The following abstract was developed during the 2010 Research Summit and presented at the 2010 NAEMSE Symposium in Chicago.

How Time Between Examination Attempts Affects Paramedic Students’ Remediation of Critical-Thinking Skills and Knowledge Base

Louise Briguglio, BA, Timothy Howey, BA NREMTP, Erik Hanson, BA

Introduction: Previous research suggested that paramedic students who perform well on critical thinking questions(CTQs) are more likely to pass the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians’ Cognitive Exam than students who perform well on knowledge/recall questions (KQs; Briguglio L, et al., 2009). Educators must then determine whether and how their students’ critical-thinking skills can be improved. Anecdotally, many educators say that students are more likely to improve their CTQ answering skills when given more time to remediate between examination attempts. The researchers suspect that students are able to remediate their KQ-answering skills more quickly, thus needing less time between examination attempts.

Hypothesis: There is a positive correlation between change in percentage of CTQs answered correctly and time elapsed between examination attempts. There is a negative correlation between change in percentage of KQs answered correctly and time elapsed between examination attempts.

Methods: Paramedic student Online Summative Paramedic Exam (OSPE) results were retrospectively collected from FISDAP, a national, online emergency medical services (EMS) student tracking system. The OSPE is a paramedic exit examination that contains 200 multiple-choice questions (73 KQs, 127 CTQs). A correlation coefficient determined the relationship between the change in percentage of CTQs and KQs answered correctly and time elapsed between attempts.

Results: Between 2006 and 2009, 714 students took the OSPE and reattempted the same examination at a later date. Time elapsed between attempts ranged from 0 to 387 days. There was no significant correlation between time and change in percentage of CTQs answered correctly (coefficient: –0.050). There was a small negative correlation between the time and change in percentage of KQs answered correctly (coefficient: –0.138).

Conclusions: Despite popular opinion, this study did not support the theory that students are more likely to remediate their critical-thinking skills with more time elapsed between attempts. However, our results suggest that students who want to improve their performance on KQs might benefit from limiting the time that elapses between examination attempts. More research is needed to explore how students are studying between examination attempts and which methods are most effective.