Factors that influence the academic performance of medical students with prior tertiary education
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An in-depth study was carried out with a view to provide the School of Medicine, University of the Free State, with more insight into the academic performance of senior students (i.e. students with prior tertiary education) and factors influencing the performance in their medical studies. Many studies have been done to investigate the influence of factors on academic performance with a view to enhance understanding of academic performance, to predict academic performance and to select the students who are best equipped to study medicine. Many factors have been identified and measured in the past years, but no study has focussed on the factors that influence the academic performance of senior students specifically. In this study, the specific characteristics of senior students were identified and analysed for having influence on academic performance. The research methods comprised a literature review, a retrospective-cohort study (quantitative data) and semi-structured interviews (qualitative data). The literature review provided the study with a theoretical framework. Recent and relevant studies were used to gather information about characteristics of senior students, factors that have an influence on academic performance and student selection. Quantitative data were gathered from the database of the University of the Free State to measure and compare the academic performance of senior students with the rest of the class. The quantitative data underwent statistical analyses to identify factors that influence the academic performance of senior students. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with the intent to include personal experiences, opinions and ideas of the senior students on their academic performance and the influence of their previous studies and other factors. The quantitative and qualitative results were combined when the results were interpreted and discussed. Different factors that were found to have an influence in previous studies were confirmed, new factors were found and a few results differed from what was found in the literature. Different characteristics of senior students were identified in the semi-structured interviews; factors such as intrinsic motivation, maturity and more awareness of learning style have a positive influence on academic performance. Social division from the rest of the class, financial strain and family commitments, however, have a negative influence on academic performance. The type of previous tertiary education had a limited influence on academic performance. The number of previous courses and the number of years studied were found to have an influence (two or more courses and more than five years have positive influence). Many students were of the opinion that their previous tertiary education helped them in the transition to medical school. The quantitative data analysis concluded that students with a Health Profession background perform significantly better than the other senior students in first and second year. Non-Science students start their medical studies significantly better than biomedical science students in the first year, but their performance drops far below the class average over time. A Biomedical Science background has a lower pass rate in the first year compared to students who study Biomedical science for only one year. Demographic factors that were found to have a positive influence in every year were female gender and studying in the mother language. Older age showed to have a negative influence on academic performance in fourth and fifth year. The findings of this study made a valuable contribution to the knowledge base of health professions education. The study ends with a list of recommendations with regard to student selection and student support and development as well as further research. The sound research approach and methodology ensured quality, reliability and validity.