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Reducing the impact of coaching on selection into medicine

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Coaching to enter medical school first attracted research attention in 2008.1 Results indicated that just over half of those shortlisted for interview had received commercial coaching for the Undergraduate Medical and Health Sciences Admissions Test (UMAT), which is used to select interview candidates. Evidence indicates that students who had received UMAT coaching subsequently show significantly poorer academic performance throughout their medical degree compared with those who had not been coached.2 This suggests that UMAT scores achieved after coaching may not represent true ability to do medicine, or that students who rely on coaching cope less well in academic environments where coaching is not appropriate.

A study of Year 12 high school students in New South Wales and Victoria showed that coaching had no impact on the UMAT sections that assess problem solving or understanding people, but coached students had slightly higher scores on the non-verbal test of logical reasoning.3 Similar results were obtained in a New Zealand study, which involved students who had been coached by the MedEntry company.4 Even though these students believed that their UMAT performance would be improved, this belief was misplaced as their UMAT results were no better than those of uncoached students.

Last year, the University…

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