Consequences within medical schools for students with poor performance on a medical school standardized patient comprehensive assessment

Acad Med. 2009 May;84(5):663-8. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31819f9092.


Purpose: Medical schools increasingly employ comprehensive standardized patient assessments to ensure medical students' clinical competence. The consequences of poor performance on the assessment and the institutional factors associated with imposing consequences are unknown.

Method: In 2006, the investigators surveyed 122 U.S. medical school curriculum deans about comprehensive assessments using standardized patients after core clerkships, with questions about exam characteristics, institutional commitment to the examination (years of experience, exam infrastructure, clerkship director involvement), academic consequences of failing the assessment, and satisfaction with remediation.

Results: Ninety-three of 122 (76%) deans responded. Eighty-two (88%) conducted a comprehensive assessment in years three or four of medical school. Of those, required remediation was the only consequence of failing employed by 61 schools (74%), and only 39 (47%) required retesting for graduation. Participants were somewhat satisfied with (mean 3.45 out of maximum 5, SD 1.08) and confident in (3.37, SD 1.17) their remediation process. Satisfaction and confidence were associated with requiring remediation (P = .003) and retesting (P < .001), but experience with the exam, exam infrastructure, and clerkship director involvement were not. No school demographic characteristics or measures of institutional commitment were related to external reporting of students' comprehensive assessment scores.

Conclusions: Despite the prevalence of comprehensive assessments, schools attach few academic consequences to poor performance. Educators are only moderately satisfied with their efforts to remediate poor performers. However, schools with greater trust in their remediation process than other schools are more likely to enforce consequences of poor performance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence / standards*
  • Curriculum / standards
  • Data Collection
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate
  • Educational Measurement*
  • Humans
  • Patient Simulation
  • Program Evaluation
  • Remedial Teaching
  • United States