There has been comparatively little consideration of the impact that the changes to undergraduate curricula might have on postgraduate academic performance. This study compares the performance of graduates by UK medical school and gender in the Multiple Choice Question (MCQ) section of the first part of the Fellowship of the Royal College of Anaesthetists (FRCA) examination.
Data from each sitting of the MCQ section of the primary FRCA examination from June 1999 to May 2008 were analysed for performance by medical school and gender.
There were 4983 attempts at the MCQ part of the examination by 3303 graduates from the 19 United Kingdom medical schools. Using the standardised overall mark minus the pass mark graduates from five medical schools performed significantly better than the mean for the group and five schools performed significantly worse than the mean for the group. Males performed significantly better than females in all aspects of the MCQ – physiology, mean difference = 3.0% (95% CI 2.3, 3.7), p < 0.001; pharmacology, mean difference = 1.7% (95% CI 1.0, 2.3), p < 0.001; physics with clinical measurement, mean difference = 3.5% (95% CI 2.8, 4.1), p < 0.001; overall mark, mean difference = 2.7% (95% CI 2.1, 3.3), p < 0.001; and standardised overall mark minus the pass mark, mean difference = 2.5% (95% CI 1.9, 3.1), p < 0.001. Graduates from three medical schools that have undergone the change from Traditional to Problem Based Learning curricula did not show any change in performance in any aspects of the MCQ pre and post curriculum change.
Graduates from each of the medical schools in the UK do show differences in performance in the MCQ section of the primary FRCA, but significant curriculum change does not lead to deterioration in post graduate examination performance. Whilst females now outnumber males taking the MCQ, they are not performing as well as the males.