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Assessment at UK medical schools varies substantially in volume, type and intensity and correlates with postgraduate attainment

Devine, OP; Harborne, AC; McManus, IC; (2015) Assessment at UK medical schools varies substantially in volume, type and intensity and correlates with postgraduate attainment. BMC Medical Education , 15 , Article 146. 10.1186/s12909-015-0428-9. Green open access

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: In the United Kingdom (UK), medical schools are free to develop local systems and policies that govern student assessment and progression. Successful completion of an undergraduate medical degree results in the automatic award of a provisional licence to practice medicine by the General Medical Council (GMC). Such a licensing process relies heavily on the assumption that individual schools develop similarly rigorous assessment policies. Little work has evaluated variability of undergraduate medical assessment between medical schools. That absence is important in the light of the GMC's recent announcement of the introduction of the UKMLA (UK Medical Licensing Assessment) for all doctors who wish to practise in the UK. The present study aimed to quantify and compare the volume, type and intensity of summative assessment across medicine (A100) courses in the United Kingdom, and to assess whether intensity of assessment correlates with the postgraduate attainment of doctors from these schools. METHODS: Locally knowledgeable students in each school were approached to take part in guided-questionnaire interviews via telephone or Skype(TM). Their understanding of assessment at their medical school was probed, and later validated with the assessment department of the respective medical school. We gathered data for 25 of 27 A100 programmes in the UK and compared volume, type and intensity of assessment between schools. We then correlated these data with the mean first-attempt score of graduates sitting MRCGP and MRCP(UK), as well as with UKFPO selection measures. RESULTS: The median written assessment volume across all schools was 2000 min (mean = 2027, SD = 586, LQ = 1500, UQ = 2500, range = 1000-3200) and 1400 marks (mean = 1555, SD = 463, LQ = 1200, UQ = 1800, range = 1100-2800). The median practical assessment volume was 400 min (mean = 472, SD = 207, LQ = 400, UQ = 600, range = 200-1000). The median intensity (minutes per mark ratio) of summative written assessment was 1.24 min per mark (mean = 1.28, SD = 0.30, LQ = 1.11, UQ = 1.37, range = 0.85-2.08). An exploratory analysis suggested a significant correlation of total assessment time with mean first-attempt score on both the knowledge and the clinical assessments of MRCGP and of MRCP(UK). CONCLUSIONS: There are substantial differences in the volume, format and intensity of undergraduate assessment between UK medical schools. These findings suggest a potential for differences in the reliability of detecting poorly performing students, or differences in identifying and stratifying academically equivalent students for ranking in the Foundation Programme Application System (FPAS). Furthermore, these differences appear to directly correlate with performance in postgraduate examinations. Taken together, our findings highlight highly variable local assessment procedures that warrant further investigation to establish their potential impact on students.

Type: Article
Title: Assessment at UK medical schools varies substantially in volume, type and intensity and correlates with postgraduate attainment
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1186/s12909-015-0428-9
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12909-015-0428-9
Additional information: © 2015 Devine et al. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Clinical, Edu and Hlth Psychology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences > Div of Infection and Immunity
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1473277
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