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The effect of two grading systems on the performance of medical students during oral examinations

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INTRODUCTION: Either a pass/fail approach or a seven-point grading scale are used to evaluate students at the Danish universities. The aim of this study was to explore any effect of the assessment methods on student performances during oral exams.

METHODS: In a prospective study including 1,037 examinations in three medical subjects, we investigated the difference in the test scores between the spring- and autumn semester. In the spring semester, the students could either pass or fail the subject (pass/fail) while in the following autumn semester, the students were assessed by tiered grading (seven-point grading scale). Unknown to the students, the examiners assessed the students by the seven-point grading scale also in the spring semester. Students at the international classes who were officially assessed by the seven-point grading scale during both semesters served as control group.

RESULTS: The grading scores were significantly higher among students who were aware of being evaluated with the seven-point grading scores compared with the pass/fail group (p < 0.0001). In comparison, no significant difference between the exam results was observed from the spring- to the autumn semester for the control group (p = 0.45). Moreover, the average mark was higher among the international students (mean = 10.3, on the seven-point grading scale) than in the Danish speaking classes (mean = 9.1).

CONCLUSION: The seven-point grading scale seems to motivate students to yield a better performance; hence tiered-grading should probably be preferred to a simple pass/fail approach.

FUNDING: none.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: not relevant.

Original languageEnglish
JournalDanish Medical Journal
Volume64
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)A5328
ISSN2245-1919
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017

    Research areas

  • Chi-Square Distribution, Denmark, Dermatology, Education, Medical, Educational Measurement, Humans, Ophthalmology, Otolaryngology, Prospective Studies, Single-Blind Method, Students, Medical, Comparative Study, Journal Article

ID: 52784375