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BMC Med Educ. 2013 Oct 8;13:139. doi: 10.1186/1472-6920-13-139.

Retention of knowledge and perceived relevance of basic sciences in an integrated case-based learning (CBL) curriculum.

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School of Medicine, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia.



Knowledge and understanding of basic biomedical sciences remain essential to medical practice, particularly when faced with the continual advancement of diagnostic and therapeutic modalities. Evidence suggests, however, that retention tends to atrophy across the span of an average medical course and into the early postgraduate years, as preoccupation with clinical medicine predominates. We postulated that perceived relevance demonstrated through applicability to clinical situations may assist in retention of basic science knowledge.


To test this hypothesis in our own medical student cohort, we administered a paper-based 50 MCQ assessment to a sample of students from Years 2 through 5. Covariates pertaining to demographics, prior educational experience, and the perceived clinical relevance of each question were also collected.


A total of 232 students (Years 2-5, response rate 50%) undertook the assessment task. This sample had comparable demographic and performance characteristics to the whole medical school cohort. In general, discipline-specific and overall scores were better for students in the latter years of the course compared to those in Year 2; male students and domestic students tended to perform better than their respective counterparts in certain disciplines. In the clinical years, perceived clinical relevance was significantly and positively correlated with item performance.


This study suggests that perceived clinical relevance is a contributing factor to the retention of basic science knowledge and behoves curriculum planners to make clinical relevance a more explicit component of applied science teaching throughout the medical course.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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