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Comparison of communication skills between medical students admitted after interviews or on academic merits

Marie Dahlin1*, Stina Söderberg1, Ulla Holm1, Ingrid Nilsson2 and Lars-Ove Farnebo3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Centre for Psychiatric Research, St Goran, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

2 Stuvsta Primary Care Center, Stockholm County Council, Stockholm, Sweden

3 Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery, Karolinska University Hospital, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

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BMC Medical Education 2012, 12:46  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-12-46

Published: 22 June 2012



Selection of the best medical students among applicants is debated and many different methods are used. Academic merits predict good academic performance, but students admitted by other pathways need not be less successful. The aim of this study, was to compare communication skills between students admitted to medical school through interviews or on academic merits, respectively.


A retrospective cohort study. Communication skills at a surgical OSCE in 2008 were assessed independently by two observers using an evaluative rating scale. Correlations, t-tests and multivariate analyses by logistic regressions were employed. Academic merits were defined as upper secondary school grade point average (GPA) or scores from the Swedish Scholastic Assessment Test (SweSAT).


The risk of showing unsatisfactory communicative performance was significantly lower among the students selected by interviews (OR 0.32, CI95 0.12-0.83), compared to those selected on the basis of academic merits. However, there was no significant difference in communication skills scores between the different admission groups; neither did the proportion of high performers differ. No difference in the result of the written examination was seen between groups.


Our results confirm previous experience from many medical schools that students selected in different ways achieve comparable results during the clinical semesters. However, selection through interview seems to reduce the number of students who demonstrate inferior communication skills at 4th year of medical school.