Student Performance on Course Objectives in a First-Year Medical School Foundational Science Course Correlate with USMLE Step 1 Scores

Adv Med Educ Pract. 2023 Jan 28;14:61-69. doi: 10.2147/AMEP.S389785. eCollection 2023.


Purpose: Early identification of students at risk for poor United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE) Step 1 examination (Step 1) performance allows medical schools to provide targeted intervention for those students. Therefore, determination of metrics that identify struggling students is necessary for proper intervention. We hypothesize that; 1) student performance on pre-matriculation metrics will correlate with their Molecular and Cellular Foundations of Medicine (FDNS) course performance and 2) student performance in the FDNS course and on specific FDNS course objectives will correlate with their Step 1 performance.

Methods: This was a retrospective cohort study analyzing data for students matriculating to the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville in 2018 and 2019. Linear regression analysis was conducted to assess the correlation between pre-matriculation metrics, performance in the FDNS course, performance on FDNS objectives, and USMLE Step 1 performance. Adjusted R-squared (adjusted r2) values were compared with a p-value at <0.05.

Results: The FDNS course grade correlated with pre-matriculation metrics of science undergraduate grade point average (uGPA), total uGPA, and the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), adjusted r2 of 0.139, 0.121, 0.223, respectively. The FDNS course grade showed a stronger correlation to USMLE Step 1 performance (adjusted r2 = 0.257) than pre-matriculation metrics. USMLE Step 1 performance strongly correlated with FDNS course performance when two objectives, pertaining to anabolic and catabolic processes, regulation of cell cycle, and DNA replication and repair, were combined, adjusted r2 of 0.357.

Conclusion: The FDNS course grade and performance on specific course objectives could serve as a predictor for USMLE Step 1 performance and provides a more targeted and concise approach to identification of low-performing students and subsequent intervention.

Keywords: USMLE step 1; course modifications; course objectives; medical school curriculum; medical school performance.

Grants and funding

There is no funding to report.