Mobile spaced education for surgery rotation improves National Board of Medical Examiners scores

J Surg Res. 2016 Mar;201(1):99-104. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2015.10.010. Epub 2015 Oct 20.


Background: Use of mobile devices for medical education is increasing. The aim of this study was to describe the implementation of a spaced education-based app study program in a third year medical school surgery rotation and examine its effects on National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) examination performance.

Materials and methods: Case-based questions were created and distributed to students on a voluntary basis via a mobile app. Questions were repeated in a spaced based manner until mastered. Students completed surveys regarding study habits and app use. NBME examination scores and prior academic measures were obtained. Users of the app were compared to non-users of the app and the previous years' class.

Results: One hundred fifty-two students were offered the app; 121 (80%) used it. App users had a final NBME score of 77.5% compared with 68.8% (P < 0.01) in non-users, although their prior academic achievement was better. Categorizing them by their academic achievement and intensity of app use demonstrated significantly higher scores in regular users of the app as compared with casual and non-users in mid (78 versus 75 versus 71.2%, P < 0.01) and low-achieving students (71.4 versus 70 versus 64.6, P < 0.01), but not high-achieving students (85.3 versus 81.1 versus 79.7, P = 0.09). Stepwise linear regression modeling revealed intensity of app use accounted for 6% of the variance in NBME scores.

Conclusions: Use of the app-based program was an effective tool associated with higher scores on standardized tests in lower level achieving students.

Keywords: Medical students; Mobile education; NBME examination; Surgery rotation.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods*
  • Educational Measurement
  • Female
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mobile Applications*
  • Young Adult