Introducing free response short answer questions in anatomy spot tests: experiment study

Surg Radiol Anat. 2020 Aug 26. doi: 10.1007/s00276-020-02550-3. Online ahead of print.


Purpose: A spot test is commonly used to assess practical knowledge through a series of specific questions related to the marked anatomical structures on cadavers. However, the continuous reviewing and developing of the medical curricula demands the need to improve the assessment method of the practical examination of anatomical knowledge. Therefore, the aim of the study was to examine the effectiveness of a free response short-answer questions (FRSAQs) test and traditional questions on medical students' performance.

Methods: This is an experimental study using a Randomized Posttest-Only Control Group Design to compare the mean of students' performance in addition to their perceptions about the two versions of the spot tests. Two hundred and ninety preclinical-year medical students were invited to participate in this study.

Results: Only 109 (38%) students participated in this study. The data analysis showed a significant improvement in students' performance in the FRSAQs test (5.3 ± 2.7) than the traditional spot test (4.7 ± 2.6), (P = 0.04). The majority of the students (70%) preferred the FRSAQs spot test, citing that it is good test to assess practical knowledge. The psychometric analysis revealed that the FRSAQs produced more ideal stations (60%) when compared to the traditional spot test (10%).

Conclusion: The current study found that the FRSAQs spot test had a significant impact on students' performance, and it was considered an ideal, flexible, and stress-free assessment method when compared to the traditional spot test. Implementation of the strategy in teaching and in assessment is recommended.

Keywords: Anatomy assessment; Anatomy education; Health professional education; Medical education; Spot test; Steeplechase test.