Polytechnic University of Valencia Congress, CARPE Conference 2019: Horizon Europe and beyond

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Stealing their beer time: turning studying for medical progress tests into a social game
Aletta Smits, Annette Schenk, Lizet Van Ewijk

Last modified: 06-11-2019


Because of the specific requirements of the medical profession, it is imperative that doctors-to-be have a wide range of knowledge at their fingertips. In order to facilitate this, most medical programmes employ some kind of overall ready-knowledge test: a test that is not connected to one specific course, but contains questions on all the facts and figures from all the courses in the entire curriculum. The test is generally administered four times a year to all students participating in the program. First year students are required to answer the same questions as fourth year students. However, for first year students the thresh hold for passing the exam is at a lower level.

The aim of this progress test is threefold: (1) testing if the knowledge of students is up to par; (2) making sure that students understand that being a medical professional means continuing to have all the knowledge readily available at all times; and (3) changing the way students prepare for a test: not a big cramming session for one test the night before the test happens and then forget about it, but continuously working on keeping knowledge at an acceptable level. This last goal has, however, not been achieved. While students appreciate the test because of the sense of progress it provides them, in a Dutch study into its effects, students widely report that also for this test, they still prepare in cramming sessions. The result is still that the retention level of the ready knowledge is not at the level it should be.

Since studies have extensively shown that students enjoy studying in a gamified process more, that they more easily get into 'a flow', and that the retention rates of knowledge acquired during a flow are higher, we propose to attempt to change the way the student prepare for the test by gamifying the process.

Gamifying the process neatly matches a feeling of progress that facilitates the control students feel over their studying process and over mastering the material. Rather than losing points for not having questions correct, a student gains levels/XP/avatar strength whenever he/she masters a specific topic, or nails a series of questions on different topics within a specific time frame (‘challenge’), etc. The game mechanics and the design of the gaming world will be two important aspects of this project. A third important aspect will be the distribution of knowledge in the game and the way topics are brought up again, practiced again, or combined with other topics. The algorithm that lie at the basis of that need to be smart, adaptive and non-repetitive. A final important aspect of this process concerns the question of how to make playing this game part of the social life of students (battles on Friday afternoon for instance, or leader boards in the hallway).

As mentioned above: Research indicates that gamification has a positive effect on retention and on commitment. If we then also manage to embed the game in a social setting, it can be truly called a “stealing their beer time”-type of intervention: moments that they would normally chill out and have a beer with their peers have now turned into moments where they still chill out, maybe still have a beer, but also study.

We would like to share our ideas and invite partners of other programs (not necessarily medical) to join in our quest to build an overall knowledge assessment game in a modular way.


gamification; progress test; continuous studying;social studying

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