PCOM Aims to Improve COMLEX-1 Pass Rates


June 22, 2017

Students studying at PCOM
Researchers at PCOM are looking to create an early-warning system for faculty and administrators to identify students who could be at risk of failing the COMLEX-1 test and to get them support.


The COMLEX-USA, or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination of the United States, is a critical test that every osteopathic medical student must pass in order to proceed with their medical training.

With such high stakes on the line, many students can feel anxious about failing the test on their first attempt. Indeed, several forums, articles and workshops are geared towards students with the sole purpose of helping them pass on their first try.

Thanks to a 2017 research grant from the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM), researchers at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine are hoping to create an early-warning system for faculty and administrators to identify students who are at risk of failing, and get them the support they need.

In an earlier pilot study, Robert DiTomasso, PhD, professor and chair, psychology, and chair of the College’s Student Learning Outcomes Committee; Robert Cuzzolino, EdD, vice president, graduate programs and planning; and Stephen Poteau, PhD, assistant professor, psychology and assistant director of the Outcomes Committee, identified a number of pre- and post-admission factors which differed between students who passed the test the first time, and those who failed.

Those included:

  • Lower undergraduate science grade point averages;
  • Lower MCAT scores;
  • Lower PCOM GPA;
  • Lower PCOM class rank; and
  • Poor performance in certain classes at PCOM.

“In that study, we found that if a student exhibited 3 or more of these risk factors, their pass rate dropped to 30 percent,” said Dr. DiTomasso. “But we don’t yet know which of these had the greatest impact.”

To determine that impact, the research team will compare those risk factors to COMLEX performance on the first try, with a goal of creating a predictive, statistical model that will help identify students at risk of failing, prior to ever taking the test.

“This is very similar to the public health model,” said Dr. Cuzzolino. “When trying to ascertain risk of cancer, a physician may ask about certain lifestyle or metabolic factors. But just because a person exhibits some of those factors does not mean they will eventually get cancer. Certain factors hold more weight than others. The same is true of the risk of failing the COMLEX-1.”

AACOM's Grants Program includes awards for medical education research and institutional research. Institutional research is a broad category of work done at colleges (and across colleges within a profession) to inform decision-making and planning.

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About Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine

Founded in 1899, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine has trained more than 15,000 highly competent, caring physicians, health practitioners and behavioral scientists who practice a “whole person” approach, treating people, not just symptoms. PCOM offers the doctor of osteopathic medicine, doctor of pharmacy and doctor of psychology degrees and graduate programs in mental health counseling, school psychology, physician assistant studies, forensic medicine, organizational development and leadership, and biomedical sciences. Our students learn the importance of health promotion, education and service to the community and, through PCOM’s Healthcare Centers, provide care to the medically underserved populations in inner city and rural locations.

 

For more information, contact:

Renee Cree
Public Relations Manager
Office: 215-871-6304 | Cell: 267-449-1360 

 

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