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Open Access Research article

The value of the UK Clinical Aptitude Test in predicting pre-clinical performance: a prospective cohort study at Nottingham Medical School

Janet Yates* and David James

Author Affiliations

Medical Education Unit, University of Nottingham Medical School, Queen's Medical Centre, Nottingham NG7 2UH, UK

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BMC Medical Education 2010, 10:55  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-10-55

Published: 28 July 2010

Abstract

Background

The UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) was introduced in 2006 as an additional tool for the selection of medical students. It tests mental ability in four distinct domains (Quantitative Reasoning, Verbal Reasoning, Abstract Reasoning, and Decision Analysis), and the results are available to students and admissions panels in advance of the selection process. As yet the predictive validity of the test against course performance is largely unknown.

The study objective was to determine whether UKCAT scores predict performance during the first two years of the 5-year undergraduate medical course at Nottingham.

Methods

We studied a single cohort of students, who entered Nottingham Medical School in October 2007 and had taken the UKCAT. We used linear regression analysis to identify independent predictors of marks for different parts of the 2-year preclinical course.

Results

Data were available for 204/260 (78%) of the entry cohort. The UKCAT total score had little predictive value. Quantitative Reasoning was a significant independent predictor of course marks in Theme A ('The Cell'), (p = 0.005), and Verbal Reasoning predicted Theme C ('The Community') (p < 0.001), but otherwise the effects were slight or non-existent.

Conclusion

This limited study from a single entry cohort at one medical school suggests that the predictive value of the UKCAT, particularly the total score, is low. Section scores may predict success in specific types of course assessment.

The ultimate test of validity will not be available for some years, when current cohorts of students graduate. However, if this test of mental ability does not predict preclinical performance, it is arguably less likely to predict the outcome in the clinical years. Further research from medical schools with different types of curriculum and assessment is needed, with longitudinal studies throughout the course.