How to Prepare for TCU and UNTHSC Medical School's Audio Secondary

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There is a newly accredited MD school with a very long name: Texas Christian University and the University of North Texas Health Science Center Medical School.

And its secondary application seems similarly complex and confusing.

Besides being a timed test, like the CASPer, TCU/UNTHSC’s secondary also includes an audio portion, where applicants must use their computer’s microphone to record a spoken response. Yep that’s right - a little extra challenge in case secondaries weren’t stressful enough!  

Before we get too deep into the weeds, it’d be smart for prospective candidates to read up about the school’s partnership, its mission and values, and its application timeline. The school has been given preliminary accreditation and will be using the AMCAS application.

Okay, now let’s break down what you can expect in this strange secondary application:

What Questions are Asked in TCU and UNTHSC Medical School’s Secondary?

That’s a tough question. The school has posted information about the format of its secondary, as well as technical tips and instructions, but the actual content of the essay prompts has been kept a secret.

The school’s thread on Student Doctor Network is regularly moderated by a representative of the school, so we’ve been able to gather some important basic information.     

The Example Question

The secondary begins with an example test question (untimed) so that you can practice and ensure that your internet connection is strong, that your microphone is performing properly, and that you understand the "end audio" feature.

The instructions also include important browser information, and failure to follow these instructions will result in technical issues!

The Time Limits

For each of the actual questions, you’ll have a minute to read the prompt and think about your response. Make sure to reread the prompts a few times because once you start writing or recording the prompts will disappear!

For the audio question, you’ll have three minutes to record your answer; for the written questions, you’ll be given eight minutes to type your responses.

You can take breaks in between the questions if desired. If you complete them all consecutively without breaks, you can finish the application in approximately 45 minutes (if you do the math, that means you’ll be given at least 4-5 written questions).

The questions proceed sequentially and you can't go backwards, not even to review what you said or wrote. Once the timer ends on a question, it will auto-save and proceed to the next.

Your written answers won’t be assessed for grammar or spelling, but there is an expectation of a cohesive response.

Here are a few helpful tips for taking timed tests online.

The Optional Diversity Question

There will be an optional question about diversity which specifically mentions sexual orientation; this has confused some applicants on SDN (especially since TCU is a Christian institution), so we thought we’d share the official response from the school’s moderator:

“As described in the paragraph before the question and stated in our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion statement, we are committed to recruiting a student body that reflects our community and to do so, we respectfully ask for this information to complement gender identity question asked on the AMCAS. It is voluntary, and no particular response will determine admission.”

For this question, we recommend that you answer honestly, even if you have reservations about potential discriminatory treatment. It’s unwise to misrepresent yourself, especially in the long run.

It’s important to note that the school classifies many forms of diversity beyond race or sexual orientation; here’s a puzzle image from the school’s website to illustrate this range:

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The easiest approach for this question is to utilize your past content from other schools’ diversity secondary prompts, and then include a small component about sexual orientation, if your response didn’t include that before.

How to Prepare for TCU and UNTHSC Medical School’s Secondary

If you don’t know the specific prompts, how can you possibly prepare?

Don’t be fooled into adopting this attitude. It’s like the CASPer or the Western Michigan phone interview - you’re led to believe that there’s no way to prep for it, but that’s totally false.

Sure, you can’t be 100% sure of what to expect, but you can still research the school, anticipate possible questions, and create a list of stories and experiences to draw upon.

Let’s start with the school’s mission and values, which should reveal some topics that the admissions committee will care about:

“Empathetic Scholars”

The school has trademarked this phrase, and it seems to be putting a lot of emphasis on the ability to “walk in the patient’s shoes.” Here’s a brief description from the website’s FAQ:

“Outstanding communicators and active listeners, empathetic scholars are lifelong learners and highly valued as physicians, colleagues, leaders, and citizens in their community.”

Patient-centered care is clearly valued at this school, so you should be ready to share at least one strong example of your bedside manner, compassion, and relatability with patients.

Communication/Collaboration

The school’s website claims that “communication is embedded throughout the curriculum to create exceptional communicators and active listeners.

So, besides an anecdote or two about patient interactions, you should be prepared to discuss teamwork experiences, conflicts, and leadership roles that required you to be an effective communicator/listener with different groups of people.

Scholarly Pursuit and Thesis

As part of TCU/UNTSHC’s curriculum, students will develop and present a Scholarly Pursuit and Thesis. This four-year-long research project is meant to stimulate curiosity, critical thinking and lifelong learning.

If you’ve already completed research projects, that’s great; just be prepared to write or speak on them. If not, come prepared with at least one anecdote about a significant scholarly project, like a capstone thesis paper or in-depth report from one of your classes.

Try to frame your response in a way that illustrates your curiosity and capacity for critical thinking. Also be ready to explain what area(s) of research you’d like to focus on as a TCU/UNTSHC student in the future.

Character/Community

These two values are included in the school’s “Vision,” and they are described as such:

* Character – integrity, empathy, humanism, professionalism

* Community – servant leadership, public education, partnership, leadership

So, it’s important for you to prepare some anecdotes or examples of your professionalism, ethics, and ability to lead with integrity.

Learn, Apply, Serve

This three-word phrase is the school’s motto.

Not only should you be ready to share examples of situations where you applied your knowledge, but you should also make a list of the ways that you align with the school’s mission and values on a broader level.

It’s very likely that you’ll get at least one question about how you’re a fit for this institution.

For reference, we’ve written a whole article about how to communicate your “fit” with a medical school.

Some Final Advice

You will be timed and voice-recorded, but there’s no reason you can’t prepare a cheat sheet ahead of time, which lists all of these potential questions and your core stories. Most of this content can be gathered from your past secondary essays for other schools.

We DON’T recommend using a previously written answer verbatim; not only is this ethically questionable, but essays that are TOO eloquent and impeccable will also raise suspicions.

Instead, create “skeletons” of your answers with key bullet points to hit on throughout your responses. That way, you’ll sound organic but still have a clear path to follow, thus cutting down on wasted time.

One minute is not a lot of time to think about your responses, but if you’re prepared, you can make good use of this limited time.

We hope this breakdown and advice will help you prepare your materials and ace this strange new secondary! Best of luck!