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Med Teach. 2017 Nov 9:1-5. doi: 10.1080/0142159X.2017.1395000. [Epub ahead of print]

Risk factors for a delay in medical education: Results of an online survey among four German medical schools.

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a Department of Internal Medicine I , Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg , Halle , Germany.
b Institute for Medical Education, University Hospital, LMU Munich , Munich , Germany.



Delayed study progress in medical school is a challenging issue for the tax paying community, the faculty and the medical students themselves. Reasons for a delay might be different from known risk factors for academic difficulties.


An online survey regarding delays in the study progress and including a personality test (BFI-10) was presented to medical students from four German medical schools after completion of their 3rd year of study.


Of 617 students, 51.2% reported a mean delay of 2.1 ± 1.5 semesters. Frequent risk factors were secondary employment (69.5%, odds ratio (OR) 1.7, p = 0.004), female gender (69.8%, OR 1.6, p = 0.007), work or study abroad (35.9%, OR 1.5, p = 0.02), a late graduation (5.9%, OR 2.4, p = 0.02), as well as support through scholarship or mentoring (19.9%, OR 1.8, p = 0.004). "Working on doctoral thesis" (11.3%, OR 1.9, p = 0.03) and structural curricular issues (36.6%, OR 0.9, p = 0.7) were frequently identified as obstacles. "Support by friends/family" was considered helpful by 24.1% (OR 1.4, p = 0.09), as well as a high intrinsic motivation (19.1%, OR 0.5, p = 0.01). In the BFI-10, students with study delay were more prone to openness and agreeableness.


Risk factors for delay are not identical to those for academic difficulties. To decrease the risk for delays, firm curricular structures should be identified and alleviated. Intrinsic motivation is a strong impetus of study progress and additionally might be strengthened by curricular changes.

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