Academic and non-academic predictors of success on the Nottingham undergraduate medical course 1970-1995

Med Educ. 2001 Nov;35(11):1056-64. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2923.2001.01042.x.


Objectives: To identify academic and non-academic predictors of success of entrants to the Nottingham medical course over the first 25 completed years of the course's existence. SETTING, DESIGN AND MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Retrospective study of academic and non-academic characteristics of 2270 entrants between 1970 and 1990, and their subsequent success. Analyses were undertaken of two cohorts (entrants between 1970 and 1985 and entrants between 1986 and 1990).

Results: Overall, 148 of 2270 (6.5%) entrants left the course, with the highest proportion being from the first 6 years (10.7%). Of the 148 leavers, 58 (39.2%) did so after obtaining their BMedSci degree. Concerning non-academic factors, in the 1970-85 cohort, applicants from the later years and those not taking a year out were more successful. However, these two factors had no influence on outcome in 1986-90. In contrast, ethnicity and gender were highly significant predictors of success in obtaining honours at BMBS in 1986-90 but at no other exam nor in the earlier years. Older, mature or graduate entrants were more successful at obtaining a first-class degree at BMedSci for the whole 21 years. However, they were less likely to be successful at passing the BMBS. With regard to academic factors, overall, A grades at Ordinary level/General Certificate of Secondary Education (O-Level/GCSE) were inconsistent independent predictors of success. However, for 1986-90, high grades at O-Level/GCSE chemistry and biology were strong independent predictors of success at BMedSci and BMBS. Very few Advanced level (A-Level) criteria were independent predictors of success for 1970-85. In contrast, for 1986-90 entrants, achieving a high grade at A-Level chemistry predicted success at obtaining a first-class degree at BMedSci, and a high grade at A-Level biology predicted success at BMBS. Over the 21 years, the majority of entrants achieved significantly lower grades at A-Level than predicted. General Studies A-Level was a poor predictor of achievement.

Conclusions: On balance our current GCSE A-grade requirements should remain. Biology should be added to Chemistry as a compulsory A-Level subject. If predicted A-Level grades are borderline then the lower estimate should be used. General Studies should continue not to be used in selection. Performance of more recent mature entrants at BMBS needs further study. The recent gender and ethnic biases in obtaining honours at BMBS is currently being examined. The motivation of applicants planning to take deferred entry should be carefully explored at interview.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Achievement
  • Cohort Studies
  • College Admission Test
  • Demography
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods*
  • Educational Measurement*
  • England
  • Forecasting
  • Humans