The performance of master surgeons on standard aptitude testing

Am J Surg. 2001 Jul;182(1):30-3. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9610(01)00652-3.


Background: Identification of the desired psychomotor abilities of optimal surgical performance, if possible, would be useful in the selection of surgical trainees. The aim of this study was to determine the level of these abilities among endoscopic consultant surgeons held in high regard by their peers.

Methods: Twenty endoscopic consultant "master" surgeons were tested on three aptitude tests: the Gibson Spiral Maze Test (error score measures eye-hand coordination), the Crawford Small Parts Dexterity Test (execution time indicates manual dexterity), and the Space Relations Test (correct scores reflect visuo-spatial ability). Their performance was compared with that of 20 medical students and the reference norm as provided by the tests' manuals.

Results: The median scores of master surgeons fell in the 20th, 24th, and 30th percentiles, whereas the scores of medical students fell in the 50th, 20th, and 65th percentile of norm reference for the Gibson Spiral Maze, Crawford Small Parts Dexterity, and Space Relations tests, respectively. The master surgeons enacted significantly fewer errors (Gibson Spiral Maze), had similar execution times (Crawford Small Parts Dexterity), and lower visuo-spatial scores (Space Relations) than medical students.

Conclusion: The level of eye-hand coordination and manual dexterity of master surgeons was found to be higher than that of the average norm including medical students, while their visuo-spatial ability was lower.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aptitude Tests*
  • Endoscopy
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Humans
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Reference Standards
  • School Admission Criteria*
  • Scotland
  • Statistics, Nonparametric