The investigators found that the results of the personality test had a striking correlation with the students’ performance. Neuroticism, or an individual’s likelihood of becoming emotionally upset, was a constant predictor of a student’s poor academic performance and even attrition. Being conscientious, on the other hand, was a particularly important predictor of success throughout medical school. And the importance of openness and agreeableness increased over time, though neither did as significantly as extraversion. Extraverts invariably struggled early on but ended up excelling as their training entailed less time in the classroom and more time with patients.
It is interesting to see that the personality factors leading to long term future success are different from those leading to short-term “success”. Failure to consider progress over the whole training continuum is becoming a serious “quality” issue in education. The need to enforce more rigorous standards early in training to prepare students for later training is difficult to do when evaluation is at the wrong granualarity. (Note to self: look up the Belgian study from which the data were reported)