AIMS: To determine the learning approach of second-year undergraduate medical students and whether a surface or deep approach to learning had any correlation with the pharmacology sessional and university examination marks obtained. METHODS: A cross-sectional study was conducted among second-year medical students in their fifth semester. To determine the students’ learning approach, whether superficial or deep, we used the Revised Two Factor Study Process Questionnaire (R-SPQ-2F), which contains 20 items in the form of a five-point Likert scale and is suitable for use in higher education settings. Cronbach’s alpha was calculated using the scores obtained from a sample of 20 students to determine the internal consistency. To determine the relationship between the learning approach and examination scores, the average of the individual sessional examination marks and the university examination scores obtained by the students were calculated. RESULTS: Of the 170 students who participated in the study, 87 (51.2%) were females. The Cronbach’s alpha value was considered acceptable for both surface and deep approach. While the academic performance was significantly better in females (U = 2571.5; p = 0.001), no difference was seen in the learning approach based on gender. Fifty (29.4%) students had a higher score for the surface approach. This group had lower examination scores compared with those with equal scores for surface and deep approach or higher scores for the deep approach. A weak negative correlation was seen between the examination marks and surface approach (τb = -0.167; p = 0.002). When analyzed based on gender, the correlation was statistically significant only in females (τb = -0.173; p = 0.02). CONCLUSIONS: A weak negative correlation was seen between the examination marks and surface approach to learning. Although statistically significant, the actual difference between the groups was of a small magnitude. Hence, whether promoting deep learning approach improves academic performance in terms of marks obtained in the examination needs to be confirmed by further studies.
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