Questioning Skills: The Effect of Wait Time on Accuracy of Medical Student Responses to Oral and Written Questions

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Pauses (wait time) after asking questions in precollege classes result in improved discussion and answer accuracy. The authors hypothesized that this would extend to medical students.


Third-year surgery clerks were randomized to three-second or six-second wait times after questions asked of them during a scripted lecture. Students were randomized within each session to answer 21 scripted questions. Students also completed a post-lecture written examination.


Correct responses ranged from 17% to 100% for oral and 22% to 100% for written questions. Answer accuracy could not be distinguished between three- and six-second wait times for oral or written questions.


The benefit of increasing wait times from three to six seconds appears not to extend to medical students. This may represent evolution of learning or different learning modes in medical students. Alternatively, maximum benefit may be achieved in medical students with shorter wait times.

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