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BMJ Open. 2017 Aug 31;7(8):e016291. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2017-016291.

The relationship between school type and academic performance at medical school: a national, multi-cohort study.

Author information

1
Institute of Education for Medical and Dental Sciences, School of Medicine, Medical Sciences & Nutrition, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK.
2
NHS Education for Scotland and UK Foundation Programme, Aberdeen, UK.
3
Medical Statistics Team, School of Medicine, Medical Sciences & Nutrition, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK.
4
UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) Foundation, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

Differential attainment in school examinations is one of the barriers to increasing student diversity in medicine. However, studies on the predictive validity of prior academic achievement and educational performance at medical school are contradictory, possibly due to single-site studies or studies which focus only on early years' performance. To address these gaps, we examined the relationship between sociodemographic factors, including school type and average educational performance throughout medical school across a large number of diverse medical programmes.

METHODS:

This retrospective study analysed data from students who graduated from 33 UK medical schools between 2012 and 2013. We included candidates' demographics, pre-entry grades (adjusted Universities and Colleges Admissions Service tariff scores) preadmission test scores (UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) and Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT)) and used the UK Foundation Programme's educational performance measure (EPM) decile as an outcome measure. Logistic regression was used to assess the independent relationship between students' background characteristics and EPM ranking.

RESULTS:

Students from independent schools had significantly higher mean UKCAT scores (2535.1, SD=209.6) than students from state-funded schools (2506.1, SD=224.0, p<0.001). Similarly, students from independent schools came into medical school with significantly higher mean GAMSAT scores (63.9, SD=6.9) than students from state-funded schools (60.8, SD=7.1, p<0.001). However, students from state-funded schools were almost twice as likely (OR=2.01, 95% CI 1.49 to 2.73) to finish in the highest rank of the EPM ranking than those who attended independent schools.

CONCLUSIONS:

This is the first large-scale study to examine directly the relationship between school type and overall performance at medical school. Our findings provide modest supportive evidence that, when students from independent and state schools enter with similar pre-entry grades, once in medical school, students from state-funded schools are likely to outperform students from independent schools. This evidence contributes to discussions around contextualising medical admission.

KEYWORDS:

admissions; medical education; performance; predictive validity; widening access

Conflict of interest statement

Competing interests: KW is the Special Advisor (Recruitment) for the UK’s Foundation Programme (UKFPO).

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