A Method for Predicting a Student's Risk for Academic Probation in a Professional Program in Allied Health

Article excerpt

Identification of students at risk for academic difficulty in a physical therapy program would provide opportunities to implement preemptive measures designed to enhance successful academic performance. The purpose of this study was to determine if a method advocated for use in evidence-based practice could be adapted for use in predicting probationary status for students in a program in allied health, specifically physical therapy. Preadmission combined math and science grade point average; cumulative grade point average (TGPA); verbal Graduate Record Examination score (VGRE), quantitative Graduate Record Examination score (QGRE), and analytic Graduate Record Examination score; and probation status were obtained for 305 students (mean age, 25.5 years; SD, 4.14) accepted into one physical therapy program from 1995 to 2000. Predictors of probation were identified using stepwise logistic regression. Likelihood ratios were calculated for three score intervals derived from receiver operating characteristic analysis. TGPA, VGRE, and QGRE were significant predictors in the regression model (p < 0.05). VGRE was the only variable that consistently showed predictive capability (likelihood ratio, 2.9; 95% confidence interval, 1.2-6.9). Quantitative preadmission data can be used in combination to improve the predictive power of estimates of probation risk. We contend that the analytic methods illustrated in this report could be used in academic programs to assist faculty with management of students who are at risk for academic difficulties. J Allied Health 2005; 34:1 7-23.

PROFESSIONAL PHYSICAL THERAPY (PT) programs require quantitative information, such as preprofessional grade point averages (GPA) and standardized test scores, from prospective students applying for admission. These requirements exist, presumably, because program faculty members believe the information reflects students' academic potential. The preprofessional performance of candidates is evaluated and ranked according to program-specific criteria that help to determine which students are selected for admission.1

A number of researchers have explored the utility of preprofessional GPA or standardized test scores (i.e., Scholastic Aptitude Test or Graduate Record Examination [GRE]) for predicting academic performance in a professional PT program. The majority of the reports reviewed for this study evaluated either or both of these predictors in bachelor's-degree PT programs,2-6 while the remainder focused on master's-degree programs.7-9 Day's work7 is the most methodologically sound study that has examined the utility of GPA or GRE scores for predicting academic performance in master's-level PT students. The other two studies used multivariate analyses on small samples; therefore, the results of these studies may be invalid.

Day examined whether preprofessional GPA and scores on the analytic portion of the GRE (ACRE) predicted cumulative professional GPA for 522 students in four master's-degree PT programs.7 Stepwise regression models were performed for the combined data set as well as for each individual program. Results from the aggregate data analysis indicated that preprofessional GPA and AGRE explained 18% of the variance in academic success. The individual program analysis indicated that the verbal GRE scores (VGRE) and preprofessional GPA explained 48% and 14% of the variance in two of the programs studied. Day's findings suggest that the predictive utility of preprofessional GPA and GRE scores may be program dependent.

Kirchner et al. investigated the relationship between preprofessional academic performance and three measures of success (cumulative professional GPA, comprehensive written examination score, and patient attendance at the on-site clinic) for 46 graduates in one master's-degree PT program in the state of Washington.8 In addition to preprofessional GPA and a cumulative GRE score, these investigators also used two scores from written exercises and one score from letters of reference as independent variables. …