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J Athl Train. 2001 Apr-Jun; 36(2): 141–144.
PMCID: PMC155524

Preadmission Criteria as Predictors of Academic Success in Entry-Level Athletic Training and Other Allied Health Educational Programs

Abstract

Objective:

To investigate preadmission criteria, Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores, and high school grade point average (HSGPA) and to determine the ability of those criteria to predict the college grade point average (CGPA) of graduates from programs in athletic training and 5 other allied health disciplines.

Design and Setting:

Descriptive data, including age, sex, year of graduation, HSGPA, CGPA, and SAT scores (SAT mathematics [SATM], SAT verbal [SATV], and SAT total) were gathered from the files of graduates (1992 to 1997) of allied health education programs.

Subjects:

The complete records of 373 graduates (244 women and 129 men) of 6 allied health education programs in athletic training, health management systems, occupational therapy, perfusion technology, physician assistant, and physical therapy were used in this study. Subjects with incomplete files were excluded from this study.

Measurements:

We collected data from official college transcripts, official high school transcripts, and SAT scores reported to the university. Descriptive statistics, analysis of variance, Pearson correlation, and stepwise forward regression analyses were used to determine the ability of SATV score, SATM score, and HSGPA to predict CGPA.

Results:

Both SATV score and HSGPA were found to predict 14% of the variance in student success (CGPA) in all allied health programs; however, only HSGPA was predictive of student success in athletic training (P = .00). Both SATV score and HSGPA were predictive of CGPA in both physical (P = .02 and .03, respectively) and occupational (P = .02 and .00, respectively) therapy graduates; however, they predicted only 12% and 21%, respectively, of the variance in CGPA. The SATM score was predictive of CGPA in both perfusion technology (P = .05) and physician assistant (P = .00) graduates, accounting for 7% and 18% of the variance in outcomes.

Conclusions:

Overall, HSGPA and SATV score were predictive of student success (CGPA) in the allied health group as a whole and should continue to be used as part of the process of admission in higher education until such time that more predictive criteria are determined. The HSGPA was predictive of CGPA (r 2 = 0.38) in athletic training graduates, predicting more than one third of the professional program success. Athletic training educators should continue to use HSGPA as a predictor of success; however, they may wish to establish similar baseline comparisons between athletic training and other disciplines at their schools before determining the importance of standardized preadmission criteria for future students. This work should be considered a pilot study for the profession of athletic training and should be repeated at individual schools to determine the findings' applicability to other athletic training education programs.

Keywords: predictors of academic success, admission criteria, grade point average, Scholastic Aptitude Test

Education reform is one of the most important issues affecting the profession of athletic training today. The profession is responding to the 18 recommendations made by the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA) Education Task Force in 1997. Provision 12 of those recommendations encouraged “Athletic training education programs to consider aligning themselves in colleges of health-related professions.”1 If athletic training students are to be housed in schools with other allied health disciplines, they also may be required to adhere to and be evaluated by the same standards as are those other allied health professional students. Therefore, it is important to begin to prepare for this transition by comparing the academic preparation and outcomes of athletic training graduates with graduates of other allied health education programs. The purpose of our study was to compare the preadmission criteria of scores on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and high school grade point average (HSGPA) among disciplines. We also examined the ability of those criteria to predict the professional grade point averages (GPAs) of the graduates from programs in athletic training, health management systems, occupational therapy, perfusion technology, physician assistant, and physical therapy. Professional program GPA refers to those courses required for successful completion of the accredited education and training as a health care professional in a specific discipline. In athletic training, this course work includes all courses required to comply with Commission on the Accreditation of Allied Health Educational Programs professional education standards.

METHODS

Sample

The subjects in this study were 373 graduates from 6 allied health education programs (1992 to 1997) from a private university in the northeast; 51 of those students were graduates of a Commission on the Accreditation of Allied Health Educational Programs–accredited athletic training education program. The other allied health disciplines we examined were health management systems, occupational therapy, perfusion technology, physician assistant, and physical therapy.

Measurements

Using the information found in the subjects' academic records, including official college transcripts, official high school transcripts, and SAT score reports, demographic information, HSGPA, SAT verbal (SATV) scores, SAT mathematics (SATM) scores, SAT total (SATT) scores, and college GPA (CGPA) data were gathered. We used descriptive statistics, analysis of variance, the Tukey post hoc test, the Pearson correlation, and stepwise forward regression models to analyze the data. The α levels were considered significant if P ≤ .05. The dependent variable used to determine program success was CGPA, and the independent variables were HSGPA, SATV score, and SATM score. The investigators were blinded to the specific sources of the data. The SATT score was not used in the multiple regression analysis because it is the summation of the SATV and SATM scores and would create duplicate data. The institutional review board at the institution granted exempt status approval for this study.

RESULTS

All groups were first compared to determine the homogeneity of the sample (Pearson correlation). Only one significant difference was noted in the preadmission profiles (HSGPA; SATM, SATV, and SATT scores; and age) of the athletic training group compared with all other groups of allied health graduates. The mean age of the athletic training subjects was significantly different from the mean age for all other groups considered in this study (F5,455 = 11.45, P = .00). Overall, the ages of athletic training subjects ranged from 21 to 33 years, whereas the ages of all subjects ranged from 21 to 56 years. All other preadmission criteria were similar across all groups. The HSGPA ranged from 1.36 to 4.00 on a 4-point scale. The SATT scores ranged from 480 to 1300. The SATV scores ranged from 220 to 660, and the SATM scores ranged from a 260 to 710. The CGPA ranged from 2.00 to a 4.00 on a 4-point scale. All other descriptive statistical data are found in Table Table11.

Table 1
Descriptive Data (Mean ± SD)

The stepwise forward regression analyses revealed that HSGPA and SATV score were predictive (F2,370 = 31.32, P = .00) of CGPA when the group was considered as a whole (n = 373). The independent variables predicted 14.5% of the variance in CGPA. The SATM score was not predictive as an independent variable. The HSGPA predicted 38% of the variance in CGPA of athletic training graduates (P = .00); however, SAT scores were not predictive (Table (Table2).2). The SATM score was the only significant predictor of CGPA for both perfusion technology (P = .05) and physician assistant (P = .00) graduates. The HSGPA and SATV score were predictive of CGPA in both occupational therapy (P = .02 and .00, respectively) and physical therapy (P = .02 and .03, respectively) groups. None of the dependent variables were predictive of CGPA for the health management systems group.

Table 2
Stepwise Forward Regression

DISCUSSION

Selection criteria for entrance into allied health schools vary greatly among institutions; however, one standard remains consistent. Schools evaluate past academic performances as possible predictors of future performance and success in allied health education programs. Common criteria for evaluation of academic success (professional program GPA) include class rank, overall preadmission GPA, GPA in selected preadmission courses (eg, biology, chemistry), scores on standardized tests (eg, SAT, Graduate Record Examination), scores on specialized tests (eg, Allied Health Professions Aptitude Test), and quality of writing samples and personal interviews.

As more athletic training education programs consider the transition to schools of allied health, it is important to compare the academic preparation and outcomes of athletic training graduates with graduates of other allied health education programs. In this study, we investigated the effect of 2 traditional admission criteria, SAT scores and HSGPA, on the prediction of professional program performance as determined by CGPA. We found that, for students admitted at the freshman level into entry-level academic programs in the 6 allied health fields, SATV score and HSGPA predicted professional program GPA for the whole group (n = 373). However, these criteria predicted only 14% of the variances in CGPA. This finding demonstrates that other factors predicted the other 86% of the variance in CGPA. These findings also may have been influenced by the fact that 75% of the sample were graduates of the physical and occupational therapy programs, and HSGPA and SATV score were predictive of CGPA for both groups.

When analyzing the outcomes of this study further, we noted that HSGPA was the only predictor of CGPA in athletic training graduates. This is an important finding because HSGPA predicted 38% of the variance in CGPA in athletic training students. Since this independent variable predicted more than one third of the outcomes, with an associated high β weight, we advise that HSGPA continue to be used to predict success in future athletic training students.

Preadmission GPA is a common criterion measure for consideration of allied health program applicants.27 Preadmission GPA may include HSGPA8 or undergraduate,4,6,9 freshman,10 or preprofessional program GPA.2,4,69 The findings from this study are similar to others in which preadmission GPA was a significant predictor of academic success in physical therapy2,3,5,7 and pharmacy6 professional programs. However, the variances in the ability to predict academic success noted in past studies ranged from 20% to 46%. The differences found in the Pearson correlation values may be explained by the rigors of different educational programs, professional discipline requirements, and the grading systems used by different instructors. Comparing GPA outcomes among different instructors, academic programs, or institutions is always suspect because of testing reliability errors. Similar to our findings, previous research provided support for the use of preadmission GPA as a predictor of success; however, evidence was insufficient to support preadmission GPA as the only criterion.

Preadmission GPA plays a confirming role when correlated with standardized test scores such as SAT, Graduate Record Examination, or American College Testing scores.11 The results on these standardized tests are most commonly used to predict academic success as measured by final GPA25 or board examination passing rates.3,10 Standardized tests are purported to measure knowledge that has been acquired in and out of school. Scores of one portion of the SAT (SATV) and HSGPA were predictive of CGPA in both physical and occupational therapy graduates. These independent variables predicted 21% of the variance in CGPA in occupational therapy graduates and only 12% of the variance in physical therapy graduate outcomes. The SATM score was not found to be predictive of CGPA.

On the other hand, the SATM score predicted success in both the perfusion technology and physician assistant graduates. The SATM score predicted only 7% of the variance in CGPA in the perfusion technology group; this finding may be suspect because of the low power of the analysis (F = 4.16, β = .31). The SATM score predicted 18% of the variance in CGPA for physician assistant graduates. None of the independent variables predicted CGPA in health management system graduates; however, this finding may be a result of the small sample size of the group (n = 22).

Admission criteria (preadmission GPA and SAT scores) have been important considerations of candidates' qualifications for allied health education programs. These criteria are predictive of professional program success (CGPA); however, because of the great variance in their ability to predict professional outcomes, traditional selection criteria should not be the only factors used when considering students' applications. Other criteria, such as personal interviews, examination of student portfolios, student writing samples, and student motivation, should be considered. Personal interviews have been used for many years as part of the admission process into some athletic training education programs; however, little information is available on the effectiveness of such techniques. Further research should be conducted to determine the effectiveness of standard admission criteria, as well as the interview and other qualitative indexes, to assist in the prediction of success in athletic training and other allied health programs.

This study had several limitations, including sample size and sample selection. Differences in the number of subjects in each of the discipline-specific subgroups might have influenced the statistical data. The smaller groups may not have provided sufficient data to compare with the data collected from the larger groups. Also, the subjects used for this study, although from 6 different disciplines, were from the same institution. This restriction may bias the data and prevent generalization to a larger population. To confirm the findings from this study, a larger study of subjects from multiple institutions will help to control for institutional bias.

CONCLUSIONS

Overall, HSGPA and SATV score predicted academic success (CGPA) of the allied health group as a whole and should continue to be used as part of the process of admission in higher education until such time that more predictive criteria are determined. However, because these admissions criteria predicted only a small portion of the variance in graduate success, we suggest that other possible selection criteria continue to be investigated for their ability to predict success in athletic training and other allied health education programs.

The HSGPA was predictive of CGPA in athletic training graduates, predicting more than one third of the professional program success. Athletic training educators should continue to use HSGPA criteria as a predictor; however, they may wish to establish similar baseline comparisons between athletic training and other disciplines at their schools before determining the importance of standardized preadmission criteria for future students. This work should be considered a pilot study for the profession of athletic training and should be repeated at individual schools to determine the findings' applicability to other athletic training education programs.

REFERENCES

1. NATA Education Task Force. Recommendations to reform athletic training education. NATA News. 1997 Feb;:22–23.
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11. Hanford GH. Further comment: yes, the SAT does help colleges. Harvard Educ Rev. 1985;55:324–331.

Articles from Journal of Athletic Training are provided here courtesy of National Athletic Trainers Association