Admission Criteria and Student Success in a Medical Radiation Sciences Program

Article excerpt

Determining admission criteria that will predict successful student outcomes is a challenging undertaking for newly established health professional programs. This study examined data from the students who entered a medical radiation sciences program in September 2002. By analyzing the correlation between undergraduate GPA, grades in undergraduate science courses, performance in program coursework, and post-graduation certification examination results, the authors determined admission criteria that were linked to successful student outcomes for radiological technology and radiation therapy students. J Allied Health 2009; 38:158-162.

DETERMINING ADMISSION CRITERIA that will predict successful student outcomes is a challenging undertaking for newly established health professional programs. Programs can use various available sources of preadmission educational information about applicants and consider experiences with similar programs, but ultimately they need to apply professional judgment in the absence of specific data. The predictive validity of these criteria can only be determined by tracking the subsequent performance of students throughout the program and into practice. We report the experience of a new medical radiation sciences program in this regard, to inform the development of admission criteria in other new programs and refine criteria in established ones.

For many health care-related programs, the admissions process consists of two components: one that assesses cognitive ability and one that assesses noncognitive attributes. Overall grade point average (GPA) on previous coursework or performance in prerequisite courses is used by some programs to predict for success in the cognitive domain. Nonacademic requirements, such as social skills or knowledge about the field exhibited in an interview, are also considered by programs in dentistry, graduate studies, medicine, and physical therapy as important admission criteria but with mixed results.1-9 However, some studies have reported that prerequisite course grades are not good predictors of success.10,11 Applicant interviews are viewed by certain programs as useful predictors of success in the noncognitive domain, while others consider that they have no added value to the admissions process whatsoever.12-14

While the student's overall GPA in previous academic studies is considered one of the best predictors of grades in the new program, it may not correlate with performance in clinical training in certain health professional programs.13'15"17 That said, the use of both GPA and letters of reference as admission criteria have been shown to predict increased retention rates in radiography programs.18 Most reported studies are limited, however, by the lack of data for those applicants who did not accept or were denied admission.19 Finally, there are few studies in the literature that attempt to correlate preadmission criteria to student success in the professional certification examination at the end of program completion.20,21

The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between admission criteria for a medical radiation sciences program and student success in the program and on the subsequent certification examination.

Methods

This study examined data from the 122 students who entered the University of Toronto/Michener Medical Radiation Sciences Program in September 2002. The length of the program is 3 yrs. At the completion of the program, the students receive a BSc in Medical Radiation Sciences and a diploma of Health Sciences. This joint BSc degree/ diploma program was established in 1999 and educates students in the disciplines of radiological technology (RT), nuclear medicine (NM), and radiation therapy (RTT).

Students who entered in 2002 were required to complete four semesters of classroom and laboratory-based course work (didactic program) and three semesters of clinical training. There were 11 courses common to all three disciplines, 1 course in common with two of the three disciplines, and 13 discipline-specific courses for RT and RTT and 12 for NM. …