Print version ISSN 0185-3325
VARGAS, Ingrid et al. Factors related to the academic performance in medical students: a one year follow-up. Salud Ment [online]. 2011, vol.34, n.4, pp. 301-308. ISSN 0185-3325.
The study and analysis of different factors related to the academic performance of medical students remains a topic of interest, either for selection processes or for the establishment of strategies and interventions to support students who may need it. It is said that there are two groups of features associated with academic performance: the academic (high school grades, scores on entrance exams) and non-academic (personality traits, presence or absence of psychopathology, sociodemographic aspects) characteristics. The purpose of this study was to identify the influence that different features of a group of medical students from the High Academic Performance Program (HAPP) at Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM) had on their school performance. Materials and methods This paper presents the one year follow up of a cohort of students initially studied during the selection process to entry the HAPP of Medicine School at UNAM. We evaluated all first-year medical students of UNAM who, during 2009-2010, continued to be part of the HAPP and who agreed to participate in this research. At the end we studied 94 students (48 men, 46 women) with a mean age of 18.3 years. The analyzed variables were: academic performance, demographic factors, academic background, personality, abstract thinking, creative thinking, mental disorder. For the initial evaluation at the entrance to University we used the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory -2 (MMPI-2), the sub-scale of abstract reasoning from the Differential Aptitude Test (DAT), a semi-structured interview to investigate demographic and academic characteristics, and the figural test from the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking. In a second assessment (at the end of the first year), we applied the MMPI-2 (for a second time with the intention to avoid the pressure that students could have during the selection process to enter the HAPP) and Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI) to assess the presence of psychopathology. Also, final grades were collected from the academic file of each student. For statistical analysis we used ANOVA, multiple linear regression models, bivariate correlations and cluster analysis. Results The general knowledge test was presented as the only significant predictor for both the final average for all subjects separately, and for the final general average. Results: The general knowledge test was the only significant predictor for both the final average and the final grades for each subject. Characteristics of creative thinking (e.g fluency) or personality traits (such as MMPI-2 Mania scale) were significant predictors for the final average for most of the subjects, however they were not consistent at all. Anatomy (r= 859), developmental biology (r=852), biochemistry (r=. 893) and cell biology and tissue (r=.889) were subjects whose average had a high correlation with the global final average, while public health (r=.696) and medical psychology (r=.670) showed a moderate correlation. The score of abstract thinking (r=.029) had not any correlation with the final average that these students got at the end of the year. A comparison between the two measurements (one at the entrance to Medicine School and the other one year later) of the MMPI-2 was made and we found that there was a pattern of consistency between measurements and all correlations among the different scales that shape the inventory were significant (p<.001). Hypochondriasis, Depression, Hysteria and Psychasthenia scales, tended to rise significantly. In order to evaluate the presence of psychopathology in these students at the end of the first year of Medicine School, the MINI it was used. Of the 96 students, it was found that 77 (80.20%) had no psychopathology, and that 19 (19.79%) had one or more mental disorders at the moment of the interview. The disorders that presented the participants were: major depressive disorder (n=15), generalized anxiety disorder (n=7), bipolar disorder (n=1) and anorexia nervosa (n=1). To determine the influence of the presence of psychopathology on the students final grades, we analyzed the differences between the group of students without any mental disorder and the group with psychopathology. There was no statistically significant difference in the general final average (U=678 500, Z0-.503, p=0.615), and it was a characteristic that only made a difference for the final grades of Anatomy (U=475, Z=-2.50, p=0.012) and Public Health (U=544, Z=-2.007, p=0.045). None of the socioeconomic aspects influenced the students' academic performance. Discussion For the group of the evaluated students, we only found that the general test scores of knowledge is a significant and consistent predictor for average subjects in the first year and the final general average. Conclusions The general knowledge test was a useful predictor for final grades because it seems to summarize many of the skills and habits related to student academic success.
Keywords : Academic performance; medicine; high academic demands.