Choosing tomorrow's doctors

BMJ 1996; 313 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.313.7053.313 (Published 10 August 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;313:313
  1. Sandra Goldbeck-Wood
  1. Editorial registrar BMJ, London WC1H 9JR

    A lottery may be the best way

    The national debate on medical school selection criteria continues. The underlying assumption at a recent gathering of students, patients' representatives, the chief medical officer, and admissions deans from Britain and abroad at St George's Hospital Medical School in London was that we are getting it wrong. But are we? Just what do we want from the doctors of the future? To what extent are we achieving it now, and how, if at all, will selection criteria help us improve things?

    The only clear answer was that, with 2.8 applicants for every medical school place in Britain, we do need to select. We currently use academic achievement, in the form of A level grades, as a filter—a requirement of three “A” grades, or two “A”s and a “B”, reduces numbers sufficiently to make individual interviews practicable. Average A level grades among medical school entrants have increased over the past 10 years,1 even though selectors themselves agree that these academic requirements far exceed what is needed to be able to complete the course. Whether driven or followed by selection policy, being good at science is now far more likely to be quoted as a reason for applying to medical school than in 1966.2

    Is academic achievment at 18 too blunt a discriminator? It is certainly unfair, since it excludes people who are able …

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