Open Access Open Badges Research article

The effect of an intercalated BSc on subsequent academic performance

Nishanthan Mahesan1*, Siobhan Crichton2, Hannah Sewell3 and Simon Howell4

Author Affiliations

1 School of Medicine, Guy's Campus, King's College London, London, UK

2 Department of Public Health Sciences, Capital House, King's College London, London, UK

3 Henriette Raphael House, Guy's Campus, King's College London, London, UK

4 Hodgkin Building, Guy's Campus, King's College London, London, UK

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BMC Medical Education 2011, 11:76  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-11-76

Published: 3 October 2011



The choice of whether to undertake an intercalated Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree is one of the most important decisions that students must make during their time at medical school. An effect on exam performance would improve a student's academic ranking, giving them a competitive edge when applying for foundation posts.


Retrospective data analysis of anonymised student records. The effects of intercalating on final year exam results, Foundation Programme score, application form score (from white-space questions), quartile rank score, and success with securing Foundation School of choice were assessed using linear and ordered logistic regression models, adjusted for course type, year of graduation, graduate status and baseline (Year 1) performance.


The study included 1158 students, with 54% choosing to do an intercalated BSc, and 9.8% opting to do so at an external institution. Doing an intercalated BSc was significantly associated with improved outcome in Year 5 exams (P = 0.004). This was irrespective of the year students chose to intercalate, with no significant difference between those that intercalated after years 2, 3 and 4 (p = 0.3096). There were also higher foundation application scores (P < 0.0001), academic quartile scores (P = 0.0003) and resultant overall foundation scores (P < 0.0001) in intercalated students. These students also had improved success with securing their first choice Foundation School (p = 0.0220). Participants who remained at the institution to intercalate in general performed better than those that opted to intercalate elsewhere.


Doing an intercalated BSc leads to an improvement in subsequent exam results and develops the skills necessary to produce a strong foundation programme application. It also leads to greater success with securing preferred Foundation School posts in students. Differences between internally- and externally-intercalating students may be due to varying course structures or greater challenge in adjusting to a new study environment.