Medical course admission to use undergrad level marks
Adam Cresswell Health editor
SYDNEY University will place more emphasis than previously on marks gained in an undergraduate degree when selecting applicants for its graduate-entry medical course, after a review process found evidence that this score was an effective predictor of future performance.
The eight-month review of the medical school’s admissions system has resulted in three key decisions, one of them being that starting with students who apply in 2009, the grade point average (GPA) will join the Graduate Australian Medical School Admissions Test (GAMSAT) and interview as the factors deciding each applicant’s ranking.
The precise weighting to be given to each of the three components is yet to be worked out.
The decision means the University of Sydney has decided not to follow the example of the University of Queensland, which announced last December that it was scrapping interviews because they were too prone to bias and lacked evidence that they worked.
At Sydney currently, GPA scores have only been used to help decide which students should be invited for interview. Students that achieved a minimum GPA of 5.5, roughly equivalent to a credit average, would be called to interview if they also achieved a minimum GAMSAT score.
The final offer of places in the graduate medical course would then be decided according to performance at interview and the GAMSAT score, without reference to the GPA.
Sydney’s dean of medicine, Professor Bruce Robinson, said the move reflected growing faith in the GPA as a useful measure, rather than reduced faith in the interview.
‘‘ We are not attempting to dilute the role of the interview,’’ Professor Robinson said. ‘‘ Rather, because the evidence is accumulating that the GPA does have a role in predicting performance in the medical course, we feel we should be using it.
‘‘ The faculty considered whether we wanted to get rid of interviews or not, and there was a strong view that we should retain our structured interview — which is a much fairer and more validated tool (than an unstructured interview).’’
The faculty has also decided to conduct more research into what admission processes work best, in a tacit admission that existing evidence is weak. Potential areas of research include comparing the GPA, GAMSAT and interview not only with academic performance during the medical degree, but with performance as a doctor after graduation — a more meaningful measure. Continued inside - Page 17