Making the grade: licensing examination performance by medical school accreditation status

BMC Med Educ. 2022 Jan 14;22(1):36. doi: 10.1186/s12909-022-03101-7.

Abstract

Background: Accreditation systems strive to ensure the quality of undergraduate (basic) medical education and encourage ongoing improvements. Despite increasing global emphasis on quality assurance activities, there is limited research linking accreditation of medical education to improved student and graduate outcomes. The purpose of this study is to compare the United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE®) performance of students and graduates who attended international medical schools accredited by an agency recognized by the World Federation of Medical Education (WFME) to individuals who attended schools that did not meet this criterion.

Methods: During the 2018-2020 study period, 39,650 individuals seeking Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates® (ECFMG®) certification took one or more USMLE examinations. We cross-tabulated USMLE performance (first-attempt pass/fail result) and medical school accreditation status.

Results: Individuals seeking ECFMG certification who attended international medical schools accredited by an agency recognized by WFME had higher or comparable USMLE first-attempt pass rates compared to individuals who attended medical schools that did not meet this criterion.

Conclusions: Implementing and maintaining meaningful accreditation systems requires substantial resources. These results provide important positive evidence that external evaluation of educational programs is associated, on average, with better educational outcomes, including in the domains of basic science, clinical knowledge, and clinical skills performance.

Keywords: Accreditation; International medical graduates; International medical schools; Medical licensure examinations.