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Do MCQ med school exams adequately assess your knowledge?


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Our school assesses our knowledge through MCQ exams.. I usually do well on those exams because I can recognize the correct answer.. but I don't feel like I truly know the concepts well... and in few months, I usually forget all the details of what I learned.. sometimes, I even question if I learned this material because I can't recall learning it!!  Yet, I am passing my exams and doing well...

 

I feel that MCQ exams are not a good way of assessing students; and it's not a good way to help students who are struggling with content! I was wondering what is better way to actually examine med students?

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2 hours ago, medicine2019 said:

Our school assesses our knowledge through MCQ exams.. I usually do well on those exams because I can recognize the correct answer.. but I don't feel like I truly know the concepts well... and in few months, I usually forget all the details of what I learned.. sometimes, I even question if I learned this material because I can't recall learning it!!  Yet, I am passing my exams and doing well...

 

I feel that MCQ exams are not a good way of assessing students; and it's not a good way to help students who are struggling with content! I was wondering what is better way to actually examine med students?

No, they’re not really a good way. Exams, in general, are not great to determine what someone knows. Not just in medicine, but in general. They can be useful learning tools - especially if you have the opportunity to review your results afterwards (although in many medical schools you won’t because the exams are ‘secure’).

I understand that many residency programs are actually moving towards ‘competency-based’ assessments and away from exams, at least to some extent, and medical schools are likely to follow eventually. 

There is much evidenced-based literature in the field of education about ways to improve on the traditional ‘exam’, and ways to evaluate students using other methods than exams. And lots of literature about how to learn and teach more effectively. There’s books and books and books on this topic. Whole libraries. I encourage you to look into it if it interests you - it’s a big area and more than I want to try and summarize in a forum post :P  


Your experience of forgetting everything after you crammed it into your head isn’t uncommon. For most people to really learn something requires repeated exposure in a variety of situations. And even then, if you don’t use it, you lose it.
 

I’m not sure what year you’re in. But as you progress though medical school, I think many people find that they remember more of this material than they think they do. Especially once they start applying it clinically. I know the second and third time I look something up, it often feels like it’s the first time. The stuff, like physiology, that you learned in first year in painful detail - a lot of it definitely degrades until you have just enough understanding to do the job. But the things you rehearse or review because you need to know it, or because it helps you work stuff out, that stuff often sticks. Especially the 4th, 5th, 6th time I look it up and actually use it to treat a patient, I find I usually remember a lot and what I’m refreshing are details or nuance. For example, eventually you’ll go to look up the dosage of something and you’ll realize you actually know it, and instead you just confirm or check to see if there’s another thing you could prescribe instead. 

 

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MCQ med school exams don't necessarily assess your actual medical knowledge, but they do a pretty good job of assessing your ability to do well on a MCQ licensing exam such as the LMCC and a MCQ board exam which you will eventually have to write. Until someone comes up with an easier cheaper way of assessing people that's what they will go with!

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Without mcq exams, most people wouldn't feel motivated to studying the random details until clerkship. While retention is likely terrible you'll find you retain enough that when you go to clerkship, you'll realise random things are related and it makes unit easier to relearn it. Medicine is all about repetition. You learn stuff once in preclerkship, again in clerkship and then again in residency. Each time it gets easier and you retain more. Until someone finds a way to motivate students to study without exams, it think they are a necessary evil. I know some people will say that people study for their patients but I bet if you took away exams, most of the class would not even open up their notes until clerkship. 

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