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To be successful as a Medical Writer and to progress within the medical communications industry, you need to prove that you have a way with words; the most common way Med Comms agencies will test for this is via a writing test.

A Med Comms writing test is an integral part of the interview process for the majority of Medical Writer roles and usually compromises of either an abstract, slide kit, news summary, satellite symposium or digital content adaptation, or occasionally a mix of two or three relating specifically to the Medical Writing jobs you are applying for.

The Writing Test

So, what are Editorial Directors looking for from a medical writing test? They want to see your current skills and abilities, what experience and ideas you’ll be able to offer their company in the future, and whether you’ll be a good fit for their Med Comms team.

A writing test supports agencies in easily assessing the core skills they’re looking for a new employee to possess. These include your writing style (does the copy flow nicely and include a beginning, middle and end), are you capable of proofreading and have an eye for detail, are there consistencies across your piece (tenses, units etc.) and most importantly your use of spelling and grammar.

They’ll also want to see if you’ve followed the brief correctly and included all relevant and required bits of information. Adhering to a brief is a vital part of being a Medical Writer, so before starting on the test, re-read over the task several times until you’re confident you fully understand it, particularly where there are word counts and structured formats to comply with.

"Asking questions is seen as a sign of strength, not a weakness..."

Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re unsure on any element of the brief. This is often seen as a sign of strength, not a weakness, and it’s much better to check your facts first than to assume you’ve got something right. In a project scenario, clients and agency leads are looking for people who can problem solve, which is exhibited by your confidence in asking for support.

Once completed, triple check your writing test for any spelling, grammar and data mistakes. If you’ve not been given a strict time limit for your test come back to it several hours later or ask a friend or family member (or even someone already working in the industry) to give it a once over. It’s very easy to miss mistakes when you’ve been looking at the same copy continuously for several hours.

A Medical Communications agency will also want to see if you’ve successfully competed your writing test within the given time – traditionally a couple of hours although this varies from agency to agency. This is a strong indication of your time management skills and your ability to work to tight deadlines, something you’ll regularly deal with as a Medical Writer.

If you’re applying directly to an agency and not via a recruitment company, make sure you include a well-written email with your writing test when you send it back. This is another opportunity to show off your writing capabilities – bonus! Remember to address this email to the correct person and include a bit of information about your experience. There would be no harm in attaching your CV and cover letter again too, even if they’ve already received it.

Top Tips for Medical Writers

Here at Carrot Recruitment we have a dedicated team of professionals working across the Healthcare Communications sector. So, we picked the brains of our Medical Writer recruitment consultant, Katie Goulbourn, for her top tips for mastering a writing test:

  • Rewriting the brief yourself will help you to better digest the information and could highlight any vital points you missed initially.
  • Carry out research around the type of writing you’ve been asked to produce. If it’s an abstract, then look at other versions - both standalone and in the context of scientific papers - so that you understand what format of writing you are being asked to produce. If it’s a slide deck, see if you can find similar examples to help you understand how they’re constructed.
  • Stick to the brief and follow the instructions. Don’t go off piste!
  • Showcase your creative side throughout the Medical Writer test. Some agencies are more creative than others, but this should be evident from the brief.
  • Aim to keep the reader engaged throughout and include enough detail to inspire credibility for them.
  • Your test should be coherent and show clarity and a logical flow throughout. You can achieve this by keeping sentences short and simple, with content that is easy to follow and understand.
  • All data should be presented accurately and clearly.
  • You’ll more than likely complete several Medical Writer writing test throughout your career, so ask for feedback from each one and keep on file for future opportunities.

Where to Find Help

For those starting out in their Medical Communications career, as either a Medical Writer or in a different Med Comms role, there’s plenty of excellent advice and resources to assist you. We highly recommend taking a look at First Med Comms Jobs and MedComms Networking as your first port of call.

If you require help with a medical writing test, or you’re looking to explore your options as a Medical Writer, we’re here to help. Get in touch with Katie today on +44 (0)1625 541 048 / katie@carrotpharma.co.uk for an informal and confidential chat around your career prospects.

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