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1.  Comparison of the sensitivity of the UKCAT and A Levels to sociodemographic characteristics: a national study 
The UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) was introduced to facilitate widening participation in medical and dental education in the UK by providing universities with a continuous variable to aid selection; one that might be less sensitive to the sociodemographic background of candidates compared to traditional measures of educational attainment. Initial research suggested that males, candidates from more advantaged socioeconomic backgrounds and those who attended independent or grammar schools performed better on the test. The introduction of the A* grade at A level permits more detailed analysis of the relationship between UKCAT scores, secondary educational attainment and sociodemographic variables. Thus, our aim was to further assess whether the UKCAT is likely to add incremental value over A level (predicted or actual) attainment in the selection process.
Data relating to UKCAT and A level performance from 8,180 candidates applying to medicine in 2009 who had complete information relating to six key sociodemographic variables were analysed. A series of regression analyses were conducted in order to evaluate the ability of sociodemographic status to predict performance on two outcome measures: A level ‘best of three’ tariff score; and the UKCAT scores.
In this sample A level attainment was independently and positively predicted by four sociodemographic variables (independent/grammar schooling, White ethnicity, age and professional social class background). These variables also independently and positively predicted UKCAT scores. There was a suggestion that UKCAT scores were less sensitive to educational background compared to A level attainment. In contrast to A level attainment, UKCAT score was independently and positively predicted by having English as a first language and male sex.
Our findings are consistent with a previous report; most of the sociodemographic factors that predict A level attainment also predict UKCAT performance. However, compared to A levels, males and those speaking English as a first language perform better on UKCAT. Our findings suggest that UKCAT scores may be more influenced by sex and less sensitive to school type compared to A levels. These factors must be considered by institutions utilising the UKCAT as a component of the medical and dental school selection process.
PMCID: PMC3893425  PMID: 24400861
Medical student selection; Educational attainment; Aptitude tests; UKCAT; Socio-economic factors
2.  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
3.  Predictive validity of the UK clinical aptitude test in the final years of medical school: a prospective cohort study 
BMC Medical Education  2014;14:88.
The UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) was designed to address issues identified with traditional methods of selection. This study aims to examine the predictive validity of the UKCAT and compare this to traditional selection methods in the senior years of medical school. This was a follow-up study of two cohorts of students from two medical schools who had previously taken part in a study examining the predictive validity of the UKCAT in first year.
The sample consisted of 4th and 5th Year students who commenced their studies at the University of Aberdeen or University of Dundee medical schools in 2007. Data collected were: demographics (gender and age group), UKCAT scores; Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) form scores; admission interview scores; Year 4 and 5 degree examination scores. Pearson’s correlations were used to examine the relationships between admissions variables, examination scores, gender and age group, and to select variables for multiple linear regression analysis to predict examination scores.
Ninety-nine and 89 students at Aberdeen medical school from Years 4 and 5 respectively, and 51 Year 4 students in Dundee, were included in the analysis. Neither UCAS form nor interview scores were statistically significant predictors of examination performance. Conversely, the UKCAT yielded statistically significant validity coefficients between .24 and .36 in four of five assessments investigated. Multiple regression analysis showed the UKCAT made a statistically significant unique contribution to variance in examination performance in the senior years.
Results suggest the UKCAT appears to predict performance better in the later years of medical school compared to earlier years and provides modest supportive evidence for the UKCAT’s role in student selection within these institutions. Further research is needed to assess the predictive validity of the UKCAT against professional and behavioural outcomes as the cohort commences working life.
PMCID: PMC4008381  PMID: 24762134
UKCAT; Predictive validity; Psychometric; Assessment; Selection; Admissions; Aptitude
4.  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
5.  Comparison of A level and UKCAT performance in students applying to UK medical and dental schools in 2006: cohort study 
Objectives To determine whether the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) adds value to the selection process for school leaver applicants to medical and dental school, and in particular whether UKCAT can reduce the socioeconomic bias known to affect A levels.
Design Cohort study
Setting Applicants to 23 UK medical and dental schools in 2006.
Participants 9884 applicants who took the UKCAT in the UK and who achieved at least three passes at A level in their school leaving examinations (53% of all applicants).
Main outcome measures Independent predictors of obtaining at least AAB at A level and
UKCAT scores at or above the 30th centile for the cohort, for the subsections and the entire test.
Results Independent predictors of obtaining at least AAB at A level were white ethnicity (odds ratio 1.58, 95% confidence interval 1.41 to 1.77), professional or managerial background (1.39, 1.22 to 1.59), and independent or grammar schooling (2.26, 2.02 to 2.52) (all P<0.001). Independent predictors of achieving UKCAT scores at or above the 30th centile for the whole test were male sex (odd ratio 1.48, 1.32 to 1.66), white ethnicity (2.17, 1.94 to 2.43), professional or managerial background (1.34, 1.17 to 1.54), and independent or grammar schooling (1.91, 1.70 to 2.14) (all P<0.001). One major limitation of the study was that socioeconomic status was not volunteered by approximately 30% of the applicants. Those who withheld socioeconomic status data were significantly different from those who provided that information, which may have caused bias in the analysis.
Conclusions UKCAT was introduced with a high expectation of increasing the diversity and fairness in selection for UK medical and dental schools. This study of a major subgroup of applicants in the first year of operation suggests that it has an inherent favourable bias to men and students from a higher socioeconomic class or independent or grammar schools. However, it does provide a reasonable proxy for A levels in the selection process.
PMCID: PMC2824099  PMID: 20160316
6.  Predictive power of UKCAT and other pre-admission measures for performance in a medical school in Glasgow: a cohort study 
BMC Medical Education  2014;14:116.
The UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) and its four subtests are currently used by 24 Medical and Dental Schools in the UK for admissions. This longitudinal study examines the predictive validity of UKCAT for final performance in the undergraduate medical degree programme at one Medical School and compares this with the predictive validity of the selection measures available pre-UKCAT.
This was a retrospective observational study of one cohort of students, admitted to Glasgow Medical School in 2007. We examined the associations which UKCAT scores, school science grades and pre-admissions interview scores had with performance indicators, particularly final composite scores that determine students’ postgraduate training opportunities and overall ranking (Educational Performance Measure - EPM, and Honours and Commendation – H&C). Analyses were conducted both with and without adjustment for potential socio-demographic confounders (gender, age, ethnicity and area deprivation).
Despite its predictive value declining as students progress through the course, UKCAT was associated with the final composite scores. In mutually adjusted analyses (also adjusted for socio-demographic confounders), only UKCAT total showed independent relationships with both EPM (p = 0.005) and H&C (p = 0.004), school science achievements predicted EPM (p = 0.009), and pre-admissions interview score predicted neither. UKCAT showed less socio-demographic variation than did TSS.
UKCAT has a modest predictive power for overall course performance at the University of Glasgow Medical School over and above that of school science achievements or pre-admission interview score and we conclude that UKCAT is the most useful predictor of final ranking.
PMCID: PMC4063234  PMID: 24919950
UKCAT; Predictive validity; Widening participation; Socio-economic indicators; Admissions interview; School HE participation rate
7.  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
8.  The value of the UK Clinical Aptitude Test in predicting pre-clinical performance: a prospective cohort study at Nottingham Medical School 
BMC Medical Education  2010;10:55.
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 (Quantitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, Abstract Reasoning, and Decision Analysis), and the results are available to students and admissions panels in advance of the selection process. As yet the predictive validity of the test against course performance is largely unknown.
The study objective was to determine whether UKCAT scores predict performance during the first two years of the 5-year undergraduate medical course at Nottingham.
We studied a single cohort of students, who entered Nottingham Medical School in October 2007 and had taken the UKCAT. We used linear regression analysis to identify independent predictors of marks for different parts of the 2-year preclinical course.
Data were available for 204/260 (78%) of the entry cohort. The UKCAT total score had little predictive value. Quantitative Reasoning was a significant independent predictor of course marks in Theme A ('The Cell'), (p = 0.005), and Verbal Reasoning predicted Theme C ('The Community') (p < 0.001), but otherwise the effects were slight or non-existent.
This limited study from a single entry cohort at one medical school suggests that the predictive value of the UKCAT, particularly the total score, is low. Section scores may predict success in specific types of course assessment.
The ultimate test of validity will not be available for some years, when current cohorts of students graduate. However, if this test of mental ability does not predict preclinical performance, it is arguably less likely to predict the outcome in the clinical years. Further research from medical schools with different types of curriculum and assessment is needed, with longitudinal studies throughout the course.
PMCID: PMC2922293  PMID: 20667093
9.  Can personal qualities of medical students predict in-course examination success and professional behaviour? An exploratory prospective cohort study 
BMC Medical Education  2012;12:69.
Over two-thirds of UK medical schools are augmenting their selection procedures for medical students by using the United Kingdom Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT), which employs tests of cognitive and non-cognitive personal qualities, but clear evidence of the tests’ predictive validity is lacking. This study explores whether academic performance and professional behaviours that are important in a health professional context can be predicted by these measures, when taken before or very early in the medical course.
This prospective cohort study follows the progress of the entire student cohort who entered Hull York Medical School in September 2007, having taken the UKCAT cognitive tests in 2006 and the non-cognitive tests a year later. This paper reports on the students’ first and second academic years of study. The main outcome measures were regular, repeated tutor assessment of individual students’ interpersonal skills and professional behaviour, and annual examination performance in the three domains of recall and application of knowledge, evaluation of data, and communication and practical clinical skills. The relationships between non-cognitive test scores, cognitive test scores, tutor assessments and examination results were explored using the Pearson product–moment correlations for each group of data; the data for students obtaining the top and bottom 20% of the summative examination results were compared using Analysis of Variance.
Personal qualities measured by non-cognitive tests showed a number of statistically significant relationships with ratings of behaviour made by tutors, with performance in each year’s objective structured clinical examinations (OSCEs), and with themed written summative examination marks in each year. Cognitive ability scores were also significantly related to each year’s examination results, but seldom to professional behaviours. The top 20% of examination achievers could be differentiated from the bottom 20% on both non-cognitive and cognitive measures.
This study shows numerous significant relationships between both cognitive and non-cognitive test scores, academic examination scores and indicators of professional behaviours in medical students. This suggests that measurement of non-cognitive personal qualities in applicants to medical school could make a useful contribution to selection and admission decisions. Further research is required in larger representative groups, and with more refined predictor measures and behavioural assessment methods, to establish beyond doubt the incremental validity of such measures over conventional cognitive assessments.
PMCID: PMC3473297  PMID: 22873571
10.  Factors affecting likelihood of applicants being offered a place in medical schools in the United Kingdom in 1996 and 1997: retrospective study 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1998;317(7166):1111-1117.
Objective To assess the relation between a range of measures and the likelihood of applicants to medical schools in the United Kingdom being offered a place overall and at each medical school, with particular emphasis on ethnic minority applicants.
Design Data provided by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service on 92 676 applications to medical schools from 18 943 candidates for admission in 1996 and 1997. Statistical analysis was by multiple logistic regression.
Main outcome measures Receipt of a conditional or unconditional offer of a place at medical school.
Results Eighteen separate measures were independently associated with the overall likelihood of receiving an offer. Applicants from ethnic minority groups were disadvantaged, as were male applicants, applicants applying late in the selection season, applicants making non-medical (so called insurance) choices, applicants requesting deferred entry (so called gap year), and applicants at further or higher education or sixth form colleges. Analysis at individual medical schools showed different patterns of measures that predicted offers. Not all schools disadvantaged applicants from ethnic minority groups and the effect was stable across the two years, suggesting structural differences in the process of selection. The degree of disadvantage did not relate to the proportion of applicants from ethnic minority groups.
Conclusions The data released by the Council of Heads of Medical Schools allow a detailed analysis of the selection process at individual medical schools. The results suggest several areas in which some candidates are disadvantaged, in particular those from ethnic minority groups. Similar data in the future will allow monitoring of changes in selection processes.
Key messagesThe Council of Heads of Medical Schools has made publicly available, on the website of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, detailed data on individual applications for medical school in 1996 and 1997These data allow analysis of factors influencing selection at individual medical schools in the United Kingdom, although some important measures such as GCSE grades, estimated A level grades, and assessments of personal attributes are not availableIn 1996-7 certain groups, in particular ethnic minority groups and male applicants, were disadvantaged during selectionThe disadvantage of applicants from ethnic minority groups seems stable across years, with some schools consistently showing no evidence of disadvantageProvision of similar data in the future will allow continued monitoring of selection and of the proposals for change made by the council
PMCID: PMC28692  PMID: 9784446
11.  Medical school applicants from ethnic minority groups: identifying if and when they are disadvantaged. 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1995;310(6978):496-500.
OBJECTIVE--To assess whether people from ethnic minority groups are less likely to be accepted at British medical schools, and to explore the mechanisms of disadvantage. DESIGN--Prospective study of a national cohort of medical school applicants. SETTING--All 28 medical schools in the United Kingdom. SUBJECTS--6901 subjects who had applied through the Universities' Central Council on Admissions in 1990 to study medicine. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Offers and acceptance at medical school by ethnic group. RESULTS--Applicants from ethnic minority groups constituted 26.3% of those applying to medical school. They were less likely to be accepted, partly because they were less well qualified and applied later. Nevertheless, taking educational and some other predictors into account, applicants from ethnic minority groups were 1.46 times (95% confidence interval 1.19 to 1.74) less likely to be accepted. Having a European surname predicted acceptance better than ethnic origin itself, implying direct discrimination rather than disadvantage secondary to other possible differences between white and non-white applicants. Applicants from ethnic minority groups fared significantly less well in 12 of the 28 British medical schools. Analysis of the selection process suggests that medical schools make fewer offers to such applicants than to others with equivalent estimated A level grades. CONCLUSIONS--People from ethnic minority groups applying to medical school are disadvantaged, principally because ethnic origin is assessed from a candidate's surname; the disadvantage has diminished since 1986. For subjects applying before A level the mechanism is that less credit is given to referees' estimates of A level grades. Selection would be fairer if (a) application forms were anonymous; (b) forms did not include estimates of A level grades; and (c) selection took place after A level results are known.
PMCID: PMC2548873  PMID: 7888888
12.  Graduate entry to medicine: widening psychological diversity 
At Nottingham University more than 95% of entrants to the traditional 5-year medical course are school leavers. Since 2003 we have admitted graduate entrants (GEM) to a shortened (4-year) course to 'widen access to students from more disadvantaged backgrounds'. We have recently shown that the GEM course widens academic and socio-demographic diversity of the medical student population. This study explored whether GEM students also bring psychological diversity and whether this could be beneficial.
We studied: a) 217 and 96 applicants to the Nottingham 5- and 4-year courses respectively, applying in the 2002-3 UCAS cycle, and, b) 246 school leavers starting the 5-year course and 39 graduate entrants to the 4-year course in October 2003. The psychological profiles of the two groups of applicants and two groups of entrants were compared using their performance in the Goldberg 'Big 5' Personality test, the Personal Qualities Assessment (PQA; measuring interpersonal traits and interpersonal values), and the Lovibond and Lovibond measure of depression, anxiety and stress. For the comparison of the Entrants we excluded the 33 school leavers and seven graduates who took the tests as Applicants.
Statistical analyses were undertaken using SPSS software (version 16.0).
Graduate applicants compared to school leaver applicants were significantly more conscientious, more confident, more self controlled, more communitarian in moral orientation and less anxious. Only one of these differences was preserved in the entrants with graduates being less anxious. However, the graduate entrants were significantly less empathetic and conscientious than the school leavers.
This study has shown that school leaver and graduate entrants to medical school differ in some psychological characteristics. However, if confirmed in other studies and if they were manifest in the extreme, not all the traits brought by graduates would be desirable for someone aiming for a medical career.
PMCID: PMC2784445  PMID: 19912642
13.  Construct-level predictive validity of educational attainment and intellectual aptitude tests in medical student selection: meta-regression of six UK longitudinal studies 
BMC Medicine  2013;11:243.
Measures used for medical student selection should predict future performance during training. A problem for any selection study is that predictor-outcome correlations are known only in those who have been selected, whereas selectors need to know how measures would predict in the entire pool of applicants. That problem of interpretation can be solved by calculating construct-level predictive validity, an estimate of true predictor-outcome correlation across the range of applicant abilities.
Construct-level predictive validities were calculated in six cohort studies of medical student selection and training (student entry, 1972 to 2009) for a range of predictors, including A-levels, General Certificates of Secondary Education (GCSEs)/O-levels, and aptitude tests (AH5 and UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT)). Outcomes included undergraduate basic medical science and finals assessments, as well as postgraduate measures of Membership of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of the United Kingdom (MRCP(UK)) performance and entry in the Specialist Register. Construct-level predictive validity was calculated with the method of Hunter, Schmidt and Le (2006), adapted to correct for right-censorship of examination results due to grade inflation.
Meta-regression analyzed 57 separate predictor-outcome correlations (POCs) and construct-level predictive validities (CLPVs). Mean CLPVs are substantially higher (.450) than mean POCs (.171). Mean CLPVs for first-year examinations, were high for A-levels (.809; CI: .501 to .935), and lower for GCSEs/O-levels (.332; CI: .024 to .583) and UKCAT (mean = .245; CI: .207 to .276). A-levels had higher CLPVs for all undergraduate and postgraduate assessments than did GCSEs/O-levels and intellectual aptitude tests. CLPVs of educational attainment measures decline somewhat during training, but continue to predict postgraduate performance. Intellectual aptitude tests have lower CLPVs than A-levels or GCSEs/O-levels.
Educational attainment has strong CLPVs for undergraduate and postgraduate performance, accounting for perhaps 65% of true variance in first year performance. Such CLPVs justify the use of educational attainment measure in selection, but also raise a key theoretical question concerning the remaining 35% of variance (and measurement error, range restriction and right-censorship have been taken into account). Just as in astrophysics, ‘dark matter’ and ‘dark energy’ are posited to balance various theoretical equations, so medical student selection must also have its ‘dark variance’, whose nature is not yet properly characterized, but explains a third of the variation in performance during training. Some variance probably relates to factors which are unpredictable at selection, such as illness or other life events, but some is probably also associated with factors such as personality, motivation or study skills.
PMCID: PMC3827328  PMID: 24229353
Medical student selection; Undergraduate performance; Postgraduate performance; Educational attainment; Aptitude tests; Criterion-related construct validity; Range restriction; Right censorship; Grade inflation; Markov Chain Monte Carlo algorithm
14.  Medical student selection criteria as predictors of intended rural practice following graduation 
BMC Medical Education  2014;14(1):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
15.  The educational background and qualifications of UK medical students from ethnic minorities 
UK medical students and doctors from ethnic minorities underperform in undergraduate and postgraduate examinations. Although it is assumed that white (W) and non-white (NW) students enter medical school with similar qualifications, neither the qualifications of NW students, nor their educational background have been looked at in detail. This study uses two large-scale databases to examine the educational attainment of W and NW students.
Attainment at GCSE and A level, and selection for medical school in relation to ethnicity, were analysed in two separate databases. The 10th cohort of the Youth Cohort Study provided data on 13,698 students taking GCSEs in 1999 in England and Wales, and their subsequent progression to A level. UCAS provided data for 1,484,650 applicants applying for admission to UK universities and colleges in 2003, 2004 and 2005, of whom 52,557 applied to medical school, and 23,443 were accepted.
NW students achieve lower grades at GCSE overall, although achievement at the highest grades was similar to that of W students. NW students have higher educational aspirations, being more likely to go on to take A levels, especially in science and particularly chemistry, despite relatively lower achievement at GCSE. As a result, NW students perform less well at A level than W students, and hence NW students applying to university also have lower A-level grades than W students, both generally, and for medical school applicants. NW medical school entrants have lower A level grades than W entrants, with an effect size of about -0.10.
The effect size for the difference between white and non-white medical school entrants is about B0.10, which would mean that for a typical medical school examination there might be about 5 NW failures for each 4 W failures. However, this effect can only explain a portion of the overall effect size found in undergraduate and postgraduate examinations of about -0.32.
PMCID: PMC2359745  PMID: 18416818
16.  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
17.  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
18.  Online Schools and Children With Special Health and Educational Needs: Comparison With Performance in Traditional Schools 
In the United States, primary and secondary online schools are institutions that deliver online curricula for children enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade (K-12). These institutions commonly provide opportunities for online instruction in conjunction with local schools for students who may need remediation, have advanced needs, encounter unqualified local instructors, or experience scheduling conflicts. Internet-based online schooling may potentially help children from populations known to have educational and health disadvantages, such as those from certain racial or ethnic backgrounds, those of low socioeconomic status, and children with special health care needs (CSHCN).
To describe the basic and applied demographics of US online-school users and to compare student achievement in traditional versus online schooling environments.
We performed a brief parental survey in three states examining basic demographics and educational history of the child and parents, the child’s health status as measured by the CSHCN Screener, and their experiences and educational achievement with online schools and class(es). Results were compared with state public-school demographics and statistical analyses controlled for state-specific independence.
We analyzed responses from 1971 parents with a response rate of 14.7% (1971/13,384). Parents of online-school participants were more likely to report having a bachelor’s degree or higher than were parents of students statewide in traditional schools, and more of their children were white and female. Most notably, the prevalence of CSHCN was high (476/1971, 24.6%) in online schooling. Children who were male, black, or had special health care needs reported significantly lower grades in both traditional and online schools. However, when we controlled for age, gender, race, and parental education, parents of CSHCN or black children reported significantly lower grades in online than in traditional schooling (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 1.45, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.29–1.62 for CSHCN, P < .001; aOR 2.73, 95% CI 2.11–3.53 for black children, P < .001.) In contrast, parents with a bachelor’s degree or higher reported significantly higher online-school grades than traditional-school grades for their children (aOR 1.45, 95% CI 1.15–1.82, P < .001).
The demographics of children attending online schools do not mirror those of the state-specific school populations. CSHCN seem to opt into online schools at a higher rate. While parents report equivalent educational achievement in online and traditional classrooms, controlling for known achievement risks suggests that CSHCN and black children have lower performance in online than in traditional schools. Given the millions of students now in online schools, future studies must test whether direct assistance in online schools, such as taking individualized education plans into consideration, will narrow known disparities in educational success. Only then can online schools emerge as a true educational alternative for at-risk populations.
PMCID: PMC3384422  PMID: 22547538
Virtual schooling; schools; K-12; children with special health care needs; online learning; education, adolescent health services, special education
19.  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
20.  Association of Medical Students' Reports of Interactions with the Pharmaceutical and Medical Device Industries and Medical School Policies and Characteristics: A Cross-Sectional Study 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(10):e1001743.
Aaron Kesselheim and colleagues compared US medical students' survey responses regarding pharmaceutical company interactions with the schools' AMSA PharmFree scorecard and Institute on Medicine as a Profession's (IMAP) scores.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Professional societies use metrics to evaluate medical schools' policies regarding interactions of students and faculty with the pharmaceutical and medical device industries. We compared these metrics and determined which US medical schools' industry interaction policies were associated with student behaviors.
Methods and Findings
Using survey responses from a national sample of 1,610 US medical students, we compared their reported industry interactions with their schools' American Medical Student Association (AMSA) PharmFree Scorecard and average Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) Conflicts of Interest Policy Database score. We used hierarchical logistic regression models to determine the association between policies and students' gift acceptance, interactions with marketing representatives, and perceived adequacy of faculty–industry separation. We adjusted for year in training, medical school size, and level of US National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding. We used LASSO regression models to identify specific policies associated with the outcomes. We found that IMAP and AMSA scores had similar median values (1.75 [interquartile range 1.50–2.00] versus 1.77 [1.50–2.18], adjusted to compare scores on the same scale). Scores on AMSA and IMAP shared policy dimensions were not closely correlated (gift policies, r = 0.28, 95% CI 0.11–0.44; marketing representative access policies, r = 0.51, 95% CI 0.36–0.63). Students from schools with the most stringent industry interaction policies were less likely to report receiving gifts (AMSA score, odds ratio [OR]: 0.37, 95% CI 0.19–0.72; IMAP score, OR 0.45, 95% CI 0.19–1.04) and less likely to interact with marketing representatives (AMSA score, OR 0.33, 95% CI 0.15–0.69; IMAP score, OR 0.37, 95% CI 0.14–0.95) than students from schools with the lowest ranked policy scores. The association became nonsignificant when fully adjusted for NIH funding level, whereas adjusting for year of education, size of school, and publicly versus privately funded school did not alter the association. Policies limiting gifts, meals, and speaking bureaus were associated with students reporting having not received gifts and having not interacted with marketing representatives. Policy dimensions reflecting the regulation of industry involvement in educational activities (e.g., continuing medical education, travel compensation, and scholarships) were associated with perceived separation between faculty and industry. The study is limited by potential for recall bias and the cross-sectional nature of the survey, as school curricula and industry interaction policies may have changed since the time of the survey administration and study analysis.
As medical schools review policies regulating medical students' industry interactions, limitations on receipt of gifts and meals and participation of faculty in speaking bureaus should be emphasized, and policy makers should pay greater attention to less research-intensive institutions.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Making and selling prescription drugs and medical devices is big business. To promote their products, pharmaceutical and medical device companies build relationships with physicians by providing information on new drugs, by organizing educational meetings and sponsored events, and by giving gifts. Financial relationships begin early in physicians' careers, with companies providing textbooks and other gifts to first-year medical students. In medical school settings, manufacturers may help to inform trainees and physicians about developments in health care, but they also create the potential for harm to patients and health care systems. These interactions may, for example, reduce trainees' and trained physicians' skepticism about potentially misleading promotional claims and may encourage physicians to prescribe new medications, which are often more expensive than similar unbranded (generic) drugs and more likely to be recalled for safety reasons than older drugs. To address these and other concerns about the potential career-long effects of interactions between medical trainees and industry, many teaching hospitals and medical schools have introduced policies to limit such interactions. The development of these policies has been supported by expert professional groups and medical societies, some of which have created scales to evaluate the strength of the implemented industry interaction policies.
Why Was This Study Done?
The impact of policies designed to limit interactions between students and industry on student behavior is unclear, and it is not known which aspects of the policies are most predictive of student behavior. This information is needed to ensure that the policies are working and to identify ways to improve them. Here, the researchers investigate which medical school characteristics and which aspects of industry interaction policies are most predictive of students' reported behaviors and beliefs by comparing information collected in a national survey of US medical students with the strength of their schools' industry interaction policies measured on two scales—the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) PharmFree Scorecard and the Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) Conflicts of Interest Policy Database.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers compared information about reported gift acceptance, interactions with marketing representatives, and the perceived adequacy of faculty–industry separation collected from 1,610 medical students at 121 US medical schools with AMSA and IMAP scores for the schools evaluated a year earlier. Students at schools with the highest ranked interaction policies based on the AMSA score were 63% less likely to accept gifts as students at the lowest ranked schools. Students at the highest ranked schools based on the IMAP score were about half as likely to accept gifts as students at the lowest ranked schools, although this finding was not statistically significant (it could be a chance finding). Similarly, students at the highest ranked schools were 70% less likely to interact with sales representatives as students at the lowest ranked schools. These associations became statistically nonsignificant after controlling for the amount of research funding each school received from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). Policies limiting gifts, meals, and being a part of speaking bureaus (where companies pay speakers to present information about the drugs for dinners and other events) were associated with students' reports of receiving no gifts and of non-interaction with sales representatives. Finally, policies regulating industry involvement in educational activities were associated with the perceived separation between faculty and industry, which was regarded as adequate by most of the students at schools with such policies.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that policies designed to limit industry interactions with medical students need to address multiple aspects of these interactions to achieve changes in the behavior and attitudes of trainees, but that policies limiting gifts, meals, and speaking bureaus may be particularly important. These findings also suggest that the level of NIH funding plays an important role in students' self-reported behaviors and their perceptions of industry, possibly because institutions with greater NIH funding have the resources needed to implement effective policies. The accuracy of these findings may be limited by recall bias (students may have reported their experiences inaccurately), and by the possibility that industry interaction policies may have changed in the year that elapsed between policy grading and the student survey. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that limitations on gifts should be emphasized when academic medical centers refine their policies on interactions between medical students and industry and that particular attention should be paid to the design and implementation of policies that regulate industry interactions in institutions with lower levels of NIH funding.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The UK General Medical Council provides guidance on financial and commercial arrangements and conflicts of interest as part of its good medical practice document, which describes what is required of all registered doctors in the UK
Information about the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) Just Medicine campaign (formerly the PharmFree campaign) and about the AMSA Scorecard is available
Information about the Institute on Medicine as a Profession (IMAP) and about its Conflicts of Interest Policy Database is also available
“Understanding and Responding to Pharmaceutical Promotion: A Practical Guide” is a manual prepared by Health Action International and the World Health Organization that medical schools can use to train students how to recognize and respond to pharmaceutical promotion
The US Institute of Medicine's report “Conflict of Interest in Medical Research, Education, and Practice” recommends steps to identify, limit, and manage conflicts of interest
The ALOSA Foundation provides evidence-based, non-industry-funded education about treating common conditions and using prescription drugs
PMCID: PMC4196737  PMID: 25314155
21.  Rural medical students at urban medical schools: Too few and far between? 
Open Medicine  2007;1(1):e13-e17.
Rural regions of industrialized nations are experiencing a crisis in health care access, reflecting a high disease burden and a low physician supply. The maldistribution of physicians stems partly from the low rate of entry into medical school of applicants from rural backgrounds.
We analyzed applicants to the University of Toronto medical school in 2005 (n = 2052) to test for possible institutional bias against rural applicants and possible applicant bias against the institution. The designation of rurality was assigned using the Statistics Canada classification of residential postal codes to detect residence in communities with a population of fewer than 10,000 people.
Consistent with past reports, rural applicants were under-represented (n = 93, 4.5% of applicants relative to 20% of baseline population). Rural applicants, on average, were equally competitive with urban applicants as measured by grades, test scores, and interviews. Rural applicants were just as likely as urban applicants to be offered admission (17% vs 14%, p = 0.43), indicating no large bias from the institution. Rural applicants, however, were more than twice as likely to decline the admission offer (69% vs 24%, p < 0.001), indicating a large bias against the institution. This discrepancy was not explained by financial disparity and was not confined to those applicants most likely to receive invitations to other schools.
Programs to increase physician supply in rural areas need to address students' concealed preferences that are established before enrolment. Medical schools, in particular, need to encourage more rural students to apply and to persuade those offered admission to accept.
PMCID: PMC2801916  PMID: 20101285
22.  Hand Sanitiser Provision for Reducing Illness Absences in Primary School Children: A Cluster Randomised Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(8):e1001700.
In a cluster randomized trial, Patricia Priest and colleagues find that providing hand sanitizer along with hand hygiene education in primary school classrooms, compared with hand hygiene alone, does not reduce school absences.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
The potential for transmission of infectious diseases offered by the school environment are likely to be an important contributor to the rates of infectious disease experienced by children. This study aimed to test whether the addition of hand sanitiser in primary school classrooms compared with usual hand hygiene would reduce illness absences in primary school children in New Zealand.
Methods and Findings
This parallel-group cluster randomised trial took place in 68 primary schools, where schools were allocated using restricted randomisation (1∶1 ratio) to the intervention or control group. All children (aged 5 to 11 y) in attendance at participating schools received an in-class hand hygiene education session. Schools in the intervention group were provided with alcohol-based hand sanitiser dispensers in classrooms for the winter school terms (27 April to 25 September 2009). Control schools received only the hand hygiene education session. The primary outcome was the number of absence episodes due to any illness among 2,443 follow-up children whose caregivers were telephoned after each absence from school. Secondary outcomes measured among follow-up children were the number of absence episodes due to specific illness (respiratory or gastrointestinal), length of illness and illness absence episodes, and number of episodes where at least one other member of the household became ill subsequently (child or adult). We also examined whether provision of sanitiser was associated with experience of a skin reaction. The number of absences for any reason and the length of the absence episode were measured in all primary school children enrolled at the schools. Children, school administrative staff, and the school liaison research assistants were not blind to group allocation. Outcome assessors of follow-up children were blind to group allocation. Of the 1,301 and 1,142 follow-up children in the hand sanitiser and control groups, respectively, the rate of absence episodes due to illness per 100 child-days was similar (1.21 and 1.16, respectively, incidence rate ratio 1.06, 95% CI 0.94 to 1.18). The provision of an alcohol-based hand sanitiser dispenser in classrooms was not effective in reducing rates of absence episodes due to respiratory or gastrointestinal illness, the length of illness or illness absence episodes, or the rate of subsequent infection for other members of the household in these children. The percentage of children experiencing a skin reaction was similar (10.4% hand sanitiser versus 10.3% control, risk ratio 1.01, 95% CI 0.78 to 1.30). The rate or length of absence episodes for any reason measured for all children also did not differ between groups. Limitations of the study include that the study was conducted during an influenza pandemic, with associated public health messaging about hand hygiene, which may have increased hand hygiene among all children and thereby reduced any additional effectiveness of sanitiser provision. We did not quite achieve the planned sample size of 1,350 follow-up children per group, although we still obtained precise estimates of the intervention effects. Also, it is possible that follow-up children were healthier than non-participating eligible children, with therefore less to gain from improved hand hygiene. However, lack of effectiveness of hand sanitiser provision on the rate of absences among all children suggests that this may not be the explanation.
The provision of hand sanitiser in addition to usual hand hygiene in primary schools in New Zealand did not prevent disease of severity sufficient to cause school absence.
Trial registration
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12609000478213
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Throughout human history, infectious diseases have been major killers. In the 1300 s, for example, the black death killed a third of the European population. Other diseases such as smallpox and cholera have also devastated human populations. Now, though, a better understanding of the bacteria, viruses, and other microbes that cause infectious diseases and the availability of effective vaccines and antibiotics mean that, for the first time in human history, non-communicable (chronic) diseases such as heart attacks and strokes are killing and disabling more people around the world than infectious diseases. But this does not mean that we can be complacent about infectious diseases. The control of infectious diseases remains important, even in high-income countries, because of the contribution of infectious diseases to ill-health and because we need to manage the risk of epidemics and pandemics (disease outbreaks that affect a large proportion of the population of a country or the world, respectively) of influenza and other diseases.
Why Was This Study Done?
The control of infectious disease transmission in children is a particularly important component of disease control because children tend to have high rates of infectious disease and to have more physical contact with peers and with adults than other age groups, particularly in the school environment. It might be possible, therefore, to reduce the occurrence of many infectious respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases in communities by interrupting the transmission of infectious diseases between children at school, but how can this be achieved? In health care settings, good hand hygiene is a key component of infectious disease control, so, here, the researchers undertake a cluster randomized trial among primary school children in New Zealand to investigate whether the promotion of extra hand cleaning through the provision of alcohol-based hand sanitizer in classrooms can reduce illness absences among school children compared with normal hand hygiene (washing with soap and water, mainly in school bathrooms). A cluster randomized trial compares the outcomes of groups of participants (in this case, schools) chosen randomly to receive different interventions.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers randomly assigned 68 city primary schools to the intervention or control group. All the children (aged 5–11 years) attending the participating schools received a thirty-minute in-class hand hygiene education session. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer dispensers were installed in the classrooms of the intervention schools during the winter term, and the children were asked to use the dispensers after coughing or sneezing and on the way out of the classroom for morning break and lunch. The researchers report that the trial's primary outcome—the rate of absence episodes per 100 child-days due to any illness among “follow-up” children, individuals whose caregivers agreed to be asked about the reason for any absence—was similar in the intervention and control groups. Moreover, among the follow-up children, the provision of hand sanitizer did not reduce the number of absences due to a specific illness (respiratory or gastrointestinal), the length of illness and length of absence from school, or the number of episodes in which at least one other family member became ill. Finally, the number of absences for any reason, and length of absence episodes, in all the children enrolled at the participating schools did not differ between the intervention and control groups.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the provision of hand sanitizer in addition to usual hand hygiene in primary schools in New Zealand did not prevent any infectious diseases severe enough to warrant school absence. Because the trial was undertaken during an influenza epidemic, influenza-related public health messages about good hand hygiene may have increased hand hygiene among all the children in the study and lessened the intervention's effectiveness. Other study limitations—including that only a third of caregivers agreed to be contacted about their child's absences, and these may have been caregivers who had already taught their children good hand hygiene—may also affect the accuracy of these findings and their generalizability to other high-income countries. However, these findings suggest that, in high-income countries where clean water for hand washing is readily available, putting resources into extra hand hygiene by providing hand sanitizer in classrooms may not be an effective way to break the child-to-child transmission of infectious diseases.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information about hand-washing, when and how to wash your hands and use sanitizer, and hand-washing as a family activity; it also provides information about the importance of hand hygiene in health care settings
Public Health England provides information about hand-washing; its webpage about hand-washing in primary schools contains links to lesson plans about hand-washing for children aged 5–7 years and to e-Bug, a web-based student resource about infectious diseases and their prevention for children aged 7–14 years
Kidshealth, a US-based not-for-profit organization, also provides information about the importance of hand-washing for parents, kids, and teens (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC4130492  PMID: 25117155
23.  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
24.  International students in United States’ medical schools: does the medical community know they exist? 
Medical Education Online  2012;17:10.3402/meo.v17i0.15748.
Matriculation of international students to United States’ (US) medical schools has not mirrored the remarkable influx of these students to other US institutions of higher education.
While these students’ numbers are on the rise, the visibility for their unique issues remains largely ignored in the medical literature.
These students are disadvantaged in the medical school admissions process due to financial and immigration-related concerns, and academic standards for admittance also continue to be significantly higher compared with their US-citizen peers. Furthermore, it is simply beyond the mission of many medical schools – both public and private – to support international students’ education, especially since federal, state-allocated or institutional funds are limited and these institutions have a commitment to fulfill the healthcare education needs of qualified domestic candidates. In spite of these obstacles, a select group of international students do gain admission to US medical schools and, upon graduation, are credentialed equally as their US-citizen counterparts by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). However, owing to their foreign citizenship, these students have visa requirements for post-graduate training that may adversely impact their candidacy for residency placement.
By raising such issues, this article aims to increase the awareness of considerations pertinent to this unique population of medical students. The argument is also made to support continued recruitment of international students to US medical schools in spite of these impediments. In our experience, these students are not only qualified to tackle the rigors of a US medical education, but also enrich the cultural diversity of the medical student body. Moreover, these graduates could effectively complement the efforts to augment US physician workforce diversity while contributing to healthcare disparity eradication, minority health issues, and service in medically underserved areas.
PMCID: PMC3368516  PMID: 22679360
international students; medical school admission; diversity; minority; recruitment
25.  Selecting the right medical student 
BMC Medicine  2013;11:245.
Medical student selection is an important but difficult task. Three recent papers by McManus et al. in BMC Medicine have re-examined the role of tests of attainment of learning (A’ levels, GCSEs, SQA) and of aptitude (AH5, UKCAT), but on a much larger scale than previously attempted. They conclude that A’ levels are still the best predictor of future success at medical school and beyond. However, A’ levels account for only 65% of the variance in performance that is found. Therefore, more work is needed to establish relevant assessment of the other 35%.
Please see related research articles, and
PMCID: PMC3827327  PMID: 24229397
Medical School Admission; Predictors of performance; Aptitude testing

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