Perfecting your OMSAS Autobiographical Sketch

The autobiographical sketch (ABS) is a 48-item list of your activities and is the centrepiece of your application to Ontario medical school. Even though you may have finished with your extracurricular endeavours, it is essential to write about these experiences in a compelling manner. Here are some tips on how to craft the perfect ABS:

#1: Be balanced.
The ABS is purposely divided into the following categories: formal education, employment, volunteer activities, extracurricular activities, awards and accomplishments, research and other. It is important that you present yourself as a well-rounded, balanced individual who has a variety of interests. Do not emphasize proficiency in only 1 or 2 of these areas.

#2: Do not embellish.
The ABS allows you to show Ontario medical schools who you are. The individuals reading your application are likely experienced and have read dozens if not hundreds of medical school applications. Make sure that you provide an honest reflection on what you did and the number of hours that were involved.

#3: Do not only focus on what you did.
Ontario medical schools want to know about your activities because they exemplify key competencies that are required of medical learners and practicing physicians. Try to include skills and attributes that you developed through your involvements, and make sure that you keep a special eye out for the CanMEDS framework.

#4: Be succinct.
A key element of the OMSAS ABS is that the word count is limited; you need to be able to convey what you did in only 1-2 sentences. When editing, ensure that you choose only words that showcase why you are an exceptional medical school applicant. Feel free to use common abbreviations and acronyms to help with the word limit (e.g. ‘w/’ instead of ‘with’, ‘&’ instead of ‘and’, etc).

#5: Contact your verifiers early.
Individual medical schools have varying policies on what happens if the school is not able to reach your verifiers, or if the verifier does not agree with your description of the activity. Ensure that the contact information of your verifiers is accurate and up-to-date. Speak to your verifiers before you submit your application to make sure you are on the same page regarding your experience.