Examining changes in certification/licensure requirements and the international medical graduate examinee pool

Adv Health Sci Educ Theory Pract. 2014 Mar;19(1):19-28. doi: 10.1007/s10459-013-9456-6. Epub 2013 Apr 20.


Changes in certification requirements and examinee characteristics are likely to influence the validity of the evidence associated with interpretations made based on test data. We examined whether changes in Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) certification requirements over time were associated with changes in internal medicine (IM) residency program director ratings and certification examination scores. Comparisons were made between physicians who were ECFMG-certified before and after the Clinical Skills Assessment (CSA) requirement. A multivariate analysis of covariance was conducted to examine the differences in program director ratings based on CSA cohort and whether the examinees emigrated for undergraduate medical education (national vs. international students). A univariate analysis of covariance was conducted to examine differences in scores from the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Internal Medicine Certification Examination. For both analyses, United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 and Step 2 scores were used as covariates. Results indicate that, of those certified by ECFMG between 1993 and 1997, 17 % (n = 1,775) left their country of citizenship for undergraduate medical education. In contrast, 38 % (n = 1,874) of those certified between 1999 and 2003 were international students. After adjustment by covariates, the main effect of cohort membership on the program director ratings was statistically significant (Wilks' λ = 0.99, F 5, 15391 = 19.9, P < 0.001). However, the strength of the relationship between cohort group and the ratings was weak (η = 0.01). The main effect of migration status was statistically significant and weak (Wilks' λ = 0.98, F 5,15391 = 45.3, P < 0.01; η = 0.02). Differences in ABIM Internal Medicine Certification Examination scores based on whether or not CSA were required was statistically significant, although the magnitude of the association between these variables was very small. The findings suggest that the implementation of an additional evaluation of skills (e.g., history-taking, physical examination) as a prerequisite to postgraduate medical education (residency) provides some additional, relevant data to those who select ECFMG-certified residents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Certification / standards*
  • Clinical Competence
  • Databases, Factual
  • Educational Measurement
  • Female
  • Foreign Medical Graduates*
  • Humans
  • Licensure, Medical / standards*
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • United States