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Should we make the jump to honors/pass/fail?

  • Stay with a 4.0 grade scale

    Votes: 33 19.0%
  • Go to honors/pass/fail

    Votes: 141 81.0%

  • Total voters
    174

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The Dude Has Got No Mercy
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My school just voted to switch over to honors/pass/fail from a 4.0 system, starting with next year's incoming classes. The current classes (I'm an MS1) get to choose whether to stay on our current 4.0 GPA system or go ahead and make the jump to honors/pass/fail. I know it's all over the boards, but I'd be interested to see what you'd do if you were given the choice, and why. Does P/F take the pressure off?
 

DarksideAllstar

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I think that if it was strictly pass or fail, that might be ok (but they would probably keep record of your performance for class rank/AOA anyway). If you throw honors into that, you can run into problems. For example, say you miss honors by like a few points, there won't necessarily be a high pass to separate you from the people that were just "passing". We had the H/P/F system in place for our clinicals and it was a disaster-- you could work hard enough for honors, miss it by like one eval, and then end up with a pass like some of your other classmates who didn't give two sh!ts about learning anything in the rotation and completely slacked off. I say stick with the 4.0 scale, unless it will strictly be P/F, then go with that.
 
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Rogue Synapse

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Darkside: Isn't honors/high pass/pass/fail almost like a full-on letter grade scale?

Primadonna: I went to grad school at the USC School of Medicine in Columbia. It's a highly underrated, excellent school with many outstanding strengths, especially the faculty. I love MUSC (and I especially love Charleston - THE perfect city to go to school in), but don't count USC out.
 

Doctor Bagel

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WARNING: Does not compute.

You know, I've been thinking about the pbl thing and have decided it wouldn't be so horrible if it weren't thrown on like some curricular afterthought. If they actually coupled it with reduced lecture time then it might be okay. At my school, they just cram in pbl sessions into our already overly time consuming lecture schedule. We don't get any grade benefit for participating, but our grades get lowered if we don't go. It starts to feel like a lose-lose situation.

About the grading, I think h/p/f would remove a little pressure from my life. Yeah, you'll still be ranked in the same way because I'm guessing they'll do it based on your course percentage, but I think h/p/f systems help to remind students that pre-clinical grades aren't that important.
 

DarksideAllstar

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Darkside: Isn't honors/high pass/pass/fail almost like a full-on letter grade scale?

Yeah, it is. If the OP said that it was strictly P or F, I would be all for it. Since there is the opportunity to earn an "H", it doesn't do anything to alleviate stress. In fact, the lack of a "HP" really makes it hard to separate the students who worked their ass off and didn't quite make it to honors, from the student who slacks and barely gets by.

BTW, PBL is the biggest waste of time, EVAH!
 

The Buff

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I voted for the H/P/F, but agree with everyone else that it really doesnt take that much pressure off of you compared to the normal system. Everyone is still stressed about getting that H, so all it really does is remove the B/C distinction from the scale. That is great for the slackers, but not so great for everyone else. If I had to pick one I would go H/P/F (mostly because I am a slacker), but dont expect a huge change.

Now P/F, that is the true promised land.

PS: OP you are completely right, H/HP/P/F is the biggest hunk of bull. It is only a thinly disguised A/B/C/F system. :thumbdown:
 
W

Wizard of Oz

You know, I've been thinking about the pbl thing and have decided it wouldn't be so horrible if it weren't thrown on like some curricular afterthought. If they actually coupled it with reduced lecture time then it might be okay. At my school, they just cram in pbl sessions into our already overly time consuming lecture schedule. We don't get any grade benefit for participating, but our grades get lowered if we don't go. It starts to feel like a lose-lose situation.

About the grading, I think h/p/f would remove a little pressure from my life. Yeah, you'll still be ranked in the same way because I'm guessing they'll do it based on your course percentage, but I think h/p/f systems help to remind students that pre-clinical grades aren't that important.

Ditto! :thumbup:

Speaking of PBL, you guys who haven't seen this need to watch it:

http://forums.studentdoctor.net/showthread.php?t=367156&highlight=PBL

I didn't know if it had made it to general allo threads or not, but it's definitely worth taking a look at. I loved the final comment... "I don't have to study. I'm Asian."
 

Dr. McDreamy

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WARNING: Does not compute.

FATAL ERROR.


hahaha. i would rather wipe old men's asses for 3 hours a day than go to a 3 hour PBL. wipe that silly naive grin off your pre-med face...PBL universally sucks as a learning method and everyone hates it.
 

Dr. McDreamy

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i really have never understood all the hubub about the grading systems. in the end, your class rank determines AOA, etc (at least at my school it does) and separates the sheep from the goats...so if you think P/F vs. H/P/F vs. H/HP/P/F/CF really makes a difference, you're lying to yourself.

i personally think i would do better if we had more than P/F...i need that goal in mind. if my goal is just to pass, i do mediocre. if my goal is to honor i honor.
 

akpete

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i really have never understood all the hubub about the grading systems. in the end, your class rank determines AOA, etc (at least at my school it does) and separates the sheep from the goats...so if you think P/F vs. H/P/F vs. H/HP/P/F/CF really makes a difference, you're lying to yourself.

i personally think i would do better if we had more than P/F...i need that goal in mind. if my goal is just to pass, i do mediocre. if my goal is to honor i honor.

:thumbup: exactly what I was thinking.
 
W

Wizard of Oz

FATAL ERROR.


hahaha. i would rather wipe old men's asses for 3 hours a day than go to a 3 hour PBL. wipe that silly naive grin off your pre-med face...PBL universally sucks as a learning method and everyone hates it.

So why do you think that they keep cramming it down our throats?
 
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Biscuit799

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Usually graduates from schools w/ strictly P/F systems have a tougher time getting the more competitive residency slots. Just something to consider...
 

dutchman

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Just remind them to inflate the hell out of whichever sytem they choose. I have heard that the schools in the business of grade inflation somehow end up with high USMLE pass rates/scores and great residency placements. How this works? I don't know.
 

Bubblehead-to-MD

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Usually graduates from schools w/ strictly P/F systems have a tougher time getting the more competitive residency slots. Just something to consider...

Yeah, like all of those Harvard graduates that had to participate in the scramble for the residency match last year.
 

Law2Doc

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Usually graduates from schools w/ strictly P/F systems have a tougher time getting the more competitive residency slots. Just something to consider...

Seems to me the folks who get A's and B's are better off with letters in terms of residency, and the folks who get below are better off with P/F (as they get lumped in with higher folks), and a C looks worse than a P. Probably doesn't matter a whole lot considering there's usually a class rank behind either system. And Step 1 scores which let residency directors evaluate what your knowledge base is compared across schools.
 

G0S2

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I think if you have a 4.0 scale like we have at our school, it should exist as a B-, B, B+ system. Not as 80.1-89.9 =B like we have. There is a good amount of extra work that goes into an 89 vs. an 80 in my extremely humble opinion.
 
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Lorrayne

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Personally, I voted for keeping the letter grades. True pass/fail systems seem pretty rare, and really I prefer to have the pressure of some sort of scale to help encourage me to study :D
Our school is also considering changing the grading scale during the first year, and have sought input from current MS1s.
Right now we have a "curved" system with letter grades and a breakdown of 20% A, 30% B+, 30% B, and 20% C. At first, I dreaded our school's grading scale. However, as the year has gone on, it really doesn't seem that bad. The top 80% of the class scores B or above, yet there is still a benefit to pushing yourself to study harder.
In contrast, my brother goes to a school with H/HP/P/F and a breakdown of 10% Honor/25% HP/Everyone else Pass. So you could still be well above average for your class and only receive a "pass."
 

crazy_cavalier

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Let me tell ya. "pass/fail" gradings systems that have smaller gradations are a complete farce. My school is "pass/fail" but we have a H/HS/S/MS/F (that's honors, high satis, satisfactory, marginally satisfactory, fail). The cut-off for below "satisfactory" tends to be 69% average and lower. HS and above is like 87 upward. What annoys me is that this system purports itself to be "pass/fail" but in reality is just code talk for traditional A/B/C/D/F. The thing that sucks is these pass/fail bullcrap systems have a very large window for the "pass", like 70 to 86 is all considered the same thing. What a load of crock.
 
7

71263

Getting straight 'pass'es still looks better than getting straight Cs. Yes, there are class rankings either way, but it seems like it wouldnt present as badly as getting low grades on a letter grade system.

PS. My school has letter grades, and I would kill for pass/fail about now.
 

The Buff

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Right now we have a "curved" system with letter grades and a breakdown of 20% A, 30% B+, 30% B, and 20% C.

This doesn't sound bad at all. Lots of people pass, you can still get a B pretty easily, yet there is still something to work for. Plus those who just miss the A don't fall too far off the pace. I can see why you might like this system, Lorrayne. I wish my school had something like that in place.
 

primadonna22274

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You guys are so funny. I actually LIKE PBL but then I used to be a PBL facilitator at my PA program and I think it's fun. Of course we did a bastardized version of PBL...and there was still lecture. It was just a little something extra to get the students working on their medical decision making earlier in the process (fall semester of the didactic year).
I'm in Sumter so almost equidistant from Columbia and Charleston. Probably the only benefit to living in Sumter!
 

crazy_cavalier

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Getting straight 'pass'es still looks better than getting straight Cs. Yes, there are class rankings either way, but it seems like it wouldnt present as badly as getting low grades on a letter grade system.

PS. My school has letter grades, and I would kill for pass/fail about now.

HEH, that's true. I think if they really want to keep track of grades, why not show the straight up total percentage you score for the whole course? Get rid of the arbitrary lines between A and B or HP and P. Btw when you say you'd kill for pass/fail, would you accept a system that was honor/highpass/pass/lowpass/fail ??
 

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We're H/P/F. I love it. I wish we were P/F so I wouldn't have to keep honoring but it's a tough life :rolleyes: Anyway, if you remove the onus of grades people seem to take a chill pill after they realize they won't make that cut-off (ours are the 90th percentile).
 

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HEH, that's true. I think if they really want to keep track of grades, why not show the straight up total percentage you score for the whole course? Get rid of the arbitrary lines between A and B or HP and P. Btw when you say you'd kill for pass/fail, would you accept a system that was honor/highpass/pass/lowpass/fail ??

That's actually the way we currently are. We don't have letters at all. It's just straight up 4.0 scale... as in you can get a 3.7 or a 3.6 or a 2.1 or any grade for any given class. BTW, I'm the OP, so I'm trying to decide between that system of a total spectrum where literally every percentage point on your final grade directly affects your GPA and a total honors (top 15%)/pass/fail system.
 

daeojkim

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if you think that P/F system will relieve stress think again. Regardless of grading system, you will be given a rank among your classmates that will affect towards your residency placement. (yeah not all schools but most do). So in my opinion, P/F is an illusion making you think that you are in the safe zone.

So if one says "I am so glad that my school is on P/F system. I don't have to work as hard and i get all P's!!!" then at the end of year, you see in your transcript, "class rank, 186 out of 200" while another gets "class rank 15 out of 200". The former may not care or may regret or even be jealous of latter's performance. Tell me how is this different from H/HP/P/F system? Actually I think P/F system w/ class rank is worse than 4.0 system. At least with grading system, it will tell you straight up whether you are doing well, bad, OK, etc along the way. With P/F system, you can potentially get screwed at the end.

BTW at my school H(top 10%)/ HP (next 10%)/P/F system.
 
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W

Wizard of Oz

Is there an option for fixed grades (i.e. no curve)? Man, this makes a huge difference, and I bet would cut down on class competition quite a bit.

So LULU, you're knee-deep in vagina? Sounds uncomfortable.

We have fixed grades 90/80/70. I am not a fan, and no, it doesn't cut down on competition. After the first semester was over, somebody distributed a list with our grades and names sorted by rank. This was made possible because one of the course directors errantly posted our grades by exam code once but left them in alphabetical order after one of our exams. Needless to say, it must have taken some effort to make the list. I don't know that there is a way to extract competativeness from med school.

With free points and bad question appeals high, a 4.0 is required for AOA. Some people are thus literally out of contention for it by the second month of medical school after the first round of tests. Some of our class averages are 88-90%.

Really with all of these disparities between schools, all that it does is neutralize M1/2 grades completely and put all of the emphasis on step 1.

What I want is to ban required attendance of any sort.
 

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I guess it depends on how they judge Honors. We have H/P/F here but since the Head of Curriculum Affairs told us that "in med school passing is an honor" (actual quote) it's really a P/F program. The guy actually joked that they were reserving H for future Nobel Prize winners. So, apparently it's a retroactive thing. When I win the Nobel prize then they'll change my grade to an H. Helpful!
 

primadonna22274

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Hey Rogue,
Can you tell me this: is attendance required at MUSC? I have mixed feelings on required attendance but just humor me. We had required attendance at my PA program. I'm now 9 years older. I'm also considering the feasability of commuting 1.5 hr one-way...blech...but that's another issue. Any inside information you can share is helpful. As in: what hours are classes first year, second year (if you know); M-F? or less? Flexibility of schedule? etc. etc. Also, if anyone knows inside info on Carolina, same questions.
Thanks for your help.
Lisa
 

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Hughes et al. (1983) studied the impact of the medical school grading system on the selection of residents in internal medicine at Northwestern University. The applicants were divided into three groups based on medical school grading system: 11% came from P/F, 72% from pass/fail/honors, and 17% from letter grade systems. A number of variables were used to determine which correlated best with the average of the ratings assigned by the two faculty interviewers and the final rating of applicants by the residency program (decided by a seven member selection committee). The best predictors of the initial faculty ratings were NBME Part I, 3rd year medicine clerkship grade, academic honors and medical school reputation. The best predictors of the final residency program ranking of applicants were NBME Part I scores, academic honors, med school reputation and 3rd year medicine clerkship grade. The type of grading system as a factor did not make a significant contribution in either case. The study concluded, "the overall impact of the grading system as a factor in the selection of residents seems to be minimal."

It is not surprising that medical school grades are poor predictors of residency performance and it may be appropriate that basic science grades are given little weight in residency selection given that abundant literature showing that little or no correlation exists between academic evaluation (grades) and career performance in the medical profession (Wingard and Williamson, 1973).

What I stated earlier was based completely on hear-say, and apparently was, at best, minimally right. Live and learn, huh...
 

DoctorFunk

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Hughes et al. (1983) studied the impact of the medical school grading system on the selection of residents in internal medicine at Northwestern University.

Your argument might be more convincing with a more recent study. I would wager a lot has changed within the match in the last quarter century. Might also be interesting to see the effects of graded curriculums vs. p/f in a specialty much more competitive than internal medicine.
 
7

71263

HEH, that's true. I think if they really want to keep track of grades, why not show the straight up total percentage you score for the whole course? Get rid of the arbitrary lines between A and B or HP and P. Btw when you say you'd kill for pass/fail, would you accept a system that was honor/highpass/pass/lowpass/fail ??

I do see your point. Separating 'pass' into a hierarchy of 4 categories does take away the point of 'pass/fail' in a bit. I guess it wouldnt be much better, but still better nonetheless.
 

MadameLULU

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So LULU, you're knee-deep in vagina? Sounds uncomfortable.

We have fixed grades 90/80/70. I am not a fan, and no, it doesn't cut down on competition.

Yes, I'm on OB/GYN, and I'm actually enjoying the rotation.

The circumstance you describe about grades seems unique and not a factor of having fixed grades. I bet those people would have done that regardless of the grading system. At my school, grades are fixed so it's not like people are vying to do better than a particular person. Most people I know aim for honor or high pass (<86). People are always willing to share notes, send out study sheets they've made, etc b/c it doesn't matter if another student does better than them. When I talk with my friends at other schools with curves, they indicate that their classmates aren't as willing to share study materials because they don't want other classmates to get a leg up. This is the opinion I've formed from the experience at my school and my friends observations.
 

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Hey Rogue,
Can you tell me this: is attendance required at MUSC?
No, it's not. We do have a few required seminars that we have to attend for our Careers in Medicine course... I actually "failed" the course last term because I missed a lunchtime seminar on the myers-briggs test and residency choice in the fall, and had to remediate this term by writing a paper. Stupid! Other than that, attendance is totally voluntary, and some people in my class definitely just show up for the test. I'm pretty choosy about which lectures I go to based on how much I think I'll get out of them.

I went to grad school at Carolina's school of medicine, so I'm very familiar with it, too. The faculty there are amazing, by the way, but Columbia is so depressing and Charleston is so amazing. There is no strict attendance policy for medical students there, either.
 

umlungu

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Hey Rogue,
Can you tell me this: is attendance required at MUSC? I have mixed feelings on required attendance but just humor me. We had required attendance at my PA program. I'm now 9 years older. I'm also considering the feasability of commuting 1.5 hr one-way...blech...but that's another issue. Any inside information you can share is helpful. As in: what hours are classes first year, second year (if you know); M-F? or less? Flexibility of schedule? etc. etc. Also, if anyone knows inside info on Carolina, same questions.
Thanks for your help.
Lisa

I am an MS1 at U. S. Carolina SOM. The only required attendance is the PBL groups for two hours on tues. afternoons. There are a couple of other time slots that are one-time required. I have a classmate who commutes 45 minutes one way. I think he is from sumter and another who lives over abbeville way. Regarding the Columbia/Charleston debate, I am a nontrad with a family and don't have time to enjoy the finer things in life. So may be in residency:laugh: . Word on the ground says MUSC has alot of competition among the class, that has not been my experience here in Columbia, so you would be able to rely on classmates to fill you in on any lectures or announcements you may choose to miss. I don't know whether this applies to you but I would probably choose Charleston if I was interested in research opportunities.
 

Biscuit799

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Your argument might be more convincing with a more recent study. I would wager a lot has changed within the match in the last quarter century. Might also be interesting to see the effects of graded curriculums vs. p/f in a specialty much more competitive than internal medicine.

I think the take home message is that preclinical grades mean as much to residency placement as Ralph Nadar means to the 2008 election. P/F vs. letter grades don't matter. I'm sure that hasn't changed in the last 1/4 century, 3 years, or 12 minutes. If you're really interested in the topic, I'm sure there are plenty of recent articles on it.
 

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Makes no difference. Honors/pass/fail might as well be grades. All will go into consideration as to who gets AOA, how residency programs view you as a student etc.
 

DoctorFunk

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I think the take home message is that preclinical grades mean as much to residency placement as Ralph Nadar means to the 2008 election. P/F vs. letter grades don't matter. I'm sure that hasn't changed in the last 1/4 century, 3 years, or 12 minutes. If you're really interested in the topic, I'm sure there are plenty of recent articles on it.

You're missing the point. The question is not whether basic science grades are all that important in the grand scheme of things--of course they're less important than your boards, clerkships, or research. The point is that grade categorization is inherently going to be an advantage to those who score high marks in all of their classes. As long as you're comparing grades coming from similar schools (i.e. not Harvard) a boatload of Honors or A's are going to look better than the same amount of generic Passes.

You can't possibly believe that there is no difference in importance of these factors in the match over the past 25 years. The Step 1 wasn't even used as a differential factor in residency applications until about 10 years ago, and I can promise you that the added importance of research is a newer development as well. Just like anything else in medicine residencies evolve and desireable characteristics in applicants change along with them.

Don't misunderstand this post as random flaming, I simply think you're making a grandiose statement on the importance of the different types of grading in residency applications that has not only not been demonstrated by your quarter century old research citations, but is also simply counterintuitive. To imagine that residency directors in competitive specialties who are just looking for ways to thin out the applicant field are not going to put any weight on whether your basic science grades demonstrate excellence in a 4.0 or Honors scale versus an applicant that has nothing but passes to show for the two years is naive.
 

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Word on the ground says MUSC has alot of competition among the class, that has not been my experience here in Columbia, so you would be able to rely on classmates to fill you in on any lectures or announcements you may choose to miss.
I heard that about MUSC, too. The class immediately before us (i.e. the current M2s) has a pretty competitive reputation, but my class is pretty amazingly tight. No real competition, and we all hang out outside of school as well. My friends get my back whenever I miss something important or need some help with any given subject. Now that it's test week, everyone is emailing their study charts and mnemonics and useful websites out to the entire class. So basically, I had heard that about MUSC vs. USC as well, but it seems not to be the case for our class. Anyway, I still love USC SOM (Drs. Augustine and Buggy and Davis are still my favorite medical faculty anywhere); it just so happened that MUSC was a better fit for me.
 

primadonna22274

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Thanks to both of you umlungu and rogue (don't know if you are guys are girls)...good to know.
I am also in Sumter and think commuting from Sumter to Columbia is doable (about 45 minutes one-way but maybe an hour when I move this summer), and am also nontrad and while I enjoy Charleston don't really go for nightlife. I'm also not research-oriented but my sister sure is. Heck, living in the same state would be cool after living across country....
Appreciate all your help! You're awesome.
L.

I am an MS1 at U. S. Carolina SOM. The only required attendance is the PBL groups for two hours on tues. afternoons. There are a couple of other time slots that are one-time required. I have a classmate who commutes 45 minutes one way. I think he is from sumter and another who lives over abbeville way. Regarding the Columbia/Charleston debate, I am a nontrad with a family and don't have time to enjoy the finer things in life. So may be in residency:laugh: . Word on the ground says MUSC has alot of competition among the class, that has not been my experience here in Columbia, so you would be able to rely on classmates to fill you in on any lectures or announcements you may choose to miss. I don't know whether this applies to you but I would probably choose Charleston if I was interested in research opportunities.
 

Biscuit799

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You're missing the point. The question is not whether basic science grades are all that important in the grand scheme of things--of course they're less important than your boards, clerkships, or research. The point is that grade categorization is inherently going to be an advantage to those who score high marks in all of their classes. As long as you're comparing grades coming from similar schools (i.e. not Harvard) a boatload of Honors or A's are going to look better than the same amount of generic Passes.

You can't possibly believe that there is no difference in importance of these factors in the match over the past 25 years. The Step 1 wasn't even used as a differential factor in residency applications until about 10 years ago, and I can promise you that the added importance of research is a newer development as well. Just like anything else in medicine residencies evolve and desireable characteristics in applicants change along with them.

Don't misunderstand this post as random flaming, I simply think you're making a grandiose statement on the importance of the different types of grading in residency applications that has not only not been demonstrated by your quarter century old research citations, but is also simply counterintuitive. To imagine that residency directors in competitive specialties who are just looking for ways to thin out the applicant field are not going to put any weight on whether your basic science grades demonstrate excellence in a 4.0 or Honors scale versus an applicant that has nothing but passes to show for the two years is naive.

In the end I think we're saying the same thing. The point you're making is that an A or B is going to look better than a P. On that note, I absolutely agree. That is the logic behind the original statement of students coming from letter grade schools doing better than those that come from P/F schools. The average letter grade a student gets is roughly a B at most schools (at least at my school, and at others who've posted here), and all other things being equal that will look better than a P. So in the end, I think we're saying the same thing but getting lost in semantics.
Also, I agree that things have changed in the past 25 years, all I was saying is that grades are no more important then than they are now. If anything, they're less important, as you've graciously pointed out w/ your reference to research and USMLE. My reference to the lack of importance of grades was meant to downplay the importance of this discussion as a whole, because in the end, getting decent board scores and clinical grades will do far better than any P, A, B, or C in Biochem.
 

DoctorFunk

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In the end I think we're saying the same thing.

You're probably right that any differences in our posts are merely due to semantics. Thanks for taking the high road and pointing that out. That being said, I'm going to get back to what I do best as I make my way to residency applications: working hard to ace basic science classes and (hopefully) do well on Step 1 while mocking those in my class who waste all of their free time and energy in EC clubs in an effort to impress residency directors.

Can anyone tell I'm approaching another block of exams? ;)
 

Biscuit799

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You're probably right that any differences in our posts are merely due to semantics. Thanks for taking the high road and pointing that out. That being said, I'm going to get back to what I do best as I make my way to residency applications: working hard to ace basic science classes and (hopefully) do well on Step 1 while mocking those in my class who waste all of their free time and energy in EC clubs in an effort to impress residency directors.

Can anyone tell I'm approaching another block of exams? ;)

Good luck on the exams!

I'm with you on EC clubs... just another merit badge for the good little scouts!
 
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