Medical schools, probably most, have a Pass/Fail curriculum. During the first two years of medical school, at least at UCLA, you only need a 70% on the final exam to move on to the next level. Before I came to medical school, I knew this fact. Many people, non-medical school students, expressed their opinion about how “easy” medical school must be because it is only Pass/Fail. I believed this until the first week of medical school. I have worked harder to pass each and every exam in medical school than any exam in my undergrad career. It is a combination of the difficulty of the material and the importance of learning the material in order to make yourself a better doctor in the future. This brings us to the third year of medical school and a big change that is happening at UCLA to match other top ranked schools.
Starting with next year’s incoming class, UCLA will have a 4-tiered grading system during the third year clerkships. UCLA students felt that it was sometimes difficult to stand out during residency interviews when it only shows a “P” next to each rotation. Right now we essentially have Pass/Fail/LOD. An LOD is a Letter of Distinction. I view this as honors but with a fancier name. The difference between LOD and a 4-tiered grading system is that a tiered grading system only gives a certain amount of grades to each tier. A person in the honors tier can safely be said to be in the top 5-10% of their medical school class. LOD’s have a looser definition. Students must get all excellent ratings by their attendings and score above 85% on each shelf exam. But there is no limit to how many students may get an LOD. On some rotations, there could be no LODs given or on others 1 in 3 students may receive an LOD. Statistics aside I have a new drive next year to achieve the level of an LOD. With passing not being good enough for my own goals, LOD is the new pass and I will work harder than I ever have before to get one.