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Open Access Research article

Non-cognitive characteristics predicting academic success among medical students in Sri Lanka

Priyanga Ranasinghe1*, Amaya Ellawela2 and Saman B Gunatilake12

Author Affiliations

1 University Medical Unit, Colombo South Teaching Hospital, Kalubowila, Sri Lanka

2 Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka

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BMC Medical Education 2012, 12:66  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-12-66

Published: 3 August 2012

Abstract

Background

To identify non-cognitive and socio-demographic characteristics determining academic success of Sri Lankan medical undergraduates.

Methods

A retrospective study among 90 recently graduated students of the Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka. Students were stratified into two equal groups; ‘High-achievers’ (honours degree at the final MBBS examination) and ‘Low-achievers’ (repeated one or more subjects at the same examination). A revised version of the Non-cognitive Questionnaire (NQ) with additional socio-demographic data was the study instrument. Academic performance indicator was performance at the final MBBS examinations. A binary logistic regression analysis was performed using the dichotomous variable ‘Honours degree at final MBBS’ as the dependant factor.

Results

Males were 56.7%. Mean age ± SD was 26.4 ± 0.9 years. ‘High-achievers’ were significantly younger than ‘Low-achievers’. Significant proportion of ‘High-achievers’ were from the Western province and selected to university from Colombo district. A significant majority of ‘High-achievers’ entered medical school from their first attempt at GCE A/L examination and obtained ‘Distinctions’ at the GCE A/L English subject. ‘High-achievers’ demonstrated a significantly higher mean score for the following domains of NQ; Positive self-concept and confidence, realistic self-appraisal, leadership, preference of long range goals and academic familiarity.

The binary logistic regression indicates that age, being selected to university from Colombo district, residency in Western province, entering university from GCE A/L first attempt, obtaining a ‘Distinction’ for GCE A/L English subject, higher number of patient-oriented case discussions, positive self-concept and confidence, leadership qualities, preference of long range goals and academic familiarity all significantly increased the odds of obtaining a Honours degree.

Conclusion

A combined system incorporating both past academic performance and non-cognitive characteristics might help improve the selection process and early recognition of strugglers.

Keywords:
Academic performance; Predictors; Non-cognitive characteristics; Medical students; Sri Lanka