Do personality traits assessed on medical school admission predict exit performance? A UK-wide longitudinal cohort study

R.K. MacKenzie* (Corresponding Author), J. Dowell, D. Ayansina, J.A. Cleland

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Traditional methods of assessing personality traits in medical school selection have been heavily criticised. To address this at the point of selection, “non-cognitive” tests were included in the UK Clinical Aptitude Test, the most widely-used aptitude test in UK medical education (UKCAT: We examined the predictive validity of these non-cognitive traits with performance during and on exit from medical school. We sampled all students graduating in 2013 from the 30 UKCAT consortium medical schools. Analysis included: candidate demographics, UKCAT non-cognitive scores, medical school performance data—the Educational Performance Measure (EPM) and national exit situational judgement test (SJT) outcomes. We examined the relationships between these variables and SJT and EPM scores. Multilevel modelling was used to assess the relationships adjusting for confounders. The 3343 students who had taken the UKCAT non-cognitive tests and had both EPM and SJT data were entered into the analysis. There were four types of non-cognitive test: (1) libertariancommunitarian, (2) NACE—narcissism, aloofness, confidence and empathy, (3) MEARS—self-esteem, optimism, control, self-discipline, emotional-nondefensiveness (END) and faking, (4) an abridged version of 1 and 2 combined. Multilevel regression showed that, after correcting for demographic factors, END predicted SJT and EPM decile. Aloofness and empathy in NACE were predictive of SJT score. This is the first large-scale study examining the relationship between performance on non-cognitive selection tests and medical school exit assessments. The predictive validity of these tests was limited, and the relationships revealed do not fit neatly with theoretical expectations. This study does not support their use in selection.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365–385
Number of pages21
JournalAdvances in Health Sciences Education
Issue number2
Early online date4 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017

Bibliographical note

We thank the UKCAT Research Group for funding this independent evaluation and thank Rachel Greatrix and Sandra Nicholson of the UKCAT Consortium for their support throughout this project, and their feedback on the draft paper. We also thank Professor Amanda Lee and Ms Katie Wilde for their input into the application for funding, and ongoing support.


  • Medical school admissions
  • Medical school selection
  • Non-cognitive testing
  • Psychometric testing
  • Situational judgement tests
  • United Kingdom clinical aptitude test (UKCAT)


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