Answer to "What are the best tools to use for selecting applicants into medical school?"

Selection methods used by medical schools should reliably identify whether candidates are likely to be successful in medical training and ultimately become competent clinicians. Selection processes must also be fair and unbiased towards different societal groups.  A recent systematic review provides a very good synthesis of 194 articles on these related topics, published between 1997 and 2015.  The authors reviewed the evidence relating to each method against four evaluation criteria: effectiveness (reliability and validity); procedural issues; acceptability, and cost-effectiveness (see later for more on cost-effectiveness).

  • Patterson F, Knight A, Dowell J, Nicholson S, Cleland JA.  How effective are selection methods in medical education? A systematic review.  Medical Education, 2016: 50 (1); 36-60.

The review highlights that the evidence clearly shows that academic records, multiple mini-interviews (MMIs), aptitude tests (i.e., UKCAT, UMAT, GAMSAT, MCAT), situational judgement tests (SJTs) and selection centres are more effective selection methods and are generally fairer than traditional (panel) interviews, references and personal statements.  See also:

  • Jerant A, Henderson MC, Griffin E. et al. Reliability of Multiple Mini-Interviews and traditional interviews within and between institutions: a study of five California medical schools. BMC Medical Education. 2017; 17: 190.

  • See also Koenig et al. (2013: full reference above)

  • Shulruf B, Bagg W, Begun M, Hay M, Lichtwark I, Wilkinson TJ, Poole PJ.  The efficacy of medical student selection tools in Australia and New Zealand. Medical Journal of Australia, 2018: 208(5): 214-218.

The review also identifies that there is little consensus regarding methods that reliably evaluate non-academic attributes, and longitudinal studies examining predictors of success after qualification are insufficient. 

Other useful sources of information are:

  • Rees EL, Hawarden AW, Dent G, Bates J, Hassell AB.  Evidence regarding the utility of multiple mini-interview (MMI) for selection to undergraduate health programs: A BEME systematic review: BEME Guide No. 37. Medical Teacher 2016: 38(5); 443-455.

  • Eva KA, Macala C, Fleming B.   Twelve tips for constructing a multiple mini-interview. Medical Teacher. Published online: 26 Jan 2018

  • Patterson F, Zibarras L, Ashworth V.  Situational judgement tests in medical education and training: Research, theory and practice: AMEE Guide No. 100.   Medical Teacher 2016: 38(1): 3-17.