Background: The Professional and Linguistics Assessment Board of the Genera
l Medical Council examines foreign candidates wishing to practice medicine
in the United Kingdom. Several separate tests and I conjoint test of each c
omponent (medicine and English) are used.
Purpose: This investigation aimed to determine how much the candidate's kno
wledge of English affected the ability to pass the medical component, and v
ice versa, and how much dependence between tests there was within each comp
Methods: The 14 examinations held during 1993 for 1,940 foreign candidates
were analyzed. The technique used was to note whether, by and large, the ca
ndidates who failed I test were the same as or different from those who fai
led the other test(s). If the same candidates failed 2 tests, the overall p
ass rate was approximately the average of the separate pass rates of the 2
tests. If the candidates who failed I test passed the other and vice versa,
then the product of the 2 pass rates approximated to the observed over-all
Results: Using this method, it was found that the language component of the
examination was one-third dependent, two-thirds independent of the medical
component that the one-third dependence was due to the Oral Language Test,
and that the two-thirds independence was due to the Oral Medical Test. Mor
eover, the objective tests of medicine were independent of the subjective O
ral Medical, and there was a similar incongruity between the subjective and
oral tests of language.
Conclusions: Two hypotheses are advanced that might explain these results.
They are not mutually exclusive, and data do not exist at present to demons
trate their relative importance. The method used should be applicable to ot
her examinations using more than one test procedure.