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1.  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
2.  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
3.  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
4.  Potential influence of selection criteria on the demographic composition of students in an Australian medical school 
BMC Medical Education  2011;11:97.
Prior to 1999 students entering our MBBS course were selected on academic performance alone. We have now evaluated the impact on the demographics of subsequent cohorts of our standard entry students (those entering directly from high school) of the addition to the selection process of an aptitude test (UMAT), a highly structured interview and a rural incentive program.
Students entering from 1985 to 1998, selected on academic performance alone (N = 1402), were compared to those from 1999 to 2011, selected on the basis of a combination of academic performance, interview score, and UMAT score together with the progressive introduction of a rural special entry pathway (N = 1437).
Males decreased from 57% to 45% of the cohort, students of NE or SE Asian origin decreased from 30% to 13%, students born in Oceania increased from 52% to 69%, students of rural origin from 5% to 21% and those from independent high schools from 56% to 66%. The proportion of students from high schools with relative socio-educational disadvantage remained unchanged at approximately 10%. The changes reflect in part increasing numbers of female and independent high school applicants and the increasing rural quota. However, they were also associated with higher interview scores in females vs males and lower interview scores in those of NE and SE Asian origin compared to those born in Oceania or the UK. Total UMAT scores were unrelated to gender or region of origin.
The revised selection processes had no impact on student representation from schools with relative socio-educational disadvantage. However, the introduction of special entry quotas for students of rural origin and a structured interview, but not an aptitude test, were associated with a change in gender balance and ethnicity of students in an Australian undergraduate MBBS course.
PMCID: PMC3233506  PMID: 22111521

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