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Situational Judgment Test (SJT) Research

Current Research on the AAMC SJT

In May 2016, the AAMC Admissions and Selection Research Team launched an online SJT field test study with MCAT examinees to learn more about the psychometric properties and applicant reactions to the SJT. We conducted analyses exploring the relationship between SJT scores and academic metrics (e.g., MCAT scores, GPA), personality factors, and other admissions data, in addition to exploring group differences on SJT scores. In total, over 2,300 examinees volunteered to participate in the study. Results of the field test are promising and will be available in the upcoming GSA regional spring meetings.

Next Steps

In the coming year, we will conduct a pilot test with 8-9 medical schools from across the country. The purpose of this study will be to assess the validity of the SJT by exploring the relationship between test scores and performance outcome data collected from medical students. In addition, we plan to study the effects of coaching and faking on SJT performance, conduct market research with the admissions community, and assess operational considerations such as the potential cost and administration format of the exam.

For more information on the upcoming pilot study, please contact Tom Geiger at admissionsinitiative@aamc.org.

Situational Judgment Test Background

The American healthcare system has changed. Medicine in the 21st century is team-based; it requires a collaborative approach to provide health care in a system that meets the access, safety and quality needs of all patients. Physicians need an awareness and appreciation of socio-cultural issues that affect interactions with a more diverse set of colleagues and patients.

Thus, the way we select physicians must change accordingly. Future medical students will need to demonstrate a wide range of academic and personal competencies to be successful in medical school and as physicians. In addition to students who are academically prepared, we need to select those who also have strong interpersonal and social skills, and can demonstrate various intrapersonal competencies necessary to learn clinical skills.

What is a Situational Judgment Test (SJT)?

An SJT is a standardized test that presents a series of hypothetical scenarios and asks examinees how they would respond or behave in that situation. The scenarios are presented through a variety of formats, including text, animation, or live-action video. Each scenario is based on one or more competencies, and the test taker’s responses provide insight into his/her ability within each relevant competency.

While most notably implemented in employment settings, such as executive selection, SJTs have also been used to measure interpersonal skills and integrity and ethics in international medical school admissions. Specifically, the following countries are currently using SJTs as part of their selection processes:

  • United Kingdom (Medical School and General Practitioner Selection)
  • Belgium (Medical School Selection)
  • Canada (Medical School Selection)
  • Israel (Medical School Selection)
  • Singapore (Medical School Selection)
  • Australia (General Practitioner Selection)

Data indicates that SJTs predict medical students’ grades in clinical courses and physician performance several years after admission (Belgium) and residency job performance (UK). While the US medical school context differs from our international colleagues, we believe the SJT holds promise as a potential tool for identifying aspirants who have strong inter- and intrapersonal skills.

What is the AAMC SJT intended to measure?

The prototype SJT is designed to measure examinees' understanding of effective pre-professional behaviors across eight competencies: Service Orientation. Social Skills, Cultural Competence, Teamwork, Ethical Responsibility to Self and Others, Reliability and Dependability, Resilience and Adaptability, and Capacity for Improvement.

The SJT scoring key was created by Subject Matter Experts (SMEs; e.g., medical school faculty, student and diversity and affairs officers, etc.) who interact with medical students on a daily basis. Efforts were made to create a group of SMEs that represent public and private schools, different applicant pool sizes, regions of the U.S., multiple demographic groups, and general diversity of perspectives. In total, nearly 60 SMEs have participated in our SJT content reviews.

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