Assessments of physician learners during the transition from undergraduate to graduate medical education generate information that may inform their learning and improvement needs, determine readiness to move along the medical education continuum, and predict success in their residency programs. To achieve a constructive transition for the learner, residency program, and patients, high-quality assessments should provide meaningful information regarding applicant characteristics, academic achievement, and competence that lead to a suitable match between the learner and the residency program's culture and focus. The authors discuss alternative assessment models that may correlate with resident physician clinical performance and patient care outcomes. Currently, passing the United States Medical Licensing Examination Step examinations provides one element of reliable assessment data that could inform judgments about a learner's likelihood for success in residency. Yet, learner capabilities in areas beyond those traditionally valued in future physicians, such as life experiences, community engagement, language skills, and leadership attributes, are not afforded the same level of influence when candidate selections are made. While promising new methods of screening and assessment - such as objective structured clinical examinations, holistic assessments, and competency-based assessments - have attracted increased attention in the medical education community, currently they may be expensive, be less psychometrically sound, lack a national comparison group, or be complicated to administer. Future research and experimentation are needed to establish measures that can best meet the needs of programs, faculty, staff, students, and, more importantly, patients.
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