Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Health Related Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Daniel L. Riddle


Professional physical therapist education programs use a variety of measures of academic performance, aptitude, and interpersonal skills when selecting students for admission. Grade point averages (GPA) and scores on standardized tests, such as the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), are commonly used quantitative measures. The purpose of this study was to investigate the utility of these measures in predicting which physical therapist students will encounter difficulty in the academic program or in passing the National Physical Therapist Examination (NPTE). This study used a retrospective longitudinal design. A nationally representative sample of 20 programs was drawn from the population of physical therapist education programs that utilize the GRE and enroll 30 or more students per year. The sample programs provided data regarding student demographic characteristics and undergraduate GPA and GRE scores for each student admitted to the cohorts graduating in 2000 through 2004. Programs also provided data regarding academic difficulty for each student. Data provided by the programs were matched to data provided by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy regarding whether the student encountered difficulty passing the NPTE. Data were analyzed using logistic regression, receiver-operating characteristic (ROC) curves, and diagnostic likelihood ratios. The final sample included data on 3,585 students from 20 programs. When controlling for program, cohort, ethnicity, and age, undergraduate GPA (O.R. = 0.851 ±0.031), verbal GRE score (O.R. = 0.970 ±0.017), and quantitative GRE score (O.R. = 0.963 ±0.015) were independently predictive of academic difficulty. Within programs, undergraduate GPA was the most consistent predictor of academic difficulty, contributing to prediction of difficulty for 12 of the programs in the sample. When controlling for program, cohort, and NPTE test version, undergraduate GPA (O.R. = 0.882 ±0.031) , verbal GRE score (O.R = 0.935 ±0.016), and quantitative GRE score (O.R. = 0.965 ± 0.014) were independently predictive of NPTE difficulty. Within programs, verbal GRE score was the most consistent predictor of difficulty on the NPTE, contributing to prediction of difficulty in 11 of the sample programs. The results support the use of undergraduate GPA and GRE scores for making admissions and academic decisions in physical therapist education.


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008