Same admissions tools, different outcomes: a critical perspective on predictive validity in three undergraduate medical schools
1 Australian Council for Educational Research and Centre for Population and Urban Research, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
2 Australian Council for Educational Research, Melbourne, Australia
3 Australian Council for Educational Research and the University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
BMC Medical Education 2013, 13:173 doi:10.1186/1472-6920-13-173Published: 27 December 2013
Admission to medical school is one of the most highly competitive entry points in higher education. Considerable investment is made by universities to develop selection processes that aim to identify the most appropriate candidates for their medical programs. This paper explores data from three undergraduate medical schools to offer a critical perspective of predictive validity in medical admissions.
This study examined 650 undergraduate medical students from three Australian universities as they progressed through the initial years of medical school (accounting for approximately 25 per cent of all commencing undergraduate medical students in Australia in 2006 and 2007). Admissions criteria (aptitude test score based on UMAT, school result and interview score) were correlated with GPA over four years of study. Standard regression of each of the three admissions variables on GPA, for each institution at each year level was also conducted.
Overall, the data found positive correlations between performance in medical school, school achievement and UMAT, but not interview. However, there were substantial differences between schools, across year levels, and within sections of UMAT exposed. Despite this, each admission variable was shown to add towards explaining course performance, net of other variables.
The findings suggest the strength of multiple admissions tools in predicting outcomes of medical students. However, they also highlight the large differences in outcomes achieved by different schools, thus emphasising the pitfalls of generalising results from predictive validity studies without recognising the diverse ways in which they are designed and the variation in the institutional contexts in which they are administered. The assumption that high-positive correlations are desirable (or even expected) in these studies is also problematised.