Medical School Grading System

The UASOM has implemented a simple pass-fail grading system as of 2006.  This policy applies to all courses, clerkships, electives, acting internships and all other units of academic activity, as well as all campuses of the School of Medicine.  

  • All graded courses, clerkships, and electives will continue to assign a raw score for the performance of each student enrolled.  The raw score shall range from 0 to 100, with a score of 70 and higher established as a passing score.
  • The raw scores earned will be recorded and maintained by the SOM for internal use and individual student use only.  All academic grades earned prior to the implementation of this policy will remain as earned.  Students who have had their academic progress interrupted and will return after July 1, 2006 will be graded according to this new grading policy.
  • For purposes of calculating medical school GPA for students who entered prior to the implementation of this policy, the graduate courses and other first-year graduate courses will be given a weight equal to the courses they replace. 

Students in the MSTP will be assigned to the medical school class with which they entered for the first 2 years.  After completing the research and dissertation portion, and upon return to the clinical phase of the program, MSTP students will be assigned to the current third year medical school class for purposes of comparative calculations (eligibility for AOA, honors, awards, etc.).

All students must take USMLE Step 1 before beginning their first clerkship, or before beginning a leave of absence for Ph.D. training for MSTP students.  MSTP students are required to take USMLE Step 1 prior to the start of Block 6b.  If an MSTP student does not meet this deadline, then they must either be registered for the Basic Science Elective in Block 6b (06-402D; Course Director James Banos) or go on a Leave of Absence (without stipend).  These alternatives must be approved by the MSTP Director, the Associate Dean for Students (Dr. Laura Kezar), and the Basic Science Elective Course Director.


MS-1 Medical Courses: During the summer before the first year of the Medical curriculum, MSTP students are enrolled in MSTP 793. All other courses and requirements of the first 2 years of the medical curriculum are unchanged and are required for MSTP students. All MS-I students are required to take the Special Topics Course – Survival Skills for Physician Scientists during the summer between the MS-I and MS-II years.

Starting their MS1 year, MSTP students will be issued an iPad Mini (4th Generation, Wi-Fi only, with 32GB memory, and 2 years of AppleCare+), and a Bluetooth Keyboard/Case. The iPad Mini will be used to deliver educational content through apps and links to web-based resources, be used in the classroom for interactive learning, and provide a secure computing environment for HIPAA compliant electronic communications and accessing electronic medical records. 

The iPad Mini will be managed by UAB Health System’s mobile device management system which allows UAB to maintain data security, even if the iPad is lost, damaged beyond use, or stolen. Enrollment in the mobile device management system will be automatic during the initial guided setup of the iPad Mini. 


MS-2 Medical Courses: During the MS-II year, MSTP students will also enroll in four different modular graduate courses during the spring, for which credit will be given as Medical School Electives. 

MSTP students must register and complete USMLE STEP I of the NBME exam by early summer after completion of their MS-II class work.  For the summer of 2018, MSTP students must have taken STEP I no later than May 22, 2018.

All MSTP MS-II students are given the option to take the 4-week Family Medicine Elective (30-210 Senior Preceptorship) prior to starting their third research rotation.  This option must be approved by the MSTP and Medical Student services no later than January 1 of the MS-II year.


All MSTP students who have either finished their second or third rotations, or who are in their thesis laboratories, must participate in Medical Student Research Day (MSRD) held each fall.  The MSTP will cover the cost of the MSRD posters.  The only MSTP students who will not be expected to participate are those in MS-III or MS-IV clinical rotations.  Participation in MSRD is optional for students in the MS-I year.  However, MS-I students wishing to be considered to attend the national MD-PhD Student Conference in Keystone, CO, the summer following their first year are required to participate. 

Laboratory Rotations: In selecting faculty mentors for lab rotations, the student must expend considerable effort, because no further rotations are usually allowed.  Students select from MSTP Faculty for a rotation, and must register for each rotation with the MSTP office prior to the start of the rotation.  Forms can be found online ( These forms must be completed and turned into the MSTP office by the indicated deadlines.  It is a requirement that students meet with at least 3 faculty members to discuss potential rotation projects prior to making a commitment to a laboratory for their rotation.

Three rotations in different research labs are scheduled, primarily for the purpose of selecting the student’s thesis mentor for their PhD dissertation work.   The first required rotation is a full-time rotation beginning in June prior to entry of the first year medical school curriculum.  After a break for UASOM orientation and the Patient, Doctor, and Society course, it is an option to continue this rotation on a part-time basis during the early fall of the first year (during the timeframe of the Fundamentals) and consists of bench laboratory work or a similar experience in epidemiology or public health.  The second two rotations are for 8-10 weeks of full time effort during the next two summers.  Students who have completed their MS-II year must complete 8 weeks of full time effort in the laboratory after the end of second year Medical School classes and before Labor Day.

After 3 rotations, students must formally join a lab to remain in the program.  Students must select a Thesis Mentor and laboratory for their dissertation research by August 15th of the summer after the MS-II year.  Ideally, students are expected to complete three rotations, each with a different MSTP Faculty.  Students may not do 2 rotations with the same MSTP Faculty member.   However, students may request permission from the Director to opt out of the third rotation if circumstances warrant this option.

Issues with Finding a Lab: If students have an interest in working with a faculty member who is not currently an approved MSTP faculty member, they should notify the Program Manager and/or one of the Directors, who can initiate the necessary procedures to evaluate and approve the individual as MSTP Faculty.  If at any time a student is having difficulty in identifying appropriate MSTP Faculty to serve as rotation advisors, he/she/they should immediately contact their MSTP advisor or one of the Directors of the program for advice. This will allow the student to obtain additional advice in order to make an informed decision regarding their third and final rotation.

If a suitable Thesis Mentor has not been identified after 3 rotations, a fourth rotation may be allowed after submitting a written request and a discussion with the Program Director.  If a student joins a lab and subsequently comes to irreconcilable differences with their Thesis Mentor a change of labs can be arranged.

Requests received after the deadline for the selection of the thesis laboratory or with no evidence of appropriate diligence on the student's part to complete the requirement on time are not in keeping with the high expectations for professionalism of the program.