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1.  Socio-economic predictors of performance in the Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admission Test (UMAT) 
BMC Medical Education  2013;13:155.
Entry from secondary school to Australian and New Zealand undergraduate medical schools has since the late 1990’s increasingly relied on the Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admission Test (UMAT) as one of the selection factors. The UMAT consists of 3 sections – logical reasoning and problem solving (UMAT-1), understanding people (UMAT-2) and non-verbal reasoning (UMAT-3). One of the goals of using this test has been to enhance equity in the selection of students with the anticipation of an increase in the socioeconomic diversity in student cohorts. However there has been limited assessment as to whether UMAT performance itself might be influenced by socioeconomic background.
Between 2000 and 2012, 158,909 UMAT assessments were completed. From these, 118,085 cases have been identified where an Australian candidate was sitting for the first time during that period. Predictors of the total UMAT score, UMAT-1, UMAT-2 and UMAT-3 scores were entered into regression models and included gender, age, school type, language used at home, deciles for the Index of Relative Socioeconomic Advantage and Disadvantage score, the Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia (ARIA), self-identification as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin (ATSI) and current Australian state or territory of abode.
A lower UMAT score was predicted by living in an area of relatively higher social disadvantage and lower social advantage. Other socioeconomic indicators were consistent with this observation with lower scores in those who self-identified as being of ATSI origin and higher scores evident in those from fee-paying independent school backgrounds compared to government schools. Lower scores were seen with increasing age, female gender and speaking any language other than English at home. Divergent effects of rurality were observed, with increased scores for UMAT-1 and UMAT-2, but decreasing UMAT-3 scores with increasing ARIA score. Significant state-based differences largely reflected substantial socio-demographic differences across Australian states and territories.
Better performance by Australian candidates in the UMAT is linked to an increase in socio-economic advantage and reduced disadvantage.This observation provides a firm foundation for selection processes at medical schools in Australia that have incorporated affirmative action pathways to quarantine places for students from areas of socio-economic disadvantage.
PMCID: PMC4220554  PMID: 24286571
2.  Medical student selection criteria and socio-demographic factors as predictors of ultimately working rurally after graduation 
BMC Medical Education  2015;15:74.
We have previously demonstrated that both coming from a rural background and spending a year-long clinical rotation in our Rural Clinical School (RCS) have independent and additive effects to increase the likelihood of medical students practicing rurally following graduation. The current study assesses the extent to which medical school selection criteria and/or the socio-demographic profile of medical students may further facilitate or hamper the selection of students ultimately destined for the rural medical workforce.
The study comprised 729 students, admitted from secondary school since 1999 and having graduated by 2011, whose actual workplace location in 2014 was classified as either urban or rural using the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency database. Selection factors on entry (score from a standardised interview, percentile scores for the 3 components of the Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admission Test (UMAT) and prior academic performance as assessed by the Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank) together with socio-demographic factors (age, gender, decile for the Index of Relative Socioeconomic Advantage and Disadvantage (IRSAD)), were examined in relation to ultimate rural destination of practice.
In logistic regression, those practicing in a rural location in 2014 were more likely to have come from the lower 6 IRSAD deciles (OR 2.75, 95% CI 1.44, 5.23, P = 0.002), to be older (OR 1.86, 95% CI 1.09, 3.18, p = 0.023) and to have a lower UMAT-3 (Non-verbal communication) score (OR 0.98, 95% CI 0.97, 0.99, P = 0.005). After further controlling for either rural background or RCS participation, only age and UMAT-3 remained as independent predictors of current rural practice.
In terms of the socio-demographic profiles of those selected for medical school entry from secondary school, only older age weakly augmented the selection of graduates likely to ultimately work in a rural destination. Among the selection factors, having achieved higher scores in UMAT-3 tended to mitigate this outcome. The major focus in attempts to grow the rural medical workforce should therefore remain on recruiting medical students from a rural background together with providing maximal opportunity for prolonged immersion in rural clinical environments during their training.
PMCID: PMC4407300  PMID: 25890081
Medical school; Selection criteria; Rural medical workforce
3.  Medical student selection criteria as predictors of intended rural practice following graduation 
BMC Medical Education  2014;14:218.
Recruiting medical students from a rural background, together with offering them opportunities for prolonged immersion in rural clinical training environments, both lead to increased participation in the rural workforce after graduation. We have now assessed the extent to which medical students’ intentions to practice rurally may also be predicted by either medical school selection criteria and/or student socio-demographic profiles.
The study cohort included 538 secondary school-leaver entrants to The University of Western Australia Medical School from 2006 to 2011. On entry they completed a questionnaire indicating intention for either urban or rural practice following graduation. Selection factors (standardised interview score, percentile score from the Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admission Test (UMAT) and prior academic performance (Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank), together with socio-demographic factors (age, gender, decile for the Index of Relative Socioeconomic Advantage and Disadvantage (IRSAD) and an index of rurality) were examined in relation to intended rural or urban destination of practice.
In multivariate logistic regression, students from a rural background had a nearly 8-fold increase in the odds of intention to practice rurally after graduation compared to those from urban backgrounds (OR 7.84, 95% CI 4.10, 14.99, P < 0.001). Those intending to be generalists rather than specialists had a more than 4-fold increase in the odds of intention to practice rurally (OR 4.36, 95% CI 1.69, 11.22, P < 0.001). After controlling for these 2 factors, those with rural intent had significantly lower academic entry scores (P = 0.002) and marginally lower interview scores (P = 0.045). UMAT percentile scores were no different. Those intending to work in a rural location were also more likely to be female (OR 1.93, 95% CI 1.08, 3.48, P = 0.027), to come from the lower eight IRSAD deciles (OR 2.52, 95% CI 1.47, 4.32, P = 0.001) and to come from Government vs independent schools (OR 2.02, 95% CI 1.15, 3.55, P = 0.015).
Very high academic scores generally required for medical school entry may have the unintended consequence of selecting fewer graduates interested in a rural practice destination. Increased efforts to recruit students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds may be beneficial in terms of an ultimate intended rural practice destination.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1472-6920-14-218) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4287212  PMID: 25315743
4.  Practice effects in medical school entrance testing with the undergraduate medicine and health sciences admission test (UMAT) 
BMC Medical Education  2014;14:48.
The UMAT is widely used for selection into undergraduate medical and dental courses in Australia and New Zealand (NZ). It tests aptitudes thought to be especially relevant to medical studies and consists of 3 sections – logical reasoning and problem solving (UMAT-1), understanding people (UMAT-2) and non-verbal reasoning (UMAT-3). A substantial proportion of all candidates re-sit the UMAT. Re-sitting raises the issue as to what might be the precise magnitude and determinants of any practice effects on the UMAT and their implications for equity in subsequent selection processes.
Between 2000 and 2012, 158,909 UMAT assessments were completed. From these, 135,833 cases were identified where a candidate had sat once or more during that period with 117,505 cases (86.5%) having sat once, 14,739 having sat twice (10.9%), 2,752 thrice (2%) and 837, 4 or more times (0.6%). Subsequent analyses determined predictors of multiple re-sits as well as the magnitude and socio-demographic determinants of any practice effects.
Increased likelihood of re-sitting the UMAT twice or more was predicted by being male, of younger age, being from a non-English language speaking background and being from NZ and for Australian candidates, being urban rather than rurally based. For those who sat at least twice, the total UMAT score between a first and second attempt improved by 10.7 ± 0.2 percentiles, UMAT-1 by 8.3 ± 0.2 percentiles, UMAT-2 by 8.3 ± 0.2 percentiles and UMAT-3 by 7.7 ± 0.2 percentiles. An increase in total UMAT percentile score on re-testing was predicted by a lower initial score and being a candidate from NZ rather than from Australia while a decrease was related to increased length of time since initially sitting the test, older age and non-English language background.
Re-sitting the UMAT augments performance in each of its components together with the total UMAT percentile score. Whether this increase represents just an improvement in performance or an improvement in understanding of the variables and therefore competence needs to be further defined. If only the former, then practice effects may be introducing inequity in student selection for medical or dental schools in Australia or NZ.
PMCID: PMC4007585  PMID: 24618021
5.  Predicting academic outcomes in an Australian graduate entry medical programme 
BMC Medical Education  2014;14:31.
Predictive validity studies for selection criteria into graduate entry courses in Australia have been inconsistent in their outcomes. One of the reasons for this inconsistency may have been failure to have adequately considered background disciplines of the graduates as well as other potential confounding socio-demographic variables that may influence academic performance.
Graduate entrants into the MBBS at The University of Western Australia between 2005 and 2012 were studied (N = 421). They undertook a 6-month bridging course, before joining the undergraduate-entry students for Years 3 through 6 of the medical course. Students were selected using their undergraduate Grade Point Average (GPA), Graduate Australian Medical School Admissions Test scores (GAMSAT) and a score from a standardised interview. Students could apply from any background discipline and could also be selected through an alternative rural entry pathway again utilising these 3 entry scores. Entry scores, together with age, gender, discipline background, rural entry status and a socioeconomic indicator were entered into linear regression models to determine the relative influence of each predictor on subsequent academic performance in the course.
Background discipline, age, gender and selection through the rural pathway were variously related to each of the 3 entry criteria. Their subsequent inclusion in linear regression models identified GPA at entry, being from a health/allied health background and total GAMSAT score as consistent independent predictors of stronger academic performance as measured by the weighted average mark for the core units completed throughout the course. The Interview score only weakly predicted performance later in the course and mainly in clinically-based units. The association of total GAMSAT score with academic performance was predominantly dictated by the score in GAMSAT Section 3 (Reasoning in the biological and physical sciences) with Section 1 (Reasoning in the humanities and social sciences) and Section 2 (Written communication) also contributing either later or early in the course respectively. Being from a more disadvantaged socioeconomic background predicted weaker academic performance early in the course. Being an older student at entry or from a humanities background also predicted weaker academic performance.
This study confirms that both GPA at entry and the GAMSAT score together predict outcomes not only in the early stages of a graduate-entry medical programme but throughout the course. It also indicates that a comprehensive evaluation of the predictive validity of GAMSAT scores, interview scores and undergraduate academic performance as valid selection processes for graduate entry into medical school needs to simultaneously consider the potential confounding influence of graduate discipline background and other socio-demographic factors on both the initial selection parameters themselves as well as subsequent academic performance.
PMCID: PMC3931285  PMID: 24528509
6.  Same admissions tools, different outcomes: a critical perspective on predictive validity in three undergraduate medical schools 
BMC Medical Education  2013;13:173.
Admission to medical school is one of the most highly competitive entry points in higher education. Considerable investment is made by universities to develop selection processes that aim to identify the most appropriate candidates for their medical programs. This paper explores data from three undergraduate medical schools to offer a critical perspective of predictive validity in medical admissions.
This study examined 650 undergraduate medical students from three Australian universities as they progressed through the initial years of medical school (accounting for approximately 25 per cent of all commencing undergraduate medical students in Australia in 2006 and 2007). Admissions criteria (aptitude test score based on UMAT, school result and interview score) were correlated with GPA over four years of study. Standard regression of each of the three admissions variables on GPA, for each institution at each year level was also conducted.
Overall, the data found positive correlations between performance in medical school, school achievement and UMAT, but not interview. However, there were substantial differences between schools, across year levels, and within sections of UMAT exposed. Despite this, each admission variable was shown to add towards explaining course performance, net of other variables.
The findings suggest the strength of multiple admissions tools in predicting outcomes of medical students. However, they also highlight the large differences in outcomes achieved by different schools, thus emphasising the pitfalls of generalising results from predictive validity studies without recognising the diverse ways in which they are designed and the variation in the institutional contexts in which they are administered. The assumption that high-positive correlations are desirable (or even expected) in these studies is also problematised.
PMCID: PMC3880586  PMID: 24373207
Selection; Predictive validity; Admissions policy
7.  Admission selection criteria as predictors of outcomes in an undergraduate medical course: A prospective study 
Medical Teacher  2011;33(12):997-1004.
In 1998, a new selection process which utilised an aptitude test and an interview in addition to previous academic achievement was introduced into an Australian undergraduate medical course.
To test the outcomes of the selection criteria over an 11-year period.
1174 students who entered the course from secondary school and who enrolled in the MBBS from 1999 through 2009 were studied in relation to specific course outcomes. Regression analyses using entry scores, sex and age as independent variables were tested for their relative value in predicting subsequent academic performance in the 6-year course. The main outcome measures were assessed by weighted average mark for each academic year level; together with results in specific units, defined as either ‘knowledge'-based or ‘clinically’ based.
Previous academic performance and female sex were the major independent positive predictors of performance in the course. The interview score showed positive predictive power during the latter years of the course and in a range of ‘clinically' based units. This relationship was mediated predominantly by the score for communication skills.
Results support combining prior academic achievement with the assessment of communication skills in a structured interview as selection criteria into this undergraduate medical course.
PMCID: PMC3267525  PMID: 21592024
8.  The impact of preparatory activities on medical school selection outcomes: a cross-sectional survey of applicants to the university of Adelaide medical school in 2007 
BMC Medical Education  2013;13:159.
Selection into medical school is highly competitive with more applicants than places. Little is known about the preparation that applicants undertake for this high stakes process. The study aims to determine what preparatory activities applicants undertake and what difficulties they encounter for each stage of the application process to medical school and in particular what impact these have on the outcome.
A cross-sectional survey of 1097 applicants who applied for a place in the University of Adelaide Medical School in 2007 and participated in the UMAT (Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admission Test) and oral assessment components of the selection process. The main outcome measures were an offer of an interview and offer of a place in the medical school and were analysed using logistic regression.
The odds of a successful outcome increased with each additional preparatory activity undertaken for the UMAT (odds ratio 1.22, 95% confidence interval 1.11 to 1.33; P < 0.001) and the oral assessment (1.36, 1.19 to 1.55; P < 0.001) stage of selection. The UMAT preparatory activities associated with the offer of an interview were attendance of a training course by a private organisation (1.75, 1.35 to 2.27: P < 0.001), use of online services of a private organisation (1.58, 1.23 to 2.04; P < 0.001), and familiarising oneself with the process (1.52, 1.15 to 2.00; p = 0.021). The oral assessment activities associated with an offer of a place included refining and learning a personal resume (9.73, 2.97 to 31.88; P < 0.001) and learning about the course structure (2.05, 1.29 to 3.26; P = 0.022).
For the UMAT, applicants who found difficulties with learning for this type of test (0.47, 0.35 to 0.63: P < 0.001), with the timing of UMAT in terms of school exams (0.48, 0.5 to 0.66; P < 0.001) and with the inability to convey personal skills with the UMAT (0.67, 0.52 to 0.86; P = 0.026) were significantly less likely to be offered an interview.
Medical schools make an enormous effort to undertake a selection process that is fair and equitable and which selects students most appropriate for medical school and the course they provide. Our results indicate that performance in the selection processes can be improved by training. However, if these preparatory activities may be limited to those who can access them, the playing field is not even and increasing equity of access to medical schools will not be achieved.
PMCID: PMC4220562  PMID: 24289521
Medical school selection; Admissions; Equity; Preparation
9.  The influences of background on beginning medical students’ perceptions of rural medical practice 
BMC Medical Education  2015;15:58.
Access to health care is an ongoing problem for underserved populations in rural and remote regions of Australia and North America. Despite medical schools educating more medical doctors, this maldistribution continues. While students entering medical programs with a rural focus purport to have an interest in rural medicine, their understanding of possible future rural practice is unclear. This study explored the differences in perception of rural practice between beginning medical students from rural and urban backgrounds to gain an indication of the usefulness of our selection process to meet the rural workforce mandate.
Beginning medical students completed a writing exercise about the life and work of a rural medical doctor as a test of their academic writing skills. After completing the task and receiving feedback, students were invited to submit their work for analysis. Template analysis using themes from a study of rural medical registrars was used to analyse 103 scripts.
Students demonstrated foundational insight into some of the realities of rural life and practice. However, differences were noted in perspectives between rural background students and urban background students. Rural background students used everyday language to describe the practicalities of rural life, medical practice and the implications for families and communities. Urban background students generally used complex language and more negative descriptors.
Beginning medical students from urban and rural backgrounds differ in their perceptions and expression of rural practice. These outcomes are important for medical schools that use interviews in their selection process. Rural background applicants’ suitability may be overlooked because of the interviewer’s expectations of language, while urban background applicants may score higher related to complex language and use of key phrases. Interviewer training should address this likely bias thereby increasing the potential to recruit rural background students.
PMCID: PMC4375927  PMID: 25889114
Rural medical practice; Rural background; Urban background; Perceptions; Medical students; Communication; Selection
10.  Predictive validity of a new integrated selection process for medical school admission 
BMC Medical Education  2014;14:86.
This paper is an evaluation of an integrated selection process utilising previous academic achievement [Universities Admission Index (UAI)], a skills test [Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admission Test (UMAT)], and a structured interview, introduced (in its entirety) in 2004 as part of curriculum reform of the undergraduate Medicine Program at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Australia. Demographic measures of gender, country of birth, educational background and rurality are considered.
Admission scores and program outcomes of 318 students enrolled in 2004 and 2005 were studied. Regression analyses were undertaken to determine whether selection scores predicted overall, knowledge-based and clinical-based learning outcomes after controlling for demographics.
UAI attained the highest values in predicting overall and knowledge-based outcomes. The communication dimension of the interview achieved similar predictive values as UAI for clinical-based outcomes, although predictive values were relatively low. The UMAT did not predict any performance outcome. Female gender, European/European-derived country of birth and non-rurality were significant predictors independent of UAI scores.
Results indicate promising validity for an integrated selection process introduced for the Medicine Program at UNSW, with UAI and interview predictive of learning outcomes. Although not predictive, UMAT may have other useful roles in an integrated selection process. Further longitudinal research is proposed to monitor and improve the validity of the integrated student selection process.
PMCID: PMC3999457  PMID: 24755325
Student selection; Predictive validity; Predicting; Performance; Demographics
11.  Non-cognitive characteristics predicting academic success among medical students in Sri Lanka 
BMC Medical Education  2012;12:66.
To identify non-cognitive and socio-demographic characteristics determining academic success of Sri Lankan medical undergraduates.
A retrospective study among 90 recently graduated students of the Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka. Students were stratified into two equal groups; ‘High-achievers’ (honours degree at the final MBBS examination) and ‘Low-achievers’ (repeated one or more subjects at the same examination). A revised version of the Non-cognitive Questionnaire (NQ) with additional socio-demographic data was the study instrument. Academic performance indicator was performance at the final MBBS examinations. A binary logistic regression analysis was performed using the dichotomous variable ‘Honours degree at final MBBS’ as the dependant factor.
Males were 56.7%. Mean age ± SD was 26.4 ± 0.9 years. ‘High-achievers’ were significantly younger than ‘Low-achievers’. Significant proportion of ‘High-achievers’ were from the Western province and selected to university from Colombo district. A significant majority of ‘High-achievers’ entered medical school from their first attempt at GCE A/L examination and obtained ‘Distinctions’ at the GCE A/L English subject. ‘High-achievers’ demonstrated a significantly higher mean score for the following domains of NQ; Positive self-concept and confidence, realistic self-appraisal, leadership, preference of long range goals and academic familiarity.
The binary logistic regression indicates that age, being selected to university from Colombo district, residency in Western province, entering university from GCE A/L first attempt, obtaining a ‘Distinction’ for GCE A/L English subject, higher number of patient-oriented case discussions, positive self-concept and confidence, leadership qualities, preference of long range goals and academic familiarity all significantly increased the odds of obtaining a Honours degree.
A combined system incorporating both past academic performance and non-cognitive characteristics might help improve the selection process and early recognition of strugglers.
PMCID: PMC3547768  PMID: 22863153
Academic performance; Predictors; Non-cognitive characteristics; Medical students; Sri Lanka
12.  Help seeking in school by Israeli Arab minority adolescents with emotional and behavioral problems: results from the Galilee Study 
Many distressed minority adolescents with little access to professional mental health services use teachers and school counselors as their main consultation sources. This paper presents data from the Galilee study on factors that may increase the probability of adolescents’ help-seeking in school and discusses the needed linkage between the school mental health services and those provided by other agencies, in the framework of the Mental Health Reform in Israel.
This cross-sectional survey included 1639, 9th grade students living in 5 Arab localities in the Galilee in northern Israel, representative of the Muslim and Druze populations. The study was carried out in two stages: in the screening stage, the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) was completed in the classroom. During the follow-up stage 704 students were selected and interviewed at home regarding service use in school and wellbeing at home. Their mothers were interviewed as well providing information on sociodemographic traits of the family. Total response rate was 69.3 % during the screening stage and 84.4 % during the follow-up. Students were categorized according to their SDQ scores and all students in the higher 25th percentile (high risk) and a simple systematic sample without replacement of those in the lower 75 % (low risk) were included in the follow-up study.
Significantly more high risk than low risk students reported having felt the need to seek professional help (14.0 and 6.5 % respectively) and more high risk than low risk consulted a school source (27.1 and 15.2 %, respectively). Bivariate analyses show that among Muslim adolescents more high risk than low risk consulted a school source (30 vs. 16.2 % respectively) and among high risk students more Muslim than Druze sought help from a school source (30 vs. 18 %). Higher consultation rates were found among adolescents who felt uncomfortable at home, than among those who felt very comfortable. Binary logistic regression showed that for high risk adolescents, only religion remained significantly associated with help-seeking in school: Muslim students were 2 times more likely to seek help than Druze students. In the low-risk group, students who do not feel comfortable at home were 3.3 times more likely to seek help than those who feel comfortable at home. The main sources of consultation for both risk groups were the school counselor and the grade teacher.
A constellation of factors may be associated with help-seeking in school by minority Israeli Arab adolescents: they are students at higher risk for an emotional or behavioral disorder, they have more socio-economic hardship, they feel less comfortable at home and they are more likely to live in the larger Muslim cities. Adolescents with less family support and particularly those not classified as being at high risk, are more likely to seek help from school counselors and teachers. The school staff may need additional training to care for the mental health needs of students. There is a need to integrate the school mental health services with the other government agencies that provide services to children and adolescents.
PMCID: PMC5131514  PMID: 27980718
Adolescents; Mental health; School help-seeking; Israeli Arab minority; Mental Health Reform Israel; SDQ; Muslim; Druze
13.  Predicting success in medical school: a longitudinal study of common Australian student selection tools 
BMC Medical Education  2016;16:187.
Medical student selection and assessment share an underlying high stakes context with the need for valid and reliable tools. This study examined the predictive validity of three tools commonly used in Australia: previous academic performance (Grade Point Average (GPA)), cognitive aptitude (a national admissions test), and non-academic qualities of prospective medical students (interview).
A four year retrospective cohort study was conducted at Flinders University Australia involving 382 graduate entry medical students first enrolled between 2006 and 2009. The main outcomes were academic and clinical performance measures and an indicator of unimpeded progress across the four years of the course.
A combination of the selection criteria explained between 7.1 and 29.1 % of variance in performance depending on the outcome measure. Weighted GPA consistently predicted performance across all years of the course. The national admissions test was associated with performance in Years 1 and 2 (pre-clinical) and the interview with performance in Years 3 and 4 (clinical). Those students with higher GPAs were more likely to have unimpeded progress across the entire course (OR = 2.29, 95 % CI 1.57, 3.33).
The continued use of multiple selection criteria to graduate entry medical courses is supported, with GPA remaining the single most consistent predictor of performance across all years of the course. The national admissions test is more valuable in the pre-clinical years, and the interview in the clinical years. Future selections research should develop the fledgling research base regarding the predictive validity of the Graduate Australian Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT), the algorithms for how individual tools are combined in selection, and further explore the usefulness of the unimpeded progress index.
PMCID: PMC4957310  PMID: 27450570
School admissions criteria; Medical students; Interviews; Predictive validity; Australia
14.  The UKCAT-12 study: educational attainment, aptitude test performance, demographic and socio-economic contextual factors as predictors of first year outcome in a cross-sectional collaborative study of 12 UK medical schools 
BMC Medicine  2013;11:244.
Most UK medical schools use aptitude tests during student selection, but large-scale studies of predictive validity are rare. This study assesses the United Kingdom Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT), and its four sub-scales, along with measures of educational attainment, individual and contextual socio-economic background factors, as predictors of performance in the first year of medical school training.
A prospective study of 4,811 students in 12 UK medical schools taking the UKCAT from 2006 to 2008 as a part of the medical school application, for whom first year medical school examination results were available in 2008 to 2010.
UKCAT scores and educational attainment measures (General Certificate of Education (GCE): A-levels, and so on; or Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA): Scottish Highers, and so on) were significant predictors of outcome. UKCAT predicted outcome better in female students than male students, and better in mature than non-mature students. Incremental validity of UKCAT taking educational attainment into account was significant, but small. Medical school performance was also affected by sex (male students performing less well), ethnicity (non-White students performing less well), and a contextual measure of secondary schooling, students from secondary schools with greater average attainment at A-level (irrespective of public or private sector) performing less well. Multilevel modeling showed no differences between medical schools in predictive ability of the various measures. UKCAT sub-scales predicted similarly, except that Verbal Reasoning correlated positively with performance on Theory examinations, but negatively with Skills assessments.
This collaborative study in 12 medical schools shows the power of large-scale studies of medical education for answering previously unanswerable but important questions about medical student selection, education and training. UKCAT has predictive validity as a predictor of medical school outcome, particularly in mature applicants to medical school. UKCAT offers small but significant incremental validity which is operationally valuable where medical schools are making selection decisions based on incomplete measures of educational attainment. The study confirms the validity of using all the existing measures of educational attainment in full at the time of selection decision-making. Contextual measures provide little additional predictive value, except that students from high attaining secondary schools perform less well, an effect previously shown for UK universities in general.
PMCID: PMC3827332  PMID: 24229380
Medical student selection; Educational attainment; Aptitude tests; UKCAT; Socio-economic factors; Contextual measures
15.  What do beginning students, in a rurally focused medical course, think about rural practice? 
BMC Medical Education  2016;16:310.
Medical schools may select students for their attitudes towards rural medical practice, yet the rural–urban disparity in availability of medical practitioners and services has not diminished in recent times despite government initiatives and increasing numbers being trained for a career in medicine. One medical school, with a focus on rural and remote medicine, aims to select students with positive perceptions for rural medical practice. A research project collected data on the perceptions of these medical students in the first week of their medical studies.
Students completed a low stakes essay on the life and work of a rural doctor. Initially, this formed part of a literacy assessment to determine any students requiring remediation. All students were asked if they would consent to their essay being reviewed for a research project.
Data was obtained from those students who consented and handed their essays in for review. The 103 student essays underwent thematic analysis and sentences were coded into three main themes of rural lifestyle, doctor role and rural practice. Second level themes were further elicited and results were quantified according to whether they were positive or negative. Positive themes included rural lifestyle, doctor role, views of doctor, impact on community, broader work and skills knowledge, and better relationships with community and patients. Negative themes included doctor’s health, pressure on doctor, family problems, greater workload, privacy and confidentiality issues, cultural issues, isolation, limited resources and financial impacts. Quantitisation of this data was used to transform essay sentences into a numerical form which allowed statistical analysis and comparison of perceptions using Z tests.
No significant differences on the number of positive and negative responses for rural lifestyle and rural practice were found. The rural doctor role had a significantly more positive than negative views. Significant differences were found for positive views of the rural doctor role and negative views of rural practice. Participants from a capital city background reported a significantly higher percentage of responses related to negative views of rural practice than their regional and rural counterparts. Students from capital city areas had significantly more negative views about the rural doctor role, especially related to workload, limited resources and isolation than students from rural and regional areas.
Students entering medical school already have both positive and negative views about the life and work of a rural doctor. Those students from capital city areas have significantly more negative views despite being selected to enter a medical course with a rural focus based on their expressed rural perceptions. Further work is required to refine selection criteria and the year level experiences and learning opportunities which may positively influence student perceptions about rural medical practice to overcome early negative perceptions at the beginning of medical school.
PMCID: PMC5142101  PMID: 27923368
Selection; Medical student perceptions; Urban-rural origin students; Rural recruitment; Rural doctor; Rural life
16.  The influence of international medical electives on career preference for primary care and rural practice 
BMC Medical Education  2015;15:202.
Previous studies have demonstrated a correlation between medical students who undertake international medical electives (IMEs) in resource poor settings and their reported career preference for primary care in underserved areas such as rural practice. This study examines whether a similar correlation exists in the Australian medical school context.
Data was extracted from the Medical Schools Outcomes Database (MSOD) of Australian medical students that completed commencing student and exit questionnaires between 2006 and 2011. Student responses were categorized according to preferred training program and preferred region of practice at commencement. The reported preferences at exit of students completing IMEs in low and middle income countries (LMIC) were compared to those completing electives in high income countries (HIC).
The effect of elective experience for students expressing a preference for primary care at commencement was non-significant, with 40.32 % of LMIC and 42.11 % of HIC students maintaining a preference for primary care. Similarly there were no significant changes following LMIC electives for students expressing a preference for specialist training at commencement with 11.81 % of LMIC and 10.23 % of HIC students preferring primary care at exit. The effect of elective experience for students expressing a preference for rural practice at commencement was non-significant, with 41.51 % of LMIC and 49.09 % of HIC students preferring rural practice at exit. Similarly there were no significant changes following LMIC electives for students expressing a preference for urban practice at commencement, with 7.84 % of LMIC and 6.70 % of HIC students preferring rural practice at exit.
This study did not demonstrate an association between elective experience in resource poor settings and a preference for primary care or rural practice. This suggests that the previously observed correlation between LMIC electives and interest in primary care in disadvantaged communities is likely dependent on student and elective program characteristics and supports the need for further research and critical examination of elective programs at Australian medical schools.
PMCID: PMC4642776  PMID: 26560077
International medical elective; Graduate preferences; Rural practice; General practice; Medical education; Curriculum
17.  Role of students’ context in predicting academic performance at a medical school: a retrospective cohort study 
BMJ Open  2016;6(3):e010169.
This study examines associations between medical students’ background characteristics (postcode-based measures of disadvantage, high school attended, sociodemographic characteristics), and academic achievement at a Russell Group University.
Retrospective cohort analysis.
Applicants accepted at the University of Liverpool medical school between 2004 and 2006, finalising their studies between 2010 and 2011.
571 students (with an English home postcode) registered on the full-time Medicine and Surgery programme, who successfully completed their medical degree.
Main outcome measures
Final average at year 4 of the medical programme (represented as a percentage).
Entry grades were positively associated with final attainment (p<0.001). Students from high-performing schools entered university with higher qualifications than students from low-performing schools (p<0.001), though these differences did not persist at university. Comprehensive school students entered university with higher grades than independent school students (p<0.01), and attained higher averages at university, though differences were not significant after controlling for multiple effects. Associations between school type and achievement differed between sexes. Females attained higher averages than males at university. Significant academic differences were observed between ethnic groups at entry level and university. Neither of the postcode-based measures of disadvantage predicted significant differences in attainment at school or university.
The findings of this study suggest that educational attainment at school is a good, albeit imperfect, predictor of academic attainment at medical school. Most attainment differences observed between students either decreased or disappeared during university. Unlike previous studies, independent school students did not enter university with the highest grades, but achieved the lowest attainment at university. Such variations depict how patterns may differ between subjects and higher-education institutions. Findings advocate for further evidence to help guide the implementation of changes in admissions processes and widen participation at medical schools fairly.
PMCID: PMC4800134  PMID: 26969642
Fair Access; Widening Participation; Admissions; Medical School; Contextual Data
18.  Comparison of communication skills between medical students admitted after interviews or on academic merits 
BMC Medical Education  2012;12:46.
Selection of the best medical students among applicants is debated and many different methods are used. Academic merits predict good academic performance, but students admitted by other pathways need not be less successful. The aim of this study, was to compare communication skills between students admitted to medical school through interviews or on academic merits, respectively.
A retrospective cohort study. Communication skills at a surgical OSCE in 2008 were assessed independently by two observers using an evaluative rating scale. Correlations, t-tests and multivariate analyses by logistic regressions were employed. Academic merits were defined as upper secondary school grade point average (GPA) or scores from the Swedish Scholastic Assessment Test (SweSAT).
The risk of showing unsatisfactory communicative performance was significantly lower among the students selected by interviews (OR 0.32, CI95 0.12-0.83), compared to those selected on the basis of academic merits. However, there was no significant difference in communication skills scores between the different admission groups; neither did the proportion of high performers differ. No difference in the result of the written examination was seen between groups.
Our results confirm previous experience from many medical schools that students selected in different ways achieve comparable results during the clinical semesters. However, selection through interview seems to reduce the number of students who demonstrate inferior communication skills at 4th year of medical school.
PMCID: PMC3503650  PMID: 22726308
19.  What factors influence the choice of urban or rural location for future practice of Nepalese medical students? A cross-sectional descriptive study 
Nepal is experiencing a public health issue similar to the rest of the world, i.e., the geographical maldistribution of physicians. Although there is some documentation about the reasons physicians elect to leave Nepal to work abroad, very little is known about the salient factors that influence the choice of an urban versus rural practice setting for those physicians who do not migrate. In recent years, around 1000 medical students became doctors within Nepal, but their distribution in rural locations is not adequate. The purpose of this study was to explore what factors influence the choice of urban or rural location for the future clinical practice of Nepalese medical students in the final year of their program
A cross-sectional descriptive study design was used for this study involving Nepalese medical students in their final year of study and currently doing an internship in a medical college. The sample consisted of 393 medical students from four medical colleges in Nepal that were selected randomly. An anonymous self-administered questionnaire was used for data collection. To determine the association with rural location choice for their future practice setting, a comparison was done that involved demographic, socio-economic, and educational factors. Data were entered in EpiData and analyzed by using SPSS version 16.
Among the 393 respondents, two thirds were male (66.9%) and more than half were below 25 years of age. Almost all (93%) respondents were single and about two thirds (63.4%) were of Brahmin and Chhetri ethnic origin. About two thirds (64.1%) of the respondents were born in a rural setting, and 58.8% and 53.3% had a place of rearing and permanent address in a rural location, respectively. The predictors of future rural location choice for their clinical practice (based on the bivariate analysis) included:Rural (versus urban) place of birth, place of rearing, and permanent addressSource of family income (service, business, and agriculture)Occupation of father (service, business and agriculture)Wealth ranking (higher, middle, and lower wealth rank)Educational factors: location, type of secondary education, and type of higher secondary education
For medical students who were soon to complete their studies, demographic and educational factors were found to be significant predictors for a rural location choice, as opposed to socio-economic factors. Our findings indicate that to ensure the rural retention of physicians, the government of Nepal should attract potential medical students from those who were reared and educated in a rural setting.
PMCID: PMC4640225  PMID: 26556580
Medical students in Nepal; Variables affecting their choice of urban versus rural practice settings as physician
20.  Who gets into medical school? 
Canadian Family Physician  2005;51(9):1241.
Being of rural origin is one of the few predictors of whether medical students choose either family or rural practice as a career. This study investigates what proportion of applicants are of rural origin, what their grades are, and whether they are accepted.
Mailed survey using the postal codes of Ontario medical school applicants’ residences when they attended secondary school to link them to communities. Applicants of rural origin were defined as having attended secondary school while residing in communities with core populations of fewer than 10 000 people.
Province of Ontario, its six medical schools, and its 1 500 000 rural citizens (13% of the total population).
All 4948 applicants to Ontario medical schools in 2002 and 2003 who had gone to high school in Ontario.
Proportion of rural applicants among all applicants in the given years. Mean grade point averages (GPA) and Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) scores attained by applicants of both urban and rural origin. Proportion of rural students among all students admitted to medical schools.
While 13% of the Ontario population is rural, only 7.3% of Ontario applicants to medical school were of rural origin (P < .001). On average, the GPAs of applicants of rural and urban origin were identical at 3.42 (P = .995 not significant [NS]). The MCAT scores averaged 8.9 for applicants of rural origin and 9.0 for applicants of urban origin (P = .36 NS). Applicants of rural origin were admitted to medical school as frequently as applicants of urban origin (1:5.6 vs 1:4.7, P = .139 NS).
Although students of rural origin in Ontario apply to medical school less frequently than students of urban origin do, those that do apply have similar grades to those of urban applicants and are equally likely to be accepted.
PMCID: PMC1479467  PMID: 16926938
21.  Perceptions of newly admitted undergraduate medical students on experiential training on community placements and working in rural areas of Uganda 
BMC Medical Education  2010;10:47.
Uganda has an acute problem of inadequate human resources partly due to health professionals' unwillingness to work in a rural environment. One strategy to address this problem is to arrange health professional training in rural environments through community placements. Makerere University College of Health Sciences changed training of medical students from the traditional curriculum to a problem-based learning (PBL) curriculum in 2003. This curriculum is based on the SPICES model (student-centered, problem-based, integrated, community-based and services oriented). During their first academic year, students undergo orientation on key areas of community-based education, after which they are sent in interdisciplinary teams for community placements. The objective was to assess first year students' perceptions on experiential training through community placements and factors that might influence their willingness to work in rural health facilities after completion of their training.
The survey was conducted among 107 newly admitted first year students on the medical, nursing, pharmacy and medical radiography program students, using in-depth interview and open-ended self-administered questionnaires on their first day at the college, from October 28-30, 2008. Data was collected on socio-demographic characteristics, motivation for choosing a medical career, prior exposure to rural health facilities, willingness to have part of their training in rural areas and factors that would influence the decision to work in rural areas.
Over 75% completed their high school from urban areas. The majority had minimal exposure to rural health facilities, yet this is where most of them will eventually have to work. Over 75% of the newly admitted students were willing to have their training from a rural area. Perceived factors that might influence retention in rural areas include the local context of work environment, support from family and friends, availability of continuing professional training for career development and support of co-workers and the community.
Many first year students at Makerere University have limited exposure to health facilities in rural areas and have concerns about eventually working there.
PMCID: PMC2904351  PMID: 20573221
22.  The UK clinical aptitude test and clinical course performance at Nottingham: a prospective cohort study 
BMC Medical Education  2013;13:32.
The UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) was introduced in 2006 as an additional tool for the selection of medical students. It tests mental ability in four distinct domains (Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Abstract Reasoning, and Decision Analysis), and the results are available to students and admission panels in advance of the selection process. Our first study showed little evidence of any predictive validity for performance in the first two years of the Nottingham undergraduate course.
The study objective was to determine whether the UKCAT scores had any predictive value for the later parts of the course, largely delivered via clinical placements.
Students entering the course in 2007 and who had taken the UKCAT were asked for permission to use their anonymised data in research. The UKCAT scores were incorporated into a database with routine pre-admission socio-demographics and subsequent course performance data. Correlation analysis was followed by hierarchical multivariate linear regression.
The original study group comprised 204/254 (80%) of the full entry cohort. With attrition over the five years of the course this fell to 185 (73%) by Year 5. The Verbal Reasoning score and the UKCAT Total score both demonstrated some univariate correlations with clinical knowledge marks, and slightly less with clinical skills. No parts of the UKCAT proved to be an independent predictor of clinical course marks, whereas prior attainment was a highly significant predictor (p <0.001).
This study of one cohort of Nottingham medical students showed that UKCAT scores at admission did not independently predict subsequent performance on the course. Whilst the test adds another dimension to the selection process, its fairness and validity in selecting promising students remains unproven, and requires wider investigation and debate by other schools.
PMCID: PMC3621812  PMID: 23442227
23.  A holistic review of the medical school admission process: examining correlates of academic underperformance 
Medical Education Online  2014;19:10.3402/meo.v19.22919.
Despite medical school admission committees’ best efforts, a handful of seemingly capable students invariably struggle during their first year of study. Yet, even as entrance criteria continue to broaden beyond cognitive qualifications, attention inevitably reverts back to such factors when seeking to understand these phenomena. Using a host of applicant, admission, and post-admission variables, the purpose of this inductive study, then, was to identify a constellation of student characteristics that, taken collectively, would be predictive of students at-risk of underperforming during the first year of medical school. In it, we hypothesize that a wider range of factors than previously recognized could conceivably play roles in understanding why students experience academic problems early in the medical educational continuum.
The study sample consisted of the five most recent matriculant cohorts from a large, southeastern medical school (n=537). Independent variables reflected: 1) the personal demographics of applicants (e.g., age, gender); 2) academic criteria (e.g., undergraduate grade point averages [GPA], medical college admission test); 3) selection processes (e.g., entrance track, interview scores, committee votes); and 4) other indicators of personality and professionalism (e.g., Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test™ emotional intelligence scores, NEO PI-R™ personality profiles, and appearances before the Professional Code Committee [PCC]). The dependent variable, first-year underperformance, was defined as ANY action (repeat, conditionally advance, or dismiss) by the college's Student Progress and Promotions Committee (SPPC) in response to predefined academic criteria. This study protocol was approved by the local medical institutional review board (IRB).
Of the 537 students comprising the study sample, 61 (11.4%) met the specified criterion for academic underperformance. Significantly increased academic risks were identified among students who 1) had lower mean undergraduate science GPAs (OR=0.24, p=0.001); 2) entered medical school via an accelerated BS/MD track (OR=16.15, p=0.002); 3) were 31 years of age or older (OR=14.76, p=0.005); and 4) were non-unanimous admission committee admits (OR=0.53, p=0.042). Two dimensions of the NEO PI-R™ personality inventory, openness (+) and conscientiousness (−), were modestly but significantly correlated with academic underperformance. Only for the latter, however, were mean scores found to differ significantly between academic performers and underperformers. Finally, appearing before the college's PCC (OR=4.21, p=0.056) fell just short of statistical significance.
Our review of various correlates across the matriculation process highlights the heterogeneity of factors underlying students’ underperformance during the first year of medical school and challenges medical educators to understand the complexity of predicting who, among admitted matriculants, may be at future academic risk.
PMCID: PMC3974177  PMID: 24695362
admissions; underperformance; selection; at-risk students
24.  Use of UKCAT scores in student selection by UK medical schools, 2006-2010 
BMC Medical Education  2011;11:98.
The United Kingdom Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) is a set of cognitive tests introduced in 2006, taken annually before application to medical school. The UKCAT is a test of aptitude and not acquired knowledge and as such the results give medical schools a standardised and objective tool that all schools could use to assist their decision making in selection, and so provide a fairer means of choosing future medical students.
Selection of students for UK medical schools is usually in three stages: assessment of academic qualifications, assessment of further qualities from the application form submitted via UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) leading to invitation to interview, and then selection for offer of a place. Medical schools were informed of the psychometric qualities of the UKCAT subtests and given some guidance regarding the interpretation of results. Each school then decided how to use the results within its own selection system.
Annual retrospective key informant telephone interviews were conducted with every UKCAT Consortium medical school, using a pre-circulated structured questionnaire. The key points of the interview were transcribed, 'member checked' and a content analysis was undertaken.
Four equally popular ways of using the test results have emerged, described as Borderline, Factor, Threshold and Rescue methods. Many schools use more than one method, at different stages in their selection process. Schools have used the scores in ways that have sought to improve the fairness of selection and support widening participation. Initially great care was taken not to exclude any applicant on the basis of low UKCAT scores alone but it has been used more as confidence has grown.
There is considerable variation in how medical schools use UKCAT, so it is important that they clearly inform applicants how the test will be used so they can make best use of their limited number of applications.
PMCID: PMC3248371  PMID: 22114935
25.  Graduate entry to medicine in Iran 
In Iran medical students are selected from high school graduates via a very competitive national university entrance exam. New proposals have been seriously considered for admitting students from those with bachelor degrees. We assessed the opinions of different stakeholders on the current situation of admission into medicine in Iran, and their views on positive and negative aspects of admitting graduates into medicine.
We conducted five focus group discussions and seven in-depth interviews with stakeholders including medical students, science students, university professors of basic sciences, medical education experts, and policy makers. Main themes were identified from the data and analyzed using content analysis approach.
Medical students believed "graduate admission" may lead to a more informed choice of medicine. They thought it could result in admission of students with lower levels of academic aptitude. The science students were in favor of "graduate admission". The education experts and the professors of basic science all mentioned the shortcomings of the current system of admission and considered "graduate admission" as an appropriate opportunity for correcting some of the shortcomings. The policy makers pointed out the potential positive influences of "graduate admission" on strengthening basic science research. They thought, however, that "graduate admission" may result in lengthening the overall duration of medical education, which is already long in Iran (over 7 years). On the whole, the participants thought that "graduate admission" is a step in the right direction for improving quality of medical education.
"Graduate admission" has the potential to correct some of shortcomings of medical education. Unlike other countries where "graduate admission" is used mainly to admit students who are mentally mature, in Iran the main objective seems to be strengthening basic sciences.
PMCID: PMC2571089  PMID: 18847497

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