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Med Educ. 2003 Jul;37(7):645-9.

A longitudinal study of self-assessment accuracy.

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Department of Medical Education, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109, USA.



Although studies have examined medical students' ability to self-assess their performance, there are few longitudinal studies that document the stability of self-assessment accuracy over time. This study compares actual and estimated examination performance for three classes during their first 3 years of medical school.


Students assessed their performance on classroom examinations and objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) stations. Each self-assessment was then contrasted with their actual performance using idiographic (within-subject) methods to define three measures of self-assessment accuracy: bias (arithmetic differences of actual and estimated scores), deviation (absolute differences of actual and estimated scores), and covariation (correlation of actual and estimated scores). These measures were computed for four intervals over the course of 3 years. Multivariate analyses of variance and correlational analyses were used to evaluate the stability of these measures.


Self-assessment accuracy measures were relatively stable over the first 2 years of medical school with a decease occurring in the third year. However, the correlational analyses indicated that the stability of self-assessment accuracy was comparable to the stability of actual performance over this same period.


The apparent decline in accuracy in the third year may reflect the transition from familiar classroom-based examinations to the substantially different clinical examination tasks of the third year OSCE. However, the stability of self-assessment accuracy compares favorably with the stability of actual performance over this period. These results suggest that self-assessment accuracy is a relatively stable individual characteristic that may be influenced by task familiarity.

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