How to Ace that Writing Test

writingYou slaved over your CV, ironed out all the wrinkles in your work history, clutched at ways to sum up your brilliance in a succinct yet impressive way and managed to catch every single last spelling mistake. Then after topping it off with a respectful and specifically tailored cover letter, you wait nervously for feedback. In order to make matters a little less nerve wracking, you crack straight on with pre-emptive interview practice. That’s when they hit you with the unexpected writing test.

It makes sense really, if you want to get a career in medical communications you need to prove that you have at least something of a way with words. For instance, you might have written glorious scientific essays previously, a ground breaking dissertation or have a string of publications to your name but this is the real test for your composition skills.
Assessors will be looking for the following in a successful writing test:

  • Completed within a reasonable amount of time. You’ll most likely have a deadline of a week to do the test but you are expected to spend no more than a few hours actually doing it
  • Have a clear and professional appearance. Also, make sure that you’ve written a respectful accompanying email. Within the brief you may well have been given a client name, make sure you use it in the email
  • Writing pitched at the right level of audience. A summary article aimed at therapy area specialists will sound very different to a leaflet for patients
  • Sound scientific understanding. You need to be an authority on the topic you’re writing about so terms must be used correctly
  • That you’ve followed the brief. This includes identification of key points and that you’ve done your best to maintain an appropriate balance of commercial versus scientific messages. This isn’t research any more, you’re writing within a business context
  • And, not surprisingly, good use of English. No spelling mistakes, errors in grammar and so on, you need to be vigilant in your proofreading to catch every last misuse of an apostrophe. They’ll also want to see good flow in your writing, it should be readable

A writing test makes you confirm your skills, and are actual evidence of the potential you have within medical communications. It doesn’t have to be perfect, in many cases if you do not have experience they will not be expecting your work to be client ready. However, it is a clear indication that you are taking steps in the right direction.
Before you embark on the writing test you should research the company in question. This should give you a good idea of the kind of work they do.

When you get your writing test:

  • Read the brief. Then read it again. This is the most important thing. You may produce the most wonderfully compelling piece of scientific literature the world has ever seen but if it’s not what the client asked for, then they are not going to be impressed
  • If you need any sort of clarification, ask questions. You can go back to the company or send your queries through your recruiter if there is anything you’re in doubt about
  • ‘A picture is a thousand words’ is a cliché for a reason. Consider the task you’ve been set and ask yourself if you can use a relevant image in place of a large chunk of your (no doubt beautifully crafted) text. If so, make sure you’ve labelled it appropriately, given it a title and referenced it if necessary
  • Once you’ve completed the test (providing there is enough time) don’t send it off straight away. Leave it for a few hours, or preferably overnight, and come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes. You’ll almost definitely spot one or two errors you hadn’t picked up on previously and potentially even have a couple of new ideas for better ways to phrase some sentences

At the end of the day, the only way to get better at writing tests is practice. You can find examples online, and we even have one or two exercises in our archive but one thing you’ll definitely benefit from is constructive criticism.
As part of our Junior Assessment Centre for candidates looking to get into medical communications we include a medical writing test. Marked by a talented and experience medical writer, all applicants get fulsome feedback and pointers on how they can improve. Even those applying for account handling roles will find it beneficial – press releases, presentations and more will often fall under their remit after all.
To apply for our next assessment centre please get in touch on 01189522792 or email

Career Advice, Exhibition/Conference, MedComms Professionals