Background: In Team-Based Learning (TBL) preparation of relevant coursework during self-directed learning time is evaluated by the individual readiness assurance test (iRAT). We recently reported that student performance on iRATs is strongly correlated with final examination scores in an infectious diseases (ID) course. We now investigated how student preparation for each individual iRAT exercise relates to course performance. Methods: Two-hundred and sixty medical students were enrolled in this three-year study. Student TBL iRAT scores were collected and correlated with final examination scores using Kruskal-Wallis One-Way ANOVA and Newman-Keul's statistical methods. Results: Students performing in the upper and middle 33rd percentile on the final examination showed highly significant (p < 0.01) weekly improvements in their iRAT scores. However, students performing in the lower 33rd percentile did not show improvement in their iRAT scores until the last week of the course. Although there was a highly significant correlation between final examination and iRAT scores amongst all students participating in the study, this correlation was stronger in students performing in the lower 33rd percentile. Conclusions: Our data suggest that students who do not consistently prepare for TBL, as evidenced by low iRAT scores, exhibit poorer performance on the final examination. This lack of preparation likely interferes with the efficacy of this learning method. iRAT scores can also be used for early identification of struggling students in need of additional supports. Additionally, changes in TBL incentive structure may provide more tangible rewards for pre-class preparation in particular for struggling students.
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