A qualitative study of factors associated with medical students' academic success.

Author:Amini, Mitra


There are more or less comparable criteria for the admission of medical students in different countries, including academic ability, insight into medicine and interests, personality, motivation and linguistic and communications skills (1-4).

The aim of a medical school admission procedure is to select those who will perform well as undergraduates and become good doctors in the future and to exclude those who will bring the profession into disrepute (5).

In Iran, this process is carried out through a national university entrance exam that conducted once yeas and those admitted are the top high school students.

This admission is extremely competitive conducted once a year. After entering medical school, the students have to study 7 years for getting MD (Doctor of medicine) degree and practice as a general practitioner.

In spite of this difficult selection process, some of the students selected are not successful. Accordingly, the aim of the present study was to determine the successful medical students' point of view on factors significant to their success.


Thirty fifth year successful students (i.e., students with GPA, A) from Shiraz Medical School participated in this study. A focus group design investigated the their viewpoint on academic success which was defined as the Grade Point Average (GPA) A. Focus groups are particularly suitable for obtaining different viewpoints on pertinent topics. That is, the purpose of using a focus group is to obtain information of qualitative research from a limited number of people. In this study, semi structured and in depth interview was used for qualitative data gathering technique. Students were selected by maximum variation sampling that important variation in parameters such as gender was achieved.

Procedure: The subjects were arranged into 6 groups of 5 students. At first 5 open-ended questions related to their academic success were asked:

* How do you feel about being a medical student?

* How do you feel about medicine in general?

* Do you believe that you are a successful student?

* What accounts for your academic success?

* What can maintain your success in future?

The first two questions were general questions used to stimulate discussion and encourage interaction in a normal manner with observers.

Data analysis: The following steps were undertaken for data analysis:

* Immediate debriefing after focus group discussions

* Listening to videotapes and transcribing the contents

* Comparing the content of the tapes with observations

We used this to check the contents of the videotapes with the students' gestures, behavior, nonverbal communications skills ...). Five educated tutors coordinated the groups. Categorizing of focus group data was done, using qualitative content analysis suggested by (6), (7).

The entire transcript was evaluated line by line and each significant statement, according to the topics, was selected and categorized into codes.

The codes were compared based on similarities and differences and finally the categories were formatted into 4 themes for success in the present time and for the maintenance of success in future. The data were submitted to 4 assessors to check for the validity and reliability of the codes.


This qualitative analysis led to the emergence of four themes for the students' success:

* Personal abilities

* Attitude, beliefs and motivation

* Effort and perseverance

* Supportive factors

Personal abilities: This factor was emphasized by all focus groups. Almost all of the...

To continue reading