Evaluating the spoken English proficiency of graduates of foreign medical schools


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Abstract

PurposeThe purpose of this study was to gather additional evidence for the validity and reliability of spoken English proficiency ratings provided by trained standardized patients (SPs) in high-stakes clinical skills examination.MethodOver 2500 candidates who took the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates’ (ECFMG) Clinical Skills Assessment (CSA) were studied. The CSA consists of 10 or 11 timed clinical encounters. Standardized patients evaluate spoken English proficiency and interpersonal skills in every encounter. Generalizability theory was used to estimate the consistency of spoken English ratings. Validity coefficients were calculated by correlating summary English ratings with CSA scores and other external criterion measures. Mean spoken English ratings were also compared by various candidate background variables.ResultsThe reliability of the spoken English ratings, based on 10 independent evaluations, was high. The magnitudes of the associated variance components indicated that the evaluation of a candidate’s spoken English proficiency is unlikely to be affected by the choice of cases or SPs used in a given assessment. Proficiency in spoken English was related to native language (English versus other) and scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).DiscussionThe pattern of the relationships, both within assessment components and with external criterion measures, suggests that valid measures of spoken English proficiency are obtained. This result, combined with the high reproducibility of the ratings over encounters and SPs, supports the use of trained SPs to measure spoken English skills in a simulated medical environment.

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