Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE): “The Dean’s Letter”

Medical Student Performance Evaluation (MSPE): “The Dean’s Letter”

February 10, 2020



One of the important requirements of many residency program applications is the Medical School Performance Evaluation (MSPE).  While also known as a “Dean’s Letter” the MSPE is much more than a simple letter and includes several components. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has established guidelines that include a suggested template, and some sample MSPEs for use by medical school applicants. 

The Purpose of the MSPE

The purpose of the template and the common guidelines are to help standardize the application and review process. By adhering to a template that includes graphical representations of their accomplishments with pre-clinical coursework, clerkships, and other indicators of academic performance, the applicants make their responses easier to review and compare. 

Why the MSPE is Important

Residency program directors want to determine whether a candidate will be a good fit for their program and use the MSPE® to gain insight from the candidate’s Dean and medical school. While test scores are a vital part of a student’s profile, residency program directors are also looking for ways to evaluate an applicant’s professionalism and academic performance in comparison to their peers. Thus, the MSPE is one of the most important elements of an application package. According to the Results of the 2018 NRMP Program Director Survey the MSPE is not only one of the primary documents that programs use to select candidates for interviews, it weighs heavily in the ranking of applicants for positions in the program. 

Programs Citing Each Factor And Mean Importance Rating¹ for Each Factor in Selecting Applicants to Interview in all specialties (Fig. 1) and Internal Medicine (Fig. 2). 

Fig. 1

Fig. 2

All Specialties we have an 81% citing factor and a 4/5 average rating. For IM it is 85% and 4.3/5.

Programs Citing Each Factor And Mean Importance Rating¹ for Each Factor in Ranking Applicants in all specialties combined (Fig. 3) and Internal Medicine (Fig. 4). 

Fig. 3

Fig. 4 

In addition, an MSPE will provide residency directors with insight into an applicant’s Core Characteristics, which is a cohesive application are intangibles that should reflect or be reinforced by the candidate’s personal statement.

A well-written MSPE should be coordinated with the ERAS, letters of recommendation, and the personal statement to help present a comprehensive and consistent picture of the candidate. 

IMGPrep can assist you with crafting a strong MSPE that fits well with your overall application and will help show your candidacy in the best possible light. 

What information is included in the MSPE?

The template includes six major sections, including: Identifying Information (about the student); Noteworthy Characteristics; Academic History; Academic Progress; a Summary statement that includes an explanation of the grading system used at their school; and Medical School Information such as the school’s website. The final product should be no more than 7 pages long and should contain both narrative assessments as well as graphical data (charts and tables).  (See an explanation of each section in the table below.)

Who should put together the information for the MSPE?

Technically, the information on the performance evaluation is provided by the Dean of the medical school. However, in reality, the student will most likely gather the information in advance for the Dean to review and approve. IMGPrep offers guidance and assistance to help international students gather what is needed. A major challenge for students from international medical schools is that their schools may not track and report data in the same format that is required by the MSPE template. IMGPrep has the knowledge and expertise to assist with formulating the information in ways that residency program review board members can accept. 

To prepare, a student will need to get information from his or her own records as well as comparative grading information from their medical school. 

Table 1.1: Components of the Medical School Performance Evaluation (MSPE)

Section of MSPE What is it? Who Completes?
Identifying Information
  • Student’s Name
  • Year in School
  • School Name and Location
Noteworthy Characteristics Three bulleted statements of no more than 2 sentences each that the dean uses to describe outstanding observations about the student, including any challenges or hardships faced and overcome. Dean (with perhaps Student drafting)
Academic History
  • Medical School start date
  • Expected graduation date
  • Explanation of any extensions or gaps
  • Reference to any previous, dual, joint, or combined programs
  • Reference to any need to repeat or remediate course work, with explanation
  • Explanation of any adverse actions taken
Student (with information from School)
Academic Progress Major sections include: 

  • Professional Performance
  • Pre-clinical Coursework
  • Clerkships
Student (with comparative information and explanatory notes from School)
Summary Assessment Includes an explanation of the school’s grading system and overall standing/ranking

Also includes comparative data to provide a context for the Student’s performance.

Dean’s office (with perhaps Student drafting)
Medical School Information Can be as simple as a link to the Medical School’s website. Student

How to upload the MSPE to ERAS

According to the ECFMG, there are three ways that an MSPE can be submitted:

  • The applicant can submit via ECFMG’s Online Applicant Status and Information System (OASIS). Click here for more details.  
  • OR the medical school can submit the MSPE directly via EMSWP ERAS (if it participates in that system). See Document Submission for more information.

The ECFMG further notes that “All MSPEs are held until October 21, at which time they are released to programs to which you have applied. ERAS Support Services strongly recommends that MSPEs arrive at ECFMG no later than October 14 if submitted electronically via OASIS or the MyECFMG mobile app.”

NOTE: The ECFMG also reminds applicants to keep in mind that the MSPE is not a letter of recommendation and does not need to be finalized as an LoR in the application process.

To talk to someone at ECFMG for more details, go to their Contact Page.


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IMGprep is not associated with the NRMP® or the MATCH®