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Frederick Sanger

How to Ace the Western Sketch: Detailed Advice

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Hi Everyone,

I have been requested to make a mental checklist for the Western med sketches/essays (similar to my post on the UofT forum on the BPE's) for a few weeks now. I finally found the time to do it and I am excited to share it with you!  Feel free to message me for individual questions if you like me to help you! I also do provide application services if that is something you are interested in.   

Credentials (AKA where my reasoning comes from):  I have helped 60+ students receive acceptances to Canadian medical schools across the country this past cycle. Specifically, 15 were admitted to Western in the 2018/2019 Cycle and 10 are currently enrolled. This is advice I have accumulated over time. 

Statistical facts about the admission process as posted on Western’s website: 2,100 applicants --> 480 interviews --> 171 Acceptances (131 in London and 38 in Windsor).

 

10 General highlights:

Phase 1 (Thinking Phase)-- This is usually the hardest part.

1)     With 2,400 characters at your disposal, you have room to explore and describe what kind of person you are. Remember that the essays should display a character and identity. Ideally, it should be your character and identity. Don’t shy away from pouring your soul into this!

2)     Some people jump into the writing/production phase without the initial planning. I don’t think this approach is as methodical or efficient. For those of us that are spontaneous, it can work. But most people need time to reflect and select. It is easier to think and design what narrative or experience you are going to talk about and then use point form to draw out your progression of ideas.

Phase 2 (Writing/Production Phase)--This should be the easiest part.

3)     When you start the writing process, make sure that you can explain to yourself why you are writing x, y or z sentences and what it aims to signify. You don’t need to be this specific at the early phases, but it is important that you have an inner awareness about the purpose of every word that you type. This helps remove fluff.

4)     It is perfectly normal to restart and rewrite your essay. Often, I recommend people to write multiple drafts if they have more than two strong activities they like to talk about. The stronger ones would win. 

5)     Don’t think about the overall word limit yet. Take the time to explore your ideas without word constrains. This is your production phase. You are advised to present original ideas and representative examples from your life! Creating a rational outline for is certainly worthy investment in your time.  

6)     Piecing the topics together comes later with each round of revision.

Phase 3 (Revision Phase)-- This is typically the most time-consuming part. 

7)     The purpose of the revision is to reduce, revise and rethink. Probably in that order. Also, when you review your sentences, they should not be too long. They should also not be too short.  A good advice is keeping them about 10-15 words max. If you go further than that, chances are they could sound awkward.

8)     Your first sentence is very crucial. It should be exciting. It should enlighten the reader. You can allude to a quote. You can begin with a rhetorical question or interesting facts. Don’t start with generic statements. 

9)     Once you have a draft, you need  build a logical progression into it. On a micro-scale it would be the transitions from one sentence to another. On a micro-scale it would be from paragraph to paragraph. This should come in your both your writing step and be improved on in your revision step.

10)   Ask your friends or family members to give you feedback once you get to this stage. You can also fix small syntactical points by reading every sentence aloud. This is where you ensure your verb tenses match, your use of punctuation is sound and you do not have faulty parallelism, etc. 

 

3 Specific Advice for writing  Sections A through F:

1)     When you think about the lessons you have learned, and the experiences you have gained, they should first and foremost reflect your opinions. The admissions committee wants to know what kind of person you are and why you are suitable to be at Schulich. They do not want you to create laundry-lists of adjectives.  In other words, aim for a broader perspective when it comes to the lessons. I will give you a personal example. I attended a  one-week model NATO conference (more on the side of international relations) and represented a country’s interests. When talking about this activity,  the lessons I highlighted were the  deductive/inductive reasoning I used to make points at the committee sessions and in the debates. However, the bigger picture I mentioned were the  diplomatic relations I established and how those were central to reach agreements in the committee. I made parallels between this and medicine. Namely, how there are multiple POV's in both disciplines, how it takes time to digest each thought without preconceived biases, etc. You would want to make these lessons separate from one another. You can use a numerical list to show what each of those are. 

2)     Most people think that the best example for a category is the most representative example. This is not always the case. For example, for section A, if you were involved in an initiative and orchestrated it, you can select it and elaborate on the leadership qualities you gained. However, a less traditional example, but equally valuable, would be if you were involved in a position where you were a great listener. If you reflected on other people's concerns and gave them suggestions, you would also be a leader!  My point is that there is a spectrum to things. It’s not a discrete 0 or 1.

3)     If you are involved in an activity for a long duration (more than a year)show how you grew in that position. The change in your roles should hint at what new responsibilities you had and why you value them. Development is something you can also talk about on your panel interviews.

 

 

Note: I will be editing and adding more points to this post later this week. I wrote this while on commute, so you can expect an updated version to appear in the next few days.

 

I hope you find this helpful!   

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Thank you so much for the helpful post; a couple questions - as a general rule of thumb, how many specific points should you include in each entry? I know they mentioned 3 specific points you learned last year, but was unable to find so this year. As well, would it look bad if an entry is well under 2400 characters?

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15 minutes ago, cjalcyris said:

Thank you so much for the helpful post; a couple questions - as a general rule of thumb, how many specific points should you include in each entry? I know they mentioned 3 specific points you learned last year, but was unable to find so this year. As well, would it look bad if an entry is well under 2400 characters?

My pleasure. Addressing your points in the order presented:

1) What matters in each entry is the holistic aspect. Once you write each of them, you can tell whether it feels saturated with content and personal experience or not. It is hard to set a number limit on it. The danger of that is, if you think like that your writing becomes rigid and it would show. Think about your entry and what it meant to you, what it meant to others and what adcom likes to see. If those grounds are covered you are fine. 

2) Why not use the all the space provided to you? That is a personal decision you need to make, but I am a proponent of using all the characters and being as thorough as possible. What you need to realize is that they do not have general rules when it comes to the minute details. They will evaluate each piece and based on how you made them feel, and the substance in each, they would evaluate you. 

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3 minutes ago, Frederick Sanger said:

My pleasure. Addressing your points in the order presented:

1) What matters in each entry is the holistic aspect. Once you write each of them, you can tell whether it feels saturated with content and personal experience or not. It is hard to set a number limit on it. The danger of that is, if you think like that your writing becomes rigid and it would show. Think about your entry and what it meant to you, what it meant to others and what adcom likes to see. If those grounds are covered you are fine. 

2) Why not use the space provided to you? That is a personal decision you need to make, but I am a proponent of using all the spaces and being as thorough as possible. What you need to realize is that they do not have general rules. They will evaluate each piece and based on how you made them feel, assess your strengths.  

Makes sense, thanks for answering!

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Thank you for the post, man. I was wondering if you have any advice on the format for the Western Sketch? From your post, it sounds like we should be writing each sketch like any other short essay.

I'm confused because the instructions on OMSAS say "outline concretely what you have learned (3 items)." This makes it sound like they want us to focus on those three items and make it extremely clear what they are. That also seems to suggest they want you to include too many items in the sketch. 

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2 hours ago, szhang95 said:

Thank you for the post, man. I was wondering if you have any advice on the format for the Western Sketch? From your post, it sounds like we should be writing each sketch like any other short essay.

I'm confused because the instructions on OMSAS say "outline concretely what you have learned (3 items)." This makes it sound like they want us to focus on those three items and make it extremely clear what they are. That also seems to suggest they want you to include too many items in the sketch. 

You are welcome. 

Yes, the sketch should have the structural integrity of an essay and I recommend people to treat it as such. As opposed to, a descriptive list. 

Regarding your comment: it's very easy to just number them at the end of the essay and make sure each aspect you learned is different and is significant/relevant to the A-F categories. 

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Thanks so much for Uploading this!!

Also, I'm having trouble kind of structuring each entry. I tend to spend a lot of time describing the event and what it constitutes then one paragraph for each lesson learned. does that sound right? Also, should there be a concluding sentence that ties everything after the lessons learned?

 

Thank you!!

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15 hours ago, Am98 said:

Thanks so much for Uploading this!!

Also, I'm having trouble kind of structuring each entry. I tend to spend a lot of time describing the event and what it constitutes then one paragraph for each lesson learned. does that sound right? Also, should there be a concluding sentence that ties everything after the lessons learned?

 

Thank you!!

You are welcome: there will be similar documents of this length for UofT's BPEs, Calgary's top 10 and OMSAS ABS soon. 

The best test for structural coherence is reading it aloud. Ideally, having a friend to listen to you would help. The devil is in the details. Make sure you receive constructive criticism and get varying points of view. I firmly believe there is room for improvement in everyone's writing--at every stage. Unless we are talking about the writings of luminaries such as Bertrand Russell or Isaiah Berlin! 

Structure can vary with one's preference, and as long as you are able to make your points clearly, you will be well-received by the admissions committee.  
What you are explaining to me seems fine. Make sure your final lesson is overarching in some capacity. 

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