NAQ Myths Debunked – Part 1

Hi everyone! We have a confession; from time to time we take a peek at the Premed 101 Forums to get a sense of how many of you are doing and to see if there is anything we can help to clarify. From the chatter over the last couple weeks, we’ve realized that there are many misconceptions floating around the internet, and thought that we would take this opportunity to try and give you some more information about how to write your NAQ application so that you can maximize your score. Also, we hope this provides those of you who were not offered an interview an idea of how to assess yourself and improve for next year, if you are considering reapplying.

We’ re sorry if we’re putting a few of you on the spot, but since Premed 101 is anonymous we’ve decided to pull a few especially problematic speculations about our scoring system and ensure the information you receive is correct. We have a lot of information to share, so this blog post will be split into two parts. Today we’ll focus on concerns around NAQ Wording, and later this week, we’ll share some information about NAQ Scoring.


NAQ Wording

“…it’s not important to focus on each EC activity; it’s more about the theme. The reviewers don’t spend hours, let alone several minutes (I have a friend who was a reviewer) on the apps. They’re looking for keywords, themes, and commitment to your work.”- PM101

We are not looking for themes or keywords in your application. What we are looking for is evidence of long term commitments within your community. As you can imagine, there is an obvious difference in commitment, between someone who has volunteered with a homeless shelter for 600 hours over 5 years, and someone who has volunteered with the same organization for 40 hours over 8 months. Even if both of these applicants use the same keywords, the two entries demonstrate significantly different levels of involvement. NAQ evaluators will pick this out no matter how you try to dress up your wording. We also value variety, so you do not need to commit to any one theme. As long as you are committed, on an ongoing basis, to employment or volunteer work (or both) that you find meaningful, this will help contribute to a better score.

That being said, shorter term commitments and extra-curricular interests, such as hobbies, are considered as part of the evaluation, so it is important to be as clear as possible when describing each activity. There are no points awarded for having a theme or narrative. Involvement, commitment, growth, and the ability to go outside your comfort zone are much more important.


“I think the wording did contribute as well because I spoke with a bunch of friends who have gotten accepted to UBC. They all mentioned that the wording is very important. Basically from what I gather they look for certain words that describe a physician in the descriptions of each activity.” –PM 101

This is not correct. We do not want you to describe how you are like a physician in your descriptions. What we would like is that you provide a clear, accurate description of what you did in that activity/position. Clarity and accuracy are most important here. We understand that you would like to emphasize that you worked with others, were in caring role, etc., but this will be clear to us from your description.


“It seems like everyone swears by CANMED roles, maybe I should have used it when crafting my 150 character responses.” –PM 101

You do not need to reference any CanMEDS competencies in your descriptions. This will just waste space and make your entry more abstract and less clear. CanMEDS are skills expected of fully qualified physicians. While other schools may ask you to comment on them, UBC does not expect these of pre-medical students. There is, of course, some cross over between the qualities we look for and the CanMED competencies, but the connection is not any greater than that.


One last note:

Please do not exaggerate your role or commitment to a particular activity. Provide as much detail as you can in the limited space available, but write about what you actually did and what you accomplished. If you are trying to think about how to improve your application, look at the types of experiences you have had and ask what they say about you? If someone was reading your application for the first time, how might they interpret your leadership ability, service ethic, capacity to work with others, the diversity of your experiences, and your high performance achievements? These can be demonstrated in paid or unpaid positions. Also, think about other people you admire. How do they demonstrate these same qualities? How might you emulate them and take your experiences to the next level? We hope this helps you to think outside of the box and improve your application for next year, should you choose to reapply.

2 responses to “NAQ Myths Debunked – Part 1”

  1. clay

    How do you explain a friend that has essentially the same activities as me (as we have done most of them together) getting an interview and me not recieveing one. Our GPA\MCAT were similar. How is that not related to wording?

    1. Admissions

      Wording does matter! In the post we were responding specifically to claims that having a theme, wording entries to emphasize being like a physician or using CANMED domains would improve one’s NAQ score. These specific things are not true, but wording can definitely impact the understanding file evaluators have about your activity and your role in that activity, which in turn can affect your score. Additionally, while many applicants have the same core activities as their friends, it is very uncommon for all their activities in the NAQ section to be identical. Even twins who do almost everything together have some variability. This can lead to each person receiving a different score.

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