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How to Draft MSPEs for Medical School

What Are MSPEs?

The Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE), is part of the application package that medical school graduating students submit to residency programs they are applying to. Previously known as the Deans letter, it is an evaluation letter for student performance during their time in medical school. As it is an evaluation letter, and not a letter of recommendation, the MSPE should be objective and will contain both positive and negative aspects of a student’s academic performance and professional attributes.

Structure and Content of MSPEs

The American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) has suggested guidelines for how a MSPE should be structured and what information it should contain. Most medical schools will follow those guidelines. The following is an outline of how your MSPE will likely be structured and what information it will contain:

  1. Identifying information consisting of your name, the medical school name and medical school location
  2. Unique Characteristics statement: Information should be only from your time in medical school and will consist of things such as honors and awards received, leadership positions held, research, papers published, community service activities, involvement in student interest groups and your hobbies. Any significant challenges or hardships you may have encountered during medical school may also be included.
  3. Academic History: Your medical school start date, expected graduation date, coursework that had to be repeated, academic probation, dismissals or other disciplinary action, leave of absences or other breaks in the educational program.
  4. Academic Progress: Information about Your academic performance and professional attributes including:
    • Your performance in the preclinical/basic science curriculum
    • Evaluations and comments from all of your core and elective rotations
    • Information about your level of initiative and enthusiasm in all curricular components
    • An assessment of your compatibility with faculty members, peers, other members of the health care team, and patients during all curricular components
  5. Summary: Comparison of your performance in the preclinical/basic science curriculum and all core and elective rotations in relation to the rest of your class
  6. Appendices: Collection of graphic representations of your performance in different areas relative to others in your class

The MSPE is a performance evaluation letter from your medical school to various residency programs, so much of the information is presented in a narrative style.

Who Will Write My MSPE?

A member of the institution’s faculty is generally in charge of generating MSPEs. However, they may not actually write the majority of the letter. The Identifying Information, Academic History, and the Appendices sections are basically data that can be generated by the Student Affairs office or Registrar’s office.


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The Unique Characteristic residency personal statement, the Academic Progress section and the Summary section are the most important parts of the Medical Student Performance Evaluation. Some common approaches to writing these sections include:

  • Unique Characteristics: The Unique Characteristics portion of the MSPE is the only area where a student may have some amount of control. If provided with the opportunity to write a draft of your Unique Characteristic portion, you should write in the 3rd person past tense. Only include information from your time in medical school. Stick to the type of information listed above. Don’t write about what specialty you selected or why you selected it. Also avoid making summative judgments about your academic progress or personal qualities. Different schools have different approaches and not every school will allow you to write a draft of this statement. Those that do will review what you have written, and edit it if necessary.
  • Academic Progress: An overall summary of the student’s performance written in a narrative style, citing a few representative comments from faculty should be provided for the pre-clinical and basic science curriculum. Narrative information should be provided for each required core and elective rotation in the chronological order in which the student completed them. Much of this information is likely to be in the form of comments written by faculty supervisors during the actual rotation when rating student performance. A narrative account that addresses student initiative and enthusiasm and an assessment of the student’s compatibility with faculty, peers, other members of the health care team and patients should be included. The Academic Progress section is basically a compilation of evaluative remarks from many members of the faculty.
  • Summary: This is a summative assessment written in a narrative style, of the student’s comparative performance in medical school relative to other members of their class, based upon the school’s evaluation system. This is generally written by the faculty member responsible for generating MSPEs.

Students are usually given the opportunity to review the MSPE and should point out any factual errors immediately, as once submitted it can’t be changed.

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