Entry into university education in Ireland, including dental school, is based solely on academic performance in the Leaving Certificate Examination, held at the end of formal school education. The aim of this investigation was to examine the suitability of this process for the selection of dental students in Ireland.
Information for all dental students who entered the dental degree programme immediately following completion of the Leaving Certificate Examination at the National University of Ireland, Cork, during the years 1997-1999 was retrieved. Information was collected relating to gender, the number of times the student had attempted the Leaving Certificate Examination, their performance in this examination, the total number of marks awarded to each student at the end of the First and Final Dental Examinations, and their performance in individual modules.
Whilst there was a significant relationship between performance in the Leaving Certificate Examination and the First Dental Examination (correlation coefficient = 0.22, P < 0.05), this relationship could only explain 12% of the variation within the performance of students in this examination. There was no relationship between performance in the Leaving Certificate and the Final Dental Examination (correlation coefficient = 0.09, P > 0.05). There was a significant correlation between performance in the Leaving Certificate Examination and performance in seven of the 55 programme modules, all of which were pre-clinical modules, and of which five were related to basic sciences.
Based on the limitations of this study, the current selection process for dental students in Ireland seems to be of limited value.