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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Self-perceived competence correlates poorly with objectively measured competence in Evidence Based Medicine among medical students

Nai Ming Lai1* and Cheong Lieng Teng2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Paediatrics, Monash University Sunway Campus, Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences, JKR 1235, Bukit Azah, 80100, Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia

2 Department of Family Medicine, International Medical University, Jalan Rasah, 70000, Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia

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BMC Medical Education 2011, 11:25  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-11-25

Published: 28 May 2011

Abstract

Background

Previous studies report various degrees of agreement between self-perceived competence and objectively measured competence in medical students. There is still a paucity of evidence on how the two correlate in the field of Evidence Based Medicine (EBM). We undertook a cross-sectional study to evaluate the self-perceived competence in EBM of senior medical students in Malaysia, and assessed its correlation to their objectively measured competence in EBM.

Methods

We recruited a group of medical students in their final six months of training between March and August 2006. The students were receiving a clinically-integrated EBM training program within their curriculum. We evaluated the students' self-perceived competence in two EBM domains ("searching for evidence" and "appraising the evidence") by piloting a questionnaire containing 16 relevant items, and objectively assessed their competence in EBM using an adapted version of the Fresno test, a validated tool. We correlated the matching components between our questionnaire and the Fresno test using Pearson's product-moment correlation.

Results

Forty-five out of 72 students in the cohort (62.5%) participated by completing the questionnaire and the adapted Fresno test concurrently. In general, our students perceived themselves as moderately competent in most items of the questionnaire. They rated themselves on average 6.34 out of 10 (63.4%) in "searching" and 44.41 out of 57 (77.9%) in "appraising". They scored on average 26.15 out of 60 (43.6%) in the "searching" domain and 57.02 out of 116 (49.2%) in the "appraising" domain in the Fresno test. The correlations between the students' self-rating and their performance in the Fresno test were poor in both the "searching" domain (r = 0.13, p = 0.4) and the "appraising" domain (r = 0.24, p = 0.1).

Conclusions

This study provides supporting evidence that at the undergraduate level, self-perceived competence in EBM, as measured using our questionnaire, does not correlate well with objectively assessed EBM competence measured using the adapted Fresno test.

Study registration

International Medical University, Malaysia, research ID: IMU 110/06

Keywords:
Evidence Based Medicine; assessment; undergraduate