Medical School Personal Statement: Top 5 Mistakes

Are you about to submit your medical school personal statement? If so, make sure you avoid these common personal statement mistakes that even the best students make.

Get your medical school personal statement reviewed today by a current medic or a Medical School Admissions tutor.

Medical School Personal Statement: Top 5 Mistakes

1. Not answering the most important question.

The key question to address in the first paragraph of your medicine personal statement is why you want to spend 6 years studying medicine – and a lifetime practising it. Many people simply don’t get to the bottom of this. Saying you experienced something traumatic that involves medicine is not an answer to the question. Saying medicine combines science and people skills is a general definition of the vocation; not a personalised reason for you to pursue it. Have you answered this question?

2. Writing a work experience shopping list.

The best medical school applicants have done a lot of work experience. In order to squeeze this all into 4,000 characters, they often end up reeling off each experience in a list. Have you done this? If there is anywhere in your statement where you have talked about a placement you did without speaking about a specific incident and what you learnt from it, then the answer is ‘yes’. You must do this to demonstrate reflection. Better 2/3 fully-reflected experiences than an 8-point shopping list.

3. Misusing buzzwords.

You know the ones we mean: empathy, teamwork, leadership, communication skills… Are we suggesting you don’t use this words? Not at all! It’s great that you are showing you know the core requirements needed to be a great doctor. The mistakes are: a) using them without backing them up, or b) not using them at all. We advocate a method called ‘signpost and substantiate’. Use these buzzwords words (signposting you know about them) but ALWAYS back up this use with personal examples (substantiating them).

4. Using passive language.

Check out the following sentences:

  1. ‘Writing an EPQ on stigma associated with HIV presented me with lots of challenges.’
  2. ‘I rose to the challenges presented by writing an EPQ on HIV stigma, by seeking out research papers and arranging meetings with experts.’

The second is better, right? That’s purely because it is very active – it’s all about what you did. The first example is passive – things happened to you. Go through your personal statement and ensure everything is active.

5. Writing really, really long sentences…

…that seem to go on for a very long time and when you get to the end of the sentence it’s actually not very clear because the sentence, it turns out, is actually so long that the person reading it has forgotten the beginning of it by the time they get to the end and then they have to go back and reread it and that’s not great because….

Hopefully this one is self-explanatory! If sentences are getting long and meandering, break them into two, or even three. This will really help improve clarity.

Our advice comes from years of experience working with students, schools and teachers. Our views are informed by regular conversations with university admissions staff.

If you would like an expert review of your personal statement by us, please visit this page of the site.

We hope this has helped.

Good luck!

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