Background: Intervention may help weaker medical students improve their performance. However, the effectiveness of remedial intervention is inconclusive due to small sample sizes in previous studies. We asked: is remedial intervention linked to a formative assessment effective in terms of improving student performance in subsequent degree examinations?
Methods: This was a retrospective, observational study of anonymous databases of student assessment outcomes. Data were analysed for students due to graduate in the years 2005-2009 (n = 909). Exam performance was compared for students who received remediation versus those who did not. The main outcome measure was summative degree examination marks.
Results: After adjusting for cohort, gender, overseas versus home funding, previous degree and previous performance in the corresponding baseline third year summative exam, students receiving a remedial intervention (after poor performance on a formative objective structured clinical examination and written exams mid-fourth year) were significantly more likely to obtain an improved mark on end-of-fourth year summative written (p = 0.005) and OSCE (p = 0.001) exams compared to those students who did not receive remediation.
Conclusion: A remedial intervention linked to poor assessment performance predicted improved performance in later examination. There is a need for prospective studies in order to identify the effective components of remedial interventions.