The Game Changer

The Game Changer

A recent study co-authored by a University of Guelph professor could radically change med school admissions. This study found that personality is actually a better indicator of success in clinical rotations than either grades or the MCAT. This study is relevant to what students will be selected in the future, said psychology professor and co-author Deborah Powell. Many of those that scored high in this certain personality traits also did well in classes.

The four-year study focused on specific personality traits thought to be important to be a doctor:
– Conscientiousness
– Achievement focused
– Calmness
– Confidence (particularly social)
– Responsibility
– Tolerance

To do this, researchers administered personality tests to students and then studied performance in classes and in patient care. According to Professor Powell, “what we found is that in many cases, these personality traits were a key indicator of success as a doctor – dealing with people is a critical part of patient health and wellness.” Essentially, she believes that medical schools may benefit from utilising personality tests when selecting prospective students. Many schools focus on hour-long interviews but with interview training increasing in popularity, personality tests may be a better use of time and resources and also a more true reflection of a candidate’s merit. Likewise, the interpretations of candidate’s answers are not standardised, making them difficult to compare. Another study Powell is involved in addresses this issue. Powell believes any and all additional tools should be used to improve selection, even though the selection process will never be perfect. One possible downside to personality testing is that self-reported testing can cause skewed results, so candidates need to be forced to choose between two equally attractive alternatives instead of marking a scale to prevent fabrication of answers. Another option suggested by this study is the possibility of choosing interviewers based on their personality scores and partnering them with certain candidates to see the reaction.

Another benefit to this testing, and a sense of hope for those who struggle in one of these 6 fields, if you score low in one of these traits, change is still possible if motivated or if certain life events occur. This aspect of personality testing could encourage students to hone their skills as doctor. By no means is this study definitive as it took place at only one medical school but the implications of it could be far reaching and question the nature of standard medical school admissions. It will be intriguing to follow this research’s progression and the studies that take place as a result of this maybe implementing the same research into correlations for Step 1, 2, and 3 as well as the GAMSAT, OSCEs, and the MCCEE.

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