Background: The number of medical programmes targeted at graduates is increasing and there are reports of beneficial outcomes. However, many new graduate medical schools have simultaneously changed their admission criteria and curricula. This study aimed to determine whether there were differences between graduates and undergraduates on the same medical course and to establish which differences might be due to having a prior degree, the course itself or age at entry to medical school.
Methods: A questionnaire-based survey was administered to all students in Years 2-5. It included the Study Process Questionnaire, the Achievement Motivation Profile and Likert scale questions on career.
Results: Questionnaires were completed by 587 students (response rate 80.3%), of whom 143 had a prior degree. Whilst having a prior degree was associated with many outcomes, for most this disappeared, and the overall predictive ability of the model improved when age was included. Age at entry to medical school brought certainty and motivation about career choice, a prior degree had some effect on approaches to studying and co-operativeness, while the course itself had effects on most outcomes, some of which were positive and some negative.
Conclusion: Graduates bring a distinct quality to a course but many of these relate to a student's age. Older age at entry may be more important than having a prior degree.