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At the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine, senior medical student volunteers are used as tutors for some problem-based learning groups in both the first and second years. Previous studies on the advantages and disadvantages of student tutors compared to faculty tutors have been equivocal. This study expected to answer the following question: Are there differences in examination scores for learners in their first or second year tutored by fourth-year medical students compared to those tutored by faculty members on two different types of examinations? Students were assessed using more clinically relevant, modified essay question examinations and multiple-choice question examinations. Student grades for eight consecutive years were sorted for year and type of examination into those tutored by a faculty member and those tutored primarily by a senior medical student. The only difference favored faculty tutors on second-year examinations that contained more clinically relevant questions. This phenomenon may be explained by the clinical expertise of faculty tutors making a difference in the second year but not the first year.
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