USMLE/COMLEX pass/fail - what about GPA and research now?

asa0009

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Hi Everyone,

I'm an MS1 currently. At this point it looks to be USMLE/COMLEX will be pass/fail by the time I'm taking it next year (scary). A lot of people have said they will be more critical on GPA/class rank and research - just some speculation I'm sure.

My question here is - what is actually considered a good GPA for competitive specialties to begin with? I'm a 4.0 student, even in medical school, as we still do letter grades at my school. I feel as if I'm hypercritical of my grades and it's making me manic. I understand we don't NEED a 4.0 to match into a competitive specialty like ortho, etc. But what is around a good GPA for a competitive candidate? I will always continue to do my best but I would like to also focus on other things and not my grades 150% of the time.

I'm interested in research and I'm currently writing a review paper. I want to be more involved but COVID has made that very difficult. I understand expectations might be a bit lower than normal because of COVID but I still want to be a regularly competitive candidate to give me the most options. I know neurosurgery is SO competitive and EXTREMELY research based - not saying that this is what I want to do but I don't want to never have the option because I didn't do enough research. Same with ortho, etc. I've looked over the charting the match documents, etc. but I would love to hear real experiences on what type and amount of research is expected for competitive specialties. Do they expect most of your research to be in that specialty? What happens if you want NSG and do all your research NSG but change your mind to ortho? Will it look bad that none of your research is ortho based?

Thanks in advance, I get so many mixed answers.
 

FutureDoctor5000

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Hmm you can’t just pick a bunch of competitive specialties ie derm, neurosurgery or ortho, you must pick ONE and make your mind up, you must do research in that and make connections by going to conferences etc, and essentially become a known commodity. It’s soo much more than just grades, you will have to stand out and you can’t do that if you can’t make your mind up about which super competitive specialty you want to pursue, these specialties(neurosurg and ortho) are vastly different., so the sooner you make up your mind the better it will be for you. It’s also more than research for competitive specialties, you have to go to conferences and present your research and meet people, you can’t do that if your pursuing say ortho but did neurosurgery research let’s say and didn’t present or go to a single ortho conference...
 

asa0009

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Hmm you can’t just pick a bunch of competitive specialties ie derm, neurosurgery or ortho, you must pick ONE and make your mind up, you must do research in that and make connections by going to conferences etc, and essentially become a known commodity. It’s soo much more than just grades, you will have to stand out and you can’t do that if you can’t make your mind up about which super competitive specialty you want to pursue, these specialties(neurosurg and ortho) are vastly different., so the sooner you make up your mind the better it will be for you.
I completely understand this. I have interest in spine - which is in both ortho and NSG. People change their mind all the time - I was wondering what type of issue this can create for an application. I have not changed my mind but I want to be prepared so I know how I should focus my research.
 
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DameJulie

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My school's advisers said it means STEP 2/LEVEL 2 will be the new STEP 1/LEVEL 1, simple as that. It's unlikely that GPA will have significantly increased weight unless you want AOA because many schools have P/F curriculums by then. Research doesn't hurts your application, but it's not a requirement for every specialty/program.
 
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asa0009

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My school's advisers said it means STEP 2/LEVEL 2 will be the new STEP 1/LEVEL 1, simple as that. It's unlikely that GPA will have significantly increased weight unless you want AOA because many schools have P/F curriculums by then. Research doesn't hurts your application, but it's not a requirement for every specialty/program.
Thanks for your input. Ours hasn’t given us any information on what we should focus on so that’s helpful. We don’t have the option for AOA but we do have SSP but that simply just doesn’t hold the same amount of weight.
 

drducky.

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Thanks for your input. Ours hasn’t given us any information on what we should focus on so that’s helpful. We don’t have the option for AOA but we do have SSP but that simply just doesn’t hold the same amount of weight.
DO schools won’t tell you. Heck, most of them still think COMLEX = USMLE LOL
 
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gigijhjj

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Sorry OP, I don't have an answer to your questions, since I am also an M1. But I am wondering how important is the rank?

Our school has P/F curriculum but we are internally rank. The average on every exam is around 90-95 lol. I don't even go to that great of a school
 
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I spoke to one PD and they said they will look at STEP 2 when everything goes P/F. This is just n=1 but I would imagine others will follow.
 

Supahchungus

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Sorry OP, I don't have an answer to your questions, since I am also an M1. But I am wondering how important is the rank?

Our school has P/F curriculum but we are internally rank. The average on every exam is around 90-95 lol. I don't even go to that great of a school

https://www.nrmp.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/NRMP-2018-Program-Director-Survey-for-WWW.pdf

Rank seems to play some importance, but it’s just a piece of the puzzle. Even if you’re ranked in the bottom percentiles, I don’t think it’s a deal breaker as long as other parts of your application are good (provided you didn’t fail any classes).
 

Steve_Zissou

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https://www.nrmp.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/NRMP-2018-Program-Director-Survey-for-WWW.pdf

Rank seems to play some importance, but it’s just a piece of the puzzle. Even if you’re ranked in the bottom percentiles, I don’t think it’s a deal breaker as long as other parts of your application are good (provided you didn’t fail any classes).
I hope it’s not a big deal. I scored high on step and COMLEX, I’ve honored a bunch of important rotations, I’ve got first authorship on a case series (not that impressive, but still), etc. I am, however, in the bottom quartile of my class. That’s because our school told us “don’t worry, just take care of your mental health and pass our p/f classes, we don’t rank you until 3rd year.” We asked “what does that mean? How do you rank us?” And they didn’t give us anything. Next thing you know, 3rd year comes around and we get an email “here’s your rank, btw it’s 100% based on your classes from years 1 and 2 that were p/f and it did matter how you did.” Well ****, maybe I shouldn’t have taken time for mental health and I should have grounded the useless minutiae that would have made up the difference.
 

asa0009

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I hope it’s not a big deal. I scored high on step and COMLEX, I’ve honored a bunch of important rotations, I’ve got first authorship on a case series (not that impressive, but still), etc. I am, however, in the bottom quartile of my class. That’s because our school told us “don’t worry, just take care of your mental health and pass our p/f classes, we don’t rank you until 3rd year.” We asked “what does that mean? How do you rank us?” And they didn’t give us anything. Next thing you know, 3rd year comes around and we get an email “here’s your rank, btw it’s 100% based on your classes from years 1 and 2 that were p/f and it did matter how you did.” Well ****, maybe I shouldn’t have taken time for mental health and I should have grounded the useless minutiae that would have made up the difference.
From what I’ve been told, it’s only REALLY REALLY looked at for competitive specialties who want to know you performed at the top quartile of your class. If you’re looking into non-competitive specialties like IM/FM I don’t think it really matters. Overall I don’t think it’s a dealbreaker by any means just a bonus but may raise a red flag for a competitive specialty.
 

asa0009

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Sorry OP, I don't have an answer to your questions, since I am also an M1. But I am wondering how important is the rank?

Our school has P/F curriculum but we are internally rank. The average on every exam is around 90-95 lol. I don't even go to that great of a school
Wow, our averages are no where near that. Which is probably what makes our rank a bit different but won’t be viewed any differently than your rank. I stated above from what I understand it’s not a deal breaker but can really benefit in competitive specialties as a bonus. Might be a red flag to be in the lower quartile of your class but want to do NSG since they want someone with a **** ton of drive you know?
I spoke to one PD and they said they will look at STEP 2 when everything goes P/F. This is just n=1 but I would imagine others will follow.
Thanks for sharing!!
 

Steve_Zissou

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From what I’ve been told, it’s only REALLY REALLY looked at for competitive specialties who want to know you performed at the top quartile of your class. If you’re looking into non-competitive specialties like IM/FM I don’t think it really matters. Overall I don’t think it’s a dealbreaker by any means just a bonus but may raise a red flag for a competitive specialty.

My issue is that I’m going for competitive radiology programs. Just really annoyed that my schools wasn’t transparent at all about a lot of things they do.
 
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asa0009

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My issue is that I’m going for competitive radiology programs. Just really annoyed that my schools wasn’t transparent at all about a lot of things they do.
Are you currently a 3rd year? If so I’d be trying to push out mad pubs this last semester. Not that it will distract them from a bad ranking but definitely makes it easier to look over. From some of my friends, I’ve been told they’re more willing to look over a few bumps (esp preclinical years) if you have a lot of good research or a letter they can’t look past. Not sure how this will work for us with everything going p/f but maybe something you could do now while you can.
 
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Lawpy

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In the era of P/F, I think step 2 and research will be more important than clinical grades in most competitive fields except for maybe DR, as it appears to be the least academic out of all of them.
Soon the surgical subs will get tired of seeing crap research-infested apps that the system will break and something new and less insane will pop up
 

Steve_Zissou

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Are you currently a 3rd year? If so I’d be trying to push out mad pubs this last semester. Not that it will distract them from a bad ranking but definitely makes it easier to look over. From some of my friends, I’ve been told they’re more willing to look over a few bumps (esp preclinical years) if you have a lot of good research or a letter they can’t look past. Not sure how this will work for us with everything going p/f but maybe something you could do now while you can.
Fortunately, my comats are mostly in the 80th percentile and I’m honoring the rotations that matter.

Planning to do some more research, but not sure how far that will go tbh.
 

slowthai

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You realize the greater research emphasis just worsens the prestige bias to the point where only high quality AND quantity research can be found only in top places right?

But what is your point though? How does that support the last statement you made?
 

Lawpy

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Well, I’m in a good spot then if the programs I want think the same way. Step 1 was 249, hoping to get my step 2 into the 260s.
Try to talk to your school's specialty advisers and the SDN attendings in your specialty of interest for more info. Its just that SDN has a raging hard on for crappy research that advice is getting a bit unrealistic.
 

slowthai

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I'm mainly getting at step 2 and clinical grades being more valuable and less prestige biased vs research

The fact that the highest quality/quantity of research is performed at top schools doesn't really mean much. There are only so many spots these people can take.

Furthermore, there would have to be some external pressure that forces them to not consider research at all. Then I could easily see them focusing on clinical grades along with step 2.
 

Lawpy

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The fact that the highest quality/quantity of research is performed at top schools doesn't really mean much. There are only so many spots these people can take.

Furthermore, there would have to be some external pressure that forces them to not consider research at all. Then I could easily see them focusing on clinical grades along with step 2.
Research is practically unlimited at top schools that surgical sub guys can churn out close to 100 papers and drastically overshadow everyone else from non top schools. That alone is enough to get specialty leaders to realize something's badly wrong
 

slowthai

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Research is practically unlimited at top schools that surgical sub guys can churn out close to 100 papers and drastically overshadow everyone else from non top schools. That alone is enough to get specialty leaders to realize something's badly wrong

Bro, no one is churning out 100 papers lol. That's such a far fetched example. And why would specialty leaders give the faintest crap about what a med student's doing? If anything, they'd clap him/her on the back for being a research superstar.
 

Lawpy

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Bro, no one is churning out 100 papers lol. That's such a far fetched example. And why would specialty leaders give the faintest crap about what a med student's doing? If anything, they'd clap him/her on the back for being a research superstar.
It's not that extreme when machine learning/AI is used. Surgery leaders are addicted to AI. Especially at top schools with productive surgery depts AND strong AI/computer engineering depts. Its insane.

This isnt seen in low tiers and DO schools where research is hard to get. There's no reason to make research another school name proxy. Step 2/clinical grades are at least a lot fairer
 

slowthai

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It's not that extreme when machine learning/AI is used. Surgery leaders are addicted to AI. Especially at top schools with productive surgery depts AND strong AI/computer engineering depts. Its insane.

Ya see, I don't doubt what you're saying, but I doubt what you're saying. Lol.

This isnt seen in low tiers and DO schools where research is hard to get. There's no reason to make research another school name proxy. Step 2/clinical grades are at least a lot fairer

Let's not act like clinical grades are a lot fairer by any stretch. Some people would rather play the research game and do a research year if it came down to it.

We're kind of just arguing for no reason here. Bottom line is, whatever PDs care the most about, make sure to deliver. Don't try to reinvent the wheel unless it's patent pending.
 

Lawpy

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Ya see, I don't doubt what you're saying, but I doubt what you're saying. Lol.



Let's not act like clinical grades are a lot fairer by any stretch. Some people would rather play the research game and do a research year if it came down to it.

We're kind of just arguing for no reason here. Bottom line is, whatever PDs care the most about, make sure to deliver. Don't try to reinvent the wheel unless it's patent pending.
Ok the 100+ paper thing is an exaggeration but research being concentrated in top schools is a problem if research becomes more important. Which is why i'm railing against research in favor of Step 2/clinical grades.

I know clinical grades suck and are annoying but nearly all schools have this problem, so i think that's more of a level playing ground than research that's even more variable
 
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