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Medical Education 2012:46: 163–171

Context  Medical schools continue to seek robust ways to select students with the greatest aptitude for medical education, training and practice. Tests of general cognition are used in combination with markers of prior academic achievement and other tools, although their predictive validity is unknown. This study compared the predictive validity of the Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admission Test (UMAT), the admission grade point average (GPA), and a combination of both, on outcomes in all years of two medical programmes.

Methods  Subjects were students (= 1346) selected since 2003 using UMAT scores and attending either of New Zealand’s two medical schools. Regression models incorporated demographic data, UMAT scores, admission GPA and performance on routine assessments.

Results  Despite the different weightings of UMAT used in selection at the two institutions and minor variations in student demographics and programmes, results across institutions were similar. The net predictive power of admission GPA was highest for outcomes in Years 2 and 5 of the 6-year programme, accounting for 17–35% of the variance; UMAT score accounted for < 10%. The highest predictive power of the UMAT score was 9.9% for a Year 5 written examination. Combining UMAT score with admission GPA improved predictive power slightly across all outcomes. Neither UMAT score nor admission GPA predicted outcomes in the final trainee intern year well, although grading bands for this year were broad and numbers smaller.

Conclusions  The ability of the general cognitive test UMAT to predict outcomes in major assessments within medical programmes is relatively minor in comparison with that of the admission GPA, but the UMAT score adds a small amount of predictive power when it is used in combination with the GPA. However, UMAT scores may predict outcomes not studied here, which underscores the need for further validation studies in a range of settings.