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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Does undertaking an intercalated BSc influence first clinical year exam results at a London medical school?

Mary Howman* and Melvyn Jones

Author Affiliations

Department of Primary Care and Population Health, UCL Medical School, London, UK

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BMC Medical Education 2011, 11:6  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-11-6

Published: 3 February 2011



Intercalated BScs (iBScs) are an optional part of the medical school curriculum in many Universities. Does undertaking an iBSc influence subsequent student performance? Previous studies addressing this question have been flawed by iBSc students being highly selected. This study looks at data from medical students where there is a compulsory iBSc for non-graduates. Our aim was to see whether there was any difference in performance between students who took an iBSc before or after their third year (first clinical year) exams.


A multivariable analysis was performed to compare the third year results of students at one London medical school who had or had not completed their iBSc by the start of this year (n = 276). A general linear model was applied to adjust for differences between the two groups in terms of potential confounders (age, sex, nationality and baseline performance).


The results of third year summative exams for 276 students were analysed (184 students with an iBSc and 92 without). Unadjusted analysis showed students who took an iBSc before their third year achieved significantly higher end of year marks than those who did not with a mean score difference of 4.4 (0.9 to 7.9 95% CI, p = 0.01). (overall mean score 238.4 "completed iBSc" students versus 234.0 "not completed", range 145.2 - 272.3 out of 300).

There was however a significant difference between the two groups in their prior second year exam marks with those choosing to intercalate before their third year having higher marks. Adjusting for this, the difference in overall exam scores was no longer significant with a mean score difference of 1.4 (-4.9 to +7.7 95% CI, p = 0.66). (overall mean score 238.0 " completed iBSc" students versus 236.5 "not completed").


Once possible confounders are controlled for (age, sex, previous academic performance) undertaking an iBSc does not influence third year exam results. One explanation for this confounding in unadjusted results is that students who do better in their second year exams are more likely to take an iBSc before their third year.