Objective predictors of intern performance

BMC Med Educ. 2021 Jan 26;21(1):77. doi: 10.1186/s12909-021-02487-0.


Background: Residency programs select medical students for interviews and employment using metrics such as the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) scores, grade-point average (GPA), and class rank/quartile. It is unclear whether these metrics predict performance as an intern. This study tested the hypothesis that performance on these metrics would predict intern performance.

Methods: This single institution, retrospective cohort analysis included 244 graduates from four classes (2015-2018) who completed an Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) certified internship and were evaluated by program directors (PDs) at the end of the year. PDs provided a global assessment rating and ratings addressing ACGME competencies (response rate = 47%) with five response options: excellent = 5, very good = 4, acceptable = 3, marginal = 2, unacceptable = 1. PDs also classified interns as outstanding = 4, above average = 3, average = 2, and below average = 1 relative to other interns from the same residency program. Mean USMLE scores (Step 1 and Step 2CK), third-year GPA, class rank, and core competency ratings were compared using Welch's ANOVA and follow-up pairwise t-tests.

Results: Better performance on PD evaluations at the end of intern year was associated with higher USMLE Step 1 (p = 0.006), Step 2CK (p = 0.030), medical school GPA (p = 0.020) and class rank (p = 0.016). Interns rated as average had lower USMLE scores, GPA, and class rank than those rated as above average or outstanding; there were no significant differences between above average and outstanding interns. Higher rating in each of the ACGME core competencies was associated with better intern performance (p < 0.01).

Conclusions: Better performance as an intern was associated with higher USMLE scores, medical school GPA and class rank. When USMLE Step 1 reporting changes from numeric scores to pass/fail, residency programs can use other metrics to select medical students for interviews and employment.

Keywords: Internship; Medical education; Medical student; Performance; Residency.