Does the UKCAT predict performance on exit from medical school? A national cohort study

R K MacKenzie* (Corresponding Author), J A Cleland, D Ayansina, S Nicholson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)
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Most UK medical programmes use aptitude tests during student selection, but large-scale studies of predictive validity are rare. This study assesses the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT:, and 4 of its subscales, along with individual and contextual socioeconomic background factors, as predictors of performance during, and on exit from, medical school.

This was an observational study of 6294 medical students from 30 UK medical programmes who took the UKCAT from 2006 to 2008, for whom selection data from the UK Foundation Programme (UKFPO), the next stage of UK medical education training, were available in 2013. We included candidate demographics, UKCAT (cognitive domains; total scores), UKFPO Educational Performance Measure (EPM) and national exit situational judgement test (SJT). Multilevel modelling was used to assess relationships between variables, adjusting for confounders.

The UKCAT—as a total score and in terms of the subtest scores—has significant predictive validity for performance on the UKFPO EPM and SJT. UKFPO performance was also affected positively by female gender, maturity, white ethnicity and coming from a higher social class area at the time of application to medical school An inverse pattern was seen for a contextual measure of school, with those attending fee-paying schools performing significantly more weakly on the EPM decile, the EPM total and the total UKFPO score, but not the SJT, than those attending other types of school.

This large-scale study, the first to link 2 national databases—UKCAT and UKFPO, has shown that UKCAT is a predictor of medical school outcome. The data provide modest supportive evidence for the UKCAT's role in student selection. The conflicting relationships of socioeconomic contextual measures (area and school) with outcome adds to wider debates about the limitations of these measures, and indicates the need for further research.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere011313
Number of pages10
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number10
Early online date7 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2016


  • Education & Training
  • Medical Education & Training


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