Benchmarking by cross-institutional comparison of student achievement in a progress test

Arno M. M. Muijtjens*, Lambert W. T. Schuwirth, Janke Cohen-Schotanus, Arnold J. N. M. Thoben, Cees P. M. van der Vleuten, der van

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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OBJECTIVE To determine the effectiveness of single-point benchmarking and longitudinal benchmarking for inter-school educational evaluation.

METHODS We carried out a mixed, longitudinal, cross-sectional study using data from 24 annual measurement moments (4 tests x 6 year groups) over 4 years for 4 annual progress tests assessing the graduation-level knowledge of all students from 3 co-operating medical schools. Participants included undergraduate medical students (about 5000) from 3 medical schools. The main outcome measures involved between-school comparisons of progress test results based on different benchmarking methods.

RESULTS Variations in relative school performance across different tests and year groups indicate instability and low reliability of single-point benchmarking, which is subject to distortions as a result of school-test and year group-test interaction effects. Deviations of school means from the overall mean follow an irregular, noisy pattern obscuring systematic between-school differences. The longitudinal benchmarking method results in suppression of noise and revelation of systematic differences. The pattern of a school's cumulative deviations per year group gives a credible reflection of the relative performance of year groups.

CONCLUSIONS Even with highly comparable curricula, single-point benchmarking can result in distortion of the results of comparisons. If longitudinal data are available, the information contained in a school's cumulative deviations from the overall mean can be used. In such a case, the mean test score across schools is a useful benchmark for cross-institutional comparison.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-88
Number of pages7
JournalMedical Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan-2008


  • multicentre study [publication type]
  • benchmarking
  • educational, medical, undergraduate
  • educational measurement
  • curriculum
  • programme evaluation
  • inter-institutional relations, schools, medical
  • Netherlands

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