Identifying Low Pharmaceutical Calculation Performers Using an Algebra-Based Pretest

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Objective: To determine if a pretest assessing algebra-based problem solving skills could aid in identifying those who may underperform in calculations course assessments and if this provides additional value beyond pre-admission and demographic characteristics.

Methods: Student pharmacists were screened for algebraic problem solving skills using an 18-item pretest taken the semester prior to a course containing pharmaceutical calculations content. These scores were compared to later performance on pharmaceutical calculations assessments. Linear regression models were computed to determine the relationship between pretest scores and pharmaceutical calculations performance, after controlling for pre-admission factors and demographic characteristics.

Results: The median pretest score was 15 out of 18 possible points, with scores ranging from 5 to 18 correct. After controlling for age, gender, ACT scores, and high-school GPA, scores on the algebra-based, word-problem pretest were associated with performance on pharmaceutical calculation assessments.

Conclusion: This research demonstrates the ability of a pretest, aimed at identifying deficiencies in algebraic problem solving skills, to identify those at risk of failing to obtain mastery of pharmaceutical calculations, even after controlling for demographics, prior grades, and prior standardized test scores. Identifying these students is a first step towards implementing tailored interventions to improve students' algebra-based word problem skills in order to prevent deficiencies in pharmaceutical calculations mastery before class even begins.

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