Advances in Health Sciences Education

, Volume 13, Issue 5, pp 607–616 | Cite as

Exploring the underperformance of male and minority ethnic medical students in first year clinical examinations

  • Katherine WoolfEmail author
  • Inam Haq
  • I. Chris McManus
  • Jenny Higham
  • Jane Dacre
Original Paper


Evidence shows that medical students from Minority Ethnic (ME) backgrounds and male medical students underperform in undergraduate examinations. Our study confirmed these findings in first year clinical (year 3) medical students, and further explored this disparity in performance. We conducted a series of meta-analyses to measure the effects of sex and ethnic group on the written examination and Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) scores of three groups of year 3 medical students at two London UK medical schools (n = 1,051; 46.0% male; 48.7% White). Male and ME students scored lower on written and OSCE assessments. Both assessments were statistically significantly correlated (mean r = 0.45) and therefore the effects of sex and ethnic group were measured on each exam after being adjusted for the effect of the other. Although sex and ethnic differences remained on the OSCE when adjusted for written performance, these differences disappeared on the written when it was adjusted for OSCE performance. These findings may reflect a relative deficit in practical clinical knowledge in male and ME year 3 students. Results were unlikely to be due to examiner bias, as the machine-marked unadjusted written exam results showed significant sex and ethnic differences.


Assessment Clinical Ethnic Gender Medical education Medical students Sex Undergraduate 



Thank you to Henry W.W. Potts and to anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katherine Woolf
    • 1
    Email author
  • Inam Haq
    • 2
  • I. Chris McManus
    • 3
  • Jenny Higham
    • 4
  • Jane Dacre
    • 1
  1. 1.Academic Centre for Medical Education, Division of Medical EducationRoyal Free and University College Medical SchoolLondonUK
  2. 2.Brighton and Sussex Medical School, BSMS Teaching BuildingUniversity of Sussex BrightonEast SussexUK
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  4. 4.Imperial College School of Medical, Academic Department of Obstetrics and GynaecologyImperial College LondonLondonUK

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