To compare the power of three traditional selection procedures (A levels, personal statements, and references) and one non-traditional selection procedure (personality) to predict performance over the five years of a medical degree.
Cohort study over five years.
Nottingham medical school.
Entrants in 1995.
Main outcome measures
A level grades, amounts of information contained in teacher's reference and the student's personal statement, and personality scores examined in relation to 18 different assessments.
Information in the teacher's reference did not consistently predict performance. Information in the personal statement was predictive of clinical aspects of training, whereas A level grades primarily predicted preclinical performance. The personality domain of conscientiousness was consistently the best predictor across the course. A structural model indicated that conscientiousness was positively related to A level grades and preclinical performance but was negatively related to clinical grades.
A teacher's reference is of no practical use in predicting clinical performance of medical students, in contrast to the amount of information contained in the personal statement. Therefore, simple quantification of the personal statement should aid selection. Personality factors, in particular conscientiousness, need to be considered and integrated into selection procedures.