Intended for healthcare professionals


Improving the selection of medical students

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 17 February 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c708
  1. David Powis, professor
  1. 1School of Psychology, University of Newcastle, Callaghan NSW 2308, Australia
  1. david.powis{at}

    Non-academic personal qualities should be taken into account

    In a study reported in this issue (doi:10.1136/bmj.c478), James and colleagues assess whether a new test, the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT), improves the selection process for school leaver applicants to medical (and dental) schools 1.

    Doctors, of whatever specialty calling, need specialist medical knowledge and a complementary palette of skills and personality traits if they are to be professionally competent. Regardless of the specialty—surgeon or psychiatrist, general practitioner or pathologist—most would agree on what basic skills and traits doctors should have; conversely on what traits, attitudes, and behaviours that they should not possess. Any competency list for a generic medical practitioner should comprise excellent academic ability, good cognitive skills, and the ability to use academic knowledge appropriately in quantitative, verbal, and spatial domains. Practitioners should also have well developed decision making skills, professional integrity, highly developed moral standards, and excellent interpersonal skills, in addition to being accomplished and confident communicators who can empathise with patients. They must be able to function professionally when under stress, have a good measure of self control, and not be prone to taking inappropriate risks in a practice setting. Their mental …

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