Admission Assessments and Their Impact on Academic and Clinical Success
Purpose/Hypothesis: Literature indicates that cognitive assessments, such as grade point average (GPA) and Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, are valid tools in predicting academic success in health professional graduate students. While it is known that undergraduate GPA and GRE scores are predictors of academic success, there is limited evidence that they support clinical success. Therefore, cognitive traits may not be the only factor that influences clinical success. Clinical performance incorporates not only basic knowledge, but interpersonal skills and clinical reasoning. It is imperative that non-cognitive assessments, such as interviews, are used to assist programs in identifying individuals best suited for the profession, beyond academic performance. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the relationship of cognitive and non-cognitive traits to academic and clinic performance. Number of Subjects: Clinical outcomes based on data from the Clinical Performance Instrument (CPI) following a first clinical experience, as well as DPT GPAs were evaluated for a cohort of 38 DPT students. Materials and Methods: Following the first clinical experience, DPT students were divided into two groups based on pre-admission GRE scores. One group consisted of individuals that performed lower on the GRE (defined by one standard deviation below the cohort mean) and the remainder of the cohort was in the other group. An independent samples t-test was performed to analyze group differences in cumulative graduate GPA for the first 2 years of the program and performance on the CPI during their first clinical experience with an alpha level of 0.05. Results: Overall, results revealed a significant difference between groups for cumulative graduate GPA (p=0.002); however, no significant differences were noted on any of the subscales, professional practice, patient management or practice management, nor total CPI for either the midterm or final assessment by either the student or clinical instructor. This indicates that there were differences in academic performance based on categorization by the GRE; however, none noted in clinical performance after the first clinical experience. Conclusions: Previous literature supports GPA and GRE scores as indictors of academic performance; however, there is limited evidence to support the use of admissions interviews as predictors of academic and/or clinical success. This analysis indicates that student performance on a first clinical experience was of equal success, despite lower GRE scores and DPT GPA. Clinical Relevance: Almost half of current physical therapy programs do not assess non-cognitive traits through an interview process, which can raise questions about the interpersonal and non-cognitive qualities of the professionals entering the field of physical therapy. While interviews can be resource intensive, they may also be predictors of clinical success. Further research with a larger sample size needs to be completed to determine the need for a more holistic admissions process.