Background Clinical reasoning is reliant on students having acquired a strong foundation in the basic sciences. However, there remains uncertainty regarding whether medical students are maintaining this knowledge over the span of their degrees. Therefore, this project aimed to assess long-term retention of basic science knowledge within a cohort of students from an undergraduate medical school in the United Kingdom (UK). Methods This longitudinal study followed a cohort of students, from their first to final year. In their final year, participants sat a bespoke formative basic science knowledge assessment that utilised 46 single-best-answer questions. To examine for long-term attainment differences, these scores were compared with those achieved in first-year assessments. Results Of the eligible students, 40% partook in the study (n = 22). Comparing assessment scores highlighted an enhancement in overall basic science knowledge between first and final year (p < 0.01). Although most basic science domains remained unchanged between both time points, anatomy and physiology scores increased (p = 0.03 and p = 0.02, respectively), whereas biochemistry scores were the only ones to decrease (p = 0.02). Discussion This project provides insight into how well students are retaining the basic sciences during their studies. Underperforming science domains were identified, alongside pedagogical explanations for their individual shortcomings; for instance, students' perceived relevance of a domain is seen as a driver for its retention. Subsequently, a group of recommendations were derived to reinforce the most affected domains. The inclusion of more questions on the underperforming sciences, in clinically focussed assessments, is one such suggestion.



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The Clinical Teacher



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Peninsula Medical School