essentially a summary of a student’s academic awards, achievements, work experiences and extracurricular activities during medical school. Every school has a standard format they use, in most cases based on the guidelines recommended by the American Association of Medical Colleges. The MSPE evaluates both the professional attributes of a student as well as their academic performance. Residency programs use this evaluation of student performance as one of the criteria for selecting which applicants they accept into their program.

What Is Included in the Medical Student Performance Evaluation?

The Medical Student Performance Evaluation is made up of several parts. The following are the six sections of the MSPE and the information that should be included in each section.

  1. Identifying Information: Student’s legal name, the name of the medical school and its location.
  2. Unique Characteristics: A narrative residency personal statement that contains information about a student such as honors and awards received in medical school, leadership positions held, research done during medical school, papers published, community service activities, involvement in student interest groups and hobbies. Information should be only from the student’s time in medical school. If a student encountered any significant challenges or hardship during medical school this information may also be included.
  3. Academic History: This section includes:
  • Date of the student’s initial matriculation in medical school and date of expected graduation
  • An explanation of any extensions, gaps, or breaks in the student’s educational program.
  • Information about the student’s enrollment in dual, joint or combined degree programs and expected graduation date.
  • Information of coursework the student was required to repeat during medical school.
  • Information about any adverse action imposed on a student by the medical school
  1. Academic Progress: Information about the student’s academic performance and professional attributes provided in a narrative style including:
  • Information regarding the student’s overall performance in the preclinical/basic science curriculum.
  • Information regarding the student’s overall performance on each core clinical clerkship and elective rotation completed, with a focus on summative comments by clerkship/elective directors.
  • Information about the student’s level of initiative and enthusiasm in all curricular components.
  • An assessment of the student’s compatibility with faculty members, peers, other members of the health care team, and patients during all curricular components.
  1. Summary: A summative assessment of the students’ performance in medical school, relative to their peers, based upon the school’s evaluation system including information about any school-specific categories used to differentiate student performance levels
  2. Appendices: Collection of graphic representations of the student’s performance in different areas relative to their peers.

How Important Is the Medical Student Performance Evaluation?

medical student performance evaluation

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In recent years the MSPE has played a bigger role in residency programs application process. It is one of the five most important factors residency programs use when considering a student’s application. This is due in large part to efforts made to make the MSPE more objective. The weight given to the Medical Student Performance Evaluation varies from program to program. Some of the reasons you should be concerned with the MSPE include:

  • The MSPE is an objective recitation of facts. Since it is a medical student evaluation and not intended as a Letter of Recommendation, it can contain negative aspects regarding your performance as well as positive.
  • The MSPE compares your performance relative to that of your peers. Residency programs are less likely to consider applicants who did poorly compared others in their medical school.
  • The MSPE isn’t just for application to residency programs. When applying for fellowship programs and employment after completing your residency training, it is often necessary to provide your MSPE

Efforts to ensure the consistency of the MSPE as an accurate assessment of a student’s medical school performance across all medical schools are showing results. This has resulted in an upwards trend in the number of programs that consider the MSPE an important factor in the residency selection process.

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