A study reported in the latest issue of the Medical Journal of Australia has revealed that gaining entry into medical schools in Australia is no mean task.
Dr Barbara Griffin, Professor Neville Yeomans, and colleagues in the School of Medicine at the University of Western Sydney studied the practice effects from coaching and repeat testing of cognitive and non-cognitive ability.
"As part of the student selection process for entry into medicine, Australian universities are increasingly using interviews and specialist tests in an attempt to overcome the socioeconomic bias thought to be associated with high school matriculation results," they said.
Such tests include the Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admission Test (UMAT) and the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI).
As a result, the competition for places at Australian medical schools has created a market for independent businesses offering expensive coaching programs that claim to improve both ability test scores and interview performance.
The study found that coaching did not assist the applicants and may even have hindered their performance in part of the MMI.
However, coached candidates had slightly higher UMAT scores on the part of the test involving non-verbal reasoning.
In addition to coaching programs, a substantial number of students repeated the cognitive ability tests while a small but significant number repeated the interviews in an attempt to improve their initial results.
Although the study found that coaching did not help, repeat testing on MMI slightly improved scores. For this reason, the researchers recommended that tasks be rotated each year.
Professor Yeomans said further research was required on the effect of coaching and repetition on the predictive validity of the UMAT and MMI so that medical schools can critically evaluate the practical implications for their use.