Background: Medical school admission procedures have the common goal to select applicants with the greatest potential of becoming successful physicians. Hamburg Medical Faculty selects medical students by grade point average (GPA) and employs a two-step selection process of a natural sciences test (HAM-Nat), in some cases followed by multiple mini-interviews (HAM-Int). Multiple mini-interviews can predict non-cognitive outcomes, while GPA has predictive validity for cognitive outcomes. The aim of our study was to explore communication skills and clinical knowledge of advanced medical students according to their respective admission procedure.
Methods: In July 2019, 146 students grouped according to their admission procedure into GPA-only (19.2 %), HAM-Nat (33.6 %), HAM-Int (30.8 %), and Waiting List (16.4 %) participated in four OSCE stations which equally assessed students' communication skills (OSCE part 1) and clinical knowledge (OSCE part 2) in simulated patient encounters, rated by physicians with checklists. Additionally, psychosocial assessors ranked communication skills with a global rating scale (GR). The students also participated in a multiple choice (MC) exam testing clinical knowledge. Kruskal-Wallis analyses of variance of test performance and Spearman correlation of instruments were calculated.
Results: Students from the Waiting List group performed significantly worse on the MC exam compared to GPA-only and HAM-Int (adjusted p = .029 and 0.018, respectively). No significant differences were found between the admission groups with respect to communication skills. Global Rating and OSCE part 1 (communication) correlated significantly (ρ = 0.228, p = .006) as did OSCE part 2 (clinical knowledge) and MC exam (ρ = 0.242, p = .003), indicating criterion validity. Constructs did not overlap, indicating divergent validity.
Conclusions: Advanced medical students selected for undergraduate studies by multiple mini-interviews assessing psychosocial skills showed similar communication skills compared to students admitted to medical school by other entryways. It is unclear whether these similarities are due to an effective undergraduate longitudinal communication curriculum. Assessing baseline communication skills of all medical students at entry-level may aid with this question.
Keywords: Communication; Medical knowledge; Medical school admission; Medical school selection; Multiple mini-interviews; Objective structured clinical examination; Undergraduate medical education.