A retrospective and correlative analysis of academic and nonacademic predictors of COMLEX level 1 performance

J Osteopath Med. 2022 Jan 27;122(4):187-194. doi: 10.1515/jom-2021-0175.

Abstract

Context: National licensing exams (NLEs) including the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX) Level 1 evaluate student achievement. Scores have historically been utilized to stratify medical student applicants for residency. Grade point average (GPA), number of practice questions completed, and performance on practice exams have been shown to be predictive of NLE performance. Test anxiety and acute stress have been shown to negatively impact NLE performance. The role of study behaviors and other nonacademic factors in COMLEX Level 1 performance is unknown.

Objectives: This study aims to evaluate academic and nonacademic factors and to correlate them with COMLEX Level 1 performance. Additional analysis is conducted to associate COMLEX Level 1 performance with academic and nonacademic factors when controlling for GPA.

Methods: An anonymous online survey was administered to third- (OMS III) and fourth-year (OMS IV) osteopathic medical students at Kansas City University that had completed the COMLEX Level 1 examination. In total, 72 students responded to the survey. Survey results were linked to student records of GPA and COMLEX Level 1 scores, resulting in 59 complete responses for analysis. Independent-sample t-tests and linear ordinary least squares regression were utilized to analyze the results.

Results: The majority of participants are male (62.7%) and OMS III (98.3%) with an average age of 27.14 ± 2.58 (mean ± standard deviation). Further demographic data reveal hours per week spent for personal time during dedicated study (n=46, 19.7 ± 18.53), hours of sleep per night during dedicated study (7.34 ± 0.92), and money spent on board preparation ($1,319.12 ± $689.17). High ($1,600-$3,000), average ($1,000-$1,500), and low ($100-$900) spenders do not statistically differ and COMLEX Level 1 performance is not related to the number of resources utilized (F statistics <1; p>0.05). Pearson correlations reveal a statistically significant relationship between COMLEX Level 1 scores with GPA (0.73, p<0.001), number of practice exams completed (0.39, p<0.001), number of questions completed (0.46, p<0.001), number of weeks of study (0.55, p<0.001), and preparation cost (0.28, p<0.05). The regression analysis revealed that money spent on board preparation, number of questions completed, and time spent studying accounted for 75.8% of the variance in COMLEX Level 1 scores after controlling for GPA.

Conclusions: The data show the association of money spent on board preparation, numbers of questions competed, and time spent studying with a student's COMLEX Level 1 score. Additionally, these results highlight the amount of money students spend on extracurricular materials to prepare for COMLEX Level 1, yet the data show that the number of resources that students utilized is not related to a student's COMLEX Level 1 performance.

Keywords: COMLEX Level 1; USMLE Step 1; medical student; national licensing examinations; practice questions; predictive factors; spaced retrieval practice.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Educational Measurement / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Osteopathic Medicine* / education
  • Osteopathic Physicians*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Students, Medical*
  • Young Adult