Influence of medical school applicants' demographic and cognitive characteristics on interviewers' ratings of noncognitive traits

Acad Med. 1995 Jun;70(6):532-6. doi: 10.1097/00001888-199506000-00015.


Background: Interviews are commonly used to measure noncognitive traits of medical school applicants. The present study investigated the influence of knowledge of applicants' cognitive abilities on interviewers' ratings of noncognitive traits.

Method: Academic and demographic predictors of interview ratings of applicants' noncognitive traits were examined at the Medical University of South Carolina College of Medicine during two years: 1992, when applicants' Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) total scores and undergraduate grade-point averages (GPAs) were available to interviewers; and 1993, when MCAT and GPA data were not available. In 1992, 226 applicants met study criteria (i.e., they received ratings from three interviewers in addition to having MCAT and GPA data on file); in 1993, 245 applicants met the criteria. Step-wise regression analyses were conducted to measure the influences of seven independent variables on applicants' interview ratings. Two-way analyses of variances and t-tests were used to determine the effects of gender of applicants and interviewers. Cronbach's alpha coefficients were used as measures of interviewers' reliability.

Results: GPA was the best predictor for both years but accounted for double the amount of variance in interview ratings in 1992 (15.7%) compared with 1993 (7.4%). The reliability coefficients for the interviewers were .496 for 1992 and .473 for 1993.

Conclusion: If the goal of the medical school admission interview is to assess noncognitive traits independently from academic skills, the authors recommend that MCAT and GPA data not be available to interviewers during interviews. The authors also found that gender and race influenced interview ratings in accordance with affirmative-action goals. Finally, the authors found that interview scores were only moderately reliable across different interviewers. They discuss ways to increase their reliability.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Cognition*
  • Educational Measurement
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic / standards*
  • Male
  • Personality*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Racial Groups
  • Regression Analysis
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • School Admission Criteria*
  • Sex Factors
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Students, Medical / statistics & numerical data*