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Academic Medicine:
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Relationship between critical thinking skills and success in preclinical courses.

Scott, J N; Markert, R J

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Abstract

PURPOSE. To examine the relationship between critical thinking skills as measured by the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal (WGCTA) and success during the first two years of medical school. METHOD. The WGCTA was administered to 92 students participating in orientation for the class of 1994. Total scores and subtest scores were calculated for each student. Scores from the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) subtests, undergraduate grade-point averages (GPAs), gender, race-ethnicity, and other premedical data were obtained from admission files. Measures of student success in medical school included the final numerical scores of preclinical courses, preclinical GPA, United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 total score, course remediations, and alterations in schedules such as reduced loads or repeated years. Pearson correlation and the t-test were used in the analysis of data. RESULTS. WGCTA scores correlated best with MCAT scores for reading skils (r = .57) and quantitative skills (r = .40). Significant correlations were found between WGCTA scores and final scores for nearly all preclinical courses; however, the only correlations reaching .40 were for Behavioral Science 1 and Biometrics. Correlations between WGCTA scores and first- and second-year GPAs and scores on the USMLE Step 1 were between .33 and .36. The WGCTA scores for students who had extended time to meet course requirements or altered their curricula were significantly lower than those of students who neither took extended time nor changed their academic schedules. CONCLUSION. Critical thinking skills as measured by the WGCTA are moderately predictive of academic success during the preclinical years of medical education.

(C) 1994 Association of American Medical Colleges

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