Methods: An analytical cross-sectional study involving 592 undergraduate medical students was conducted in November 2012. The academic performance of the study subjects was measured by self-reported cumulative grade point average (GPA) using a self-administered questionnaire. Data were entered and analyzed using Statistical Package for the Social Sciences version 16 software. Pearson's bivariate correlations, multiple linear regression, and multiple logistic regression were used to identify predictors of academic performance.
Results: The self-reported academic performance of students had been decreasing as the academic years progressed, with the highest and lowest performance being in the premedicine (mean GPA 3.47) and clinical I (mean GPA 2.71) years, respectively. One hundred and fifty-eight (26.7%) of the participants had ever been delayed, 37 (6.2%) had ever re-sat for examination, and two (0.3%) had ever been warned due to academic failure. The overall variation in self-reported academic performance of the students was 32.8%. Participant age alone explained 21.9% of the variation. On the other hand, university entrance examination results, substance use at university, and medicine as first choice by students were identified as predictors of variation in self-reported academic performance, accounting for 6.9%, 2.7%, and <1% of the variation, respectively. Students who had never used tobacco, alcohol, or khat after starting university were twice as likely to score a self-reported cumulative GPA above 3.0 (adjusted odds ratio 1.95, 95% confidence interval 1.25–3.02) and less likely to be delayed, have to re-sit an examination, or be warned (adjusted odds ratio 0.47, 95% confidence interval 0.29–0.77).
Conclusion: Only 32.8% of the variation in self-reported academic performance was explained by the studied variables. Hence, efficacious mechanisms should be designed to combat the intervenable determinants of self-reported academic performance, like substance use and a low medical school entrance examination result. Further studies should also be undertaken to gain a better understanding of other unstudied determinants, like personality, learning style, cognitive ability, and the system used for academic evaluation.
Keywords: predictors, academic performance, medical students, Ethiopia