Publication Date



OBJECTIVE: The FAC (Focus, Amplify, Compose) rubric for assessing medical students' question formulation skills normally accompanies our Evidence Based Practice (EBP) training. The combined training and assessment rubric have improved student scores significantly. How much does the rubric itself contribute to improved student scores? This study sought to measure student improvement using the rubric either with or without a linked 25-minute training session.

METHODS: Randomized Controlled Trial. The authors tested the hypothesis that a 25-minute training session combined with use of a rubric would lead to higher scores than a brief explanation of this rubric alone. All 72 participating second-year medical students had a question formulation rubric briefly explained to them following a pre-test. Students in the intervention groups were taught how to formulate EBP questions for 25 minutes using the rubric followed with another 30 minutes of EBP search training. Students in the control group only received the 30 minutes of EBP search training in their small group labs. All 72 students took the post-test in which they formulated a question in response to a clinical vignette. Statistical analysis to test the hypothesis consisted of a two-sample paired t-test to measure between-group differences.

DISCUSSION: Both the intervention and control groups performed significantly better on the post-test for question formulation skills than on the pre-test. When analyzed by extent of individual improvement between pre- and post-tests using a two-sample paired t-test for between group differences, the control group students receiving only a brief explanation of the rubric performed the same statistically (intervention 37.7 versus 37.4 control) as the intervention group students who received the same brief explanation followed by a 25-minute active learning training session. Thus, the results provided no support of the hypothesis that the extra 25-minute training improved post-test scores. The rubric itself contributed similarly to the intervention groups students' improvement as the combined rubric and training for control group students. This finding could potentially save scarce curricular time.

KEY MESSAGES: The FAC question formulation rubric and training significantly improves medical students' EBP question quality. The FAC rubric coupled with only a 5-minute explanation can be effective. In a crowded medical school curriculum, the rubric and brief explanation might save valued time for other purposes.



Document Type



Medical Library Association


Humans, Students, Medical, Curriculum, Problem-Based Learning, Research Design, Schools, Medical

Publication Title

Journal of the Medical Library Association : JMLA