Class-Wide Access to a Commercial Step 1 Question Bank During Preclinical Organ-Based Modules: A Pilot Project

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Abstract

Purpose

The authors examined the usefulness of a commercially available Step 1 question bank as a formative academic support tool throughout organ-based modules in an integrated preclinical medical curriculum. The authors also determined the extent to which correlation between question bank utilization and academic metrics varied with Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) scores.

Method

In 2015, a cohort of 185 first-year medical students at University of Alabama School of Medicine were provided with 18-month full access to a commercially available Step 1 question bank of over 2,100 items throughout organ-based modules, although there were no requirements for use. Data on student use of the question bank were collected via an online administrative portal. Relationships between question bank utilization and academic outcomes including exams, module grades, and United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 were determined using multiple linear regression.

Results

MCAT scores and number of items attempted in the question bank significantly predicted all academic measures, with question bank utilization as the stronger predictor. The association between question bank utilization and academic outcome was stronger for individuals with lower MCAT scores.

Conclusions

The findings elucidate a novel academic support mechanism that, for some programs, may help bridge the gap between holistic and mission-based admissions practices and a residency match process that places a premium on USMLE exam scores. Distributed formative use of USMLE Step 1 practice questions may be of value as an academic support tool that benefits all students, but particularly those entering with lower MCAT scores.

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