Predicting Clinical Performance in Medical School: The Contribution of Academic and Non-Academic Characteristics Public Deposited

Downloadable Content

Download PDF
Last Modified
  • January 3, 2020
  • Poe, Will
    • Affiliation: Gillings School of Global Public Health, Public Health Leadership Program
  • Background: Medical school admissions committees need accurate and precise screening tools to select among well-qualified applicants. Traditional academic performance indicators, such as grade-point average (GPA) and Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) scores, correlate with standard measures of academic success in medical school, such as pre-clinical grades and scores on National Board examinations. In contrast, valid and reliable predictors of clinical performance during clerkships are lacking. Objective: To compare the power of two admissions tools – one based on previous academic achievement (MCAT scores and GPA) and another based on a content analysis of self-reported biographical information – to predict clerkship performance during the third year of medical school. Methods: A retrospective cohort study of 109 students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine (UNC-SOM) was performed to evaluate the relationship between various pre-admission tools and clinical performance as assessed by faculty preceptor ratings. The two main predictors were an aggregate academic achievement index derived from MCAT scores and GPA and a “non-academic” index derived by coding self-reported biographical information on the medical school application. Ratings on these two indices were correlated with likert-type preceptor ratings on third year clerkships. I analyzed the data using Pearson’s correlation coefficients and multiple linear regression to determine the independent, predictive validity of traditional “academic” variables and “non-academic” variables. Results: Considered as independent predictors, BCPM and MCAT scores did not correlate with clinical performance ratings on any of the three clerkships. The non-academic achievement index predicted performance on Pediatrics (standardized β = 0.18, p=0.09) but did not predict performance in Internal Medicine or Family Medicine. In contrast, the academic achievement index predicted clinical skills ratings in Family Medicine (standardized β = 0.18, p=0.07) but not performance ratings in the other clerkships. Neither admissions tool reached statistical significance at the 0.05 level. Ceiling effects limited the size of the correlations among predictors and criterion measures. Conclusion: This study adds to the growing body of literature suggesting that traditional measures of past academic achievement have little, if any, predictive power for clerkship performance during medical school. The findings suggest that self-reported biographical data from student applications may correlate with future performance in a clinical setting. Medical schools should address the challenge of developing more accurate clinical assessment tools and work to find measures beyond academic achievement to select among future physicians.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Track: HC&P
  • Paper type: Policy
  • Tolleson-Rinehart, Sue
  • Master of Public Health
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Graduation year
  • 2012
Deposit record
  • b6f6bdeb-f0b9-4907-a2ad-769b5d2e1080

This work has no parents.