Aussie test for student medics

April 25, 2003

Queen Mary's Medical School is pioneering a test from Australia to choose students for its graduate entry programme this September, writes Claire Sanders.

The personal qualities assessment test was one of the means used to whittle down 1,100 applications to 650. To then get those down to 120 for interview, the school selected at random. There are just 40 places.

Jon Fuller, head of the graduate entry programme, said: "The random selection proved highly controversial for some of those rejected. But how do you choose someone with a PhD in anatomy against someone who has worked in a hospital ward for five years?"

Dr Fuller said schools offering graduate-entry programmes to medicine faced a "bow wave" in applications. The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service said 3,394 people had applied by March 24 for 562 places for this September.

Medical schools have been seeking means of picking the best applicants from large pools of well-qualified applicants. St George's uses the Gamsat test, also developed in Australia. It does not test medical knowledge but aptitude for medical study - reasoning, problem-solving and basic science concepts.

Glasgow's medical school is also asking undergraduate applicants to undertake the PQA test. It is not using the tests to make decisions, instead it will monitor how successful applicants do over time against their test results.

The PQA has three parts. The first is similar to an IQ test. The second measures how candidates would handle certain situations according to their values. The third presents 100 statements about people and asks candidates to indicate how true or false each statement is about themselves.

"Using PQA tests, we weeded out about 80 people who would not have had the attitude and personal qualities to make a good doctor," said Dr Fuller.

"But I have no doubt that many of the people we excluded randomly would also have made good doctors."

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