I’ve just finished writing my first medical school exam and though the material wasn’t overly difficult, I’m glad it’s done with. A pass is a pass. On to more interesting topics and relevant topics. It’s safe to say that the honeymoon of medical school is officially over. No more medical school is a “walk in the park.” The sheer amount of memorization is beginning and it doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon, if ever.
At first, I was a skeptic of the pass/fail system. The common saying is “What do you call a student who graduates at the bottom of their medical class?” The Answer: “A Doctor!” Wouldn’t a pass fail grading system breed mediocrity. Why would anyone want a surgeon that only answered 75% his medical exam questions correctly? But I’m finding that’s not the case. The type of people that make it into medicine aren’t just motivated by marks alone. We like to learn, tackle challenging problems and push ourselves. The more interesting the materials covered in class, they more inclined we are to study.
The pass fail system ultimately is a good thing for medical students. It reduces competition (backstabbing) in the classroom, unnecessary stress and reduces an examsmanship approach to learning, where people study with the sole purpose of scoring points. It creates a partnership of trust between classmates and teachers; there is a common goal of quality education. Studies have shown that schools with the pass fail system have better class dynamics and that has been no significant difference found in board scores.
I believe the AMSA sums it up quite nicely when they say, “The type of student who makes it to medical school in the first place—a successful, motivated achiever—will learn in any kind of system; will learn despite the system.”