Trainees from certain schools pass more exams

JUNIOR doctors from a handful of medical schools are more likely to pass specialist training exams, new research shows.

The study in the Postgraduate Medical Journal found doctors who qualified from schools such as Oxford, Cambridge and Edinburgh enjoyed the highest first-time pass rates compared to those who studied at the likes of Southampton and Wales.

Researchers compared first-time pass rates for both parts of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists membership (MRCOG) examinations, a prerequisite for doctors who want to complete specialist training in obstetrics and gynaecology. They looked at a number of factors including medical school attended, gender and overall academic performance at A-level.

The study showed that, for the Part 1 exam, Oxford graduates had the highest pass rate (83 per cent of candidates passed) followed by graduates from Cambridge (75 per cent), Bristol (59 per cent) and Edinburgh (58 per cent). Graduates from Southampton and Wales had the lowest pass rates at 22 per cent and 18 per cent respectively.

In Part 2 of the exam, graduates from Newcastle upon Tyne performed best with an 88 per cent pass rate, followed by Oxford (82 per cent), Cambridge (81 per cent) and Edinburgh (78 per cent). The lowest pass rates for Part 2 were amongst graduates from Glasgow (49 per cent) and Leicester (36 per cent).

The study also found that higher A-level results were associated with a higher pass rate in Part 1 but not Part 2 of the exam. In terms of gender, there were no differences in performance in Part 1 but women had a higher pass rate in Part 2 of the exam – 66 per cent compared to men’s 53 per cent. But the variation in terms of medical schools was still apparent even after gender was taken into account.

The latest findings tie in with previous studies that have shown medical schools affect pass rates in membership exams for the Royal Colleges of GPs and Physicians as well as the fellowship exam of the Royal College of Anaesthetists.

Stephen Lindow, from the Women and Children’s Hospital at Hull Royal Infirmary, told BMJ Careers: “Institutions can be different in terms of teaching techniques, course emphasis, or focus, which can have an impact on future careers.”

He said the causes of the discrepancies were likely to be associated with numerous factors, adding: “One explanation for the better performance in postgraduate exams of medical graduates from Oxford and Cambridge is the selection process and entrance requirements of these two universities: they select the graduates most able to pass these exams.”

Read the study in the Postgraduate Medical Journal http://pmj.bmj.com/content/early/2012/01/20/postgradmedj-2011-130479  

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