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Acad Med. 2020 Mar 10. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000003290. [Epub ahead of print]

Standardization in the MSPE: Key Tensions for Learners, Schools, and Residency Programs.

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K.E. Hauer is associate dean, Assessment, and professor, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, San Francisco, California; ORCID: D. Giang is associate dean, Graduate Medical Education, and professor, Department of Neurology, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, California. M.E. Kapp is assistant professor, Department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee; ORCID: R. Sterling is associate professor, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland; ORCID:


The Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE), which summarizes a medical student's academic and professional undergraduate medical education performance and provides salient information during the residency selection process, faces persistent criticisms regarding heterogeneity and obscurity. Specifically, MSPEs do not always provide the same type or amount of information about students, especially from diverse schools, and important information is not always easy to find or interpret. To address these concerns, a key guiding principle from the Recommendations for Revising the MSPE Task Force of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) was to achieve "a level of standardization and transparency that facilitates the residency selection process." Benefits of standardizing the MSPE format include clarification of performance benchmarks or metrics, consistency across schools to enhance readability, and improved quality. In medical education, standardization may be an important mechanism to ensure accountability of the system for all learners, including those with varied backgrounds and socioeconomic resources. In this Perspective, members of the aforementioned AAMC MSPE task force explore five tensions inherent in the pursuit of standardizing the MSPE: (1) presenting each student's individual characteristics and strengths in a way that is relevant, while also working with a standard format and providing standard content; (2) showcasing school-specific curricular strengths while also demonstrating standard evidence of readiness for internship; (3) defining and achieving the right amount of standardization so that the MSPE provides useful information, adds value to the residency selection process, and is efficient to read and understand; (4) balancing reporting with advocacy; and (5) maintaining standardization over time, especially given the tendency for the MSPE format and content to drift. Ongoing efforts to promote collaboration and trust across the undergraduate to graduate medical education continuum offer promise to reconcile these tensions and promote successful educational outcomes.

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