Sunday, 11 March 2007

I'm Famous... well, sort of.

Four years ago I spent months drafting and redrafting my personal statement for my application to medical school. After roughly 26 drafts I ended up with an almost perfect statement about me. It began "From an early age I have been fascinated by the workings of life. The human body is a remarkable machine with many diverse systems producing an organism that could never be artificially reproduced." It worked out quite well and I received 4 interviews although perhaps not for the places I should have applied to.

After starting medical school, as a favour to a friend and in order to help others writing their personal statements, I released it to the world. Reading it back now its rather cringe-worthy but it was all my own work and is all true, I'd spent years beforehand doing work experience and ticking the teamwork, leadership and communication boxes. As a scientist, writing has never been my forte but I don't think it turned out too badly and it was obviously what they wanted to hear.

Last week a story broke here and here about prospective university students using the Internet to cheat in their applications. The focus was on a phrase about burnt pyjamas which a staggering 234 students used as their own personal anecdote [that must have been a particularly flammable batch of pyjamas.] However, it seems an even greater 370 lifted my fascination for the workings of life. I cannot deny that anyone willing to make their career out of the human body would fail to find it interesting, its hardly an original idea in itself. It seems however that my opening has been copied word for word as is written in The Times article.

Perhaps I was naive to think that potential medical students would be able to come up with their own original phrasings. I anticipated that some might lift sections of my statement but never envisaged such a proportion would do so. It doesn't particularly bother me that they've plagiarised my statement, they're not in direct competition with me so why should it? I am quite shocked and disappointed but at the same time quite flattered that my statement is deemed good enough to rip off.

With the introduction of the MTAS application form, the ability to sell oneself is more important than ever. I'm sure this process won't be immune to plagiarism and with successful candidates such as this one allowing their answers to be scrutinised by the world, it probably won't be long before the MTAS shortlisters are reading exactly the same phrases over and over again. I think I can safely say that when it comes to my turn to enter the dragon's den that is the MTAS system my answers will be kept under lock and key.

edit: Links fixed


Mr Bean shows us how it should be done.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is the first ever round. Someone had to reveal their answers, so the world could see the reflective practice / bullshittery which is required to progress in today's NHS.

the little medic said...

anonymous - Oh I agree with that completely. Its great to see an example of the bullshit that is required by this system. I just wonder how many people will steal phrases from the successful applicant, although it's a lot harder to steal those than with a UCAS personal statement because the MTAS answers contain more about actual achievements.

Anonymous said...

So do you think MTAS requires both actual achievements and the art of bullshittery, and that without one or the other of these the applicant would be f*cked? Because that's what I think. Sort of.

the little medic said...

anonymous - definitely, you can only bullshit so much with no evidence and conversely you can have all the achievements in the world but if you can't bullshit and tick the boxes you're fucked.

Anonymous said...

Have you considered then, that the MTAS form isn't as ridiculous as people have been making it out to be.

To score highly requires both reflective / communication skills AND tangible educational / academic achievements.

Which is what you'd look for in a doctor... no?

the little medic said...

anonymous - Perhaps, but I don't think you can effectively measure a doctor's communication skills in a series of 150 word summaries. Nor can you really measure someone's achievements in 150 words. I don't have a particular problem with the MTAS form itself because I think it would play towards my strengths, perhaps that’s selfish I don’t know.

Cal said...

Err I don't think anonymous knows that the creative bullshittery is given EQUAL WEIGHTING as the academic side, which doesn't make much sense.

A clueless doctor with amazing comm skills is no good to anyone if he cannot diagnose and treat anything.

Cal said...

Oh yeah, wait a minute - are you telling me that that burnt pyjama story was YOURS?!

the little medic said...

cal - No, not that one. My PS was one of the other ones that got ripped from. The one about a "fascination for the workings of life or whatever" My PS is linked to from the blogpost.

The Angry Medic said...

Hohoho...great post. Yep, MTAS bears an eerie resemblance to the UCAS process, doesn't it? And I thought it was all over when I got into uni. Sigh...


Oh, and PS ripping-off has been going on forever...common phrases could be identified in personal statements generations apart at my old school. Still, feels good to be flattered like that, doesn't it? Congrats on making the news :)

Cal said...

Have you altered your profile pic? Or maybe I'm just noticing it properly for the first time... either way, it looks great!

Ms-Ellisa said...

Wtf? I'm shocked because there are many prototypes of applications posted on net for various activities- so why did it matter so much? I mean- given the fact that you "published" it on the net, no one could ever use it successfully, and even if they did, still they should be blamed for cheating. Why you? It's common sense why someone should want to enter medical school so I can;t really believe that all the applications differ so much.