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Review
. Nov-Dec 2016;73(6):e136-e141.
doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2016.06.013. Epub 2016 Aug 8.

The Learning Preferences of Applicants Who Interview for General Surgery Residency: A Multiinstitutional Study

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Review

The Learning Preferences of Applicants Who Interview for General Surgery Residency: A Multiinstitutional Study

Roger H Kim et al. J Surg Educ. .

Abstract

Background: Learning styles theory posits that learners have distinct preferences for how they assimilate new information. The VARK model categorizes learners based on combinations of 4 learning preferences: visual (V), aural (A), read/write (R), and kinesthetic (K). A previous single institution study demonstrated that the VARK preferences of applicants who interview for general surgery residency are different from that of the general population and that learning preferences were associated with performance on standardized tests. This multiinstitutional study was conducted to determine the distribution of VARK preferences among interviewees for general surgery residency and the effect of those preferences on United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) scores.

Methods: The VARK learning inventory was administered to applicants who interviewed at 3 general surgery programs during the 2014 to 2015 academic year. The distribution of VARK learning preferences among interviewees was compared with that of the general population of VARK respondents. Performance on USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 Clinical Knowledge was analyzed for associations with VARK learning preferences. Chi-square, analysis of variance, and Dunnett's test were used for statistical analysis, with p < 0.05 considered statistically significant.

Results: The VARK inventory was completed by a total of 140 residency interviewees. Sixty-four percent of participants were male, and 41% were unimodal, having a preference for a single learning modality. The distribution of VARK preferences of interviewees was different than that of the general population (p = 0.02). By analysis of variance, there were no overall differences in USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 Clinical Knowledge scores by VARK preference (p = 0.06 and 0.21, respectively). However, multiple comparison analysis using Dunnett's test revealed that interviewees with R preferences had significantly higher scores than those with multimodal preferences on USMLE Step 1 (239 vs. 222, p = 0.02).

Conclusion: Applicants who interview for general surgery residency have a different pattern of VARK preferences than that of the general population. Interviewees with preferences for read/write learning modalities have higher scores on the USMLE Step 1 than those with multimodal preferences. Learning preferences may have impact on residency applicant selection and represents a topic that warrants further investigation.

Keywords: Medical Knowledge; Patient Care; Practice-Based Learning and Improvement; USMLE; VARK; learning styles; surgical education; surgical residents.

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