Purpose: To determine whether the three commonly used measures of critical thinking correlate with academic success of medical professionals in training.
Method: The search for English-language articles (from 1980 to 2011) used Medline, Embase, Scopus, Cochrane Library on Ovid, Proquest Dissertations, Health and Psychosocial Instruments, PsychINFO, and references of included articles. Studies comparing critical thinking with academic success among medical professionals were included. Two authors performed study selection independently, with disagreement resolved by consensus. Two authors independently abstracted data on study characteristics, quality, and outcomes, with disagreement resolved by a third author. Critical thinking tests studied were the California Critical Thinking Skills Test (CCTST), California Critical Thinking Disposition Inventory (CCTDI), and Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal. Correlation coefficients were pooled in meta-analysis.
Results: The search identified 557 studies: 52 met inclusion for systematic review, 41 of which were meta-analyzed. Critical thinking was positively correlated with academic success, r=0.31 (95% confidence intervals [CI] 0.26, 0.35), with a moderate statistical heterogeneity (I=67%). In subgroup analysis, only student type had statistical significance for correlation, although bias was likely due to low numbers for some student types. In direct comparison, using studies that employed two critical thinking tests, the CCTDI (r=0.23, 95% CI 0.15, 0.30) was significantly inferior (P<.001) to the CCTST (r=0.39, 95% CI 0.33, 0.45).
Conclusions: Critical thinking was moderately correlated with academic success of medical professionals in training. The CCTDI was inferior to the CCTST in correlating with academic success.