Deakin University
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Nutrition content of summative examinations within an Australian 4-year graduate entry medical course: 2013-2016

journal contribution
posted on 2021-06-01, 00:00 authored by R Perlstein, J McLeod, Colin BellColin Bell, C Nowson
Background Poor nutrition is a major contributor to chronic disease, but the level of nutrition education in medical training is limited. Deakin University Medical School has been working to embed more nutrition into the curriculum since 2009. Aim To assess the nutrition content of all summative examinations in the Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery over a 4-year period. Methods The type, amount and scope of nutrition-related questions were assessed in all summative examinations delivered to all 4-year levels from 2013 to 2016. These were assessed independently and analysed for nutrition content. The amount of nutrition was quantified, and the nutrition topic areas and nutrition competencies addressed were documented. Results Less than 10% of summative examination questions contained any nutrition content. For first-year and second-year students, these examinations included an average yearly total of 433 multiple choice questions (MCQs) (range 337–530) and 47 short answer questions (SAQs) (range 33–62). Third-year and fourth-year students had 150 MCQs on average per year and no SAQs. The percentage of nutrition-related questions across all 4 years ranged from 6% in 2013 to 10% in 2016. The proportion of SAQs with nutrition content ranged from 12% in 2013 to 19% in 2016. Basic nutritional sciences, accounted for 60% of nutrition content and, 25% addressed dietary strategies for prevention and treatment of disease, and skills-based nutrition competencies represented approximately 10% of all questions. Summary and conclusions Minimal nutrition was included in the summative examinations. There did not appear to be any consistent increase in the nutrition content of MCQs over the 4-year period but there was some indication of an increase in nutrition content in SAQs. Longer term evaluation is required to confirm this trend. Only a small number of nutrition questions were skills based, most focused on basic nutritional science. Examinations included few skills-based nutrition questions, and consideration of setting a minimum level of nutrition in examinations could assist in ensuring the development of appropriate nutrition competencies in medical graduates.



BMJ nutrition, prevention and health






251 - 256


BMJ Publishing Group


London, Eng.





Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

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