Not knowing that they do not know: self-assessment accuracy of third-year medical students

Med Educ. 2006 Feb;40(2):173-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2929.2005.02372.x.


Purpose: The development of self-regulated learning is a major focus of our problem-based learning (PBL) medical programme. Students who are unsuccessful in assessments often seem to lack insight into the standard of their own performance, yet the ability to self-assess accurately is essential for the effective self-management of learning. The aim of this project was to evaluate the accuracy of self- and peer-assessment according to academic performance.

Method: In 2004, 175 3rd-year students undertook an integrated, case-based, short-essay, formative assessment. After the assessment they were provided with model answers and marking criteria. Students marked their own assessment paper and the paper of one of their peers. Assessment papers were subsequently marked by faculty members. The following data was available for each student: self-mark, faculty-mark, score awarded by a peer and the score that they awarded to their peer. Self-assessment and peer-assessment ability was compared to overall academic performance.

Results: Low-achieving students score themselves and their peers generously. High-achieving students score themselves more harshly than faculty. However, they score their peers accurately.

Conclusion: In the 3rd year of the programme low-achieving students are unable to assess accurately the quality of their own work or the work of their peers in a formative written assessment. The PBL curriculum does not guarantee the appropriate development of self-assessment skills.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence / standards*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods*
  • Educational Measurement / methods*
  • New South Wales
  • Peer Review / standards
  • Self-Assessment
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Students, Medical*