Standardized examination performance and specialty choice

Fam Med. 1997 Jun;29(6):421-3.


Background and objectives: It has been suggested that medical students who attend schools known for graduating prospective primary care physicians may enter primary care residencies, rather than non-primary care residencies, because they are unable to compete for subspecialty residencies due to poorer academic performance. This study determined if performance on standardized examinations conducted by the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) could differentiate between students who selected primary care and those who selected non-primary care specialties at a medical school in the southeastern United States committed to graduating primary care physicians.

Methods: We examined initial scores on NBME examinations and subsequent residency selections by 780 students over a 14-year period to determine if there were differences in the kind of residency placements of students who passed and those who failed the examinations.

Results: Data analysis indicated that medical students who entered primary care and non-primary care residencies were not distinguishable on the basis of standardized examination performance.

Conclusions: These results may help to refute negative stereotypes about students who enter primary care residencies and about medical schools known for promoting careers in primary care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Career Choice*
  • Educational Measurement*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency
  • Medicine*
  • Primary Health Care
  • Specialization*
  • Students, Medical*