PCOM Aims to Improve COMLEX-1 Pass Rates June 22, 2017
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.
- 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.
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