Self-reported generic learning skills proficiency: Another measure of medical school preparedness

V C Burch, C N T Sikakana, G D Gunston, D Murdoch-Eaton


Background. Strong generic learning skills may improve academic performance at medical school. Studies evaluating the generic learning skills proficiency of medical students use self-reported data. It is not known whether self-evaluation of discipline-independent skills exhibits the same problems of widely variable accuracy as self-assessment of discipline-related skills.

Objective. To investigate whether the self-reported generic learning skills proficiency of medical school entrants was related to three objective measures of performance: pre-university admission aptitude-test scores, information technology (IT) proficiency on entry and early academic performance at university.

Methods. This prospective study used a previously validated 31-item questionnaire to document the self-reported proficiency of medical school entrants (2011 - 2013) with regard to 6 categories of generic learning skills: information handling, technical and numeracy, computer, organisational, managing self-learning and presentation skills. The results of the questionnaire were compared with performance in pre-university admission aptitude tests, an IT placement test on entry and end-of-semester 1 examinations (after 6 months at university), which are the basis for promotion to semester 2.

Results. A total of 640 of 648 (98.8%) students completed the questionnaire. Self-reported generic learning skills proficiency was found to be significantly related to pre-university admission aptitude test scores (medium effect size), IT proficiency on entry to university (large effect size) and early academic performance at university (small effect size). Academically weak students did not overestimate their skills proficiency.

Conclusion. These findings support the opinion that self-reported generic skills proficiency can credibly contribute to determining the academic preparedness of medical school entrants.

Authors' affiliations

V C Burch, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

C N T Sikakana, Division of Medical Biochemistry, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

G D Gunston, Department of Human Biology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

D Murdoch-Eaton, Medical School, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health, University of Sheffield, UK

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Generic skills; Academic preparedness

Cite this article

African Journal of Health Professions Education 2018;10(2):114-123. DOI:10.7196/AJHPE.2018.v10i2.971

Article History

Date submitted: 2018-07-06
Date published: 2018-07-06

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