Background: The Personal Qualities Assessment (PQA) was developed to enhance medical student selection by measuring a range of non-cognitive attributes in the applicants to medical school. Applicants to the five Scottish medical schools were invited to pilot the test in 2001 and 2002.
Aims: To evaluate the predictive validity of PQA for selecting medical students.
Methods: A longitudinal cohort study was conducted in which PQA scores were compared with senior year medical school performance.
Results: Consent to access performance markers was obtained from 626 students (61.6% of 1017 entrants in 2002-2003). Linkable Foundation Year (4th) rankings were available for 411 (66%) students and objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) rankings for 335 (54%) of those consenting. Both samples were representative of the original cohort. No significant correlations were detected between separate elements of the PQA assessment and student performance. However, using the algorithm advocated by Powis et al. those defined as 'non-extreme' (<+/-1.5 SD from the cohort mean scores; SD, standard deviation) character types on the involved-detached and on the libertarian-communitarian moral orientation scales were ranked higher in OSCEs (average of 7.5% or 25 out of 335, p = 0.049).
Conclusions: This study was limited by high attrition and basic outcome markers which are insensitive to relevant non-cognitive characteristics. However, it is the largest currently available study of predictive validity for the PQA assessment. There was one finding of significance: that those students who were identified by PQA as 'not extreme' on the two personal characteristics scales performed better in an OSCE measure of professionalism. Futures studies are required since psychometric testing for both cognitive and non-cognitive attributes are increasingly used in admission process and these should include more and better measures of professionalism against which to correlate non-cognitive traits.
- MORAL ORIENTATION