BMC Medical Education
Shulruf B, O'Sullivan A, Velan G.
Medical schools apply a range of selection methods to ensure that admitted students succeed in the program. In Australia, selection tools typically include measures of academic achievement (e.g. the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank - ATAR) and aptitude tests (e.g. the Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admissions Test - UMAT). These are most commonly used to determine which applicants are invited for additional selection processes, such as interviews. However, no previous study has examined the efficacy of the first part of the selection process. In particular, are compensatory or non-compensatory approaches more effective in evaluating the outcomes of cognitive and aptitude tests, and do they affect the demographics of students selected for interview?
This study utilised data from consecutive cohorts of mainstream domestic students who applied to enter the UNSW Medicine program between 2013 to 2018. A compensatory ranked selection model was compared with a non-compensatory ranked model. Initially, ATAR marks and UMAT scores for each applicant were ranked within each cohort. In the compensatory model, the mean of the ATAR and UMAT ranks were used to determine the outcome. In the non-compensatory model, the lowest rank of ATAR and UMAT determined the outcome for each applicant. The impact of each model on the gender and socioeconomic status of applicants selected to interview was evaluated across all cohorts.
The non-compensatory ranked selection model resulted in substantially higher ATAR and UMAT thresholds for invitation to interview, with no significant effect on the socioeconomic status of the selected applicants.
These results are important, demonstrating that it is possible to raise the academic threshold for selection to medicine without having any negative impact on applicants from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Overall, the evidence gathered in this study suggests that a non-compensatory model is preferable for selecting applicants for medical student selection interview.