Background: Relatively few studies have rigorously assessed the effectiveness of computer-based self-assessment in medical education.
Aim: To assess whether an online self-assessment tool can be an effective adjunct to a traditional curriculum for second-year medical students.
Methods: The NYU School of Medicine Online Self-Assessment Tool (SOMOSAT) consists of >450 multiple-choice questions spanning disciplines of internal medicine, administered as separate modules focused on individual organ systems. Questions are coded on multiple dimensions, permitting second-year medical students to receive low-stakes, highly specific feedback regarding their knowledge and performance. Students can also review their answers to guide future study. We employed data collected during SOMOSAT operation to assess its utility and effectiveness.
Results: Overall, SOMOSAT accurately predicted student performance on future exams. SOMOSAT participants generally performed better than non-participants on subsequent graded course examinations (p < 0.05). Students using SOMOSAT subsequently experienced greater improvement in areas in which they initially performed poorly, compared with those in which they initially performed well. Students reported that SOMOSAT was most helpful in filling knowledge gaps, and providing opportunities to practice exam-style questions.
Conclusion: The ability of SOMOSAT to enhance learning and exam performance suggests that web-based self-assessment tools can be effective adjuncts to traditional educational methods.