May 25, 2016
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Hello, I didn't know where else to go with this but maybe I was hoping to get input on this situation from medical students who have gone through the process or are currently going through medical school (especially right now while in the pandemic).

My younger sibling is a current MS-1 at a DO school.

Because of the pandemic, the school has curtailed a lot of resources that would have been available to better student learning. I feel like my brother is being punished for not cheating on his exams to meet the average because the averages are much higher this year compared to last year. I'm sure not everyone is cheating, medical students are all very smart. But the ones who do are affecting the average and resulting in students who aren't cheating being penalized with fails because the class is graded against a curve. His last block he improved all of his raw scores by 20% to score in the high 70's by the end of the block and it still wasn't enough to pass him. This block he was borderline and was initially given a pass before the school turned around later in the day to tell him it was a mistake and failed him. I know my brother's raw scores aren't anything impressive, but I don't feel like he would be in this position if the school actually did more to either 1) curtail the cheating, 2) give more opportunities for collecting points and reinforce learning, or 3) more student learning and support opportunities.

I guess on top of all of this, I'm just really saddened by how his school is treating him. When the school "noticed the mistake" they made by giving him a passing grade, they all were imploring him to just accept it and made false equivalencies to "how comfortable would you be going to a doctor who didn't score well in their cardio block?" My brother informed them he chose his school because he was informed by students and faculty alike that he would be supported and it would be impossible to fail unless you "partied" or "didn't care." When he reminded administrators this was the reason why he chose this school, they told him "well that was last year." The school got rid of multiple resources that were available to MS-1s last year and have basically left this year's first years to independent learning. Basically, he's being told that now that we're in a pandemic, you won't be supported, and you will be failed. I'm sure he isn't the only one failing and he's heard that there is a handful of MS-2s who are failing too.

I'm not sure what I can do to support my brother now that he's being forced to repeat first year. He entered his most recent block completely dejected after improving so much and being told it wasn't enough to warrant a passing grade. And after the arbitrary decision made to fail him despite passing him initially this block, I'm really worried about how he's feeling and going to handle all of this. I'm in graduate school in a different field and feel completely supported by my school. I thought a medical school in a health-related pandemic would be more compassionate and supportive of their students, but I guess not.

Is this normal? I'd really appreciate any insight into all of this and would love to hear about any of your experiences. Thanks so much.
 
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ciestar

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I have a feeling they were looking at raw scores here. My school had exam averages that were around 80% and a pass was around a 70%. If your brother scored below a benchmark, then it isn’t “unfair” he failed.

It sucks they’re doing nothing to support him through this and seem to be cool with him just failing.
 
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Gonzalo de Montalvo

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N=1, but it strikes me a little odd to hear a med school being so negligent especially in regard to mental health. My school emails us multiple times a week about mental health resources and mood-booster things, and we get encouragement from our professors practically every lecture ("Shoot me an email! Here's my personal number" etc). I definitely think the way they were mistaken about his pass just seems like poor form. And I know the cheating is definitely real, and incredibly aggravating, but I agree with the above, whatever they say is pass/fail is just how it goes. Cheating might skew class rank slightly but I don't see a school changing their mind about what scores should be pass/fail or who should pass or not based on the number of people who fail (which I think is what you're getting at). Sounds like kind of an undergrad thing to me. I think its more likely they'll just figure the weird zoom lecture/COVID year was bad for people's studying and make more people remediate. I'm biased because I'm passing, and I hate to buy into the "buck up" attitude, but they have a point about expecting a certain quality of their graduates.

They should curtail cheating and offer mental health support, but in my opinion I'm pretty happy that at my school we have fewer assignments/team activities/labs/etc. for points... its really minimal, just zoom lecture, study, exam, repeat.

TLDR; I guess I'm saying I sympathize completely, but I don't think the way they pass/fail in itself is unfair. Best of luck to your brother!
 
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May 25, 2016
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I have a feeling they were looking at raw scores here. My school had exam averages that were around 80% and a pass was around a 70%. If your brother scored below a benchmark, then it isn’t “unfair” he failed.

It sucks they’re doing nothing to support him through this and seem to be cool with him just failing.
N=1, but it strikes me a little odd to hear a med school being so negligent especially in regard to mental health. My school emails us multiple times a week about mental health resources and mood-booster things, and we get encouragement from our professors practically every lecture ("Shoot me an email! Here's my personal number" etc). I definitely think the way they were mistaken about his pass just seems like poor form. And I know the cheating is definitely real, and incredibly aggravating, but I agree with the above, whatever they say is pass/fail is just how it goes. Cheating might skew class rank slightly but I don't see a school changing their mind about what scores should be pass/fail or who should pass or not based on the number of people who fail (which I think is what you're getting at). Sounds like kind of an undergrad thing to me. I think its more likely they'll just figure the weird zoom lecture/COVID year was bad for people's studying and make more people remediate. I'm biased because I'm passing, and I hate to buy into the "buck up" attitude, but they have a point about expecting a certain quality of their graduates.

They should curtail cheating and offer mental health support, but in my opinion I'm pretty happy that at my school we have fewer assignments/team activities/labs/etc. for points... its really minimal, just zoom lecture, study, exam, repeat.

TLDR; I guess I'm saying I sympathize completely, but I don't think the way they pass/fail in itself is unfair. Best of luck to your brother!

Thanks for both of your inputs. I know that because I'm related to the issue, my perspective of what's happening is probably affected and it's good to hear about the experiences of other medical students/people who have gone through it. Unfortunately for my brother, students are graded as a class and they're subjected to a curve. From what he's told me, how well the rest of the class does impacts what threshold is set for failing. I'm sad that he's unsupported by his school, but hopefully, this time back at home before having to repeat first year will help him.

Thanks so much again for taking the time to read through my long post!
 

Tangerine123

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It's sad how our educational system encourages cheating. A number decides if you are good enough or not, so even if you are able to pass you still feel pressured to get that score as high as you can. Might be off-topic but I think a Pass/Fail system is a good system moving forward.

If you are worried for his mental health and he can't recieve internal support from his school then maybe it would be a good idea to look for external help and schedule an appointment with a psychologist.

My experience in medical school was that they don't care at all about your health. They passed psychometric tests on my cohort only after 2 students attempted suicide. Eveybody scored into severe depression, anxiety and suicidal risk. They did nothing, it's just a checkbox for them to fill. It's ironic really, how we're supposed to take care of people's health when we don't take care of our own.
 
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coolsands155

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Were his overall grades in the high 70s or just 70s in those blocks but still lower overall? I find it shocking that a school would be so negligent to allow rampant cheating and then also punish those who are struggling in unprecedented times. My friend's T100 MD school is seeing record high averages while also making passing 60% which is helping a lot of people. You'd think every school would be a bit more flexible like this.
 

Kumorebi

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Hello, I didn't know where else to go with this but maybe I was hoping to get input on this situation from medical students who have gone through the process or are currently going through medical school (especially right now while in the pandemic).

My younger sibling is a current MS-1 at a DO school. The school "suspects" that there is cheating going on during the exams and has warned some students, however, has since not followed up. My brother's talked to a number of classmates and they've all remarked on how easy it is to cheat and work around whatever testing system they're using. My brother refuses to cheat and as a result, he's falling below the highly "skewed" average (he's told me class averages have been in the 80's for exams).

Because of the pandemic, the school has curtailed a lot of resources that would have been available to better student learning. I feel like my brother is being punished for not cheating on his exams to meet the average. I'm sure not everyone is cheating, medical students are all very smart. But the ones who do are affecting the average and resulting in students who aren't cheating being penalized with fails. His last block he improved all of his raw scores by 20% to score in the high 70's by the end of the block and it still wasn't enough to pass him. This block he was borderline and was initially given a pass before the school turned around later in the day to tell him it was a mistake and failed him. I know my brother's raw scores aren't anything impressive, but I don't feel like he would be in this position if the school actually did more to either 1) curtail the cheating, 2) give more opportunities for collecting points and reinforce learning, or 3) more student learning and support opportunities.

I guess on top of all of this, I'm just really saddened by how his school is treating him. When the school "noticed the mistake" they made by giving him a passing grade, they all were imploring him to just accept it and made false equivalencies to "how comfortable would you be going to a doctor who didn't score well in their cardio block?" My brother informed them he chose his school because he was informed by students and faculty alike that he would be supported and it would be impossible to fail unless you "partied" or "didn't care." When he reminded administrators this was the reason why he chose this school, they told him "well that was last year." The school got rid of multiple resources that were available to MS-1s last year and have basically left this year's first years to independent learning. Basically, he's being told that now that we're in a pandemic, you won't be supported, and you will be failed. I'm sure he isn't the only one failing and he's heard that there is a handful of MS-2s who are failing too.

I'm not sure what I can do to support my brother now that he's being forced to repeat first year. He entered his most recent block completely dejected after improving so much and being told it wasn't enough to warrant a passing grade. And after the arbitrary decision made to fail him despite passing him initially this block, I'm really worried about how he's feeling and going to handle all of this. I'm in graduate school in a different field and feel completely supported by my school. I thought a medical school in a health-related pandemic would be more compassionate and supportive of their students, but I guess not.

Is this normal? I'd really appreciate any insight into all of this and would love to hear about any of your experiences. Thanks so much.
Our school reaches out to those at risk of failing for immediate intervention through tutoring from upperclassmen and professors. Student hours are online with professors and students are free to ask any questions during those hours. I’m curious to know what resources are available/unavailable at your brother’s school.

I sympathize with your brother’s situation. Our school does not curve grades and our averages our low 80s for exams. I’m also sure some cheating goes on as well at some level. However, you must also realize that even though it is unfortunate the school did not take the initiative to reach out earlier, it is ultimately up to your brother to score above 70%. Not all medical schools are created equal; one important factor I considered when choosing a school was the support they offer to students.

Cheating is definitely not OK in any situation. However, I doubt the school makes it impossible to get an A in a class without a curve and without cheating. I don’t think depending on a curve to pass a class is a good mindset to have to either.

Medical school is hard - not everyone passes every class. It sounds like the current thought process you are having for your brother is an extrinsic locus of control and that his grades and failing was a result of factors he could not control (cheating, lack of school resources). Keeping this mindset is dangerous imo; if he wants to improve his grades he needs to focus on adapting new study methods or perhaps investing in outside resources for his class material.

My advice is to focus on the factors that he can control to reduce the risk of failing a second time. Once again, medical school is not easy and me just saying “study harder/differently” is definitely easier said than done. My advice is to use the schools academic help center and resources from the beginning of his remediation, and if those don’t exist, to use outside resources.
 

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Your brother isn't being punished for not cheating. The cheaters, in turn, are being rewarded because their school is lax about it. That suck and they're only hurting themselves

Rest assured that they won't be able to cheat their way through COMLEX and Step I.

Your brother should be contacting Student Services and take advantage of whatever resources they do have. My own school has gone the extra mile to make sure students have these.
 
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Thank you very much everyone for all of your thoughtful advice and input. I'll be sure to point my brother to the resources you all noted.
I want to emphasize that I know that my brother's scores are his own responsibility and am not pointing to the cheating being the cause of his failing, it's just frustrating that the school is turning a blind eye to it while also providing practically zero resources and support for students who are struggling. I don't consider the school relying only on MS-2s to provide limited tutoring hours whenever they are free, especially given how they are also struggling, as a meaningful support device. But again, I'll point my brother to the outside resources many of you were kind enough to point out.
Thanks again!
 

Goro

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Thank you very much everyone for all of your thoughtful advice and input. I'll be sure to point my brother to the resources you all noted.
I want to emphasize that I know that my brother's scores are his own responsibility and am not pointing to the cheating being the cause of his failing, it's just frustrating that the school is turning a blind eye to it while also providing practically zero resources and support for students who are struggling. I don't consider the school relying only on MS-2s to provide limited tutoring hours whenever they are free, especially given how they are also struggling, as a meaningful support device. But again, I'll point my brother to the outside resources many of you were kind enough to point out.
Thanks again!
The Faculty should be available to answer questions, at a minimum.
 
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Is your brother attending office hours, review sessions, tutoring sessions, or requesting meetings with professors or emailing them questions?
 
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Is your brother attending office hours, review sessions, tutoring sessions, or requesting meetings with professors or emailing them questions?
Yes, he has done all of that. All of his professors know and like him at this point because he's been very visible in how earnestly he's trying to succeed. He's one of the few students who go to office hours too. Regardless, he'll be taking this time out of school to review and reinforce what he's learned so he can do even better next year.
 
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Hello, I didn't know where else to go with this but maybe I was hoping to get input on this situation from medical students who have gone through the process or are currently going through medical school (especially right now while in the pandemic).

My younger sibling is a current MS-1 at a DO school.

Because of the pandemic, the school has curtailed a lot of resources that would have been available to better student learning. I feel like my brother is being punished for not cheating on his exams to meet the average because the averages are much higher this year compared to last year. I'm sure not everyone is cheating, medical students are all very smart. But the ones who do are affecting the average and resulting in students who aren't cheating being penalized with fails because the class is graded against a curve. His last block he improved all of his raw scores by 20% to score in the high 70's by the end of the block and it still wasn't enough to pass him. This block he was borderline and was initially given a pass before the school turned around later in the day to tell him it was a mistake and failed him. I know my brother's raw scores aren't anything impressive, but I don't feel like he would be in this position if the school actually did more to either 1) curtail the cheating, 2) give more opportunities for collecting points and reinforce learning, or 3) more student learning and support opportunities.

I guess on top of all of this, I'm just really saddened by how his school is treating him. When the school "noticed the mistake" they made by giving him a passing grade, they all were imploring him to just accept it and made false equivalencies to "how comfortable would you be going to a doctor who didn't score well in their cardio block?" My brother informed them he chose his school because he was informed by students and faculty alike that he would be supported and it would be impossible to fail unless you "partied" or "didn't care." When he reminded administrators this was the reason why he chose this school, they told him "well that was last year." The school got rid of multiple resources that were available to MS-1s last year and have basically left this year's first years to independent learning. Basically, he's being told that now that we're in a pandemic, you won't be supported, and you will be failed. I'm sure he isn't the only one failing and he's heard that there is a handful of MS-2s who are failing too.

I'm not sure what I can do to support my brother now that he's being forced to repeat first year. He entered his most recent block completely dejected after improving so much and being told it wasn't enough to warrant a passing grade. And after the arbitrary decision made to fail him despite passing him initially this block, I'm really worried about how he's feeling and going to handle all of this. I'm in graduate school in a different field and feel completely supported by my school. I thought a medical school in a health-related pandemic would be more compassionate and supportive of their students, but I guess not.

Is this normal? I'd really appreciate any insight into all of this and would love to hear about any of your experiences. Thanks so much.
Yeah, the big issue here is he is apparently struggling and they haven't set up tutoring or counseling or learning support for him, whatever he needs. All of those things can happen over zoom. Especially during a pandemic, treating people like they are disposable and not important is awful. Med school is hard enough with support. I would encourage him to tell the administration that he is struggling and he wants help, and see what they say.
 

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I think there has to be some details we are missing. Students are the schools product. The student's success is vital to the school's success. Schools just don't randomly say " Oh well!" When a student fails out. They cannot replace that student or the tuition or the govt subsidy they receive. I can't imagine a school not applying resources to help a struggling student. I think there is more going on. My 2 cents.
 

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