A diagnostic test comprising questions ranging from simple arithmetic to calculations of concentration was presented to a cohort of first year pharmacy students in the first week of term. Each student was assigned to a group (red, amber or green) based upon their performance (39% or less, 40-69% and 70% or better, respectively) and was informed of their group via their academic tutors. Most students (67%) were assigned to the amber group.
Following a lecture series in pharmaceutical calculations, the students’ performance was then monitored in an in-course assessment and an MCQ examination. Our data show that including calculations in the curriculum improved performance in both assessments. The majority (70%) of students assigned to the green group remained there in the in-course assessment and all but one passed the MCQ at the first attempt. Of the 15 students in the red group, five remained in this group following the in-course assessment and four of these failed the MCQ at the first attempt.
There was significantly more movement, both up and down, in the amber group. We also monitored student access to calculations support resources on our e-learning system but found little difference between any of the groups. In all, the diagnostic test proved to be useful in identifying the weakest and most capable students and predicting their subsequent performance.
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