PCOM Aims to Improve COMLEX-1 Pass Rates
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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 (PCOM) has trained thousands of highly competent, caring physicians, health practitioners and behavioral scientists who practice a “whole person” approach to care—treating people, not just symptoms. PCOM operates three campuses (PCOM, PCOM Georgia and PCOM South Georgia) and offers doctoral degrees in clinical psychology, educational psychology, osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy and school psychology, and graduate degrees in applied behavior analysis, applied positive psychology, biomedical sciences, forensic medicine, medical laboratory science, mental health counseling, non profit leadership and population health management, organizational development and leadership, physician assistant studies, school psychology, and public health management and administration. PCOM students learn the importance of health promotion, research, education and service to the community. Through its community-based Healthcare Centers, PCOM provides care to medically underserved populations. For more information, visit pcom.edu or call 215-871-6100.

For more information, contact:
Daniel McCunney
Associate Director, News and Media Relations
Email: danielmc1@pcom.edu
Office: 215-871-6304 | Cell: 267-449-1360

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