PQA - Measuing the personal qualities and abilities of aspiring health professionals

ANZAME: The Association for Health Professional Education

Annual Conference, July 10th – July 13th, 2008 Law Building UNSW

"Practice, scholarship and research in health professional education"

Title: Identifying aptitude for medical practice: How does the admissions interview rate?

Names and institutions of presenters:

Assoc. Prof. Michele Groves, School of Medicine, Griffith University

Professor David Powis, School of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Health, University of Newcastle;

Dr Miles Bore, School of Psychology, Faculty of Science & Information Technology, University of Newcastle;

Dr Don Munro, School of Psychology, Faculty of Science & Information Technology, University of Newcastle


Despite the recent explosion in medical schools and medical student places in Australia, admission into medical programs remains a highly competitive process with demand far exceeding supply. In addition, intense community scrutiny of the health care system and the associated demand for public accountability has emphasised the responsibility of medical schools to select students with the personal qualities and attitudes required for safe, effective and ethical medical practice.

One commonly used method of selecting such students is by interview. Although structured interviews may have acceptable reliability, they are time-consuming, costly and labour-intensive for faculty and stressful for applicants. It is therefore crucial that they can be shown to be a valid and effective method of selecting applicants suited to the demands of modern medical practice.


The aim of this study was two-fold:

to describe the relationship between performance in the medical admissions interview and applicants' personality, ethical orientation and capacity for self-appraisal.

To identify and compare the characteristics and performance at interview of applicants who were offered a place in medicine with those who were unsuccessful in the admissions process.


There were two cohorts of participants. Cohort 1 consisted of first-year students in the Griffith University graduate-entry medical program in 2007. Cohort 2 comprised applicants interviewed for admission to the program in 2008, and therefore were divided into 2 sub-groups – those who were successful and subsequently admitted and those who were not. All participants completed the two non-cognitive components of the Personal Qualities Assessment (PQA) 1, 2 - a personality inventory, NACE, and a survey of moral orientation, Mojac.

Results and Discussion:

The presentation will report the results of the study. Discussion will centre on the characteristics and attitudes of students selected into the program and the correlation between their performance at interview in each of the six qualities identified as being important for medical practice, and the particular personality traits and attitudes assessed by the PQA. In addition, the ability to compare differences between successful and unsuccessful applicants will provide a more valid evaluation of the admissions process than is usual with this type of study.

1. Lumsden M, Bore M, Millar K, Jack R, Powis D. Assessment of personal qualities in relation to admission to medical school. Medical Education 2005; 39:258-265.

2. Powis D, Bore M, Munro D, Lumsden M. Development of the Personal Qualities Assessment as a tool for selecting medical students. Journal of Adult and Continuing Education 2005; 11(1):3-14.