Aug 11, 2021

ABS and BPE – Creating a Compelling Narrative  

Top Application Tips
By Hana Lee and Twanna Lewis

As you begin to pull together your application materials for this current admissions cycle, you may have some questions about how to best organize your responses for our new Autobiographical Sketch (ABS) and Brief Personal Essay (BPE) format. Here are a few tips from the UME ES team that you may find helpful. 

The ABS gives you an opportunity to curate/feature activities and achievements that provide the MD Admissions Committee with a good snapshot of your passions and the time you have dedicated to pursuing these interests.  

There are two components of the ABS – the lists and Statement. The ABS lists allow you to catalogue impactful experiences which may include your (1) formal education, (2) employment, (3) volunteer activities, (4) extracurricular involvement, (5) awards and accomplishments, and/or (6) research/publications. Note that you are not required to complete specific activities nor fulfill a specific number of hours toward a particular activity (e.g., research, volunteering in a hospital setting, etc.) for our admissions process. Instead, complete activities that you personally view as the best representation of who you are and discuss these via the ABS lists with the MD Admissions Committee.  

The second component of your ABS is the Statement. Here is the prompt for this year’s ABS Statement: “Write about an impactful experience from your Autobiographical Sketch that demonstrates your personal growth, character, and values. How did this experience prepare you for medical school?”  

Through this Statement, share a compelling narrative about who you are. This may be difficult to do, as you are tasked to do this by writing about one activity or accomplishment from the ABS lists. Spend some time to reflect on your experiences and select an activity or accomplishment that has helped you develop personally and professionally. If possible, select a more recent activity or achievement. Remember that the above prompt is not asking about your reason for pursuing a career in medicine, but rather to discuss how this one activity or achievement has really catalyzed your growth. Don’t forget that you’ll have just one ABS Statement to write this year, and the response should be under 500 words. 

Next is the BPE. Each year, a team of faculty, students, and staff write brand new BPE questions with the hope that you’ll find our questions and writing process enjoyable and educational (as much as we have). When putting together a response, ensure that you are answering the question and all within 250 words per BPE. This is not always possible, but you may wish to use personal experiences within the response(s) to support your conclusions. At the same time, share just enough for the context as you do have a word cap. Make sure that you discuss the topic from multiple angles as you build up your position (instead of considering/pushing only one viewpoint). You want to impress upon the Committee that you are aware of diverse ideas/opinions one can have for any given topic while appealing your position. Finally, keep in mind of the four attribute clusters as you pull together these two essay responses. Although it is not expected that each essay will feature all four attribute clusters, the two BPEs as a whole must demonstrate/address the four attribute clusters.  

As a bonus tip – remember that there is no winning formula in putting together your ABS and BPEs as our admissions review process is based on the multiple independent sampling methodology. So your best bet is to have as many friends and family members read through your essays and provide feedback on how easy/difficult they were to follow. If time permits, your university’s writing centre is a fabulous resource as well.  

We hope that this posting was helpful. Tell us if you would like to know more about any other aspects of our admissions process by writing blog content requests to  

Wishing you all the very best!  

Hana & Twanna