Evaluating cognitive ability, knowledge tests and situational judgement tests for postgraduate selection

Med Educ. 2012 Apr;46(4):399-408. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2011.04195.x.


Objectives: This study aimed to evaluate the validity and utility of and candidate reactions towards cognitive ability tests, and current selection methods, including a clinical problem-solving test (CPST) and a situational judgement test (SJT), for postgraduate selection. METHODS; This was an exploratory, longitudinal study to evaluate the validities of two cognitive ability tests (measuring general intelligence) compared with current selection tests, including a CPST and an SJT, in predicting performance at a subsequent selection centre (SC). Candidate reactions were evaluated immediately after test administration to examine face validity. Data were collected from candidates applying for entry into training in UK general practice (GP) during the 2009 recruitment process. Participants were junior doctors (n = 260). The mean age of participants was 30.9 years and 53.1% were female. Outcome measures were participants' scores on three job simulation exercises at the SC.

Results: Findings indicate that all tests measure overlapping constructs. Both the CPST and SJT independently predicted more variance than the cognitive ability test measuring non-verbal mental ability. The other cognitive ability test (measuring verbal, numerical and diagrammatic reasoning) had a predictive value similar to that of the CPST and added significant incremental validity in predicting performance on job simulations in an SC. The best single predictor of performance at the SC was the SJT. Candidate reactions were more positive towards the CPST and SJT than the cognitive ability tests.

Conclusions: In terms of operational validity and candidate acceptance, the combination of the current CPST and SJT proved to be the most effective administration of tests in predicting selection outcomes. In terms of construct validity, the SJT measures procedural knowledge in addition to aspects of declarative knowledge and fluid abilities and is the best single predictor of performance in the SC. Further research should consider the validity of the tests in this study in predicting subsequent performance in training.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aptitude Tests / standards*
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Education, Medical, Graduate / standards*
  • Educational Measurement / methods*
  • Educational Measurement / standards
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Pilot Projects
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Problem Solving
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • School Admission Criteria*
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • United Kingdom
  • Young Adult