As you enter your fourth year of medical school, you begin planning the next step in your journey to becoming a physician, which is to choose a specialty and apply to medical residency programs. This will be one of the most critical phases of your medical training, so you’ll want to put your best foot forward when it comes time to apply for residency programs.
The process of securing a medical residency can seem complicated on the surface, but it includes five basic steps:
- Medical students apply to their choice of medical residency programs.
- Programs determine which applicants to invite for medical residency interviews.
- Candidates participate in interviews (in person or virtual).
- Both the applicants and the residency programs create their respective rank order lists.
- The National Resident Matching Program’s (NRMP) computer algorithm pairs applicants and programs.
It’s during step two—when residency directors evaluate candidates for interview potential—that your medical school performance will be assessed. They’ll review your test scores and GPA, consider the information shared in your personal statement and letters of recommendation, and then examine your Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE).
What is the MSPE?
MSPE stands for “Medical Student Performance Evaluation.” In short, its core purpose is to provide medical residency directors with an overview of how well you’ve done in your Doctor of Medicine (MD) program.
Because there’s no one standardized template for the Medical Student Performance Evaluation, you may be unsure of what to expect. Residency programs will already be scrutinizing you from many angles, but this is simply another way for them to objectively compare applicants before extending interview invitations.
While not all will follow this format, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has highlighted five key sections that most medical schools include when evaluating students:
- Identifying information: Includes basic information like your name, medical school, year in school, etc.
- Noteworthy characteristics: Includes a list of your top attributes and abilities as a medical student.
- Academic history: Includes information like when you started your program, when you’ll complete it, any extensions or gaps in your MD journey, whether you were required to repeat any coursework, or whether you were the recipient of any adverse action by the institution.
- Academic progress: Includes the school’s evaluation of your professional performance as a medical student, your mastery of the necessary preclinical coursework, and the clerkships you completed (including grades).
- Medical school information: Includes pertinent info about the medical school you attended, with particular weight placed on medical school accreditation.
In many cases, an MSPE will also include some sort of class rank, indicating how well you performed among your peers. Many medical schools use quartiles to indicate student performance.
Prepare yourself for medical residency applications
What many don’t realize is that the actual medical school you attend will matter less to a residency director than a strong medical school performance. In fact, program directors themselves make this clear year after year in the annual NRMP Program Director Survey.
So long as you attend an institution that has obtained the proper accreditation, your primary focus should be on making your medical school performance as strong as possible.
You should now have a better understanding of what’s included in the Medical Student Performance Evaluation. As you continue to work your way through your MD program and prep for residency applications, it will be helpful to maintain a clear idea of what to expect.
Learn more by visiting our article “How to Land the Medical Residency You Want: 7 Criteria You’ll Be Evaluated On.”