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Annual Report 2019

Talent instead of Waiting Times

Banner study of medicine, Professor Kadmon and her team around a table with documents (photo)
Banner study of medicine, Professor Kadmon and her team around a table with documents
Banner study of medicine, Professor Kadmon and her team around a table with documents

Impulses for the study of medicine

Talent instead of waiting times

Read Impulse story

University places for the study of medicine are scarce and highly competitive: For a long time, graduating from a German senior secondary school with the highest grade point averages in particular, or many semesters of waiting were deemed to be safe routes towards becoming a physician.

Due to a decision by the German Federal Constitutional Court, the whole award procedure had to be reorganized – the judges wanted more co-determination for the universities and new test procedures. Representatives of the Medical Faculty at Heidelberg testified in court as experts and provided decisive impulses for the new procedure.

According to the “Stiftung für Hochschulzusalassung” (Foundation for Admission to University Studies), 41,791 candidates scrambled for only 9,458 places to study medicine for the winter semester 2019/20. To date, 20% of these places were awarded based on the average grade of the “Abitur” (school-leaving) examinationun, 20% based on the candidate’s waiting time, and the remaining 60% in the so-called university selection procedure (USP). These quotas have significantly changed due to the court ruling: “The judges required, among other things, that less importance be attached to the average Abitur grade rating in the university’s own procedure and that a subject-specific aptitude test be strengthened”, says Prof. Dr. Martina Kadmon, Head of the TMS Coordination Office at the Heidelberg Medical Faculty, who testified in court as an expert. The consequence: In the future, universities and colleges may now select 70% of their students according to various procedures, 30% of the study places will continue to be awarded to those with the best “Abitur” grades through the Foundation for Admission to University Studies.

Paths to the Study of Medicine

Comparison between the old and the new procedure (bar chart)

Paths to the Study of Medicine

Comparison between the old and the new procedure (bar chart)

More co-determination for the universities and no waiting times any longer – a comparison of the old and the new award procedure for obtaining a place to study medicine.

But how do universities measure who, in their opinion, is especially suitable for this time-consuming and expensive course of study? The best known test procedure is the “Test for Medical Programs” (TMS), more popularly known as the German “Aptitude Test for Medical Students”. Every year, in the first half of May, up to 15,000 people in Germany take this test in order to increase their chances for the opportunity to study medicine by achieving good test results.

Prof. Dr. Martina Kadmon with documents on the selection procedure (photo)

She and her team test the tests and supervise one of the most complex selection procedures in Germany: Prof. Dr. Martina Kadmon is Head of the “Medical Students” – Coordination Office of the Medical Faculty at Heidelberg and Founding Dean of the Medical Faculty at Augsburg University.

Even tests have to be tested

The TMS is currently being evaluated and standardized as part of a research project (www.projekt-stav.de) funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) – with the goal of one day being able to access a standardized test procedure at all German universities if possible. At the Medical Faculty of Heidelberg experts are carefully examining the tasks used to date, among other things: The researchers want to know which questions are especially meaningful with respect to academic success.

The scientists are proceeding as follows: After completing the genuine test for medical students, volunteers take so-called follow-up tests and declare their willingness to have their future study results become part of the project anonymously. “On this basis we can examine which tasks predict a successful course of study particularly well in the long run”, describes Tim Wittenberg, Coordinator of the Student Selection Research at the Medical Faculty, the approach taken by this research project.

Try it out yourself …

There are only a few things in life which you can only do once. The “aptitude test for medical students” is one of these things – so here is a sample question!

The following task checks your ability to correctly deal with numbers, sizes, units and formulas in a medical and natural-science context.

“Plasma half-life” is understood here as the timespan in which the quantity of a pharmaceutical found in the blood plasma is reduced by half; this can be due both to excretion and biodegradation. At a time of t0, a pharmaceutical is intravenously injected into a patient, the half-life of which is 8 hours. After 24 hours, there are still 10 mg of the pharmaceutical in the patient’s blood plasma. How many mg were injected into the patient?

  • A40mg

  • B80mg

  • C160mg

  • D200mg

  • E400mg

Unfortunately wrong!
That is right! The correct answer is B – 80mg.
Unfortunately wrong!
Unfortunately wrong!
Unfortunately wrong!

Today’s research for tomorrow’s physicians

However, that is not enough: In addition to the German Aptitude Test for Medical Students (TMS), another test procedure is being prepared with funding from the State of Baden-Württemberg. A research alliance, in which not only the Medical Faculty at Heidelberg, but also the faculties of Tübingen and Freiburg are participating, devotes itself, for example, to the study of the influence of practical vocational experience on academic success.

Patients want to have doctors who are not only competent, but are also able to listen, have compassion, and explain things well. These so-called “communicative competencies” are to play a role in the selection of students at Heidelberg in the future. A team around Prof. Dr. Sabine Herpertz, Dean of Studies of the Medical Faculty at Heidelberg, is currently doing research on to what extent, for example, so-called multiple mini-interviews with the candidates can make a contribution.

Short Interview with PROF. HERPERTZ

“Patients need physicians who can show compassion and offer reliable help”

Prof. Dr. Sabine Herpertz  (photo)

A conversation with Prof. D. Sabine Herpertz, the Dean of Studies in Heidelberg, who together with her research team, is working on a new, additional tests for medical students: Candidates for who wish to study medicine should be able to prove their abilities in their dealings with patients in the future through multiple mini-interviews (MMIs).

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Question: Prof. Herpertz, What would you like to learn with these mini interviews?

"The goal is to expand the selection of students at the Heidelberg Medical Faculty through a test of the social and communicative competencies of the candidates. A lot of specialized knowledge alone does not make a good physician. For this you also need capabilities, such as emotional availability and social competencies. This means the ability to empathically recognize the emotional condition of your counterpart, his attitude towards illness, his need and the possible consequences for his future life. This prepares good prerequisites for being able to respond to the afflicted appropriately and creating a trustworthy basis for a discussion."

How do you want to examine whether candidates are able to deal well with persons?

"First of all, we want to develop a scale system as part of our research project, with which the responses and the actions of medical students participating voluntarily, can be evaluated objectively and reproducibly. During the further course of the study we will compare these results with the results of an already established social competence test for medical students. Moreover, we will accompany and all of the 170 students participating in the trial until they commence their studies and finally into their vocational life, and observe how well our test is able to predict their success in their studies and vocation."

What will happen during the interviews?

"The behavior of the candidates is evaluated in typical and also extremely challenging situations of medical practice, and in doing so, we receive support from especially trained actors and actresses. Typical difficult moments in the life of a physician are, e.g. a physical examination under very difficult conditions, motivating severely ill patients to comply with their therapy, and communicating bad news or conflicts to patients. All of these trial discussions are recorded on video and subsequently evaluated by a group of certified and professionally experienced physicians."

To what extent and when can the interviews be integrated into the university‘s own selection procedure?

"We hope that we can offer our mini interviews as of the 2022/2023 winter semester as an additional module in the selection of students. As the first step, we plan to offer this time-consuming procedure only to those candidates who have a very good, but insufficient TMS result and who absolutely want to study in Heidelberg. Through these MMIs, they will receive the opportunity to improve their results and thus achieve admission based on very good social and communicative competencies."

Student selection with dedication and a sure instinct

  • TMS Coordination Office: With a unique organizational effort, the conduct of the “Tests for Medical Students” (TMS) are organized by Heidelberg for over 15,000 candidates every year. Some 34 faculties from Baden-Württemberg and other German federal states have meanwhile joined the TMS association. There are at least 50 test sites throughout Germany.
  • Research: Various projects make a significant contribution towards the development of a scientifically well-founded, structured, and standardized selection procedure for students – frequently in collaboration with other faculties throughout Germany.
  • Selection of students:The Dean’s Office of Studies examines and decides on the applications that come in. Accompanying research already demonstrated the validity of the TMS and contributed to the development of the university’s own selection procedure back in 2010 and the first few years thereafter.
Team 04 IT Specialist & Media Didactic Specialist

Impulses from strong teams

Lukas Jurkowski

IT Specialist

Jaqueline Schulz

Media Didactics Specialist

A modern, clear online learning system – this is what Jaqueline Schulz and Lukas Jurkowski are working on together. In the Office of the Dean of Studies of the Medical Faculty (e-learning area) they are currently working on the redesign of the learning management system called Moodle. This platform is being used in the study of medicine in order to support the teaching organizationally and in terms of content and to enable digital offerings.