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The importance of teamwork in building a medical portfolio

There’s no ‘I’ in team: Tips for portfolio schools

by , 29 April, 2016
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As part of our portfolio series of blog posts, this one will look at, you guessed it – teamworkGAMSAT Intensive Weekend and Mock Exam

The University of Wollongong (UOW) dedicates a section of the portfolio to Capacity to work with others. But interestingly, The University of Notre Dame (UND) removed the teamwork section from the portfolio last year. I wonder if it’s because it’s such a given aspect of school, university and the workforce that it wasn’t really helping to differentiate anyone.  Nevertheless, amazing team activities are still absolutely relevant for the Other academic and life achievements section of the medical school entry requirements, so don’t think they’re going to waste!

Below are a few simple Dos and Don’ts to help get you started.


  • Draw from other activities in the portfolio.  For example, if you’ve listed something under Leadership that also had a strong teamwork element, think about what you got from the experience in terms of teamwork and collaboration and cooperation and list that in the Capacity to work with others section.  Similarly, if you volunteered (this would go under Service to community (UND) or Service Ethic (UOW)) in really challenging circumstances (eg. after a natural disaster, in a developing country) and got a lot from peer support or debriefing, that aspect of it could go down under Capacity to work with others/Other life achievements as well.
  • Focus on what you got out of the experience, rather than simply describing the activity or your role in the team.
  • Include team activities that span various aspects of your life (eg. academic, professional, and recreational teams).


things you shouldn't do when applying to portfolio schools

  • Don’t include really generic and token activities that every man and his dog has done or anything you’ve been forced to do.  Seriously, ‘collaborated on a group assignment for uni’ = snoozefest.  That’s not to say university examples aren’t relevant, but think about activities you’ve actively sought and willingly participated in (eg. clubs & societies, study groups) and what skills you learned from that experience.
  • For UND specifically, don’t use up your entire Other academic and life achievements section (4 experiences) on team activities.  This section is broader than that and UND were clearly getting at something by removing the separateTeamwork section.  As noted above, that’s not to say teamwork isn’t important, but don’t go overboard (unless of course, you have nothing else you could possibly include).
  • For UND, don’t list future experiences.  The UND portfolio guide explicitly states future experiences won’t be considered.  UOW don’t come out and say it, but it’s safe to assume that a future experience isn’t going to be marked as highly (particularly as the focus is the length and breadth of experiences).

And remember, your portfolio will be read, and marked, as a whole.  By human beings.  Don’t stress too much over the logistics of filling out the GEMSAS form itself.  Just aim to get to the point where as a whole, it represents you and shows how awesome you are!