Personal Statement: The Final Edit

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As you begin to bring your personal statement together, work through drafts and iterations, and get feedback on it, it will soon be time to make a final edit. Before you do so, we recommend that you consider two key editing areas, and work through each. The first is the structure; the second is the grammar and wording.

Personal Statement Structure: Editing

As you draft the personal statement, you’ll be working to include certain details, attributes, or previous experiences – and at the same time, you’ll be working to create the free space to include those new parts. That will necessarily lead to an ebb-and-flow of different content. As you get different reviews and types of feedback from different people, you might find that the draft you’re working on has become disjointed. You may have managed to include all the different topics that you wanted to, but at the expense of the narrative, or the ease with which someone can now read through.

You therefore need to spend time on the structure, and on creating threads that take the reader from the introduction through to the conclusion. The very best personal statements will seem less like disjointed sections, and more like a cohesive whole, through which we can get a true sense of the individual writing.

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Structuring technique 1: Choose core themes.

One approach that you can take is to choose a small group of core themes that you’ll use as the frame to build your personal statement on. For example, you might decide that empathy, resilience and communication skills are the three attributes that you see as most important. You would therefore begin the personal statement with nods to each; you would follow up on them in your extracurricular activities, and you would again emphasise them as you conclude. To do this, you need to avoid simple repetition (i.e. don’t simply state ‘resilience is vital for Medicine’ each time) and instead show the assessor that you’ve considered the attributes in context.

Structuring technique 2: Guide your reader into each section

Don’t write a section without making it clear to the reader what the section is, and why you’re covering that content. If the section is centred on research and how important you believe research to be to both Medicine and your own personal journey, then introduce the section as such. Write something like, ‘The doctor must blend Science and Art; that appreciation for Science is made clear through my research. I have undertaken…’

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Structuring technique 3: Link one section into the next

Try to avoid disjointed beginnings and endings of sections. The reader will have a more pleasant experience, and be able to take more from the personal statement, if you follow this tip. That means ending one paragraph in a way that flows into the beginning of the next. For example, you might have ended an introductory paragraph with a mention of how you decided to study Drama as a fourth A Level because you believe human interaction and art to be vital to Medicine; you could then lead into the sentence in technique 2 above. This creates a compelling and coherent thread throughout the entire piece of writing.

Personal Statement: Grammar, Tone, Spelling, and Appropriate Wording

You should check the grammar with teachers and others that you trust to be able to read and review well and honestly. You should ensure that the overall tone is suitably formal; avoid being too familiar with your writing. Remember that this is not a letter; avoid addressing the reader.

Your spelling should be accurate throughout. Don’t rely on your computer’s spell-checker – get friends, teachers, or parents to spell-check as well. Do this no matter how confident you are on your grammar and spelling – we can all make silly mistakes!

Try to use some suitable general medical wording and terminology if you’re confident in it; that might mean using the phrase ‘primary, secondary and tertiary work experience’ for example. However, only use this terminology if it is context-appropriate. Try to get someone with a medical background to review and make sure that you’ve used it correctly. Whatever you do, do not try to prove medical knowledge through excessive scientific terminology – the furthest you should go in terms of complexity is a description of research that you’ve done. Assessors won’t be impressed by you trying to show that you already have clinical knowledge.

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