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Surgery. 2018 Apr;163(4):901-905. doi: 10.1016/j.surg.2017.10.031. Epub 2018 Feb 13.

Learning preferences of surgery residents: a multi-institutional study.

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Department of Surgery, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, Springfield, IL. Electronic address:
Department of Surgery, The University of Arizona College of Medicine, Tucson, AZ.
Department of Surgery, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Sheveport, LA.
Department of Surgery, Geisinger Medical Center, Danville, PA.
Department of Surgery, Ochsner Clinic Foundation, New Orleans, LA.
Department of Surgery, Tulane University School of Medicine, New Orleans, LA.



The VARK model categorizes learners by preferences for 4 modalities: visual, aural, read/write, and kinesthetic. Previous single-institution studies found that VARK preferences are associated with academic performance. This multi-institutional study was conducted to test the hypothesis that the VARK learning preferences of residents differ from the general population and that they are associated with performance on the American Board of Surgery In-Training Examination (ABSITE).


The VARK inventory was administered to residents at 5 general surgery programs. The distribution of the VARK preferences of residents was compared with the general population. ABSITE results were analyzed for associations with VARK preferences. χ2, Analysis of variance, and multiple linear regression were used for statistical analysis.


A total of 132 residents completed the VARK inventory. The distribution of the VARK preferences of residents was different than the general population (P < .001). The number of aural responses on the VARK inventory was an independent predictor of ABSITE percentile rank (P = .03), percent of questions correct (P = .01), and standard score (P = .01).


This study represents the first multi-institutional study to examine VARK preferences among surgery residents. The distribution of preferences among residents was different than that of the general population. Residents with a greater number of aural responses on VARK had greater ABSITE scores. The VARK model may have potential to improve learning efficiency among residents.

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