The relationship between school type and academic performance at medical school: a national, multi-cohort study

Ben Kumwenda* (Corresponding Author), Jennifer A Cleland, Kim Walker, Amanda J Lee, Rachel Greatrix

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)
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OBJECTIVES: Differential attainment in school examinations is one of the barriers to increasing student diversity in medicine. However, studies on the predictive validity of prior academic achievement and educational performance at medical school are contradictory, possibly due to single-site studies or studies which focus only on early years' performance. To address these gaps, we examined the relationship between sociodemographic factors, including school type and average educational performance throughout medical school across a large number of diverse medical programmes.

METHODS: This retrospective study analysed data from students who graduated from 33 UK medical schools between 2012 and 2013. We included candidates' demographics, pre-entry grades (adjusted Universities and Colleges Admissions Service tariff scores) preadmission test scores (UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) and Graduate Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT)) and used the UK Foundation Programme's educational performance measure (EPM) decile as an outcome measure. Logistic regression was used to assess the independent relationship between students' background characteristics and EPM ranking.

RESULTS: Students from independent schools had significantly higher mean UKCAT scores (2535.1, SD=209.6) than students from state-funded schools (2506.1, SD=224.0, p<0.001). Similarly, students from independent schools came into medical school with significantly higher mean GAMSAT scores (63.9, SD=6.9) than students from state-funded schools (60.8, SD=7.1, p<0.001). However, students from state-funded schools were almost twice as likely (OR=2.01, 95% CI 1.49 to 2.73) to finish in the highest rank of the EPM ranking than those who attended independent schools.

CONCLUSIONS: This is the first large-scale study to examine directly the relationship between school type and overall performance at medical school. Our findings provide modest supportive evidence that, when students from independent and state schools enter with similar pre-entry grades, once in medical school, students from state-funded schools are likely to outperform students from independent schools. This evidence contributes to discussions around contextualising medical admission.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere016291
Number of pages12
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2017

Bibliographical note

We thank UKMED for releasing the data for this project via a competitive bid process. We are grateful to the following for their support of the application to UKMED for this and other research projects: Dr Sally Curtis (University of Southampton, UK), Dr Sandra Nicholson (Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, UK), Professor Peter Johnston (NHS Education for Scotland, UK) and Dr Rhoda MacKenzie (University of Aberdeen, UK). We thank Daniel Smith and Andy Knapton of the General Medical Council of the UK for their support for the application and throughout the project, particularly regarding data linkage and troubleshooting. We thank Dr Gordon Prescott (University of Aberdeen, UK) for the statistical support.

This study is part of Ben Kumwenda’s doctoral programme of research funded by the UKCAT Research Panel, of which JC and RG are members.


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